Beginner’s Dog Show Etiquette

If you are a visitor, there are some guidelines you should follow when attending the shows to ensure competing exhibitors can do their very best, and to make sure you enjoy your time at the shows as much as possible.

  • Always ask before petting any dog. Whether the dog is competing or not, the owner or handler (person showing a dog) put a lot of time, energy and work into grooming the dog for the shows. Never go up and start petting a dog; always ask permission.
  • Wait until handlers have completely finished showing before asking questions. Before an event, the handler or owner is focused on making sure his dog is prepared and groomed to compete before entering the ring. If the competitor wins a class, oftentimes he may have to go back in the ring to compete again. Waiting until after breed judging has closed is polite and will give the person more time to answer your questions.
  • Turn off your cell phones, or put them on vibrate or silent mode. Loud ringtones and songs can be distracting, not only to any animal that can hear it, but also to a dog’s handler or owner who is extremely focused on doing well in the event in which he is competing.
  • Stay away from ring entrances. During competitions, there is a steady flow of people and dogs in and out of the event ring, so be careful not to block any entrance to the ring or the flow of traffic in the aisle while waiting to ask a question, or watching the event.
  • For your comfort, we also suggest you wear comfortable, low-heeled, rubber-soled shoes.

Glossary of Dog Show Terms

  • Angulation — angles created by bones meeting at their given joints
  • Baiting — the use of a treat to get the dog’s attention and have it look alert
  • Bitch — term for a female dog
  • Class — one of six categories in which dogs may be entered:
    • Puppy — dog aged six to 12 months
    • 12 to 18 Months — dog aged 12 to 18 months
    • Novice — has never won first place in any other class, or has won fewer than three ribbons in novice
    • Bred by Exhibitor — the exhibitor is also the dog’s breeder
    • American Bred — shows for dogs born in America with parents mated in the U.S.
  • Open — any dog breed may compete
  • Dog — term for male dogs
  • Exhibitor — anyone involved in bringing a dog to a show and entering it to compete in an AKC event
  • Soundness — refers to a dog’s mental and physical well-being
  • Stacking — the process of posing the dog’s legs and body to create a pleasing profile during conformation judging



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10 Responses to “Beginner’s Dog Show Etiquette”

  1. Randall Parsons says:

    We have a dog that we are planning to train for Agility and Fly Ball but want to attend the dog show to get more familiar with the process, etc… Can we bring our dog to the show with us if he is not competing? Our friends attended the show last year and saw people bringing their dogs to the show that were not competing or registered. Please confirm.


  2. bqradvertising says:

    Officially, it’s against AKC rules. However, if you are shopping for something at the McScotty Market that requires you to fit it on your dog prior to purchase, it’s ok. You can also enter your dog in Rally Obedience/Agility tests if you want to see how he would do in these events without the pressure of actually competing. That sounds perfect for you.

  3. Marty says:

    I just sant to say Good Luck to all the exhibitors. It is my first time to show in Houston and I am excited.I just want to people to remember to have fun and respect the judges that come to judge and see our hard work!!!

  4. Jodi says:

    Are non-competing dogs allowed in the stadium? Like at the jump competition a few weeks back, pets were allowed, is this the case here?

    • bqradvertising says:

      Yes, non-competing dogs are allowed. If you do bring your dog, you can enter them ringside at the Rally and Agility demonstrations for your dog to test out.

  5. Betty Battaglini says:

    If you are bringing your dog to the show be sure they are up to date on their bordatella (kennel cough)vacination. My friends’ dog contracted the disease last year at the dog show. With all of the dogs milling around, you want to be sure your pup is protected. The likelihood of a show dog carrying the disease is slim, but with all of the pets coming in one can’t be too careful. All that being said, it’s great fun to bring “Fifi” along with you to try out all of the products and events.

  6. Robbie says:

    How and where would a person sign up for andfindinformation for the Rally Obedience that you posted about earlier?

    Thank you

  7. Lmaris says:

    I’d add the term “SPECIAL” to the glossary. A “special” is a dog which has already earned its championship status. It won’t compete in the classes, but will join the class winners for BOB (Best of Breed) competition.

    I would highly recommend against bringing a non-competing pet to the show unless there is a specific purpose for it being there. Measuring for canine clothing can usually be done at home. If a dog hasn’t been socialized to be around the huge crowds of both humans and dogs which are expected, it can be very traumatic for the pet.

  8. Lindsey says:

    is this an event where they will also have dogs (puppies) available for adoption? i have a specific breed i am looling for and was curious.

    • bqradvertising says:

      You cannot purchase or adopt dogs at our show. There are several rescue organizations throughout our vendor area that can give you more information about their organization.

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