How Did You Become a Show Dog Exhibitor?

First-time owner/exhibitors tell us how they got involved in the sport

Most of us fall into showing dogs rather innocently. Perhaps it is a breeder’s passing remark that your puppy is maturing into a beautiful specimen and is worth entering in a show. Or maybe you watched a dog show on TV, thought your pet was every bit as handsome as the big winners and decided to give the sport a try.

We posted an invitation for newcomers to share their stories and here is a sampling of the responses we received.

Hi Allan!
My first show dog is 6 now and an AKC/CKC champion with performance titles, but she is still my first show dog. I’ve kept a blog about our adventures since 2006 at Of course, this hardly makes me a newbie now, but it just doesn’t seem so long ago… 🙂

Karen Norteman
Starisles Bearded Collies

I saw your Facebook post and thought I would contribute. I have a Samoyed, who we got at 8 weeks old and never intended to show. As she got older, our breeder asked if she could show her to put her Ch. title on her. Just before her 6 month birthday, my husband and I suffered a tragic family loss. I needed a “distraction” so to speak, so I started taking handling classes, took any handling seminar I could get my hands on, and started showing my Samoyed myself.

I finished her 3 months to the day that she got her first point, and she now has her GCh., qualified for Eukanuba and we are headed to Westminster in February. And, on the side, she is a Therapy Dog for Kids in Crisis in Greenwich, Conn. 

It has been an amazing experience and two-year journey, and has given me the opportunity to bond with her in a way I would never have otherwise, and has brought an amazing group of friends into our lives. I’m totally hooked, and have been pushing for Samoyed number two.

Heather Hubbard

Dear Allan:
After years of working with rescues, I purchased a wonderful Newfoundland from an excellent breeder. I was told by many to show him. I first tried to get a friend and also a breeder of Newfs to show him, as she has shown many of her own with great success.

My boy would have none of her showing him. At the last minute before his first show, he refused to move, unless I took the lead from her. She gave me directions in about 30 seconds on what to do, and we were “on.” I ran around the ring, clumsily in boots, but we still managed to place. I have a picture of him posing with his ribbons, which I keep at my desk.

Since then we have been to several shows, all with me showing my boy. We are more than half-way to his championship. He would be finished if he would allow a professional to handle him, but the two of us are very happy this way. The bonding experience is worth all the missteps, lost points, etc. We will get there together.

Lisa Lathrop

Hi Allan,
I fell into the dog show world quite by accident, though it had actually been a secret dream of mine since I was a very young girl. Back then, my passion for dogs coupled with my mother’s disapproval drove me to “borrow” the neighborhood’s pack.

A few years ago I was given my first show dog, a Toy Manchester Terrier named Hillary (GCh. Fwaggles Mixed Blessing) and my intention then was to be the silent partner and loving owner as her co-owner intended to show her. I was excited then just to be along for the ride! Over time, however, the bond between Hillary and I grew and several people suggested I try showing her as she may show better for me — that was the beginning.

After many hours of practicing, attending handling classes and taking private lessons, my journey began. It was very difficult in the beginning (forgetting to breathe and not being able to control my trembling hands), but I just kept going back. Even though I knew the judge was looking at the dog and not at me, I was a nervous wreck, but it got better each time I went in. 

My passion grew and the desire to improve kept me returning to the ring. Today, although I still get the jitters every now and then, one of the things I enjoy most is that showing allows me to “pretend” for a few minutes that I’m not quite as shy and reserved as I am in real life.

For me, the best part of this journey is the friendship that has grown out of the time Wendy and Amanda Kelly (Fwaggle Toy Manchester Terriers) have taken mentoring me long distance from Canada. No question is silly to them and they are always ready with help or a suggestion for improvement. 

Hillary and I have enjoyed many nice wins and Group placements here in California and, in fact, she was the No. 5 Toy Manchester Terrier All-Breed for 2011. She was the first Toy Manchester Terrier bitch to earn her Grand Championship (accomplished on the same day as the first male!) and has earned invitations to both Eukanuba and Westminster.

At the moment, I’m excited about possibly welcoming her first litter in February. I also have a new 5-month-old puppy from Hillary’s breeders who I am excited to start showing in February. All said, it is an exciting time and I am looking forward to many more years showing.

Karen C

Showing dogs was a dream of mine while in college. After graduation, I got caught up in a 9 to 5 job and my dream was just a dream … until now.

My husband, John, and I retired in 2010 and decided we wanted to add to our family of three, which consisted of us and our Scottish Terrier, Maggie. We started looking earnestly for another Scottie at dog shows.

At a local show, we met a friendly and helpful couple, Rod Ott (Bravo Scottish Terriers) and his lovely wife, Pilar Kuhn (La Chanson Bouviers). One thing led to another and a few months later, Rod and Pilar were introducing us to Charla Hill (Charthill Scottish Terriers) at a Scottie specialty show. Charla offered to share a puppy with us, provided he matured in the next couple of months as she hoped, and we agreed to show him.

We made arrangements with Rod and Pilar to groom and handle him until we educated ourselves in the Scottie show dog world. We joined a local all-breed club and started attending weekly handling classes with our Maggie. After waiting five months, we found ourselves at LAX picking up Charla and our new boy, Captain. Five weeks after that he is in the show ring for the first time in the 9-12 class and is selected Winners Dog for a three-point major.

We hope to get to a point where we don’t need to rely totally on others, but are glad to have such great people as Rod and Pilar mentor us. We love the experiences that come with this, the dogs, the people, the traveling and the excitement. It is a lot of work, a lot of learning and a lot of expense … it’s a dream come true.

Diane Thomas
Oxnard, Calif.

I am a first time owner-handler. We bought our first AKC dog, a Brittany, a little over three years ago. We purchased Cam, GCh. Dual Lanes Cam JH, as a pup for a companion and hunting dog.

At the time we got him, his sire, Ch. Dualan Marsport Supercharger, was the No. 3 Brittany and we had no intention of showing him. The breeders encouraged us to give it a shot and so we did. I took it as a challenge to see what I could do my first time ever showing a dog and was convinced I could finish him.

At the first show I showed Cam, we went Reserve Winners Dog and were very close to picking up our first major. A little over a year later, with limited showing, I finished Cam’s Ch. title with a major.

It was my first show dog and my first dog to finish myself! That summer he went to spend some time in the field to learn how to properly hunt birds for my own hunting use. He did well with his training and later that year I took him to a weekend of hunt tests and put his Junior Hunter title on him in one weekend!

As Cam matured, we thought he might be something special, but we knew that I couldn’t really special him myself as I just didn’t have the experience or the skill just yet. So, we sent him out with David and Jennifer Harper at the beginning of last year just to see what he’d do against some top competition. He earned his GCh. title in the first month out with them and even picked up a couple of Group placements including a Group 1! So, we set some other goals for Cam. Needless to say he met and exceeded them!

Last year, Cam won our club Summer Specialty as one of the youngest specials entered. He qualified for Eukanuba and Westminster, and surprised us all by picking up a Best in Show! Cam finished 2011 as the No. 4 Brittany in Breed competition and the No. 5 Brittany in all-breed competition. All of this with limited showing as we just can’t stand for him to be gone for too long at a time.

Needless to say, we never thought that when we picked him out from a picture on the Internet to be our companion and hunting dog that we would have accomplished all of this with our first AKC dog!

Chris Robinson

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