Tuesday, January 5, 2010


So one of my readers asked me if I would write an article about what it takes to show a dog. Here is an excerpt from her e-mail to me.

I, again, so appreciate your writings. Would you possibly consider drafting a few articles about getting started in showing, what the novice needs to know, how to start, where to start, etcetera, but from a realistic point of view? I, for one, would be very interested as I am just starting out in showing (for the second time) and I have very little guidance or direction. Thank you for your consideration with regard to this topic.

OK, so I don’t know if this reader already has a show quality dog that she is interested in getting into the ring or if she is planning on buying a show quality dog. So I’ll try to address both of these issues.

If you already own a dog that you would like to show and are new to the sport of showing dogs, it can be a most exciting time for you. Your hopes are high and your expectations may be as well. Hopefully, you have gone to several shows to watch what happens in the show ring and to learn what judging is all about. You would have asked breeders and exhibitors questions you may have about showing your dog. You may not always find the friendliest people at a dog show if they are exhibiting that day. They may be excited and nervous and not have the time to answer your questions. Choose someone who isn’t showing that day and ask if she minds you picking her brain for a few minutes. Learn everything you can about this breed BEFORE you step into the ring. Hopefully you would have educated yourself BEFORE you bought your first show dog as well!

It’s important for you to know the correct structure, temperament and movement of the German Shepherd Dog. If you don’t, you’ll never know why your dog may not be winning like you expected he would. Read everything you can get your hands about the breed. Watch videos of this breed in motion. Better yet, watch it in slow motion. Educate yourself about the proper opening of the shoulder, the follow through in the rear, the top line in motion, coming and going, etc. Then when you think you understand what it is your dog will be judged on, you can move forward.

Next thing you should do is decide whether or not you want to show your dog yourself or have a professional dog handler do it for you. If you do it yourself, realize you might not win as often as you would like. Many times a dog won’t move or present himself for you as he would if a professional was on him. Of course this isn’t always the case, but many times it is. A professional knows which judges to show your dog to and he knows how to bring out the best qualities of your dog while hiding the less desirable things about him. Oh by the way, speaking of handlers, have you brought your dog to a professional to evaluate him? Be prepared for an honest critique of your dog. Realize just because you think your dog is fabulous, not everyone else will.

Another thing to think about is if you want to show your dog in a specialty ring, an all-breed ring or both? Most really good dogs can win in both rings. Then there are some that are better in a smaller all-breed ring than they would be in a larger specialty ring. Many times this has to do with your dog’s attitude and his willingness to pull out on the lead.

If you decide to have a professional show your dog, it will cost you a lot more money initially, but in the long run, it might be a whole lot less than if you showed him yourself. What this means is that you are paying him for his professionalism and expertise. You’re not as familiar with knowing what a particular judge may be looking for. In other words, you are paying a handler for his knowledge.

Alright, let’s say you are starting out and are in the market to buy your first show dog. Where do you start? Who do you go to? This will probably be the hardest part about beginning your show career. Who will sell you a show puppy? And just what is a show puppy anyway? There are a gazillion German Shepherd breeders you can find on the internet. Of those gazillion, who has the show quality puppy that you are looking for and better yet, will sell it to you? You will find the top breeders that have been breeding for years as well as the smaller breeders that have been around for several years with relatively good success. You are looking for the breeder that will sell you something good that will prove to be competitive in the show ring. In this case, not only are you the buyer, but you better know how to sell yourself as well to the breeder.

What the breeder is getting from you is that you are new and want a show dog to begin your journey into the world of showing dogs. You are asking and willing to pay a show quality price to this breeder. Coming from the breeders stand point, he has bred a top quality litter and he is looking for top quality show homes. He is looking for people that have proven show records to their credit. But you say, “I’m just starting out. Everyone has to start somewhere.” Many times you may find a breeder may be very hesitant with a “newbie” because they want their dogs to be shown. Sometimes you will find a breeder willing to take a chance on a novice person.

BUYER BEWARE! I wrote about this before. Know what you are paying for AHEAD of time! Ask your questions NOW! Make sure that you GET A WRITTEN CONTRACT. NEVER get just a verbal agreement! This is not a smart thing to do no matter how well known the breeder may be. GET IT IN WRITING! Read every single line and especially the small print. Is the breeder a signer of the Breeder’s Code? I’m going to voice my opinion about that. I know SOME people who are the signer of the Breeder’s Code that are not scrumptious breeders, so I’m sorry but the Breeder’s Code doesn’t always mean too much to me. This is just my opinion!

