The secret to superior handling in the ring, if there is one, is subtlety. Subtlety can mean the difference between superior handling and merely adequate handling. There are times when the most important thing the handler does is nothing. Keep in mind that the less physical handling the handler has to do will make the dog look like he is “showing like a million dollars.”

Confidence is essential, and hard to fake. Learn as much as you can about showing your particular breed and practice as often as you can. The more you practice, the more your movements will become muscle memory and will come naturally. Each action should appear to be smooth, flowing and effortless. Know how to stack your dog quickly and unobtrusively. Movements should be methodical and deliberate, unhurried without being slow. Fussy handlers make fussy dogs. Remember, anxiety and tension travel down the leash! Swarming all over a dog in a herky-jerky fashion does not project a captivating picture.

A trained eye will soon detect the awkward execution of basic ring maneuvers. When you lack the basics, it shows. You can’t fake it. However, too much reverence for the experienced competitor can hold you back. It needs to end when you enter the ring. Act timid and the other competitors will kick your butt. Learn to stand your ground, respect others, and make them want to respect you. You will gain confidence the more you practice and show. Practice as often as you can and watch other confidant handlers when you have the chance to. Study especially the ones who are consistently handling the Winners and Best In Show dogs.

Dress appropriately. Avoid wearing clothes that will distract from or hide your dog. For example, if you have a black dog, do not wear black pants or skirt, as the dog will “disappear.” Avoid anything that jingles or makes noise, such as keys in your pockets. You want all of the judge’s attention on the dog, not on you or your clothes.

No dog is perfect. It is not how many faults a dog has that counts, it’s how many are obvious enough for the judges to see. The best way to minimize a dog’s faults is to accentuate its virtues.

Keep showing your dog right up to the minute the ribbons are handed out. When you are in the ring, never miss an opportunity to show your dog to the best of your ability and his.


Pay attention!

Concentration is often hampered by stress, distractions, and even the desire to please. When we try too hard we tend to make mistakes. Remember to breath!

The sure way to evoke a judge’s animosity is to ignore his instructions, especially when moving your dog.  Be attentive to the judge. Greet him with a nice smile-it makes people think they know you. Be enthusiastic. The amount of enthusiasm with which you present your dog is as important as the dog itself. But don’t go overboard.

Move the dog in line with the judge, both coming and going. It helps to be in a good position before you start. You can do this by swinging the dog around in front of the judge. When the judge has looked over your dog and has sent you to the rear of the class, continue to walk briskly, as the judge frequently continues to look at your dog as you return to the line. Do not relax your dog until there is at least one dog standing behind you. Keep an eye on your dog as well as the judge, and return to competitive mode readily. Some handlers obstruct the judge’s view when allowing their dog to rest.

Taking long, purposeful strides when moving smaller breeds will generally enhance the appearance of the dog’s gait. Watch the dog, but glance ahead to see where you are going—moving your eyes without moving your head.

Juniors, especially, should not hesitate to ask a judge to repeat instructions that they do not fully understand.

Some don’ts to remember:

  • Don’t interfere with other handlers or their dogs.
  • Don’t crowd the dog ahead of you.
  • Don’t create a disturbance with squeaky toys or bait.
  • Don’t talk to the judge unless you are verifying instructions or answering a question.
  • Don’t volunteer information about your dog.
  • Don’t ad lib, do exactly as asked by the judge.
  • Don’t indulge in conversations with people outside the ring or other handlers.
  • Don’t be a bad loser, and don’t take losses home with you. What’s done is done.

With practice, perseverance, confidence and a sense of humor, showing your dog can be a fun and rewarding experience for both you and your dog.