Dog Show Training
Dog Show Training
By Scot E. Dowd Ph.D.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
WHERE DO I BEGIN?
What happens at a dog show?
WHO WILL I MEET AT DOG SHOWS?
I saw a show on TV, what do I need to train my dog for, it looks so easy?
STEP 1: SOCIALIZING YOUR DOG!!
STEP 2: STACKING THE DOG
HOW DO I GO ABOUT GETTING THE DOG INTO A STACKED POSITION?
STEP 3: THE ONCE OVER OR PHYSICAL EXAM
STEP 4: SHOWING THE bite (DENTITION
STEP 5: What is GAITING?
More Show Advice
The role of the judge
A JUDGES EXPECTATIONS-by Dan Crutchfield
HOW SHOULD AND SHOULDN'T YOU DRESS?
Some good books about showing include:
So you bought an APBT show puppy from an APBT breeder and that contract you signed
says you have to show that puppy at 4 UKC licensed show weekends per year. What are
you gonna do now?
a) Ignore the contract, because what are they going to do, take the dog back? After all, all
you wanted was a good pet, not a foofoo show dog.
b) Make excuses about how the time and money are not available, you are much too busy
on weekends, and all the shows are too far away.
c) Honor your agreements, load up the dog and the car and go have a weekend of fun at a
OK SO YOU'RE RESPECTABLE AND CHOSE "C", BUT NOW YOU DECIDE TO
DO A LITTLE PREPARATION BEFORE EMBARKING ON YOUR NEW
WHERE DO I BEGIN?
1) Make sure your dog is properly registered and that the dog is legally in your name, or
if the dog is co-owned with the breeder that both of your names appear on the registration
paper. You can contact the UKC through their website www.ukcdogs.com to ensure that
everything is in order.
2) Train yourself and your dog to be prepared for what will happen at a dog show (this is
what we will discuss below)
3) Make sure you have everything you will need before you leave for your weekend of
fun, discovery and adventure.
4) Be prepared to lose the first time, especially if you are a beginner. Also be aware that
every dog even from a top breeders has faults and it is only through practice that you can
learn to hide these faults and accentuate the best features while showing your dog.
What happens at a dog show?
Your first time at a dog show you will probably be confused and feel uncomfortable
BUT!! you do not really need to feel this way! The UKC has many great things about it
that make it fun for the beginner.
In addition, feel free to go to the message boards on this site and post where you are
located and we can even help you find a show and help you hook up with someone with
experience that will be willing to help you out at your first show!
The UKC dog shows are actually very informal environments that are family oriented.
There are no professional handlers in the UKC though many of the handlers are very
experienced and very very good.
People will talk to you if you talk to them. There are bound to be other first timers or still
newby's there too!
If you are beginner, you can advise the judge of this, and they will always be very happy
to help you out and explain as you go along what is expected. Some will go out of their
way to give you tips and second chances to get things right, especially if there is time
You will find a lot of different types of people. Most, I have found, are very friendly and
helpful, especially if you are decent and respectful and ask politely for advice and help.
WHO WILL I MEET AT DOG SHOWS?
Dog fanciers are those that collect chain link fence, and value it as though it was gold
Crates (wire or fiberglass cages) come a close second.
Dog fanciers will go to the grocery store and buy $95.00 worth of kibble, canned food,
milk bones and plastic garbage bags. Also a couple of cheap TV dinners for themselves –
say about $5.00 worth.
Dog fanciers always drive mini-vans, full-size vans, stretch vans, high top custom vans,
and cube trucks. Also frequently a travel trailer or a motor home. Many own two vans;
his and hers.
Dog fanciers travel up to 50 weekends a year, from state to state, coast to coast, and
country to country attending shows.
Dog fanciers meet their friends at the show every weekend and enjoy a continuing party
celebrating their communion with each other and above all, with their reason for being
there, their dog. They will be quick to encourage you to spell that word backward. Make
no mistake about it, this celebration of an entire species frequently does more than just
border on worship.
I saw a dog show on TV, what do I need to train my dog for, it looks so easy?
Well if it looks easy that is because those doing it have worked very hard to make it look
There are five major things you will need to train your dog to do to get through your first
dog show. These are 1) be social, 2) stack correctly, 3) stand quietly for evaluation, 4)
quietly allow you to show their teeth, and 5) gaiting or moving correctly. We will briefly
define each of these as we go through this primer and give the basics of how to train for
A dog must be friendly and social around other people including children, adults, men
and women. This is vital with the APBT. Shy or aggressive dogs are disqualified for
good reason. A degree of dog aggression is expected for all terrier breeds, but it must be
completely controlled in the ring.
