Every owner thinks, quite rightly, that their dog is the best in the world - and dog shows offer the chance for others to adore them too, in an exciting and lively atmosphere. Dogs love exploring new environments – lovely new smells, interesting noises, fascinating new textures. And dog shows offer a great opportunity for them to do just that.
The fascinating mix of scents and tastes tease their senses – that’s quite apart from all the balls to chase, hoops, fences and agility circuits to investigate, and hundreds of new friends to make, human and canine. Attending dog shows, or exhibiting, is the most popular canine activity in the UK: the first official dog show was held in 1859.
It’s a great opportunity for dog owners to meet up and share expertise. There are shows for all kinds of dogs: Crufts, celebrating pure breeds; shows for working, trained and pet dogs; and Scruffts, for cross breeds. Owners get the chance to learn about different breeds of dogs and find out which might suit them and their family best.
If you’re having a particular health issue with your dog, it’s the perfect way to consult an expert in a less daunting atmosphere than a vet’s surgery. If you want advice on behaviour you’ll find experts in that domain too.
You can watch or take part in classes throughout the day, finding out about new techniques and methods to increase agility, fitness and obedience in a fun and effective way. It’s also a great excuse to enjoy a spot of retail therapy. You’ll find lots of lovely products and services designed to make life easier and just that little bit more comfortable for dogs and their owners – all conveniently together in one place, from toys, collars and accessories to heated pet beds and pads.
Dogs are highly social animals, and at dog shows they get the benefit of socialisation with other breeds of all shapes and sizes and of course a wide range of other humans – judges, owners and dog-lovers alike. Regional dog shows offer a great way to get your dog – and yourself – used to the hustle and bustle of the arena.
Most dog shows also include field events and classes which offer the chance to try out classes, activities and agility - some for the first time. Whether it’s working with a ball and a large pool of water to see which dog can jump the furthest, heelwork to background music, or herding a barrel, it’s a great way for them to put their energy and excitement to good use.
Jumping over fences, chasing moving objects, avoiding obstacles (or not, as the case may be) – they’re all excellent methods of finding out what type of exercise and activity will best suit your pet or working dog.
At some events, like the Norfolk Dog Show, you’ll also find dogs working alongside other animals, like owls in displays of agility. Whatever your dog enjoys, whether it's retrieving from water, retrieving in the fastest time possible, flyball, or simply racing about, there's bound to be an activity that will suit.
Dogs love to be the centre of attention, and dog show competitions allow them to be in the limelight for the very best of reasons. If you’re showing your dog, getting ready for the event is a perfect way to build trust between the two of you. Getting your dog ready to take part in a show means nutrition, exercise and general care are especially important.
Training dogs for events is also a great way to get them used to boundaries and rules as well as positive reinforcement – we all know that praise and treats are especially effective. When you’re in the ring, for many events your dog also needs to be able to read your body language – another excellent way to bond and build trust between you.
Most dogs also love a bit of fuss – and grooming them to get them ready to appear at their very best is an excellent way to help the two of you bond.
Good health, agility, fitness and temperaments are all rewarded at dog shows and many now recognise the special qualities of cross-breed dogs. The waggiest tail, the prettiest eyes, the best rescue dog, the most appealing expression – these are just some of the categories where dogs can win.
Show dogs must be healthy, and free of any health issues or diseases known to be an issue for certain breeds. Dogs that are happy, healthy, and well-cared for are those who “show” the best – and your dog will let you know if he or she enjoys the day out as much as you do.
No matter where you live, there’s bound to be a dog show near you. If you’re anywhere near the Royal Norfolk Showground in Norwich in August or any of the All About dog events and Suffolk Dog Day, then call in and join in the fun. And after all that exercise and exertion, what better way to say thank you than with a handful of treats and a snugglezzz memory foam pet bed, coat, cooling mat or heated pad - well we had to get it in somewhere!