Conformation Shows

Conformation is the term used for dog shows that I like to describe as "trot around in a circle and stand pretty". Most people have seen Westminister Kennel Club shows on TV. Yes, it does look easy, just run around and stand still and win. However, looks are VERY deceptive in this case.

The first thing you need to consider before showing is was pup or dog that you have PURCHASED AS SHOW POTENTIAL. The pup also will need to have full registration with AKC, unless it is to be shown in Junior Handling. (Juniors may show a dog on a limited registration) What makes one pup show potential and another a pet? In many cases it is something that the novice will never notice. It can be as small as a few degrees of angle lacking in the front or rear assembly, maybe the ears are a tad too high? However it can also be something that is a glaring fault to anyone familiar with the breed! Is your pup sickle hocked, do the front feet point east and west rather than straight ahead when it stands, is there a big hump or roach in it's back, is the bite/dentation correct? Judges are supposed to use The Breed Standard when determining placements, so be familiar with yours. All Standards, along with free pamphlets on dog shows, and a list of show superintendents may be found at the AKC website. (Write to Show Superintendents requesting Premium Lists (the proper term for entry blanks and info on shows near you - or sign up for the AKC Gazette and Events Calendar publications)

Now you have to train your pup for shows. This means taking him out to parks, anywhere there are people so he gets used to strangers petting him and strange situations. You also must teach him how to move smartly on a leash and how to stack. Stack is the proper term for those lovely show poses you see dogs doing while in the ring. You and your pup must learn to execute the most common show patterns called for in the ring: the up and back, the "take them around", the triangle, and the always dreaded "T". Diagrams for these patterns may be found on our gaiting diagram page. The best way to learn this is with the help of your pups breeder. His or her "eye" will note when your dog is moving at the proper speed to show off his best features. In the event that there is no breeder or mentor close to you, contact your local all breed kennel club and sign up for conformation handling classes! Practice, practice, practice and then when you are ready, compete in Match Shows to get more practice.

A Match is a show that is held and NO POINTS are awarded. These are put on by local kennel clubs and quite inexpensive to enter. Normally there will be plenty of folks with pups and semi-trained dogs at a match so you won't feel totally out of your league. Enter a match and have fun! You may find a long time show enthusiast there with a pup that can help you out and answer questions.

With an Irish Setter, you also must learn how to properly groom your dog for the show ring. Most "groomers" you will find listed in the phone book have not got a clue as to how to do a "show groom" on an Irish Setter. You will have to find someone who shows Irish Setters and is willing to help you with this task. Until you can find someone to help, make sure you get your pup used to a blow dryer, having nails trimmed, getting a bath and expose him/her to the sound of electric clippers. It also helps if you get your pup used to standing on a grooming table. Keep his ears clean, trim his whiskers and when he grows long hair between his toes, brush it up and cut it off with thinning shears. This much you can do on your own and should start doing as soon as you get your pup. (Even pet pups should have ears cleaned and nails trimmed on a regular basis.)

When you are ready to jump in with the big boys and enter an AKC point show, fill out your entry blank (you get those from the Premium Lists you should have asked for when you contacted the Show Superintendents or can download them from the AKC web site.) and follow the instructions on the back. Get to the show a bit early so your dog has time to adjust to all the activity and so you can find the ring, a parking spot, and do last minute grooming. Next Page

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How Conformation Shows Work

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