Stacking is essentially training your dog to stand in a specific way, that will be explained
below. The stacked position allows the judge to fully evaluate your dogs skeletal and
Standing for evaluation is where your dog stays in a stacked position while the judge
carefully goes over the dog with their hands including the rear, the genitals and the tail!!!!
Yep, you need to get your dog used to someone touching there privates ;-).
Gaiting is when you show your dogs movement to the judge. Gaiting is performed at a
trot or the speed between a walk and a run. Kind of a jogging pace for dogs.
STEP 1: SOCIALIZING YOUR DOG!!
Your dog must not freak out in public places, or be obnoxious around other dogs, or act
scared or aggressive when approached and handled from any angle by a stranger. It helps
that your dogs loves to be out in public. THUS socialization is of the utmost importance
to a show dog.
Whether you hope to show your puppy in Conformation, Obedience, or agility, it is
helpful to socialize him to being with strange people and dogs. Once his puppy shots are
complete - about 4 months of age, you can find him a puppy kindergarten class, puppy
Obedience class. Warning it is the advise of most show people that you don't teach them
to sit in Obedience class. Explain to the trainer that they need to learn to stand stay
instead. A better idea is to try to find a Conformation handling class. Your local kennel
club or Obedience club will often hold these types of classes. If they don't, they should
still be a good source of information about who in the area does give classes. Look on
the UKC website www.ukcdogs.com for clubs in your area or post a message on the
message boards asking for help. Even if these clubs or individuals are all the way across
your state, they can probably give you good advice.
Take your dog with you everywhere you can to get them exposed to as many new and
FUN situations as possible. It is important to avoid ANY situation where your dog may
become frightened or worse yet, be attacked by another dog. Being attacked by other
dogs when young could ruin all of socialization efforts and you will have to start over.
Ask people to pet your dog all over, make sure that they touch the tail, the front and rear
feet, the shoulders etc. Explain you are training the dog for shows. If your dog is shy
about a certain area, such as their mouth, you should concentrate on SLOWLY
conditioning them to accept attention to these areas.
If you hope to show your puppy in Conformation classes, DON'T TEACH IT TO SIT!
You can ask him to stand, to wait, to 'hold on' or to 'settle down!', but hold off on
teaching to sit. Sitting is submissive behavior and some puppies will do this in unfamiliar
circumstances, even if they haven't been taught to do it. If your puppy begins to think
that they need to sit when meeting new people and they are used to praise for sitting, then
when in the show ring they are likely to sit when presented to the judge. It can be very
difficult to train this behavior out of him for the purpose of the breed ring.
STEP 2: STACKING THE DOG
Almost every breed of dog is presented to the judge for examination in the same basic
posture. Not just a matter of convention and tradition, this stance is designed to best
showcase the structural features that the judge is evaluating, and to give a uniform basis
for comparing one dog to another and to the standard. It is often referred to as a "stack"
or "pose," and maneuvering your dog into that posture is called "stacking" or "setting up."
When viewed from the side, the front legs should be directly in line and underneath the
top of the shoulder blades, commonly called the "withers." A line from the top of the
shoulder blade, drawn perpendicular to the ground, should run right through the middle
of the front foot. The rear legs should be drawn back just far enough so that the length of
each hock is perpendicular to the ground. The rear feet are often set just slightly further
apart than the front feet: a line drawn back from the outside of each front foot should
touch the inside of the corresponding rear foot.
The head is held so that the bottom line of the muzzle is parallel to the ground.
When viewed from the front, the front legs should drop in a straight line from the top of
the shoulders; the elbows and feet should turn neither in nor out; and the distance
between the front feet should be roughly equal to the distance between the shoulders.
THAT IS A STACKED POSITION
HOW DO I GO ABOUT GETTING THE DOG INTO A STACKED POSITION?
Step 1. First thing to remember is to always stand, or kneel on your left knee (both shown
below), at your dog's right side when you begin to stack him. His head should be pointed
towards your right, and the judge will be seeing the dogs left side in profile.