Remember a breeder can use different language when describing their show quality puppies to you. Be aware of what each of these things may mean. If a breeder says to you, this puppy is SHOWABLE or he’s got SHOW POTENTIAL, what they are saying is that the puppy RIGHT NOW doesn’t show any disqualifying faults. If you are being told that the puppy is SHOW QUALITY, again this means that he doesn’t display any disqualifying faults AT THIS TIME! If you are being told that the puppy is FINISHABLE, then you should be smart enough to know, NO ONE for no matter how long that they have been breeding can ever say that any puppy is finishable! Realize anything and everything can happen to a potential show quality puppy. All of their teeth are not in, their mouths may change – overshot, undershot, even bite. Their ears may go up and down and may have problems with weak ears as they age. Their temperaments might change. He used to be friendly, but he’s not now. Hindquarters most of the time will change. He may have had a nice rear when he was younger, but now he’s square and boxy. Most of the time fronts remain the same. I’ve personally never seen a puppy that didn’t have a nice shoulder all of a sudden get one as he got older. Also I’ve never seen a puppy that couldn’t move all of a sudden grow up into a superstar mover. This is why you as a breeder MUST learn everything that you can about this breed BEFORE you pay a breeder a visit. The above picture shows what a 5 1/2 month old show quality puppy might look like. 

Obviously the best dog that you can buy is an older puppy or young adult. This way you can basically see the finished product so to speak. Also realize that this dog will cost you more money than the cute little 8 – 10 week old puppy will! This is why it is so important that you know what it is that you are buying. EDUCATE yourself! Buying show quality puppies is always a risk and chance. The only one that can take a chance on a puppy is the breeder if he decides to hold onto the pup for himself. With a show potential puppy, there are no guarantees that he will grow up into a show quality animal.

If you can, join a breed club. Talk to other breeders. Get yourself educated. Most importantly, LISTEN! Listen to what different breeders have to say. Listen to them when they exchange information to one another about the breed. Go to handling classes. Learn how to show your dog. Get him used to the ring procedure and being gone over. Socialize him. Take him everywhere with you. Learn about what “double handling” means if you are going to use the services of a professional handler. When you get ready to buy your first show dog, check out the breeders ads on the German Shepherd Dog Club of America’s website. Watch for advertisements of puppies and young adults for sale on the many different German Shepherd Dog Show lists.

If you go to a breeder without knowing anything about the breed then you are relying solely on that breeder to make all the decisions for you. If you arm yourself with some knowledge, the breeder might just see how serious you are and might be more willing to allow you to buy one of her puppies. Know the difference in breeders. Sometimes novice people think that they can only get a top quality animal from a well known breeder. This is not always the case. There are many smaller, less known breeders that you can be just as successful with and many times may be more willing to work with you. ASK AROUND about different breeders BEFORE you make a commitment. See what other people may have to tell you about their dogs and any experiences they may have had with the breeder. Does the breeder have a good reputation? Now I’m not just talking about the breeder that has bred a million champions. Breeding champions doesn’t necessarily make for a good reputation! I’m talking about how well the breeder stands behind their dogs and how they are to deal with if a problem should arise. Beware of those breeders who love to talk “trash” about all the other breeders across the country. This is probably not someone you may want to deal with.

So there you have it. I hope I’ve answered some of your questions and there are a lot more breeders reading this blog who might give you some valuable input that I didn’t cover here. You wanted a realistic point of view and this is just my point of view. I have dealt with some well known breeders and some of the smaller ones as well. My best success came from the smaller breeders. However, that being said, some of my best associations, mentors and friendships have been from the big breeders. So listen, learn and take away from them all some valuable lessons. If your mind is open and you truly want to be successful in the show ring……do your homework. Breeders like to deal with sincere, knowledgeable lovers and students of the breed. Good luck, thank you for your letter and let me know how you did!

My rating: buying show quality puppies: (2), buying show quality older pups/young adults: (4)

1 comment:

  1. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.