New to dog showing?

A woman in a red jacket showing her dog at Crufts
Yulia Titovets / The Kennel Club ©

Dog showing is the most popular canine activity in the country and is a great way to show others why your dog is the best in the world.

All pedigree dogs can take part in dog showing and you never know, it could lead to you taking part in the world's greatest dog show, Crufts.

What is dog showing?

Dog showing or exhibiting is an exciting competitive activity where dogs compete against each other for prizes or awards. It is a competition where a dog’s attributes and conformation are compared against a breed standard for its breed. Whilst it can often be taken very seriously, it can be a fun pursuit that people and their dogs thoroughly enjoy.

What do I need to know?
  • Ensure your dog is registered with The Kennel Club on the Breed Register. Only pedigree dogs are eligible to compete at dog shows (this does not include companion dog shows, where crossbreeds are allowed to compete)
  • In order to compete, your dog will need to be at least 6 months of age or over on the first day of the show. However training can take place before it reaches 6 months of age
  • Go to a local ringcraft class to learn the basics of how to show your dog in the ring
  • All breeds are shown differently, so you will therefore need to understand how you can show your dog in a breed-specific way. Try to go to an open show or championship show and watch how your breed is shown 
  • Speak to exhibitors who are around the ring side. No question is a silly question - we were all new once, so ask away! Just remember not to disturb or distract someone who is just about to go into the ring
  • Health is of paramount importance, so before taking part in dog showing, make sure your dog is fit for function, fit for life
  • Familiarise yourself with The Kennel Club's show regulations
Are there any training classes I could attend?

Yes, these are called ringcraft classes and are highly recommended. Ringcraft clubs are usually very sociable, where groups of like-minded people meet on a regular basis and have a great time together training their dogs.

To find a club that holds ringcraft classes in your area, please visit Find a Club.

Some ringcraft clubs not only run training classes for your dogs, but also hold competitions such as matches, which are like a mini dog show so that members can see how they are progressing.

Ringcraft classes can also be used as the basis of training you and your dog on how your dog should be handled and presented even if you have no thoughts of entering the ‘show scene’. They are not just for people wanting to show their dogs but for everybody with a dog, and they will teach the basics such as:

  • socialisation with people and other dogs
  • training your dog to walk on a lead nicely without becoming distracted by people or other dogs
  • training your dog to allow people to examine and assess them by putting their hands on them, as a judge would
What levels of dog shows are there?

Further information on each show level can be found below.

What is a companion show?

Companion dog shows are fundraising events held throughout the year, mostly organised in conjunction with fetes, charity open days or other similar events, to raise money for a charitable cause of the show organiser’s choice. These shows are very relaxed, so they are ideal for all dogs and owners, whether pedigree or crossbreed. There are a range of classes on offer and these tend to be split into pedigree and fun classes (which are open to both crossbreeds and pedigree dogs).

Examples of these classes could be:

  • Pedigree puppy (usually between the ages of 6-12 months)*
  • Pedigree junior (usually between the ages of 6–18 months)*
  • Pedigree open (open to all ages)*
  • Any variety dog with the waggiest tail (open to all ages and is judged on your dog’s tail wagging)*
  • Any variety fancy dress (open to all ages, the handler and dog are able to dress up for this competition)*
  • Any variety best six legs (judged on your dog’s legs and your legs combined)*

Companion shows are a great activity to become involved in. They also offer owners a great opportunity for a fun day out with their companion.

*Be sure to check with the organisers to make sure you are eligible for the class, as at some competitions these will change.

What is a limited show?

A limited show is an entry level show that is restricted either geographically or by membership of a club, group, society or breed. Dogs that have won a Challenge Certificate or obtained any award that counts towards the title of Champion under the rules of any governing body recognised by The Kennel Club, are not eligible for entry at these shows.

What is an open show?

Open shows are open to all registered pedigree dogs. Open shows can be restricted to a breed or can be open to a number of breeds and are often considered as the first step to serious dog showing. They can be an excellent place to improve your skills, as the atmosphere can be quite relaxed and they provide a good opportunity to speak to other people involved in the activity. If you win best in show, reserve best in show or best puppy in show at a general or group open show, your dog will have qualified to participate at Crufts, the largest dog show in the world.

What is a premier open show?

Premier open shows are open to all levels of pedigree dogs. Premier open shows are a larger version of an open show and are run on a similar format, but in addition some winning dogs have the opportunity to qualify for Crufts. To see if you are eligible, please see the society’s schedule.

What is a championship show?

Championship shows are the highest level of dog show in the UK. They are open to all exhibitors but there is a higher level of competition, as it is here that in certain breeds of dog can win a Challenge Certificate (also known as CCs, or tickets) and may also qualify for Crufts. A Challenge Certificate is awarded to the dog that the judge believes is the best dog and the best bitch within each breed on the day. The judge will only award the CC if they believe that the winning dog is of such outstanding merit as to be worthy of the title of Champion. Any dog that wins three CCs (under three different judges) is awarded the title of Champion, which is one of the highest accolades in the show world and it entitles the dog to carry the letters Ch at the front of its name.

