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So You Think You Would Like To Have A Go At Showing

Written by Carol Stephens - Seayess Bull Terriers
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You are thinking about buying a puppy with the intention of having a go at showing him (or her). Before you buy a pup, it is a good idea to go to several shows and watch the dogs, the judging and the handling. Look carefully at the dogs and decide which you like the best – it doesn't need to be the ones that are winning – just what you like. Talk to the exhibitors about the dogs you like and ask about the breeding of them – who their parents are, and how they got on in the show ring – were either of the parents champions? You will probably find that the dogs you like are related to each other – perhaps share the same sire (father) or dam (mother) or even both. When you have decided on the lines you like, then it is time to speak to the breeders about getting a puppy. Tell them that you are looking for something to show.

But perhaps you have already bought your puppy and you think he (or she) is good enough to show, or other people have convinced you that you should show him (or her). How do you start?

Ideally you start when the puppy is very young by getting it to stand for a few seconds at a time, giving it lots of encouragement and perhaps a few titbits as a reward. Don't encourage the puppy to sit, and never reward it for sitting. If ever you see the puppy standing in a 'show pose', say Stand and give him lots of praise for being clever. As the puppy gets a little older you can then start to encourage it to walk up and down the path with you (on a show lead if possible), saying Turn when you turn to come back, and Stand at the end of the walk. Again, make this fun for the puppy and give lots of encouragement and praise. At this stage, it's just fun and play and must be enjoyed by the puppy or they will never want to show.

When your puppy has had it's second lot of vaccinations, and is ready to go out to meet other dogs, is the time to start taking it to Ringcraft Classes. Ideally you will have found a good class near to you (the Kennel Club has a list of places where these classes are held, or you can ask at you local show), and you will have visited the Class at least once (without your puppy) to see how it is run. Your first visit with your puppy should a fun occasion for both of you. You might both just want to watch what goes on, and hopefully lots of people and their dogs will come over to give the puppy fuss and you encouragement. Ask if the puppy can have a little walk down the mat without joining in the line-up. Again remember to give lots of praise and encouragement to the puppy – if he doesn't enjoy it, he won't want to go again! Try to go to your class every week and practice at home every day for just a short while in between your classes.

When your puppy is coming up to 6 months old, start looking for local Open shows that you can take him to. You will probably have to enter him in AV (Any Variety) Classes if there isn't a Breed Class for the breed, To start with, you could enter him in AV Minor Puppy (for puppies between 6 and 9 months old) or AV Puppy (for puppies between 6 and 12 months old). Treat these classes as further Training Classes for both of you – you are both still learning. If you do win a place, then that is a bonus for you both!

Hopefully the breeder of your puppy will have given you details of the various Breed Clubs you can join, including your local club. These clubs should send you out Schedules of their shows, and you can enter these once your puppy is 6 months old. A lot of people prefer not to show their puppies at Championship Shows until they are mature, but if you want to qualify your puppy for Crufts, then it needs to have won 1st, 2nd or 3rd at a Championship Show in Minor Puppy, Puppy, or Junior, (or Post Graduate, Limit or Open – but these shouldn't concern you yet).

If you feel you need more help or advice, don't be afraid to ask someone, either at your classes, or your puppy's breeder, or other exhibitors at the shows you go to. Most people are friendly and will be pleased to help you if they can. There are also several good books on the subject and your local library might be able to get some for you to read. Good luck and enjoy showing your puppy!

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