Dorsetdog - What to do in the show ring

Topic quick jumps

Taking your companion to a local show for the first time can be a daunting task for some. Here are some tips to help you on your way.

When going to any show, please ensure that you take your dog’s following items with you

    • Water bowl and water. Many sites do not have running water

    • Umbrella so the dog can sit in the shade if sunny, and protection from rain

    • Poo bags, no responsible dog owner should ever leave home without them as you never know when they might need to go!

    • Please - always ensure that you have one bag in your pocket every time that you enter the ring.

    • Favourite toy

    • Blanket or towel

    • Grooming brush

    • Treats

    • Fixed lead

    • KC Companion Dog Club Certificate - if you have one

General tips and advice for your first time in the ring

When you walk your dog around the show ring the judge is comparing your dog to the Breed standard. That is to say how well you dog compares to the description for the dog’s breed. The judge will physically inspect your dog with his hands, so it is important that your dog is used to being handled.

The judge looks at

Balance: overall appropriate proportions in size



Eyes: colour, size, shape

Ears: shape, length, position

Head: shape

Muzzle: shape, length

Whiskers: thickness

Teeth: kind of bite (e.g. level or scissors bites)

Tail: how it arches and sets (e.g. how high or low)

Shoulders: bone, muscle

Legs: muscles, stance, proportionality

Coat: texture, length

Colour: accepted breed colours

In a dog conformation show, judges aren't merely comparing the dogs to each other. Rather, they judge each dog against the parameters of the idealized version of its breed. In other words, when the judge looks at your poodle, Fluffy, he is comparing Fluffy to the written standards of the ideal poodle. The standards address various body parts and attributes, including:

If you are spectating and your dog starts to take interest in something around the outside of the ring, then do pop the dog over to a hedge or gateway away from the other spectators.

On arriving at a show site, you should allow your dog to relieve itself somewhere between getting out of the car and arriving at the ring.

Before entering the ring, please do walk your dog along the nearest hedge - that is away from where people are sat. There is nothing worse than a dog who decides to go on a straw bail, or a chair leg where people are sat, which is even worse when the dog owner has just arrived at the event.

Watch the class before - to understand the procedure

If you have entered your dog for your or your child's first time in the ring, do watch what is happening in the ring and note what the judge expects entrants to do whilst in the ring. It is a good idea to watch any classes taking place before the classes that you have decided to enter are held, so that you can see what the judge and ring steward are instructing entrants to do. If your child is due to handle in a class, do watch a class with them in advance of their class, and explain to the child as to exactly what is happening in the ring and why, so that they have some idea of what is expected of them once in the ring.

Junior Handler classes

Some shows hold Junior Handler classes. These classes are supposed to be an opportunity for a child to show that the child knows how to handle the dog. So the child is expected to show it's handling skills of a dog, and parents should just let the child get on with it rather than jointly holding the dogs lead for the child!

Standing the dog, and Walking the dog on the judge's side

Standing the dog

Whilst the judge is looking around the class at all the dogs, you should ensure that your dog is stood (rather than sat) with its side facing towards the judge - so that the judge can see the dog's lines and posture.

The dog should be stood so that the judge clearly sees the dog and is not distracted by your legs or shoes.


When walking around the ring, you are showing your dog off to the judge.

It is important that you always walk with the dog on the judges side of you, which is another reason why you should train your dog to walk on both sides of you.

If you walk with the dog on the outside of the ring side of you, i.e. with your legs between the dog and the judge - then your body will block the judge's view of your dog.

Handled dog and Table manners

You should ensure that your dog is happy for other people to handle and examine it before you enter it in to any show.

The judge will want to look at your dog's teeth, and expect to be able to touch its face, legs and feet without being snapped or growled at.

If you enter a small dog and the show does not have a steward, once the contestant in front of you starts to go around the ring for the judge, you should place your dog on the table ready for the judge to examine it.

Larger dogs, such as Springer Spaniels and Labradors will be examined on the ground.

The judge may ask you if the dog has been shown before, what the judge is asking you is if the dog is happy to be examined by strangers.

In pedigree classes, the judge will look at the dogs more closely. A table will be in the ring for the judge to examine small breeds of dog more comfortably. If you have a small breed, then you will be expected to lift the dog up on to the table and place the dog with its head to your right and its tail to your left. The judge will be stood on the opposite side of the table.

Triangle, and Up and down

The Triangle

Whilst in the ring, the judge will ask you to walk the dog to a corner, cross to the other corner, and then walk back to the judge. What the judge is asking you to do is show your dog off. Do not walk in a circle, but in straight lines. As you walk in a straight line towards the first corner - the Judge will be looking at the back of the dog, to see how its legs and joints move as it walks.

As you walk in a straight line from the first to second corner - the judge will be looking at the line of the dog, the shape and posture of its back whilst walking side on to the judge.

As you walk in a straight line from the second corner back to the judge - the judge will be looking at the front of the dog, to see how its legs and joints move as it walks.

The Down and Back

The judge will ask you to walk to a certain point and back again.The judge is watching the dog move, and you should ensure that you are moving at the correct speed for your breed of dog, and at the correct speed to make your dog move more gracefully. Walk too fast and the dog will be running and hoping, walk too slowly and the dog will be looking around or sniffing the ground.

Waggiest tail class

If you enter your dog in to the Waggiest tail class, you need to be aware of when the judge starts to look at and judge the class.

You Should ensure that whilst the judge is looking at the dogs, that your dog is actually stood up, and that its tail end is facing towards the judge.

Show Terms

    • Open = open to all breeds – compared to toy dog breed or collie breed

    • Pedigree = pure breed, such as Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, or Labrador

    • Non Pedigree = cross breeds, such as Cavalier Jack Russell cross or mongrel

    • Bench = supervised area to safely leave the dog in a crate away from the ring