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Show Etiquette

By: Elaine Everest - Updated: 10 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Show Secretary Exhibit Showground

For many people dog showing is a pleasant hobby, in much the same way as stamp collecting and woodturning, however for many it is a way of life and a very lucrative living. There are rules in dog showing that are set in stone, to break them could get you in deep water with the Kennel Club – even ban you from your sport. Then there’s the etiquette of dog exhibiting, some rules overlap each other, some are common sense and good manners, here is a selection of them:

Inside the Ring

  • Never obstruct other exhibitors, in some breeds this is rife with handlers stepping forward so their dog is more prominent than others. It can be quite funny to watch this practise as dog after dog is shunted forward until there are dogs and exhibitors standing far into the ring and trying to look as though they aren’t aware of what they’ve done!
  • Try not to bait your dog with food – it not only upsets the other exhibits but food dropped on the ground can upset breeds that have to use the ring later in the day.
  • Dress to impress. What’s the point of preparing a dog for exhibition and not yourself? No ‘builders bums’ or scruffy jeans. Women practise bending over a dog and check to see if your skirt rises up or your top is too low. A top female judge once reported that every outfit she buys for the ring is checked rigorously in the changing room before she buys, stretching and bending to the amusement of other shoppers – a well fitting bra is a bonus as well! Keep shorts and skimpy tops for the beach.
  • Never speak to the judge unless spoken to first. The judge doesn’t want to know that your exhibit is related to his own dogs or that you won your class the week before, basically this is cheating.
  • Do not storm from the ring when you have been dismissed – no dog can be a winner every week.

Outside the Ring

  • Keep the entrance to the ring clear.
  • Never touch a dog or speak to the handler while they are waiting to enter the ring for their class. Keep questions until after they have been judged.
  • Ask permission before you touch or stroke a dog.
  • If you are sitting ringside try not to distract the dogs by eating food or making loud noises. Your own dog may be well trained and ‘bullet proof’ when it comes to distractions but other handlers may not be as lucky. It can be hard to keep a lively young dog under control.
  • If you have children with you keep them in eyesight at all times. It’s amazing what mischief a child can make.
  • Be nice to newcomers – remember you were one once.
  • Applaud the placings even if you don’t agree with them.
  • Carry a plastic bag or pooper-scooper with you at all times and use it. Exhibitors should always set a good example to others.
  • Mobile phones are a modern menace and a distraction – turn them off!


  • Don’t leave the show before your breed has finished judging stay and applaud the Best of Breed winner.
  • If you are using a video camera never film other dogs and handlers unless you have their permission. There have been instances of handlers filming dogs who are not having a good day and passing them on to future judges – to make their own dogs look better and improve their own chances. This is poor sportsmanship.
  • Never enter the ring to take a photo until the class has been judged and the judge has finished his notes.
  • Thank the judge – regardless!

When to Leave a Dog at Home

  • If your bitch is in season never take her to the show. Even though your bitch may be entered into a bitch only class there will be dogs around the showground. This can upset many dogs, especially those that have been used at stud, who pick up the scent of the bitch and it’s not fair to the owners. Also the bitch may not feel up to her normal affable self.
  • Never take an un-entered dog to a show – leave it at home.
  • If your dog is not well leave it a home – remember when you signed your entry form you agreed to this very point.

Benched and Grooming Area

  • Trimming is forbidden at the show.
  • All grooming waste should be picked up.
  • Keep within your bench area, never overlap onto another persons benching area.
  • Bin all your rubbish: don’t leave it on your bench.
  • Exhibit your place card on your bench, whatever place you won – you’d be amazed how many cards are torn up and dropped – even at Crufts!

If You Are the Judge

  • Give equal attention to all exhibits.
  • Don’t forget the ‘seen dogs’ from previous classes.
  • Thank your stewards.
  • Don’t take too long at lunch.
  • Arrive on time.
  • Be pleasant to exhibitors, they have paid for your opinion.
  • Don’t be dismissive of the ‘not so perfect’ exhibit.
  • Remember to write a critique.
  • Smile.

At the End of the Day

  • Take your rubbish home with you if there isn’t a bin.
  • Never bitch about the judge and other exhibitors – if you have a valid complaint, lodge a complaint with the show secretary.
And remember, we all take the best dog home with us.

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