You may not be the only person who thinks your purebred dog is the most beautiful creature on earth. If he's truly a top quality specimen of his breed, consider competing in dog shows to prove him. Requirements are broad; most legitimate dog shows follow prominent kennel club rules.
In order to compete in a legitimate dog show, your dog must be registered with the American Kennel Club, the largest dog registry in the United States, or with whatever other registry is affiliated with the show. The second-largest registry, the international United Kennel Club concentrates more on working dogs and is considerably smaller than the AKC. These kennel clubs and other established breeding registries won't accept spayed or neutered dogs, but countless non-registry dog shows allow fixed dogs and even mixed breeds. Ensure beforehand that your dog qualifies for the show you intend to enter. Even for all-dogs-allowed community dog shows -- the Columbia County Fair Fun Day Dog Show -- your canine must be current on all shots.
Each national breed club establishes standards for its ideal canine; standards may vary slightly. In addition to the physical ideal, the standard specifies how the dog should move, or "gait," and what its temperament should be. Male and female dogs are judged separately. When the judge evaluates your dog, she compares him to the established ideal, judging height, weight, coat quality and coloring, overall build and appearance. She looks at specific physical traits, watches the dog's movement, and observes demeanor and behavior.
Your dog requires a handler when showing. If you have experience in handling, you can exhibit your dog as an owner-handler. If you bred the dog, you can compete as a breeder-owner-handler. Handlers must know how to show a dog to the dog's best advantage. If you're a novice, hire a professional handler who knows the ropes. As the AKC puts it, "The role of a handler is similar to that of a jockey who rides a horse around the track and, hopefully, into the winner's circle."
When your dog competes in a show, he must be groomed to the nines. If you have a short-haired dog with an easy-care coat, such as a dachshund or beagle, you can probably bathe, groom and trim his nails yourself. You must know the breed standard for your dog's coat and have experience trimming nails. If your dog has more elaborate hair, or the standard is particularly complicated, you'll need the services of a professional groomer. For example, the miniature schnauzer breed standard for showing states that the "head, neck, ears, chest, tail, and body coat must be plucked." The coat must be long enough so the judge can determine texture, as soft coats are a fault.
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