Top 4 Dog Show Tips for Noobs

There are usual mistakes made by noobs who are exhibiting their dog for the first time. It’s always amazing how many novice exhibitors turn up to a dog show without knowing the most basic points. It’s like they never even thought there might be more to walking their pooch past the judges than just pulling their bored pooch by the lead. Unless their dog is brighter than them, they always end up in the same place – back to the carpark after losing.

There are two main mistakes a novice exhibitor makes. They might hold the show lead in two hands instead of one. A two-handed hold makes them look like a scared owner that doesn’t know what they are doing. This is something that judges will spot from across the show ring immediately.

You also will see noobs making small mincing steps. It shows their insecurity. They must believe that their dog is going to go crazy and start barking at the judges. Or maybe that’s what the exhibitor is going to do. Taking small, timid steps, isn’t exactly a mistake. But you can see the big difference when someone takes confident strides with a dog that is calm and is accustomed to being handled.

man in brown coat holding brown short coated dog during daytime
Photo: Sebastian Coman | Unsplash

Showing Tips

For a novice exhibitor, these are the things that should be practiced until made perfect. Experienced exhibitors will know this stuff like the back of their hands. By the time you get to the show, these four fine points should be automatic and natural.

Fine point 1

Show your dog with a firm hand. This doesn’t mean being rough. If there’s any rough handling because you have a stubborn dog, this should only be done at home when training. Turning up to the show and rough handling your dog in the show ring is a fail.

You might have to reprimand your dog if he has forgotten all his training. But a harsh word, or a few light taps, should be all you need to do. There’s always a gasp around ringside when a novice loudly spanks their dog. Even though the dog is not hurt, it makes the noob look like some kind of canine-handling criminal. Not a good look.

The flip side to rough handling is a wishy-washy touch with a dog. As you’re appearing as a dog and human combo, you can’t let your dog down by just appearing insecure and vague. A wishy-washy touch gives this impression. It’s as bad as a wishy-washy handshake at a job interview. If your touch is too light with a dog, even if the performance is excellent, you might expect to lose a ribbon.

Fine point 2

If you are posing with your dog, don’t get down on both knees. Even if you don’t have arthritis, getting out of this position is always awkward. This is because you have to move your weight to one knee while your getting your other foot ready to stand up. You will always see people failing at this and grabbing their dog or the ground so they don’t fall over. It looks terrible.

You might want to sit on your heels if you must have a low-down photo pose. It’s definitely better than being on both knees. But a better alternative is to use a cattle ringer squat instead. If done correctly, you will appear graceful and energetic. Keep your back straight, place one knee on the ground, and keep the other bent. It takes some getting used to, so practice the squat so you don’t appear like a noob.

National dog show 2024

Fine point 3

At the show ring, don’t be a noob by just looking around with wide eyes like you’re a tourist. Keep a calm watch on your dog to make sure he is staying in a good pose. Be attentive at all times so your dog doesn’t get into mischief. The noise and the distraction will be high at the show, so you need exude a calm and disciplined aura. If your dog is maintaining an attractive stance, don’t get fussy. If you make a fuss, you will just make your dog nervous.

Fine point 4

The weather is always a big deal at a dog show, especially on a broiling hot summer day. There’s always delays, and queues, and a degree of confusion as everyone one sorts out their dogs and themselves and waits for the judge.

While you’re waiting for the judge as a handler, there’s not much you can do but just hang in there while the sun blasts down. But here is a tip: you can try to cast a shadow with your body so your dog gets a little comfort from the sun. This can take off some of the heat and also shield the dogs eyes so they are a little more rested.

If you are in a large class, don’t pose your dog too early while waiting for the judge. Wait until the judge is only two or three dogs away before you strike a pose. Your dog won’t get so tired. Just using these little tips can add up to better experience on a hot summer day.

dogken Team
dogken Team

We're a team of passionate dog lovers and journalists dedicated to bringing you the latest news and information on all things canine. News, training tips and focus on dog breeds in the U.S. and around the world.