Guide to Showing with GSPs

Providing your GSP has enjoyed a healthy diet along with sufficient exercise, there is very little cosmetic preparation needed for a show. There is, however, plenty to do before entering one and it is always a good idea to visit a couple of local shows to observe and learn what is expected of you and your dog.

One of the most important things to remember when training and showing your dog is that the handlers’ personality, emotions and skills will directly affect the dog’s performance. Ensure that you are in the best frame of mind possible before beginning the dogs training session or setting off for the show. Give yourself confidence and some knowledge by watching good handlers, and then try it yourself. Be patient with yourself and your dog, you will make mistakes, but providing you admit them instead of blaming your dog, no harm will be done.

As you will see from the local shows attended, the judge looks at each dog to assess them against the breed standard. The best way for them to do that is to observe the dog in a ‘show stance’ and whilst moving around the ring. This way they can see how the structure of the dog functions in action.

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To create the ‘show stance’, place one hand under the dogs’ chest and the other under the chin. Lift, so that the front feet are raised slightly off the ground, and then gently lower. In most cases, the two feet will now be parallel to each other, and in line with the tip of the elbow and top point of the shoulders, if not, make the minor adjustments needed. Holding the dogs’ head, either by its muzzle or its lead, bend down and position the back legs, one at a time, so that they are also parallel with each other and the hocks are perpendicular to the floor. Check the balance by stretching the head and neck slightly and allow the dog to adjust its weight so that it is distributed correctly. Finally take control of your dogs’ head with one hand and hold the tail horizontally with the other. If you have the dog correctly positioned it should feel relaxed and balanced. Give gentle encouragement throughout so your dog knows it is pleasing you and at the end of a good performance give plenty of praise. It is advisable to always end on a good note!

MovementNow for the movement, this is usually the part the dog enjoys the most. It can be quite a task to train your dog to stay on all four legs as opposed to two, and can require many hours (and miles) of practice. Place the lead up the neck and keep the head at the same level throughout. Ensure the lead is neither too tight nor too slack, either way you can distort the dogs’ movement. The pace should be moderate and you will usually find the correct speed is the dogs’. Synchronize your pace to his, in order to move as one. Ensure the dog moves parallel to you and do not allow it to pull away otherwise it will not be balanced and will tend to ‘crab’. The judge will usually require you initially to move round in a circle with other dogs in the class and then, on individual inspection, in a triangle and straight up and down. Use as much space as available to show off your dog to the maximum, always keep the dog between you and the judge and never allow the dog to ‘run into’ the judge.

The ‘ideal’ way to train your dog is to spend 5 or 10 minutes per day practicing the above, however, you still don’t know how the dog or you, are actually performing. This is where Ring Craft classes can help. They are usually run by your local canine society on a weekly or monthly basis. You will need to become a member of one of these, usually for a nominal yearly sum, and then you can attend as often as you like. There are many advantages to these classes. Your dog will learn to socialise with other canines; it will become accustomed to the noises associated with dog shows and it will get used to being handled by a judge. Most of the problems you encounter will have been seen previously, and overcome, therefore, plenty of advice is usually at hand. An independent onlooker can very often see what minor adjustments to your handling need to be made to get the best out of your dog. Remember the people involved in these societies are usually real dog show fanatics and have been showing for many years. They will do everything in their power to help. Please take their advice as it is meant NOT as a criticism of you and your dog.

If you would like to attend ring classes but have no idea where your nearest one is, the Kennel Club have a list of all societies registered with them in your area on their website which can be found at http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/services/public/findaclub/activity/Default.aspx. Scroll towards the bottom of the window of the particular Club you have chosen and it will usually tell you whether they have Ring Training Classes. Contact the Secretary to find out when these are run. Sometimes, the Clubs may run Match Meetings as well as, or instead of, ring training. Once again you will need to be a member of the society organizing the matches. They are licensed by the Kennel Club and usually held monthly. These are like fun ‘knock-out’ competitions where judging is by elimination, one against one, and you will enter either the Puppy or Adult class. If you win your ‘match’ then you will be required to compete again, against another winner, and so on, until only a few dogs remain unbeaten. These dogs will then compete for Best in Match or Best Puppy in Match.