Positioning the choker: The choke chain will be the first thing to adjust when you are
stacking your dog. It should be pulled snuggly all the way up to the top of the neck (base
of the head) (SEE picture ABOVE). The choker should be correctly sized especially
for beginners as you will do a lot of manipulation in the ring and a too loose choker will
make this infinitely harder and leave you open for the dog potentially pulling his head out
of the choker. We prefer a nice moderately tight choker that can BARELY be "slipped"
over the dogs head. Experienced show people will often use loosely fitting chokers for a
number of reasons but for your dogs sake, your sake, and the sake of other exhibitors,
choose a sturdy tight fitting choker. The stronger your dog the thicker the choker should
be. If your dog unexpectedly pulls away from you for whatever reason you do not under
any circumstances want this choker to break. Also use a nice short lead strong enough to
hold your dog should they pull away. These range anywhere from 2 foot to 4 foot
depending on the difference in the size of the handler and the dog. A large dog with a
short handler needs a smaller lead for example. Shorter leads are easier to deal with in
the breed ring.
First position the dogs front feet. While firmly holding the choker, which is up on the
dogs neck, directly upward with just enough tension to provide the dog with stability.
Not enough to choke them. Next, reach over the dog's shoulder and grasp his left front
elbow (the one nearer to the judge) with your left hand; place the leg in a straight line
underneath the top of the shoulder blade (see the picture below on left, which shows
someone standing and stacking by grasping the elbow). Remember, always, move your
dog's legs from the elbow in front and the hocks or stifle in the rear. Never move his legs
by grasping a foot or even a pastern (wrist). Remove your left hand from the elbow and
use it to grasp the choke chain; remove your right hand from the chain, grasp the right
elbow and follow the above procedure for the right front leg. The better you get at this
transition the more successful you will be when stacking in competition. Remember to
maintain the head position exactly in one position. There is a tendency to move the dogs
head accidentally when switching hands which is likely to cause the dog to step out of the
stack for balance.
Once you get both front feet positioned, switch hands on the choke again, and use your
left hand to position both rear hocks, again the one nearer the judge first. You may either
reach underneath the dog's abdomen and move the left leg by the stifle joint (knee) or
reach over the dog's back and hindquarters, cup the left hock joint in your left hand and
position the leg in that manner (See the picture above on the right which shows the
handler grasping the rear hock joint to position the rear legs after the front have been
positioned). Repeat with the right rear leg that is closest to you. It is not necessary to
move both rear legs in the same fashion. Depending on your dog's structure and what is
most comfortable for both of you, you may either move both rear legs by the stifle, both
by the hock, or one by each. NOTE: When switching hands on the choke it is important
not to vary or change the tension, also do not let yourself pull or push the choker to either
side or forward or backward when reaching to adjust the legs. For instance when you
reach to adjust the rear legs the tendency is to pull backward on the choker as you reach.
IT IS VITAL TO Practice keeping your "choker" holding hand in the exact place to
ensure your dog has a continual and stable support while you are moving one of their
You may observe some handlers lifting their dog's entire front end off the ground and
dropping it into place (see drop stack video). Do not attempt this unless your dog both
has a superb front and is very well-trained; otherwise you are apt to look awkward and
may waste valuable set-up time.
Remember, a judge is only allotted 2-3 minutes to examine and move each dog in the
ring! Practice the 1-4 approach just described over and over until your dog and MORE
IMPORTANTLY YOU are both good, smooth and fast.
The BEST ADVICE IS TO practice stacking your dog in as short a time as possible in
front of a horizontal mirror or other reflective surface to see exactly what picture you are
presenting to the judge, and adjust his position accordingly. Stack your dog informally at
least once a day, as you are walking through your house or yard; don't make a big deal of
it, or spend more than two or three minutes on it: set him up, tell him to "stand, stay,"
hold the position for a count of ten, and then release him with much verbal praise and a
food treat if one is handy.
BIG TIP #1 KEEP YOUR DOG HAPPY
ALWAYS MAKE TRAINING FUN FOR THE DOG OR YOU WILL PRODUCE AN
UNHAPPY DOG THAT DOES NOT WANT TO PERFORM IN THE RING. YOU
WILL LOSE EVERY TIME, IF THIS HAPPENS. MAKE IT A FUN TIME WITH
LOTS OF PRAISE AND JUST A LITTLE WORK.
