Preparing to Show
your Puppy

If you have a pedigree puppy you may well be thinking of showing her.  If you are thinking of breeding your puppy showing is a good way of finding out whether she has the traits that should be passed on to future generations - or indeed, whether she has faults which would not be good to pass on.  Breeding from a bitch or dog without knowing whether they are a good representation of the breed is irresponsible.  Because of the connection with breeding neutered dogs are usually shown in breed shows. 

Even if your not thinking of breeding from your dog, showing can be a great hobby.  You can travel to different places, meet like minded people, and hopefully have the pleasure of bringing home a rosette.  Of course at each show you’ll be up against different competition, so you cannot expect your dog to always win (unless it is an exceptional example of the breed!). 

As well as serious breed shows which can lead on to the ultimate, Crufts, there are shows for every shape and size of dog.  Fun show events can include the prettiest dog, and the best combination of dog and owner. 

What age can a Puppy go to Ringcraft Classes?

Puppies can go to Ringcraft classes as soon as their vaccinations are complete and they are able to mix with other dogs.  Bess was 18 weeks old when we went to her first class.  I was a bit nervous of taking her as she gets excited when other dogs are around, and can jump up and be a right nuisance, but I found that that didn’t matter at all.  All dogs have to get used to what will happen at a real show, and ringcraft is the place to practice and to learn the correct behaviour.

What Age can you Start Showing your Puppy?

Puppies cannot enter shows until they are six months old.  Attending ringcraft classes from an early age will prepare your puppy so that when it is able to go into a proper show ring she will know what is expected of her.  It also means that you will know what you are supposed to be doing as a handler.

If you know you have an exceptional puppy you may want to engage an experienced handler to show her for you.  But I would suggest that this means you will be losing out on a lot of the fun.  Even if you’re worried that you’ll be too nervous to handle her yourself, ringcraft classes will still be useful as it will show the puppy what she will need to do - and may give you the confidence to give it a try yourself.

You then wait your turn to have your session with the trainer. 

You will need to make your puppy stand for the trainer.  To start with you do not need to get your puppy’s legs in the right position - just standing still is the initial goal.  It helps if you have some bait (treats), and hold one in front of her head to encourage her to be still while she’s licking at it.

The trainer will then do what a judge does - run his hands over her body feeling her joints and her muscles.  He will then have a look at her teeth - for puppies judges may well just lift their lips for a quick look.  You need to practice getting your puppy to allow her mouth to be inspected, as older dogs should tolerate the judge giving their teeth a good inspection.  If you have a male dog he will have to let the judge feel that he has two properly descended testicles.

You will then be asked to move away with your dog - the trainer may ask you to do a circuit, a triangle, or just up and down the hall.  If you have a large dog you may need to run to get your puppy to trot.  With a smaller puppy  you can just walk fast.  Adjusting your pace to show your dog’s motion off at its optimum is all part of the ringcraft training.

After you have had your turn you will probably line up again, and have another one or two sessions during the class. 

The trainer will give you tips on what to work on. 

Get a proper show lead appropriate to your breed as early as possible.  For your first ringcraft lesson you can use a normal lead if you want to ask the trainer's opinion on which type of show lead to use.  Using the show lead for your ringcraft lessons, your show training and home and in shows will let your puppy know that when this lead goes on it's time to 'work'.

Most dogs love showing!  They get to spend quality time with their owners and get to meet and play with other dog friends.  They start to show their excitement when the show lead and bag comes out! 

What happens at Ringcraft Classes?

The trainer will mimic what a judge will do at a show.  First off all the dogs walk round together, and as a handler your job is to get your dog walking at a pace which best shows off her gait - in terms of horses this would be a trot.  Your puppy should be used to walking on both your left and right side, so she will always be side on to the judge.
English Setter
What makes People want to Show?

We all know we have the best dog in the world, and it's lovely for other people to notice that too.  Sometimes people don't think about showing until the breeder suggests that the puppy they've picked might be a good show prospect.

Even if you're only thinking of entering your local fun show it's a good idea to go to Ringcraft classes to learn how to make the best of your dog, and how to show it to its best advantage.  At first you may just be happy to get a rosette, but if you have a good dog who keeps getting placed you can start collecting points for a Junior Warrant, Show Certificate of Merit or even Challenge Certificates which can make your dog into a Champion! 

English Setter
Why Show a Dog? is produced by Trish Haill Associates Ltd Copyright 2015
STAND! A Complete Guide to Showing your Dog from Companion to Champion A fantastic new book that takes you through everything you need to know about dog showing, from training your puppy to showing at Crufts and even abroad!  Available in paperback or for Kindle.