Dog Show Season : How to Become a Show Dog - The Trupanion Blog
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Dog Show Season : How to Become a Show Dog

Dog Show season is here.

The glitz and glamour of the dog show season are here. Do you think your pup has what it takes to walk the showroom floor? From the National Dog Show to Westminster, we’ve got your guide to “the ins-and-outs” of the show dog world. Becoming a show dog is not only a lot of work for the pet, but also for the owner.

If you want to participate in the dog show scene there are an additional set of responsibilities to consider.

To get you started, here’s a guide to claiming your “Best in Show“ title for your furry friend.

A guide to becoming a show dog

How to become show dog ready

The dog show arena has many rules.The dog show arena has many rules, regulations, and set protocols.

In addition, to the regular responsibilities of dog ownership, there are supplementary grooming and exercise regimes that must be upheld if you want to participate at a competitive level.

Pups are judged off of: the standard of the breed, and if they uphold that breed’s standard of excellence. As such, a judge might base criteria off of the pup’s walk, stance, overall appearance, and how they act in the ring.

Likewise, your furry friend will be placed in a category group during the evaluation – Working Group, Sporting Group, Hound Group, Non-Sporting Group, Herding Group, Terrier Group, and Toy Group. Is your pup ready to stand out from the pack?

Industry standards

The Westminster Kennel Club and The American Kennel Club (AKC) are two of the most prominent and exclusive shows in the dog show world. The American Kennel Club (AKC) and the Westminster Kennel Club have been around for over 130 years.

Dog show dictionary

The words used at a dog show are really an entire language in itself. You probably need a dictionary to understand the banter, show calls, and day-to-day jargon. According to the AKC, there are hundreds of words that people use at the shows. Here is a breakdown of a few words to get you set and ready to watch the festivities:


The pattern of footsteps. Each dog walks with a different rhythm and foot placement.


A leash for leading the dog.


Each dog is assigned to a category/group while they are being judged.


A treat used to encourage the pup while on the show floor.

Benched show

In a show where the dog and handler are sitting on the bench, attendees are more than welcome to meet and interact with them.


A person who has an interest in being a participant and a watcher of the dog show events.


Sections of longer hair on top of the head. So it looks like pups might have started this fashion trend.

Many pet owners will hire professional dog handlers to present their dogs at the dog show.

Are you a good match to be a dog show handler?

Many pet owners will hire professional dog handlers to present their dogs at the shows. These professional handlers come with the skills, knowledge, and expertise to walk with the best of them.

Often, dog handlers have their own assistant to help assist with the workload and various clientele duties.

Similarly, a dog handler’s schedule is full from start to finish, up early on show day to oversee exercise and grooming of the pups. Additionally, a handler will help primp the dog’s coat or work on their gait, their job is never done.

You can expect to pay a fetching amount to hire a top-notch handler for your furry companion.

Make sure to consider your financial options and budgeting when considering entering your four-legged friend in dog shows.

The cost of show dogs and what to expect

The cost of showing a dog can run into the thousandths. Between extensive grooming, hiring a professional dog show handler, and a rigorous exercise regimen (which can include equipment- like a treadmill) you can expect to pay a pretty penny for the upkeep with showing your pup.

Also, travel can become pricey, once you include hotel, car, food, and any additional accommodations. Make sure to consider your financial options and budgeting when considering entering your four-legged friend in dog shows.

A special bond

The dog show world offers an experience like no other, and the community is a tight-knit one. The collaborative effort between owners, handlers, groomers, trainers, breeders, and all of the furry companions is a very elite one.

The most important take away is if you’re going to go through all the work and expense, your pup (and you for that matter) should enjoy the experience, and be happy and healthy while participating.

Some dogs really enjoy the rigor and attention of showing.  If your pup is having fun, performing on the show floor, then this can be a special way for you to be together.

If the time and expense of showing your dog may seem daunting to you, consider an amateur show to start. You never know, your pet destiny may be for greatness!

To learn more about dog shows, read Pure Dog Talk: A Q&A with Host Laura Reeves 

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