STEP 3: THE ONCE OVER OR PHYSICAL EXAM
Click HERE for a video of a judge going over a dog
Whatever his choice of procedure, there will come the moment when the judge
approaches your dog to examine or "go over" him/her (See photo below) He may take a
first look from the side for an overview, so be certain your APBT is at his/her stacked
best! Most judges will first approach your dog at his head. Continue to stand or kneel
beside your dogs right shoulder, holding on to his head, or for more experienced dogs,
by continuing to hold up on the choker, until the judge takes the head from you. At this
point you need to give the judge freedom to examine the head. I typically grasp the choke
down below the dogs neck with your right hand fingers with your palms up.
STEP 4: SHOWING THE bite (DENTITION)
This is a critical part
The judge after examining the dogs head will ask you to show him your dog's teeth
(below). The best way to do this is with your hand still under the dogs neck, grasping the
loose choker reach pull the choker tight and rest your palm under the dogs chin, with
your left hand reach over the dogs muzzle and pull upward on the lips and pull down the
front of the lower lip with your right hands thumb (your right hand is still holding the
choke by the fingers). By holding the choker underneath the dogs head you will maintain
control of your dog and by pulling forward you will keep your dog from pulling away
when you expose the teeth. The APBT judge should ask to see all of your dogs teeth so
after showing the front teeth, alternate each side by pulling apart the lips allowing the
judge to see as many of the teeth on the side as possible. If the judge wants a better look
they will ask, but try to give them the best possible view, of all of the teeth, the first time.
Teaching your dog to show his bite is a challenge. Most dogs do not want to bare their
teeth at a stranger let alone want to bear their teeth at you the owner. The showing of
teeth to dogs is a sign of aggression or anger. You must get your dog used to this
procedure by daily practice. Develop a command to use when you are showing the bite.
I use "Let me see your teeth!" in a firm tone. For the new show dog merely start by
holding the choker as described above and gently touching your dogs upper and lower
lips. Just touch them dont try to pry them apart at all. THAT IS ALL AT FIRST. Do not
praise them if they do not allow this, but do not reprimand them either, except with a
mild tone of warning with the command "Let me see your teeth". Try a couple times then
relax and try again later until the dog does not back away or protest when you touch their
mouth. Then praise them for a positive reaction. Do not chastise if they dont perform
but do praise when they do. Once your dog allows you to hold them and gently touch the
upper and lower lips praise them and continue to practice, using less and less praise, until
they allow this unobtrusive contact with no problem. Then gradually pry the lips apart,
just a little bit and just for a second, and if they allow this then praise. If they do not
allow it, then again use the firm tone "let me see your teeth". Always use the command
no matter what. Build your dog up over a month or so, until you can peel apart their lips
front -side and rear with NO problem. Praise them for doing a good job!
After the judge has looked at the bite (FIGURE ABOVE), release the tension on the
choker and shift your weight toward the front of the dog and hold the dogs muzzle gently,
while the judge moves along each part of the dog's body keeping the dog still and steady.
Try and give the judge enough space to examine the front part of the dog (FIGURE 2
ABOVE) without you in the way. If your dog is unruly or somewhat hesitant about the
judge or the procedure, stay at his shoulder while the judge examines his front, and cup
your left hand just behind the top of his head (at the level where the ears are set) to keep
him from backing away until the judge is finished with his head. If your dog tries to sit
when the judge begins to examine the hindquarters you may put your left hand under the
belly. If the dog is fidgeting rub their belly and talk soothingly. After all your friends
and family, all the people you meet out socializing etc. have gone over and pet your show
dog they should be well on their way to being good in the ring. Remember above all, the
more nervous you are the first time the more nervous the dog is. Dont worry too much if
you dont get it all good the first show. Practice and practice and after 4 or 5 shows you
will begin to relax and your dog will begin to really show what they can do.
STEP 5: What is GAITING?
Judges watch dogs moving in the ring to assess the soundness, smoothness, and
efficiency with which the separate parts of the animal work together. A part is only good
if it contributes to overall functional usefulness. A correctly structured dog moves freely
and easily, and no one part attracts the eye with a break from the general smoothness,
coordination and flow.
The UKC judge will need to evaluate the moving dog from three points of view: going
directly away from him, coming directly towards him, and from the side. movement is
almost always assessed from a trot, and will help determine soundness, smoothness,
coordination, and efficiency of movement. The trot puts the most stress on all four limbs
and is most likely to reveal problems. A proper trot pairs the feet diagonally, the right
front and left rear moving together, and the left front and right rear in unison.
