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The owner's essential guide to pet shows

The owner's essential guide to pet shows

If you've ever wondered what it's like to show your pet, it's actually much easier than you may think: From the PetPeople magazine archive.

We all love our pets, and many of us would like to show them off to the world too. But how many pet-owner partnerships have what it takes to get to Crufts? But the good news is that it doesn't have to be scary, because there are lots of different events and levels of competition. For example, if you have a dog that's adorable but doesn't have a pedigree to rival Lady Victoria Hervey's, they can still take a turn at local Companion Shows. These are just for 'fun' events, but are judged in a professional manner and can be the ideal way to see if your dog is suited to show business. Or if you want to take things further (and your dog is Kennel Club-registered) the next level is Open Shows. Your breeder or local breed club are your best contacts for these, and can tip you off about which shows are best for you. If you're advancing to these events, it's a good idea to prepare with some Ringcraft classes, which show you how to get the most out of your dog, so they know the routines, look their best and maximise their chances.

And at the top of the tree, there are Championship Shows, where your dog can win Kennel Club Challenge Certificates (CCs). If they win three CCs from three judges, they earn the title of Champion. Could yours make it? There's only one way to find out!

If you own a registered pedigree dog or bitch aged between six and 18 months, you're eligible to enter the Petplan Junior Stakes. It's a good way to dip a paw in the world of showing. Even if you're not entering, it's a great day out as a spectator.

Dogs of all kinds can compete in Companion Shows. They are often held at fetes or charity events, and your dog does not need to be Kennel Club-registered. Don't expect hours of pedigree classes; think more general ones like Working Dogs, Obedience and fun ones like Waggiest Tail or Cutest Puppy. It's a low-pressure way to try life in the ring.

Mass adoration and looking gorgeous, what's not for a dog to like? But, says David Ryan of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors, shows aren't right for every pet. His advice is to go to your first event without your dog to test the atmosphere, then try him out. If he's wagging his tail and 'smiling', it's fine. If he's trembling with his tail between his legs, don't push him into it. It's not fair, and an unhappy dog won't win any prizes anyway.

At Open and Championship dog shows, judges measure dogs against a 'breed standard'. Afghan Hounds, for example, should have a long, silky coat and a 'dignified and aloof' demeanour. But, adds Crufts judge Bill Lambert, 'However close the dog is to that breed standard he must have something special to stand out from the crowd. We've talked about the 'X Factor' in dogs long before Simon Cowell came along!'


  • Water bowl (and food, if it's a long day)
  • Brush for a last-minute spruce up
  • Towel (in case it rains)
  • Poop scoop bags
  • Show pass (for Open and Championship levels)
  • Time to stretch your dog's legs before a show
  • Calm attitude (judges say that nerves travel down the lead)

Most felines won't appreciate the indignity of a cat basket and the bright lights of a cat show, so it's no surprise that these events tend to concentrate on felines with nerves of steel. The best starting point is to visit a cat show (without your cat) to see what's involved. It's also a good idea to get objective advice on how suitable your cat is for showing by asking a breeder or other experienced person.

Was this useful? Do you have any showing stories that you would like to share? Then just get in touch by commenting below.



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