Dog Show Basics

Jordan Dargue, Dog Show Expert

With Crufts on the horizon, we wanted to learn more about dog shows, how to compete, and what it takes to become a champion! At K9 Nation, we have a resident expert on dog shows.

Jordan Dargue shows Whippets and has shown her dogs for years. There’s no one better to ask to teach us the basics!

For those of us who don't know much about dog shows, can you summarise what a dog show is?

Certainly, dog showing is the most popular dog-related activity in the world and is a great way to show others why your dog is the best in the world.  All pedigree dogs can take part in dog shows and everyone who shows their dogs has an ambition to one day qualify their dog and take it to the world’s greatest dog show, Crufts.

Dog showing or exhibiting is an exciting competitive activity where dogs compete against each other for prizes or awards. It is a competition where a dog’s attributes and conformation are compared against a breed standard for its breed. Whilst it can often be taken very seriously, it can be a fun pursuit that people and their dogs thoroughly enjoy.

There are four days of events at Crufts. Are there lots of different rounds or are similar breeds shown together?

Thousands of dogs take part in Crufts every year, across a range of breeds and events. Disciplines include dog showing, agility, flyball, heelwork, obedience and obreedience (designed to encourage more breeds to have a go at some of the tests associated with competitive obedience but in a less formal competitive environment).

In terms of dog showing, a breed is categorised into a group, and what I mean by this is that a dog’s breed is categorised as functional similarities. There are seven groups recognised by the Kennel Club: Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Pastoral, Gundog and Utility.  So, for example, a Whippet forms part of the hound group.  Each group will be presented on one of the four days – this year Friday is the hound day. However when showing your breed i.e Whippet, your dog  will compete against their own breed to start with.  There are a range of age related classes in which your dog will compete in.  The winners of those classes then compete for best dog and best bitch of which the best dog and bitch then compete for best of breed.  The best of breed winner then competes for best in group – so, for example, the best of breed Whippet winner will complete again all of the best of breed hounds, the winner of the hound group then competes for best in show.

Are there different levels of dog whos? What's the difference?

There are four different types of dog shows

Limited Shows

A limited show is an entry level show that is restricted either geographically or by membership of a club, group, society or breed. Dogs that have won a Challenge Certificate or obtained any award that counts towards the title of Champion under the rules of any governing body recognised by The Kennel Club, are not eligible for entry at these shows.

Open Shows

Open shows are open to all registered pedigree dogs. Open shows can be restricted to a breed or can be open to a number of breeds and are often considered as the first step to serious dog showing. They can be an excellent place to improve your skills, as the atmosphere can be quite relaxed and they provide a good opportunity to speak to other people involved in the activity. If you win best in show, reserve best in show or best puppy in show at a general or group open show, your dog will have qualified to participate at Crufts, the largest dog show in the world.

Premier Shows

Premier open shows are open to all levels of pedigree dogs. Premier open shows are a larger version of an open show and are run on a similar format, but in addition some winning dogs have the opportunity to qualify for Crufts.

Championship Shows

Championship shows are the highest level of dog show in the UK. They are open to all exhibitors but there is a higher level of competition, as it is here that in certain breeds of dog can win a Challenge Certificate (also known as CCs, or tickets) and may also qualify for Crufts. A Challenge Certificate is awarded to the dog that the judge believes is the best dog and the best bitch within each breed on the day. The judge will only award the CC if they believe that the winning dog is of such outstanding merit as to be worthy of the title of Champion. Any dog that wins three CCs (under three different judges) is awarded the title of Champion, which is one of the highest accolades in the show world and it entitles the dog to carry the letters Ch at the front of its name.

In addition to the CCs, two Reserve Challenge Certificates are also awarded on the day and these are known as RCCs. Reserve CCs are awarded to the second-best dog and bitch on the day.

Do you choose how often you show your dogs or do you have to go to all the shows each year?

You can choose to show your dogs as often as you like, it is a competitive sport and you often find people who do show their dogs will exhibit as often as they can – especially if they are chasing awards such as a CC as mentioned above or a qualifying place for Crufts.

What does preparing your dog to show look like?

Each dog will be different in terms of preparation from a presentation perspective depending on their coats.  Some breeds can take hours to bathe, dry and trim in preparation to be presented.

In addition, when attending a dog show it is important to ensure your dog is trained for the show ring and is happy for a judge to inspect them both on the floor and on the table if you own a small breed.  I always recommend that a dog is taken to a specific show training class before attending the show.

Is it expensive to show your dog?

Yes it is expensive, if like me you travel across the country to show your dog, you have to take into account not only your entry fee but cost of travel and  accommodation.  A typical entry fee for a Championship show is £25.00 and an open, premier and limit show around £6 per entry.  Shows operate on a weekly basis and if like me you like to attend as many as possible the cost does rack up.

How did you get involved? Are there clubs for owners interested in showing dogs?

Yes, there are show training clubs often run by canine societies who will also have at least one show per year.  There are also breed clubs who run shows, offer advice and support newcomers coming into the showing landscape and promote healthy breeding.

I started showing dogs as a young girl as my parents and grandparents showed and bred dogs.

The dogs at dog shows seem very well behaved. Does your dog enjoy showing?

Yes, you will know if a dog does not enjoy the show ring, they will act timid and shy away from the other dogs and judge and wont present themselves in the right way.  If my dog does not enjoy the show ring they retire happily at home.  My first whippet Ted did not enjoy the show ring so he now stays at home on the sofa whilst I travel to shows. The dogs I am now showing, Jive and Radar, love the whole experience from the preparation to the travelling to the show ring, they certainly love the attention from the judge also.

Are there dog shows for crossbreeds or is it just for pedigree breeds?

Yes, there are companion shows and Scruffts, which is the crossbreed equivalent to Crufts. The Scruffts show is like a companion show.  These shows are very relaxed, so they are ideal for all dogs and owners, whether pedigree or crossbreed. There are a range of classes on offer and these tend to be split into pedigree and fun classes (which are open to both crossbreeds and pedigree dogs). Companion shows are a great activity to become involved in. They also offer owners a great opportunity for a fun day out with their companion.