Typically you will move with the dog on your left side with your left hand holding the
lead. You ALWAYS need to keep the dog between the you and the judge. The judge will
ask you to move your dog in a specific pattern. Examples of the most common are the
"down and back" (down and back pattern video below) and the "Triangle" (Triangle
pattern video below). Occasionally, a judge will ask for an "L" or god forbid the
infamous "T". The following figures indicate what each of these means.
Graphic showing the 4 primary patterns (down and back) Triangle, L-pattern and the
infamous T pattern.
Down and Back movement Pattern
This is used to show the rear and front of the dog in movement. You simply gait your dog
down the diagnal of the ring make a 180 degree turn and gait the dog back. Be prepared
for the judge to change positions when on your return towards them. Common mistakes
are that the handler runs toward the judge rather than the dog. It is the dog that must gait
along the judges line of vision and the handler should not. On the return trip you will stop
in front of the judge and present your dog. Often the final presentation is too close and
not straight, the judge should not have to step back or move to the side to see your dog.
You should be about 2 yards away from the judge. Do NOT manually stack your dog but
try and have them as close to a stacking position as you can through training. Younger
dogs may not "free stack" but keep working with them and eventually they will.
So now you are about to "move your dog" for the judge. You were probably not the first
person in the ring so you watched carefully what the other people where doing. With that
and with practicing at home you should be OK. Before you begin to move your dog,
make certain that his collar, or the collar portion of his show lead, is well up under his
chin and in front of the neck bones, just behind his ears. First pull the collar forward
under his chin with your right hand, then remove your right hand and pull the collar right
up behind his ears with your left hand. If your show lead has an adjustable collar portion,
make certain that it is pulled snug before beginning to move. Some dogs respond to a
more firm lead and will lift their head and move nicely. Other dogs will fight this and you
must use a more loose lead. The dog should move straight, happy, and springy in their
Hold your lead firmly and neatly in your left hand and keep it there. Extend your left arm
out from the shoulder to the elbow in a fairly rigid straight line and pivot your left
forearm at the elbow to control the position of your dog. As you move your left forearm,
keep your thumb pointing up.
While moving, keep your right hand LOOSELY down at your side. If you find it waving
in the air, or swinging back and forth, tuck it into a pocket or your belt for practice, but
don't plaster your whole right arm rigidly against your side!
This figure shows a handler
gliding along with her dog. Notice the handler is on the edge of the mat and the dog has
plenty of room to move on the mat (do not position yourself on the mat always ensure the
dog has good traction and is the center of attention). The handlers left hand with the lead
is extended much further than desirable, but at this point her concern is to make sure the
dog is moving directly at the judge who is standing at the end of the grey mat (out of the
camera range). Notice the happy smile of the dog and the smooth easy gaiting. Also
notice other dogs in the ring standing waiting their turn to move. Unless the judge has
told the class to relax their dogs, all of these handlers should be stacking their dogs
throughout the class. This is why it is important to train your dog to stand patiently often
for several minutes. Typically in younger classes the dogs are not expected to be perfect
but in Champion classes like the one above and Grand Champion classes, the dogs are
expected to be very professional.
Move in as straight of a line as possible. If you move in a straight line it typically will
means your dog will tend to move in a straight line. Always remember, the judge should
be judging your dog, not you, so do not position yourself directly in line with the judge.
Position your dog in the judges line of site. Similarly when you are coming toward the
judge you should position yourself and your dog so that the dog is gaiting straight down
the mat toward the judge. You should aim yourself at a spot just off of his left shoulder,
so your dog will be moving directly at him.
You should move at a very smooth, flowing glide yourself. Do not jog or bounce. The
smoother you are moving the smoother your dog will appear to move and the less
distracting you will be to the judge. A smooth handler will tend to keep the judges
attention from drifting away from the dog. If the are bouncing around ungracefully then
the judges attention may leave the dog. You may want to focus on each point in the ring
that you are headed toward. Remember, if you are looking down at the dog the whole
time (like the handler above LOL) you WILL move crooked. Look to your dog if
needed, glance at the judge, but then look right back to your focal point. You will move
in a straighter line and thus, your dog will also.
Once again to totally stress the point!!! Always keep good posture, run erect and
graceful. Try not to bounce which will detract from the graceful movement of your dog.
The goal is a sliding type of run where you are not lifting your legs too high off the
ground nor bending your knees very much at all. Try to take long, gliding, effortless
steps. Your goal is to obtain as much forward movement with as little vertical action as
possible. Try and keep eye contact with the judge as much as possible without tripping
or running into barriers.
