While it is fun, can be a great family venture, can teach children good sportsmanship and the proper care of dogs, it is not for everyone.
Some people think that because their dog has AKC papers, they must be good! My mantra is “AKC is to dogs, as the DMV is to cars.” They simply keep records. You can literally register a puppy born with serious birth defects. In defense of AKC, it is not their job to “police” the quality of dogs. That is up to the individual owners and breeders.
If you bought from an online commercial breeder, a pet store or a breeder that does not show, the odds are pretty slim that the dog is truly show quality. If you want to show, you must take the time to research your breed, go to dog shows and talk to multiple breeders who show their dogs. When you are ready to purchase a puppy that you want to enter in dog shows be prepared to be put on a waiting list for a puppy with show quality potential. Notice I said “potential”. Puppies go through many changes and that pup that looked great at 8 weeks, could well “fall apart” by 6 months. Some breeders will guarantee that if a pup doesn’t turn out, they will give you another one but the conditions of any sale are dependent on whatever the individuals involved decide.
The original purpose of dog shows was to bring together breeding stock. Long before the internet, this was how people came to look for stud dogs, compare their own breeding stock to what others had and find something to improve upon their own breeding program. That is still the main purpose for showing but it is also a fun, competitive hobby. Also, that Championship certificate is verifiable proof of the quality of your dog. You can SAY your dog is gorgeous, but we all know that opinion is clouded by your love for your dog.
In order to earn a championship, a dog must earn 15 points, including two majors under two different judges. Points are determined by the number of dogs in competition and this number is determined by AKC, depending on the density of the breed in your location. A dog can win between 1 and 5 points in any given show. A “major” is a 3, 4 or 5 point win and is highly coveted as it is difficult to have enough dogs in competition to constitute a major and then there are that many more dogs that your dog needs to be better than.
If you already own an AKC registered purebred dog that you think you might like to show, the first step is finding a show breeder that can evaluate it. Find the AKC standard for your breed and memorize it! Have that experienced show breeder explain to you how to compare that standard to your dog and point out to you what are minor faults and what are major faults? Some dogs will have DQ’s or disqualifications. These are things that would prevent them from being shown at all. For example, boxers in any color other than fawn or brindle or with white markings exceeding 1/3 of total coat color, Cardigan Welsh Corgis with blue or partially blue eyes or drop ears, Weimaraners that are more than one inch over or under the standard height are just few of the traits which would have a dog or bitch disqualified from competition. Also, any dog of any breed that does not have two normal sized, normally located testicles would also be DQ’d. Keep in mind, anyone can enter any unspayed or unneutered dog in any AKC show if they are registered. There are no refunds so if you enter a dog with a DQ, when the judge finds the disqualifying fault, you will simply be excused from the competition ring.
If you really want to do this, put in the time to educate yourself, have your dog evaluated and then find a local handling class to teach you how to properly exhibit your dog at a dog show. Excellent examples of a breed can leave the ring without a ribbon due to inferior handling or the improper grooming and/or conditioning of your dog. Conversely, a dog with a few minor faults can win because it may be shown to its best advantage in superior condition.
Another thing to ask local show people about is what is called a Fun Match. These are set up just like an AKC dog show but in a more relaxed, friendly environment. It is basically a training show and no points are awarded but it is a great way to let both you and your dog experience showing without fear of ridicule. It is for new handlers, new judges and new dogs. Even those of us that have been showing for decades still use fun matches as a way to introduce puppies to the ring and get them used to the process.
If you put in the time, learn to handle and condition your dog and find that your dog is indeed show quality, then all is takes is ONE time in the ring, having that judge look at all those dogs and then point at YOU, and you will be hooked.
By Terry and Debbie Vaught
Part of the Family Kennels