How to keep your dog happy and stress free whilst at a dog show

Photo Courtesy of Patrick Danforth Photography

Family dog shows can be wonderful events to attend. They are great places to meet up with friends, spend time around lots of other dogs, show your own dog off and hopefully win some rosettes.

Some dogs really enjoy these events and walk round the show ring with a relaxed body, bright eyes and a soft waggy tail. They are happy to say hello to the judge and get lots of attentions from those who pass.

Sadly, there are many dogs who do not enjoy the experience, and find it rather stressful. I have witnessed dogs growling and snapping at each other, whilst their carers are totally unaware and in deep conversation with a friend.

Their loving carers have the best of intentions and it is great that they want to spend time with their dog in this way, however it is so important that the dogs needs are recognized.

So, when shouldn’t you take your dog to a dog show?

  1. If your dog is very fearful of other dogs, or strange people
  2. If your dog is reactive to other dogs or people when on lead- consult your trainer first.
  3. If your dog is poorly or injured- Lets face it, when we are poorly or in pain all we want is our bed!
  4. If your dog is in season

Keeping your dog stress free and safe at a dog show

Even the most sociable and relaxed dogs can struggle in a show situation. Lots of people, dogs, noise and busy surroundings can become overwhelming, so here are my top tips for keeping your dog happy and stress free whilst at a dog show.

  1. When in the show ring give your dog plenty of space- keep some distance between your dog and the neighboring dogs.
  2. Observe your dogs body language. Is your dog becoming stressed? Remove him from the situation- yes, it is OK to leave the ring.
  3. Do not force your dog to be handled by the judge, give your dog choices.
  4. Is it hot? Don’t take part in the fancy dress competition.
  5. Try to avoid standing in the crowds around the ring. Find some space and allow your dog to have a break from the crowds.
  6. Always keep one eye on your dog and the dogs close by so that you can prevent incidents from occurring.
  7. Do not expect your dog to be happy to say hello to every dog. Again, give your dog choices.
  8. Make sure your dog has plenty of down time, access to fresh water, and shade if it is hot.
  9. Try to avoid being near the speakers- they are often too loud for our ears, so will also be too loud for our dogs ears.
  10. Is your dog becoming over aroused by the events going on at the show? Take your dog to a quiet area, drop lots of treats on the floor and allow them to have a good sniff and calm down.

Always be dog aware and have fun!

Photo Courtesy of Patrick Danforth Photography


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Positively Expert: Rachel Hayball

Rachel is a Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Trainer and an Accredited Animal Behaviourist with the ABTC. Rachel is a tutor for the ISCP and is also a mentor for the Victoria Stilwell Academy. She also runs a rescue.


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