Following the period when the judge examines and moves each dog individually the
judge will typically move the entire class of dogs together around the ring. Moving all
the dogs around together allows the judge to get a good comparison of movement (and to
give you some needed exercise).
When moving with the class there are several things to consider.
You do not want to run past the dog in front of you, or worse yet, run into the dog in front
You do not want to move your dog too slow just because of the dog in front of you is
moving too slow. You always want to move at the speed your dog moves best. Each dog
has a speed where their movement looks the best. Thus, if the dog ahead of you is going
to move slower than your dog you can wait a couple seconds before following them
around the ring. This way by the time you are in the judges view (watch the judge for
when they are viewing your dog) you are moving at the proper speed and catching up to
that "slow dog". Always keep your eyes open and watch all the other handlers during the
class. Watch the dogs ahead of you moving in their patterns, when they are moving by
themselves to judge get a good estimate of how fast they are moving compared to how
fast your dog moves.
If you are new, and you are the first handler in line, do not worry! Just listen to the
judge's instructions carefully so that you circle the ring the proper number of times and
stop in the correct location. Ask for clarification if you are uncertain. Also, it is your
polite responsibility to visually or verbally check the group of handlers in line behind
you, and WAIT until everyone appears to be ready, before starting to move your dog. If
you aren't first in line, watch both the judge and the first handler carefully, since
sometimes only the first few in line can hear the judge's instructions to the entire group.
There is a small embellishment called a "courtesy turn" that offers the benefit of your dog
easing into his gait, rather than having to break into it perfectly from a standing start. It is
also a way to line yourself up on the judge without being too obvious about it: Again, the
specifics will depend on where the judge is positioned within the ring, and the particular
movement pattern that he has requested.
In essence, instead of starting immediately to move away from the judge with your dog,
you stand still and swing the dog in a 360+-degree circle to his left on your left side, and
as he approaches the 360-degree mark, you then start to move with him. Done gracefully
and in moderation, they are an enhancement; done jerkily or self-consciously, they can
detract greatly from the overall effect. Practice them first before trying them out at a
show; a dog show ring is no place for a ballerina!
There are times when a judge will specifically want to compare the coming and going
movement of two dogs, and he may ask for them to move down and back together. This
is the one time when it is permissible to start moving with your dog on your right side; in
fact it is necessary to do so: The two handlers position themselves so that the two dogs
are side by side between them, allowing enough space so they won't interfere with each
other. Thus one dog is on his handler's left side, with his leash in his handler's left hand,
and the other dog is on his handler's right side, with his leash in his handler's right hand.
The two handlers try to start out at the same moment and maintain about the same pace.
They both slow at the far end of the ring and perform inward turns. The handlers then
return to the judge with the dogs still inside both handlers, the one originally on his
handler's left now on his handler's right, and vice versa.
After you perform your movement patter the judge will usually instruct you to move
around the ring to the end. There is no need for anything fancy here; simply gather the
lead into your left hand, keep the dog at your left side, and move around the ring. When
you are doing the circle, be sure to watch the judge. You may or may not execute a
courtesy turn at this time. The judge may or may not watch your dog move. Don't
presume, however, that a judge necessarily prefers the dogs that he watches; he may be
seeing a movement flaw so incredible that he needs to look hard at it to believe it!
BIG TIP #2 MORE SHOW ADVICE
The Role of the Judge?
Judges examine the dogs and place them in accordance to how close each dog compares
with their mental image of the "perfect" dog as described in the breed's official standard.
These standards include qualifications for structure, temperament and movement. In
short, they describe the characteristics that allow the breed to perform the function for
which it was bred. The judges are experts in the breeds they are judging. They examine
or 'go over" each dog with their hands to see if the teeth, muscles, bones and coat texture
match the standard. They examine each dog in profile for general balance, and watch
each dog gait, or move, to see how all of those features fit together in action.
Some judges position the entries in each class in order of preference as they are going
over them individually, and there may be a fair amount of moving up and back and in
between until the judge has finished with the last one. Other judges leave the dogs in the
same line-up in which they first entered the ring until they make their placements. Judges
may announce their placements verbally; with hand signals indicating 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and
4th place; or with a combination of both. Some announce their placements while all the
dogs in the class are moving around the ring together for a final time; others state their
picks while all the dogs are standing in a stacked position.