If you have neither ring classes or match meetings close by then try asking a friend to watch you or stand your dog before a mirror, forward and sideways (this is what the judge sees). It can be quite a shock. You think you have your dog set up correctly, but it looks wrong. Experiment, until it looks right.

You have now got to the stage where your puppy is reaching 6 months (the minimum age it can be shown) or you feel your dog is ready to compete. To find the shows dates, entry closing dates and schedules, you need to look on the following websites: http://www.fossedata.co.uk; https://www.dog.biz/; Our Dogs: http://www.ourdogs.co.uk; Dog World at http://www.dogworld.co.uk or on the Kennel Club Event Diary page at http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/media/31099/showdiary.pdf. As well as being available on-line ‘Our Dogs’ and ‘Dog World’ are available from newsagents weekly. The shows will be in the form of advertising at the back of the paper giving details of the organising society, the date, the venue, the closing date, the secretary’s name and telephone number/address from which you obtain a schedule and sometimes a list of breeds scheduled and their judges. Send off or phone for your schedule and await its arrival!!

There are five different types of show, Companion, Limited, Open, Premier and Championship. All require your dog to be over six months and the latter four are open to pedigree, Kennel Club registered dogs only.

Companion Shows

This type of show will only be licensed for the purpose of raising money on behalf of charities or charitable organisations, therefore, you tend to find them attached to a local fete, agricultural show or rescue organisation. They usually comprise of up to five classes for pedigree dogs, provided they registered with the KC and an unlimited number of classes for both pedigree and non pedigree dogs. Pedigree classes must be confined to a selection of the following: Any Variety Sporting Dogs; Any Variety Hounds; Any Variety Gundogs; Any Variety Terriers; Any Variety Non-Sporting Dogs; Any Variety Utility; Any Variety Working; Any Variety Pastoral; Any Variety Toys; Any Variety Puppy (6-9 months); Any Variety Puppy (6-12 months); Any Variety Junior (12 – 18 months); Any Variety Open; Any Variety Veteran (Over 7 years); Any Combination of Groups or Junior Handlers Class (Under 18 years of age – Dog owned by exhibitor or the exhibitor’s parents). The list of non pedigree classes or ‘novelty’ classes can be endless but usually have names such as: Dog with the waggiest tail, Dog most like its owner, Dog with the prettiest face and so on.

After all classes have been judged, each class winner will compete for the Best in Show title.

Limited Shows

This type of show commands more rules and regulations. It will comprise of a minimum of 12 classes, if a single breed is on offer, or 16 classes for more than one breed, one of which must be an Open class. These shows will offer four prize cards in each class: first, second, third, reserve and the winner of each class, for a particular breed, will compete for Best of Breed. All Best of Breeds will then challenge for the title of Best in Show.

Dogs which have won a Challenge Certificate or obtained any award that counts towards the title of Champion under the rules of any governing body recognised by The Kennel Club are not eligible for entry at these shows.

Open Shows

Very similar to the above, however, they do tend to have many more breeds scheduled. Again at least four prize cards will be on offer and if you win your class you will challenge for Best of Breed. Open shows also tend to offer Best Puppy in Breed awards where all unbeaten puppies will challenge.

Many of the Open shows are judged on the group system. This means that all Best of Breed winners from a particular group i.e. gundogs, will compete to try and attain Group 1 to Group 4*. All seven Group winners will then compete for Best in Show. If a show is not judged on the Group System, then all Best of Breed winners will challenge together for Best in Show and Reserve Best in Show. (*Group 1 = Best in Group, Group 2 = Reserve Best in Group, Group 3 = Third Best in Group and Group 4 = Fourth Best in Group).

If a Best Puppy in Show is on offer then a similar system to the above is used, however, the competitions this time are between the Best Puppies in Breed.

Premier Shows

Open to all levels of pedigree dog exhibitors. Premier Shows are a larger version of an Open Show but here exhibitors can qualify for Crufts.

Championship Shows

This is the only type of show in the UK where you can gain the title of Show Champion.

A Championship show, like the Open show, can be for a single breed, a sub group (i.e. hunt, point and retrieve breeds), a group (i.e. gundogs) or all breeds. They are on a much larger scale than the Open shows, catering for thousands of exhibits rather than hundreds.

