An introduction to showing your dog

  Starting out in Dog Showing

It may be beneficial to attend a local dog show before starting classes so that you can get a general idea of what happens at a show and also to talk to other exhibitors. You may also be able to learn a little more about how your breed is shown to ‘its best advantage’ by speaking to the dog's breeder. 

You can find out about up and coming shows through the Kennel Gazette (available from the Kennel Club). There are also two weekly newspapers called Dog World and Our Dogs, which carry adverts for shows and can be ordered through your local newsagent. These publications will give you a lot of useful information about the show scene and general information relating to dogs.

Ringcraft Classes

Ringcraft clubs are usually very sociable, where groups of like-minded people meet on a regular basis and get great enjoyment from training their dogs. The ideal Ringcraft club should have classes, for the beginner, and in particular the puppy before it goes into the show ring, through to classes for more experienced dogs and handlers in order to keep them in the peak of training.

A great deal of time and effort goes into presenting a dog for exhibition at a show and even getting your dog to perform in the ring is a lot harder than it looks. A dog that only wants to slouch in the corner, or ambles around the ring ungracefully will not impress the judge. It is important that you learn how to present your dog in the show ring to show off all its finer points.

This can be very difficult to achieve; the dog has got to want to show off for its owner or handler in the show ring and you must work hard together to build this rapport. The people who run Ringcraft clubs have a great deal of experience in the 'show scene' and will be able to show you all the techniques to get the best out of your dog.

Some Ringcraft clubs not only run training classes for your dogs, but competitions such as Matches and Companion Dog Shows so that members can see how they are progressing.

Ringcraft club classes can also be used as the basis of training you and your dog on how it should be handled and presented even if you have no thoughts of entering the 'show scene'. They are not just for people wanting to show their dogs but for everybody with a dog, and they will teach the basics such as:

  • Socialisation with people and other dogs
  • Training your dog to walk on a lead nicely without becoming distracted by people or other dogs.

Whilst a great deal of time and effort goes into presenting a dog for exhibition at a show it is, in the end, very rewarding.

Dog Clubs

The Kennel Club licenses nearly 5000 canine events every year but the management of these events lies in the hands of approximately 2000 dog clubs in the UK. These dog clubs were all set up by enthusiasts and some have been in existence as long as the Kennel Club itself. There are several categories of clubs all catering for people with different interests.

There are 210 breeds of dog recognised by the Kennel Club and nearly all are represented by a registered Breed Club. More unusual breeds, such as the Alaskan Malamute, have only one club, but a really popular breed like theCocker Spaniel has over 20 clubs.

If you are serious about showing your dog, it is advisable to become a member of a Breed Club as they will be able to offer more expert advice on your chosen breed. Please visit the Breed Standards pages for Breed Club contacts. The Breed Club and Secretary are listed at the end of the page.


Types Of Shows

There are a number of categories and grades of dog shows, and the jargon that is used to describe them can be somewhat bewildering for anyone new to dog showing.

Companion Dog Shows

Companion Dog Shows are fundraising events held throughout the year and the shows are mostly organised in conjunction with fetes, charity open days or similar events to raise money for charitable causes. The shows are very relaxed fun dog shows, so they are ideal for people who are new on the show scene. They offer the opportunity to practice your teamwork and confidence with your dog in the show ring. On arrival at the show, visit the entries table where you can select the classes you would like to enter. If you need help with making your entry or deciding which classes to enter then just ask, as the people organising the show will be more than happy to help you.

Single Breed Shows

As the name suggests, Single Breed Shows have classes for just one breed of dog and are organised by a Breed Club. Such shows are likely to attract breed specialists who may have been involved in the breeding and showing of a particular breed for many years and, as such, can provide you with an ideal opportunity to really learn about your breed from the experts.

Open Shows

Some people prefer to start out on their show career by entering general Open Shows that schedule classes for many different breeds of dog. These shows are run by general canine societies and are a good testing ground for new exhibitors. There are many more general canine societies than there are breed clubs, and as a result there are always plenty of these shows held every year. These shows are very popular and can attract many hundreds of competitors. At some of them you can also qualify for Crufts. For a list of Open Shows in your area, email the Canine Activities Department.

