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A Guide to Showing

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So, most people who own dogs have heard of Crufts, the biggest dog show in world!  But  did you know that there are hundreds of shows similar to Crufts that take place all across the country throughout the year.  In fact it is through some of these shows that dogs have to compete to try and qualify to be able to participate at Crufts. 


But that's not all that showing is.  It can be great way to socialise your dog and compete in a low impactive exercise activity that can help develop a strong bond with your dog.  But most of all it can be a great social event.  Lots of like minded people with the same breed, who all love their dogs and enjoy getting together to have a fun day out.  It's also a good way to find out more about the breed particularly because its one of the few places where you can get so many owners of Spanish Water Dogs in one place.

Now, you're probably wondering now how you get started in showing your dog and what it entails.  Well you've come to the right place.  Our current Secretary, Jenny, who experienced in both the breed and showing them has put together the helpful guide below  for you on where and how to start journey and some of the things to think about.  

So what are you waiting on and give it a go.  Your new friends will all be waiting at the ringside to support you!!

Spanish Water Dogs Guide to Showing Your Dog



Whilst I don’t profess to know everything about the discipline of showing, I’ve been asked to put together a little piece to try to explain a little bit about the sport, which I hope may help answer some questions, with an aim to maybe encourage a few more people to give it a go and take their lovely dogs into the show ring.

In very simplified terms, competitive showing is where an experienced and qualified Judge ‘goes over’ your dog and watches it move and by comparing it to the Kennel Club Breed Standard, selects winners in each Class, gradually whittling their selections down to Best Dog and Best Bitch, who then compete against each other for Best of Breed.  Usually, in larger shows and Championship shows, dogs and bitches are shown in separate classes, based on age and previous experience but sometimes, more often at Open shows, classes are mixed.  The Kennel Club website has lots of information under the ‘Activities’ tab, with information about Classifications of Dog Shows, Ring Craft Classes and even how to ‘Enter a Dog Show’. 

Dog Club:


New to Dog Showing:


Find a Dog Show:


Video courtesy of The Kennel Club

Your first stop would be to find a Ring Craft Club near you, where people go to learn about showing, train and practice with their dogs and you will gain the benefit of many years’ worth of knowledge and experience. Also, most Clubs have a monthly ‘Match Night’, which is great practice for a novice.   In order to compete at a show, you will need your dog to stand well, be comfortable with a Judge looking in their mouth at their teeth and then the Judge ‘going over’ your dog – this is literally as it sounds! The Judge goes over your dog with their hands, feeling the bones, muscle tone and using their hands to check the measurements and proportions of the dog, against the Breed Standard.  They will then watch your dog move around the ring, to check the confirmation of its movement, both front and rear facing, and in profile.

So, you’ve done some training, attended a few match nights, gained a bit of confidence and you think you are ready to compete at a proper show.  Spanish Water Dogs (SWDs for short) are in the Gundog group, so look about to see if your local club or location has its’ own Gundog Club, which holds Open Shows.  Many clubs and societies now do online entries for their Open shows or there’s usually an entry form in the centre page of the show schedule and all the Championship shows can be entered in either of these methods.

Spanish Water Dog Guide to Showing Your Dog

Photo: Jenny Abrahams


Some of the main things to look for are:

  • Are there SWD breed classes or will you have to enter A(ny) V(ariety) N(ot) S(eparately) C(lassified) Gundog ? Do you want to enter any extra classes like Stakes classes or A(ny) V(ariety) classes?  Your new friends at ring craft club should be able to guide you

  • What age is your SWD and have they been successful in the show ring before? This will help you decide which class type to enter – classification coding of classes will be listed in the schedule

  • Would you like to pre-order a catalogue?  This is a booklet listing of all the entries in all the classes at the show and also includes your ring number, an Order of Judging and which Ring you will be judged in

  • If you are attending a Champ show, do you need to pre-pay for parking?



So you’ve entered a show, pre ordered your catalogue and/or parking and you’ve upped your training and practiced like mad, then the day of the show is here!


If you’re nervous, take some moral support, or if someone else you’re friends with from training club is attending the same show, buddy-up and share the driving?  Ensure your dog is fit and happy when you wake up and toileted before setting off.  Remember to give yourself plenty of time to get to the showground, park, load up yourself, or your trolley with all your gear (or get your willing assistant to carry everything!) and head for the entrance. 

At local or open shows, you aren’t usually expected to have entry/exit passes, but for Championship shows, you must have your passes.  If you entered through the post, they will be posted to you, but if you’ve entered on-line, you will need to go online to print your passes and ensure you’ve got all your extras, like catalogue or car park passes.

At Open shows, you will not have benches for your dog to wait for their class so head to the Secretary’s Tent/Desk and look for a map of the site showing the locations of each ring number and a list showing the order of judging in each ring.  Set yourself up near your ring and wait.  If your breed is first in the ring, get your dog prepared, but if you have some time to wait, get comfy, ensure your dog is happy and settled. Your exhibit number will be given to you on entering the ring by the Ring Steward.

If you are at a Championship show, pay for or collect your catalogue (if you’ve ordered one) and head towards your ring/benching area.  Your catalogue will be split into breeds and you will be able to find your exhibit number.  There will be two numbers on your bench – one to identify your bench and one to wear in the ring.  

Some points to consider…  What else might you need?

  • Chair

  • Flask, snacks, packed lunch

  • Dog treats, water, bowl, soft crate/trolley crate, bungies, trolley, shade/rain cover

  • Sun cream/hats/coats/boots – check the weather forecast if you are going to be outside!

  • Smart ‘show’ clothes

  • Catalogue – write your name on it

  • Prepare your dog

  • Show Lead

  • Ring clip or armband to hold you entry number

  • Don’t miss your class - get in the ring on time.  Listen to the Ring Steward and which breed/class


After judging, if you’ve won your class, you will be asked by the Steward to return for the dog/bitch challenge and if you winthat , you will be asked to challenge for Best of Breed.  If you are second in your Class and the dog/bitch that beat you is picked for best dog/bitch, then the Judge reserves the right to call you back into the ring to challenge for the Reserve dog/bitch... so don’t wander off or go too far from the Ring if you are placed first or second in the class.

Dog Show Rosettes and Cards

Cards and Rosettes – Championship Shows and Open shows are slightly different in approach.  You will get cards for the first five places – First, Second, Third, Reserve and Highly Commended.  At Open shows, often if you take your placing card to the Show Society table, they will present you with a matching coloured rosette.  At Championship shows, more often than not you would need to purchase your own rosette and the catalogue will list which retailers are present at the show and where they are located at the show ground or venue.

Any problems whilst you are attending the show?  Always speak to Steward or to Show Secretary at the time.

I hope this has helped some of our members to consider the possibility of trying out showing their dogs.  This is just the start of your journey into showing.  I hope this piece has proved helpful.  Please feel free to contact myself should you need more information.  We try to keep a list updated monthly, of the available shows in the UK, showing dates, society, judge, and closing dates on paper and online.  Judges who have successfully applied to be on the SWDC Approved Judges list, can also be sponsored by the Club at the Open show appointments, by way of special Club-sponsored rosettes for the competitors.

Most importantly, the main thing you should always remember ….


Spanish Water Dog Club Guide to how to show your dog

Jenny Abrahams

Honorary Secretary, SWDC

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