Showing your dog – tips for beginners

Mar 1, 2024 3:00:12 PM

There are many stages between starting out at the local summer fair through to enjoying a few exhilarating minutes of glory at a major dog show. You may decide that the low-key, fun shows are best for you – or you might aspire to greater things. The extent of your ambitions will determine the amount of time and effort you’ll need to invest.

Dog shows are generally categorised in the following way:

  • Companion show: low key, fun, open to all
  • Limited show: restrictions such as breed, geographic area
  • Open show: open to all pedigree dogs, gateway to larger events
  • Premier show: similar to an open show but larger
  • Championship show: highest level of UK dog shows, higher awards available

Visit a dog show

The best way to see what dog showing is all about is to go along and see what happens. There are dog shows of all kinds across the UK so it’s worth going to a few and comparing their approaches, the atmosphere and processes involved.

The most relaxed type of dog show is the companion dog show which any dog can enter. There are usually a few different ‘classes’ (types of competitions) and might include ‘Best behaved dog’ or ‘Most smiley dog’ and other light-hearted categories.

These are great events to start off with as you can see how your own dog responds and if it’s something you like to explore further. Talk to people at the shows, especially those who look like they’ve done it before, to get more insight - and a few of their top tips.

Check your dog’s eligibility

Before you enter a show at a higher level than companion or fun shows, you’ll need to check that your dog is eligible. There are usually several classes and you’ll need to check against the show organiser’s criteria as they are strict. For example if you have a beautiful pedigree spaniel with a docked tail, they won’t be allowed to show, even if they’ve been docked according to legal criteria.

Most dog shows are for pedigree dogs where the judges are assessing the entrant against the accepted breed standard. The less formal shows are open to all.

Prepare, prepare, prepare!

Entering a dog show inevitably involves long hours of training and grooming, alongside exercising and an excellent diet. You need to be prepared to convert all your time and financial investment into a few short minutes in the show ring!

You can attend training specifically to get your dog well prepared. You’ll both need to know what’s expected of you and this preparation will ensure that your dog is comfortable in the show environment. He is likely to encounter many dogs of all kinds so he’ll need to be able to relax around them. At the highest levels some owners opt for a professional to accompany their dog for judging, it can be a very serious business!

In terms of grooming, you know what is best for your dog but tip top condition, thoroughly clean (don’t forget the teeth), perfectly cut claws and well-presented is the order of the day.

In your preparations your Trophy Nutritional Adviser can help with lots of these aspects including, of course, feeding advice and weight monitoring – ask us how we can help.

Taster sessions

The UK Kennel Club runs ‘Have a go’ events which are a good place to start. These cost just a few pounds and provide lots of information and support for beginners including basic skills and what to expect

Be well equipped

If you attend a dog show at any level you’ll need to make sure you have everything you need, from grooming equipment to poo bags, wipes, water and food. Don’t forget yourself too – make sure you have some handy snacks with you, it can be a long day.


As long as you and your pet are enjoying it, dog shows are a wonderful way to spend time together, during preparation and at the events themselves. The bond you have will be strengthened as you work towards the events.

Many shows also include a junior class so you could also involve any younger members of the family. It’s highly rewarding and a good way to build confidence.

If dog shows aren’t for you, there are also some fantastic dog festivals in the UK – we’ve included a few links below if you’d like to find out more.



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