The entries close anywhere between 4 and 6 weeks before the show. At show where an entry fee is charged, you will be provided with a minimum of one free entry pass, however, some may supply two if the dog is in joint names. Check the schedule for this. You will be given the opportunity to order more passes on the entry form (usually at reduced rates) if family or friends wish to accompany you. It is advisable to do so if required, as the few Championship shows that do charge are very strict on this issue, and it can become quite an expensive affair on the day. Catalogues can also be ordered with your entry (again at reduced rates) which give information on your exhibit number, which tent your breed is housed in, where the ring is and which other dogs are entered in your classes.

Sub Group, Group, All Breed and some Single breed Championship shows are benched. This is an area, raised off the ground, with three wooden/metal sides in which your dog must be tethered by a collar (not a choke chain) and benching chain. You will find, on arrival, two small cards with the same number on your bench. One remains there; the other must be attached to the handler of the dog by a ring clip, arm band or elastic band. This must be in full view all the time you are in the ring. The benches tend to be rather uncomfortable for your dog so you may wish to take some kind of bedding with you (the washable kind).

The shows with Championship status stretch from Bournemouth to Scotland, therefore, the chances of having more than a couple ‘close to home’ are fairly slim. Commencement of judging is usually between 9 and 10am and can very often continue until 3/4pm, meaning you could sometimes be away from home for 14 hours or more. With this in mind you will need to take plenty of supplies for the dog including water bowl, water, food dish, food and chewies/titbits to keep your dog happy throughout the long day. These, along with the bedding, benching chain, show lead and grooming utensils, can be quite cumbersome, let alone heavy, so it is advisable to purchase a strong, lightweight, easy to carry ‘Show Bag’ to house them in.

At Championship shows many of the breeds scheduled will have Challenge Certificates on offer for each best of sex (three of which, under different judges, are needed for the title of Show Champion). Where this applies, in contrast with most all breed Open shows, the classes for each sex will be separate.

Line-UpBefore judging commences, as in all types of shows, you will find two or three people inside the ring. One will be your judge and the other(s) the steward(s). At the scheduled time judging will commence by the steward announcing the first class. When your class is called you will be required to enter the ring and take your dog to the area specified by the steward. He/she will then log the number of each exhibit present and the judging of the class will start. There are five prizes to be won in each class, First to Reserve, as in the other shows, then Very Highly Commended. If you are lucky enough to win one of those prizes, considering competition will be strong, you will be required to take your dog to the centre of the ring, indicated by the steward, and re-stand your dog in order of merit. The steward will then announce the winning exhibit numbers and hand out the prize cards. If you received either a first or a second, you will be expected to stay in the ring, with your dog in a show stance, whilst the judge writes a critique.

Judge CheckingAfter the dog classes have been judged the winner of each class (providing it has not been beaten in a subsequent class) will compete for the Dog Challenge Certificate. When this has been awarded the judge may require the dog gaining second in the class, from which the CC winner came, to re-enter the ring and challenge, alongside the remaining winners, for the Reserve Dog Challenge Certificate. After both awards have been given, the two winners will take their dogs around the ring in a lap of honour. They will then return the certificates to the judges’ table to be filled in with the dog and owner details at the end of the judging. The bitch classes will now commence and go through the same process until the Bitch Challenge Certificate and Reserve Challenge Certificate have been awarded. When both Dog and Bitch Challenge Certificate winners have been chosen, the two dogs will then challenge for Best of Breed and again a lap of honour will be taken.

Once Best of Breed has been awarded it is then the turn of the puppies. All unbeaten puppy dogs will compete for Best Puppy Dog and then the bitches will do the same. The Best Puppy of each sex will now compete for Best Puppy in Breed.

All Best of Breed winners, within a specific Group, will eventually be called upon to enter ‘the big ring’. Here, a different judge will determine which dogs will be awarded Best in Group (Gp1), Reserve Best in Group (Gp2), 3rd best in Group (Gp3) and 4th Best in Group (Gp4). Even to appear in this ring is a great honour. You will be competing against some of the top dogs in the country and your dog will need to be on top form to stand a chance of being in the awards. In the event of winning Best in Group or Group 1 as it is known, you will be required to compete against 6 other Best in Group Winners, sometimes having to return on a different day, for Best in Show and Reserve Best in Show.