So you have just brought home your new bundle of joy. You have named him "DOG". He is beautiful or at least you think so. Now you want to show the rest of the world you are right. You want "DOG" to be a Champion, and you want to show him yourself. Where to start? First, give yourself a big pat on the back for deciding to be an owner/handler. There is so much pleasure and pride to be gained from earning those points on your own rather than turning to a professional handler. BUT you need to get started
FOR YOU.read the AKC rules on dog shows. Go to shows and watch how others do it. Learn if there are any special grooming techniques you need to be aware of. Ask questions, but not when a handler is waiting to go in the ring. Meet them back in the grooming area at a time convenient for them, and most would be delighted to help a novice. Call your local kennel club and ask if there is a handling class in your area, and SIGN UP. This will teach you ring procedure, stacking, and begin to build your confidence.
FOR "DOG"start him as a puppy. Begin teaching him grooming, ears, nails, bath, brushing. You dont want to find yourself the day before your first show with a puppy who is filthy, has nails 2 inches long, and potato fields in his ears, and then realize he doesnt want a BATH! Most important, teach him TEETH. Every dog needs to stand quietly while his mouth/teeth are examined. I do this by grasping the collar with my fingers of my right hand under the neck and using my right thumb to lower the bottom lip as I lift the upper lip with my left hand. This gives control over the puppy, and allows you to open the mouth at the same time. Tell him "Teeth" or a similar word as you do this. "GOOOOODDD DOG". Then give him a BIG treat for a job well done.
Begin teaching him to gait on a loose lead, and to stack/stand properly. Introduce the stand stay, and show him he will get a food reward for a job done well. Do not expect an 8 week old puppy to stay for too long. Only a few seconds, then praise and reward. Increase the time as he gets older. By all means KEEP IT FUN. Teach a word or phrase to get ears up and expression. Some people use "ears", I use "pretty girl" or "handsome boy". When they raise the ears and show that beautiful expression, they are rewarded by a treat. "GOOOOOD DOG"!
Then head off to that handling class with him.
Look for puppy matches in your area. Puppies can begin showing as young as 12 weeks in a match. Let them learn that having a stranger touch them is a good thing, and that dog shows are fun.
"DOG" is 6 months old now time to enter his first point show. Find a seasoned veteran to explain to you how the classes work, and how points are calculated. Sometimes I think this requires a Rhodes Scholar! Ask them to help you fill out your first entry form, because if you dont do it right, you are not entered!
I always recommend that novices try to travel to the first show with a friend, and if the friend is a seasoned veteran, all the better. They can help with driving, as you will be a nervous wreck; directions, as you will get lost; and remembering what you forgot, because you WILL forget something. They can hold the dog while you make several trips to the restroom before judging, and YOU WILL need to make several trips.
Dont forget to bring your crate, bait, and water for "DOG", a folding chair, your grooming supplies, a spit towel, your entry ticket, and Ladiesan extra pair of panty hose.
Oh yeah dont forget "DOG".
Be sure to wear comfortable shoes that will stay on while running around the ring. NO Sneakers please! Ladies should wear a neat skirt or dress that is not too short, to tight, or to full in the skirt. "DOG" will not appreciate having it flapping in his face. Remember you will be BENDING OVER! Also if you have long hair, tie it back so it does not fall in poor "DOGS" face while you stack him.
Gentlemen, nice slacks and shirt, suit is always nice, but on hot summer days, somewhat impractical. A tie is always a nice touch. I personally find it rude for a man to present a dog to a woman judge while he is wearing a hat. Call me old fashioned, but I just dont like it unless the weather calls for it. Rain, very hot sun would certainly be exceptions to this.
You will find that the judge dresses neatly for you and you should extend the same consideration and respect by dressing appropriately for them.
Wear colors that compliment "DOG". If he is fawn, dont wear tan. If he is brindle try to avoid busy prints, or black. You want to look like a team, and "DOG" cant change what he is wearing.
Now you are at the show PAY ATTENTION when your breed judging starts. Dont start out by annoying the judge when the ring steward is calling your number and you are so busy talking you dont hear.
Your nerves are fried because your friend got lost, you have had WAAAY too many cups of coffee. You have forgotten everything you learned in handling class, and you assume "DOG" has forgotten as well.
HEY! Take a big deep breath, relax, smile. Life is not one the line here! What is the worst thing that will happen if you dont win? World peace will not end, the economy will not crash, and the world will not explode.
You will go home with the experience of the first dog show under your belt, but rest assured, "DOG" will still love you. And, guess what he really wont care that you didnt win!
He is counting on you to be his support now. You need to settle down. Are you worried about being embarrassed in the ring? WHY? "DOG" is trained, you are trained, what can possibly go wrong. AND, if something does go wrong, you will not be the first one it has happened to. Many men have leaned over only to have the seat of their pants rip in the ring. Many women have had their half-slips fall down around their knees as they went around the ring. AND, no one is considered a handler until they have fallen the first time in the ring.
SO relax enjoy and most of all HAVE FUN!
And if you should happen to take the points CONGRATULATIONS you and "DOG" are on your way to that Championship!