Tips for First Dog Show

Tips for Your First Dog Show or Competition

Last updated: July 27th, 2023

Now, if this was up to me every single dog would be a winner. All those good boys and girls lined up, groomed immaculately and acting like little champions. We love you all. Unfortunately, I’m not a pet show judge. There’s probably a very clear reason for that. How do you choose between ALL of these good doggos!? Absolutely impossible. Yet, pet shows exist and somehow, they choose a winner. (Don’t worry little pups, you’re all winners in my eyes).

So, if you’ve stumbled across this blog post, you’re probably here looking for tips and tricks for making sure your Fido is the one to steal the limelight. Hey, I might not be the best judge, but I sure do know what they’re looking for. Having previously entered Marley in a charity competition and watching many a crufts competition as the years have passed, although I’m not one to enter my own dogs, I know a thing or two about how to prep them.

First things first, you’ve got to find out their temperament. You’ve got to be prepared to be honest and upfront. Ask yourself, is my dog really ready for a dog show? If your dog isn’t the fondest of people coming up to him in the street or gets agitated in a big crowd, or uncomfortable in busy settings, the answer is more than likely, no, they’re not ready for this. Before you even consider entering your dog, think about how your dog will react. The last thing you want is to make your dog scared or uncomfortable.

Shy, nervous or reactive dogs will not like competitions or shows. They just won’t. If your dog is reactive to other dogs whether that’s fear from other dogs or wanting to be the alpha male then a dog competition is not the place to be.

If they aren’t ready, why not go and check out the competition and pick them out a treat or two? You’ll gain an idea about what goes on without putting them through the stress.

Bring essentials

Yes, it might sound obvious but you’d be surprised by how many people get so worked up and excited about the competition that the basics slip their mind. They’re so into getting groomed and prepared that something is always left behind. To help you out, we’ve compiled a little list of what to take for your first pet competition.

  • Running belt 
  • Harness
  • Leash 
  • Collar
  • Water and water bowl 
  • Documents of vaccinations
  • First aid kit 
  • Brush 
  • Treats
  • Running shoes 
  • Poo bags 
  • A comforter (favourite toy or teddy)


Speaking of vaccinations documentation, ensure that all the vaccines your dog needs have been administered by a registered vet prior to the show or competition. Many countries have different rules and regulations but generally rabies and kennel cough vaccines are the most important, due to the sheer number of dogs they will be getting in to contact with.

As each country has different legislations regarding vaccines, it’s absolutely essential that you read all competition rules well and get a good knowledge about the vaccine rules of the country in which they will be participating in.


Of course, places like dog shows and competitions always provide a lot of water spots for dogs to have a refreshing drink, so if you do forget, it’s not the end of the world. But, I recommend you to take your own water and water bowl for one of two reasons.

The first is that most dogs like to feel at ease. With all these new sounds and smells and new faces around, it’s nice to have your own creature comfort. Your own bowl. Something that no other dog is going to touch and something that provides them with their own normality.

The second is that when dogs all share the same bowl there is a much higher risk of disease. It is much safer to take your own water and bowl and monitor what they are drinking. It means you know how long the water has been sat there and who exactly has touched it.


Do not feed your dog less than five hours before a competition. Whether it’s an agility competition or a grooming competition the added uneasiness or the exercise doesn’t make a good combination.

It is recommended that dogs aren’t fed before going for a run as their digestion is a lot slower than ours. You can cause injury to your dog if you feed them and then head out for a run. This also means they’re less likely to relieve their bowels on the stage or route too.

However, you do want to make sure your dog has plenty of fresh water. Around 1-3 hours before the show is a good time to start encouraging your dog to drink little amounts and then increase it as the time passes. If your dog isn’t keen on regularly drinking you could try adding a treat or a bit of meat into the water.

Daily maintenance

Many owners will have been prepping their dog since the day the last competition ended. Whether that’s an ability competition or a beauty one. In terms of beauty, daily maintenance is absolutely vital.

Make sure you keep on top of their daily maintenance by grooming regularly. Luxuriously shampoo and condition their fur with special high-quality products. Ensure that you are working with the flow of the fur, not against it. Be sure to keep fur at a manageable length and regularly check for insects or fleas, especially if they’ve been in contact with other animals or playing in the fields.

Many dog owners are keen to remove skin tags and ensure that they regularly have a dog manicure. Ensure that their claws are trimmed to the recommended length for the breed. It is a delicate procedure to trim the nails so we recommend having them trimmed by a grooming salon who will groom nails relatively cheaply.


If your dog isn’t particularly obedient then it’s pretty obvious that a dog competition isn’t the place for them. But, once you’ve established their grooming or agility then obedience is the most important step. This means practising a lot at home and rewarding them for positive behaviour.

Mastering the art of treat reinforcement is key here.

You can help them to learn new skills and obedience by taking them to classes if you’re unsure how to progress yourself. Regular exposure with other dogs will also help them to feel at ease and natural when the show comes around.

Be patient

Please remember that if you are entering your dog into a competition then this was your idea. Your pet did not encourage you or ask you to be entered. They didn’t ask to take part. If they find the experience triggering or stressful then it’s your duty as the pet owner to pull them from the show. This is in the interest of your dog, his health and other dogs.

However, if your dog is loving the attention and seemingly having a great time, maybe it’s something you’ll consider more often!

If you fancy putting your dog forward but not sure where to turn, then I’d definitely recommend with starting with a charity show. You meet a lot of great volunteers and raise money, usually to fund animal welfare programmes. You’ll also get a feel for competitions and shows and see how your pup responds. It will likely be a fun time for all involved.

Article by Lauren Bate (

This entry was updated in Dog on by .

About Ed

An animal-lover with many years of experience as both a pet owner and being involved in the pet industry. I created this website to use my own experience to help other pet owners find the best and cheapest products for their pets.

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