How to Get Your Dog Show-Ready

dog show

If you think your dog is prize-winning, show-stopping stuff, the natural next step is to think about entering him into a show. The first thing you need to do is make sure that she’s properly trained. Look for a club or trainer that specializes in Ringcraft classes to give you advice on presentation, and find a Good Citizen Dog Scheme to help train your dog on the basics if they’re not already trained.

It’s a good idea to get a feel for dog shows yourself before you think about exhibiting your own. Goto a local show and chat with exhibitors, and seek out breeders too so that you can get advice about how to show your pet off to their best advantage.

Types of dog shows

There are three types of show: Companion, Open, and Championship.

  • Companion Dog Shows – fun, usually local, dog shows which don’t usually cost much to enter and are likely to be found advertised in the local press or Dogs Today.
  • Open Dog Shows – these are open to Kennel Club registered pedigree dogs and have to be formally pre-registered by applying. You’ll find these shows advertised in Our Dogs and Dogs Today. To enter, your dog must be at least six months old on the day the show starts. Classes are: Gundog, Hound, Terrier, Toy, and Pastoral – as well as for ‘any variety not separately classified’ plus ‘any variety gundog’ etc.
  • Championship Dog Shows – also found in Our Dogs and Dogs Today, these are more exclusive competitions that you would take your dog to if you wanted them to qualify for Crufts and gain Championship Status. Only registered pedigree dogs can take part, and places need to be booked in the same way as Open Dog Shows. The shows are more formal and the dogs are usually kept under cover and away from the show ring. You’ll need to bring a secure collar and bench chain with you for these shows, and sometimes a crate too.

Before the show

The amount of preparation you need to do obviously depends on the type of show, and your breed of dog. Yorkshire Terriers and dogs with similar coats are often spotted in wraps or rollers before a show, while long-eared dogs will be seen with unruly ears encased in snoods so that they don’t get their dinner on their fur. Poodles obviously need a lot of pre-show grooming, and even short-coated dogs need to have a grooming routine to keep their coats looking tip top. If your breed has a long coat, or takes a lot of styling, it might take you a while to get it prepped to perfection.

There are specific Kennel Club regulations that explain how you should prepare a dog for exhibition in an Open or Championship competition – you should get this with your entry forms and information when you register.


If you’re not sure how to groom your dog correctly, you could take them to a professional or get advice from a specialist website like Groomers Online.

Pre-show beauty treatments start with a dog’s most hated thing:  a bath.  Make sure you have the correct type of shampoo and conditioner for their type of coat, and if you have a long-haired breed, blow dry them afterwards, either with a cage dryer or a dryer secured to a grooming table.

Trim off any inner ear hair – this also helps to prevent infections.

Clean around their eyes very gently with moist cotton wool.

Clip their toenails – use normal nail nippers to cut them straight across the bottom and then take toenail clippers and angle them slightly to get rid of the sharp points.

Freshen their doggy breath; you could use specialist dog toothpaste or opt for cleaning with baking soda, water and a soft towel.

Make sure that their coat is trimmed and shaped to the correct show requirements, and remove or cover any little imperfections. Give them a quick brush and last-minute check and trim just before they go into the show ring.

What to take to the show with you

It depends on the type of dog and the type of show, but in general you’ll need:

  • Show lead(s)
  • Grooming equipment
  • Poo bags
  • Proof of entry (if applicable)
  • Water (for both of you)
  • Towels
  • Bench chains if needed
  • Dog crate if required
  • Water spray to cool you both down
  • Number clip or band for entry number
  • Normal lead and collar

Taking part in a show can be great fun for dogs and their owners, so enjoy yourself, and good luck!

This is a guest blog post for ALTMD. Michael Palmer is a freelance writer based in Oxford, writing on behalf of MORE TH>N pet insurance, which offers pet lovers the reassurance they need to care for their pet. These are his own thoughts and do not represent the views of MORE TH>N. Please note that policy exclusions apply at MORE THAN for any pet used for commercial breeding or monetary gain.


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