Competing in Dog Shows

When you take your dog to a show for the first time, this is what you do. Show your ticket at the entrance gate, which admits you and your dog. Nowadays, most shows are "unbenched," which implies that the dogs can come anytime before their scheduled classes and leave right away after, as long as they're no longer needed for additional judging. Some shows are "benched," which means that the dogs have to stay in designated stalls all day long, except when they're being groomed or judged. When the show is benched, the number on your ticket is your dog's bench number.

Be alert in taking your dog into the ring at the right time. You got a timetable in the mail with your ticket, and it gives the beginning for judging of your breed. Be ready in plenty of time, but allow your dog to relax until just before his class, so he would be clean and fresh. You will get a numbered armband at the ring entrance, and next you are in the ring.

A dog show is a series of contests, each more difficult than the last. Judging always starts with the Puppy dog class. When the class has assembled, the judge generally stands in the center and observes the handlers gait their dogs counterclockwise two or three times round the ring. He then motions them to stop. The handlers then pose their dogs at one side of the ring and the judge checks the dogs one by one. Afterward he asks each handler to move his dog in different patterns, so that he can appraise the animal's gait. As the judge examines each dog, he is finding out how closely it compares, in his opinion, with the breed standard. The judge awards first, second, third, and fourth places.

The Novice dog class is judged next in the equivalent manner, and after that the Bred-by-Exhibitor dog, American-Bred dog, and Open dog classes. When the dog classes are ended, the first-place winners get back into the ring and the judge picks the Winner's Dog.

The same class routine is repeated for the bitches, ending with the judge's choice of Winner's Bitch. The dogs that are named Winner's Dog and Winner's Bitch earn points toward their championship. When the regular classes are ended, additional competition carries on between Winner's Dog, Winner's Bitch, and the male and female Champions of Record. From these, the judge picks out Best of Breed, Best of Winners, and Best of Opposite Sex to Best of Breed.

In an all-breed show, there's an additional competition resulting in one dog being distinguished as the best in the show. Each Best of Breed winner competes inside his group: Sporting, Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non-sporting, and Herding. The seven group winners then compete for the grand prize, Best in Show.

Now, this might seem complex. Don't be demoralized. You don't have to understand it all immediately. Actually, if your dog wins first in his class, or even second, third, or fourth, you have every right to rejoice. You can take the ribbon home and show it to your friends with pride . If you win nothing, it's OK; there will be other days, different shows where you and your dog could try once more. But you do not have to keep showing him if you don't want to. Just one show alone would be an interesting experience. Later you can march again if you wish, and learn bit by bit as you go along.

If there's a dog club in your neighborhood, get in touch with the secretary, who would tell you something about the meetings of the group. You'll be welcome to attend, and can learn much about dogs, shows, grooming and general care, and dog breeding as well.

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