In all cases, pay very close attention to the judge from the time he has completed his
individual examinations and has moved the last dog in the class, until he has announced
all four of his placements (or however many there are, in classes of less than four.) If you
don't receive a placement, you SHOULD ALWAYS congratulate the ones who did, and
then quietly walk out of the ring with your dog.
If you receive a placement, immediately walk over to the sign showing the number of the
placement that you have received; if you are moving, break out of line and walk directly
over to the markers; if you are standing in line stacked up, you may wait until all four
have been announced and walk over together. Stand so that the ring steward and the
judge can see your armband number. Stay in the ring until the judge hands you your
ribbon (and trophy, if any.) Say "thank you," politely and then walk out of the ring. The
ring steward will let you know if your dog will be needed for further judging.
A JUDGES EXPECTATIONS
What should a judge expect of exhibitors?
KINDLY PROVIDED TO US BY
UKC Conformation judge #6170
We all know what we, ourselves, expect from a judge. Professionalism, honesty,
courtesy are on all our lists. Let us consider the other side of the coin. What should
judges expect from exhibitors?
Here are the things I find necessary for one to be considered a GREAT exhibitor.
Present a good specimen of the breed, properly trained, socialized, immaculately clean
and correctly groomed. Socialize your dog. It is understandable that puppies might be
jumpy and nervous and I always find the time to work with young dogs to make the show
a positive experience for them. It is the adult dogs that shy or run from a judge that makes
the day difficult, and can be downright risky for a judge. Rarely will a puppy bite you,
but scared adults are another story. Bring your dog into the ring clean and groomed
appropriately for the breed it represents. It is most displeasing to be presented matted,
foul smelling dogs with urine stains. POTTY your dog BEFORE you are to go into the
The handler should be appropriately dressed to show the dog to it's best. Be clean,
neat and presentable in the ring. Help your dog to not "blend in" to what you are wearing.
A male judge can be compromised by the exhibitors mode of dress. If a female wears
clothes that are revealing, short or immodest and then by chance has the best dog, the
judge may be compromised by awarding that dog with a win. Dress nicely but not as if it
were a fashion show, wear comfortable, nice looking shoes appropriate for running.
Dress modestly, the dog should be the focal point, not you.
Every exhibitor should try to spend some time ringside prior to their breed's judging to
become familiar with the judging pattern, it can make the judge's day move so much
more smoothly. Find out before entering the ring if the judge allows toys or squeakers.
And, my pet peeve, NO CELL PHONES OR PAGERS in the ring!
Just as you want judges to treat you politely, they deserve the same consideration. You
should be attentive to your dog and the Judge. If you do not hear a judges directions,
politely ask that they be repeated. Do not just glare at the judge. Say "thank you" when
you leave the ring - even if you did not make the cut or were excused. This can make a
judges day so much more pleasant.
No matter what your private thoughts may be, accept the placements with a sincere
"thank you", after all, by making an entry you are asking for the judge's opinion. If you
ask questions, be ready to accept the judges opinion. Do not argue, become contentious
or angry when the judge points out things you missed or did not know about your dog.
Understand that the standard, though objective, is subjective in interpretation. If the
Judge points out something you may or may not agree with about your dog, right now is
probably NOT the correct time to discuss it further. What one judge likes, another may
not. And if you feel there was a grievous error, or that the judge really did not know the
breed at all, then take it up in a professional manner, as opposed to being a jerk and
yelling and badmouthing. Have fun and understand that there is always another dog
Be courteous to the stewards. An Exhibitor should be ringside, WITH THEIR DOG,
ready to walk in the ring when the steward calls them, so that they may not be wasting
time waiting for you to run and get your dog, thus holding up the judging schedule. If you
are late, accept that you may not be allowed to show. If you have a ring conflict, do not
expect to be accommodated as if it were your right. You should know that it is up to the
judge's discretion whether or not to hold up the class for you. Abide by what he/she says.
Wait to receive your ribbon in the ring, line up according to your placement, help
yourself and your Judge by making sure you have the proper armband and dog, and that
they have written your proper win on the Judges sheet.
The judge does not need to know and is not interested in what the exhibit before
him/her has won recently-save your breath-he/she will not be impressed. Do not sit
outside the ring and make distracting noises or loud comments to try and sway the judge.
When in the ring, you should not be carrying on a conversation with other exhibitors in or
out of the ring.