Championship Shows

These are the most prestigious shows where you may be able to qualify your dog to be shown at Cruft’s, and where Kennel Club Challenge Certificates (also known as CCs, or tickets) are on offer. It is worthwhile noting, the organisers will allocate a bench and it is therefore advisable to find your bench when arriving at the show which will be close to your show ring.

Challenge Certificates are the very highest award a dog can gain and they are awarded if, in the judge's opinion, the dog is of the quality to become a Champion. If a dog wins three Challenge Certificates under three separate judges, it is entitled to be known as a Champion, or in the case of a Gundog or a Border collie, a Show Champion.

Entering The Show

Once you have decided which show you would like to take part in you will need to contact the secretary of the show and obtain a copy of the schedule (these are free of charge). It is worth finding out whether you can make your entry online as many of the shows offer this facility.

Once you have found your way to the right part of the schedule you will need to select which class, or classes, you would like to enter - the schedule will always offer detailed definitions of each class. It is worth mentioning that you are not limited to just one class, and you can enter as many classes as your dog is eligible for and that you wish to compete in.

Once you have deliberated over the schedule and chosen which class or classes you would like to compete in you must complete the entry form accurately and legibly. Signing the entry form is important as it forms the contract between you and the Show Society. If the dog is jointly owned, both parties should sign the entry form unless one of the parties has the express written permission of the other to sign on their behalf. By signing, you are declaring that your dog is fit and healthy to take part in the show, and that you will abide by Kennel Club Rules and Regulations. This is essential to the management of the show and for the sport in general. You will need to send your entry and payment well in advance of the closing date of entry to the show.

At The Show

One of the delights of dog showing is watching the judging, and most exhibitors take a keen interest in what the judge is doing. Following the judging will not only give you an idea as to what the judge is looking for, but by watching other seasoned exhibitors it should give you a much greater insight into how to handle your dog more professionally, how to behave in the ring and to become familiar with the actual mechanics of showing your dog.

At larger multi-breed shows you will also have the chance to see all sorts of other breeds in the show ring. Strolling around the showground provides a good opportunity to talk to other dog owners and learn about other breeds of dog. At larger shows there are also likely to be plenty of trade stands selling all manner of dog paraphernalia, from dog food to coats, leads, grooming equipment and kennels. There may also be book stalls, stands selling clothing and all sorts of arts and crafts for sale.

Grooming and preparing your dog for exhibition
Short-coated breeds do not require too much preparation before they go into the ring but if your breed has a long coat, or is usually presented in a certain style it could take you some time to prepare your dog to perfection. Most grooming and clipping should be completed before you set out for the show but most people give their dogs a quick brush and final trim just before going into the show ring. You will need to make yourself aware of the Kennel Club regulations regarding preparing dogs for exhibition – this information should be included in the schedule.

Qualifying for Crufts

It is surely every exhibitor’s dream to qualify their dogs for Cruft’s – the most famous dog show in the world! To be able to show at Crufts however, your dog must qualify through one of the various qualification routes. Further information on qualifications can be obtained from the Kennel Club.


  • Before The Show: Request schedule from Secretary.
  • Send your entry form together with your entry fee to the Secretary before the closing date!
  • Groom and prepare your dog.
  • Prepare a show bag containing your grooming kit, leads, water bowls, poop scoop etc.
  • Remember to take your show passes (if appropriate). 

At the Show: 

  • Arrive at the showground in plenty of time.
  • Purchase a catalogue.
  • If at a Championship Show, find your bench and show ring.
  • Finish off grooming.
  • Keep your eye on the judging and do not miss your class!
  • Look around the show – you will find that there is so much to discover and learn.

Suggested Reading

The following Kennel Club publications may be a further source of useful information:

  • Kennel Gazette - The Kennel Club’s monthly magazine providing all the up-to-date news within the dog world and complete show diary.
  • The Kennel Club Year Book - Contains a list of the Members and Associates of the Kennel Club, a list of Breed Clubs and Societies with the complete Rules and Regulations.  
  • Regulation Booklets- A range of personal organiser sized booklets on the different canine regulations, which include Agility and Flyball, Field Trials, Heelwork to Music, Obedience, Show and Working Trials. 
  • Breed Standards - A detailed description of each Breed Standard is listed within their Groupings.