Be a sportsman, congratulate others when they win. If you win, do not be haughty or
prideful, accept congratulations humbly. Do not crowd other exhibitors when gaiting as a
group. Do not play with your dog when the judge is going over another dog! Keep other
dogs, food, and screaming kids away from ringside.
Know the rules. It is an unpleasant task to disqualify an exhibitor who claims "no one
told me that". A copy of the rules can be obtained from UKC at any time.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, have fun, meet new people, make new friends, and enjoy
Hope to see you at the shows,
UKC Conformation judge #6170
BIG TIP #3 HOW SHOULD AND SHOULDN'T YOU DRESS?
You and your dog make up a team, it is also important that you appear presentable and
well-groomed whenever you are with your dog. Our breed needs a new image if it is
going to survive BSL. If I go into a public place like Petsmart, wearing a suit more
people will look at, admire and want to pet my "pit bull". If I go in wearing tank top,
baggy jeans, showing off the tattoos then people will practically run the other way to get
away from my dog. Think about it! This is even more important when you are at a dog
You will see UKC people that dress like they just woke up, that's OK too, because their is
no dress code, BUT I guarantee most judges prefer that you dress in a manner that
indicates you have respect for the show, your dog, the breed and the judge themselves.
The three basic rules for your entire appearance is comfort, class, and success.
DO NOT enter the show ring wearing any item of clothing that displays your name, your
dog's name, any dog club logo, or anything else in the way of personal identification. If
you have a UKC logo shirt that should be OK.
Dress like you are going on an important job interview, while still taking into account the
weather. Also wear comfortable shoes with good traction that match your clothing.
Do not wear blue jeans for any reason. It is preferred that you wear slacks. Preferred
wear is a sports jacket or fitted vest, and you will observe that experienced men handlers
will wear two or three-piece suits and ties in the show ring.
Women may wear pants or dress type shorts in the ring, but the outfit should be a nicely
tailored with either a jacket or matching vest. Split skirts are ideal because they offer
great freedom of movement paired with discrete coverage! Skirts or dresses usually make
a nice impression, but skirts that are too long are awkward to run in and a skirt may only
be as short as you can bend over gracefully in, without displaying normally private
portions of flesh and undergarments! Being a guy I don't mind this last one too much :-)
A final word on color: DRESS IN COLORS THAT DO NOT CLASH, DO NOT HIDE,
AND THAT ARE PLEASING YET CONTRAST WELL WITH THE COLOR OF
YOUR DOG (see picture below for examples). Some folks will wear a dark color behind
a dark dog, especially is the dog has topline faults, such as a dip behind the shoulders, a
rise over the loin, or a low tail set. The theory is that a light color would highlight the
fault, whereas it won't be seen so glaringly against a darker hue. Conversely, a dog with a
lovely outline might best be seen against a lighter or complementary shade. Thus you will
see people showing black dogs wearing black and navy blue, and in red, green, turquoise,
yellow, and beige. A red red nose will clash if you are wearing orange or pink but will be
complimented and framed nicely if you are wearing kelly green, sky blue, or white; and
they blend into rusts and earth tones more. It is best not to wear a busy print or small
bright plaid skirt, dress, or suit.
Here is a nice class with nice dogs. The dog in front is very dark and the handler is
wearing light colored pants. When moving the dog it will be accentuated nicely.
However, while she is stacking the dog her black top will blend in with the dog's topline.
Handler 2 is wearing brown pants which are much darker than his dog. This is probably
an OK choice with his lighter shirt as he doesn't hide his dog nor clash with it. Handler 3,
4, and 5 are all wearing light colors to accentuate their darker colored dogs. The final
handler is making 3 big mistakes. His black pants completely hide the black dog
especially when moving, his white shoes will draw attention away from the dog's own
movement, and his BUSY print shirt will further draw attention away from the dog.
Some good books about showing include:
Alston and Vanacore. The Winning Edge. Howell Books.
Forsyth, Robert and Jane. Guide to Successful Dog Showing. Howell Books.
Hall, Lynn. Dog Showing for Beginners. 1994, Howell Books.
Nicholas, Anna Katherine. The Nicholas Guide to Dog Judging. Howell Books.
Seranne, Ann. The Joy of Breeding Your Own Show Dog. Howell Books.
Tietjen, Sari B. The Dog Judge's Handbook. Howell Books.
Vanacore, Connie. Dog Showing: an owner's guide. Howell Books.
Coile, Caroline D. Show Me! Barron's Books.