If your dog is a gundog or Border Collie, then once you are awarded three Challenge Certificates under three different judges you will be awarded the title of Show Champion (Sh Ch) instead of Ch. In addition to the CCs, two Reserve Challenge Certificates are also awarded on the day and these are known as RCCs. Reserve CCs are awarded to the second-best dog and bitch on the day.

Can any breed take part?

Dog shows are only open to pedigree dogs. However, fun shows and Scruffts are both open to crossbreeds.

My dog is docked. Can I still compete?

The term 'docked' includes dogs which have their tails shortened for medical reasons after the relevant dates - these count as having been docked and therefore such dogs are not allowed to be shown at events where the public are admitted on payment of a fee.

England and Wales

  • In England, a ban on docking came into force on 6 April 2007, with exemptions for listed working breeds (Spaniels, Terriers, HPR) and their crosses
  • In Wales, a ban on docking came into force on 28 March 2007, with exemptions for listed working breeds (Spaniels, Terriers, HPR) but not crosses
  • Any dog originating either inside or outside of England or Wales docked for medical reasons after these dates is not permitted to be shown at events where the public pays an entrance fee

Scotland

  • In Scotland, docking was banned completely as of 30 April 2007, unless in relation to a procedure which is carried out for the purpose of medical treatment of an animal. This means there is no exemption for working dogs to be docked. It is illegal take a puppy outside of Scotland to get its tail docked, other than for the purpose of a medical treatment. However there is no showing ban, meaning that legally docked dogs born in England, Wales or overseas, may be shown at all shows in Scotland

Northern Ireland

  • The Welfare of Animals Act 2011 introduced a ban on the docking of dogs' tails, with an exemption for certified working dogs including Spaniels, Terriers and Hunt Point Retrieve Breeds 
  • From 1 January 2013, it is also an offence to show a dog, which had its tail docked on or after this date, at events where the exhibitor pays a fee or members of the public pay an admittance fee. This does not apply to dogs who had their tails docked prior to 1 January 2013 or where a dog is shown solely for the purposes of demonstrating its working ability
Docked dogs - frequently asked questions

1. I have working dogs and plan to continue to have them docked. What evidence do I need to have, to prove that they were docked legally?

Only veterinary surgeons are allowed to dock puppies. They are then required to certify that the pups have been legally docked. The evidence/information/procedures that veterinary surgeons require to certify that pups have been legally docked has been set out under the government regulations and will be available from Defra and the Scottish Government.

2. What breeds of dog are exempted from the docking ban in England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, and may continue to be docked legally?

The breeds in which docking may continue in England and Northern Ireland include Spaniels, Terriers, hunt point retrieve breeds and any combination of these breeds.

In Wales, docking is only allowed in Spaniels, Terriers and hunt point retrieve breeds but not any combination of these breeds.

In Scotland as of the 28 June 2017, breeds in which docking may continue include Spaniels, Terriers, hunt point retrieve breeds and any combination of these breeds.

This is only legal providing they will be used to work and the veterinary surgeon is provided with the appropriate evidence of this.

3. In my breed, dogs born with naturally short tails (natural bobs) are quite common. Will I be allowed to show a naturally bobbed dog?

Yes - if a dog is born with a naturally short tail it can be shown at any show.

4. What if I am accused of having docked a naturally bob-tailed dog? What do I need to do in order to prove that it was born with a bob tail?

Defra has been asked this question frequently but has not given any clear response. The Kennel Club however recommends that breeders of dogs which have naturally bobbed tails should obtain confirmation on headed paper from their veterinary surgeon shortly after the puppies' birth, confirming that the dogs were born with naturally bobbed tails. This should avoid any future cases of dispute.

5. I have working Pembroke Corgis. Can I continue to dock them?

The Kennel Club has been advised by Defra that the working dog definition does not include Pembroke Corgis and it is therefore not legal to dock these dogs whether or not they are to be worked.

6. In my breed, kinked and screwed tails are relatively common and are usually docked as they can result in injury later in life. Can I continue to dock and show these dogs?

No. It is against the law to dock any dog 'except for medical reasons' no matter whether the tail is kinked or malformed in any way. If an injury occurs then a veterinary surgeon would be at liberty to amputate the tail. A dog which has had its tail amputated by a veterinary surgeon for medical reasons might be allowed to continue to be shown, subject to the normal terms of The Kennel Club regulations relating to operations which alter the natural conformation of the dog, but it will not, under the law, be able to be shown in England or Wales at a show where the public is charged for admission.

What types of shows are there?
  • Single breed show: open to a single breed only, e.g. the Pointer Club championship show. This will only be a one-day show
  • Group show: open to one group of dogs, e.g. hounds or pastoral. There are seven groups which are; hound, pastoral, utility, toy, gundog, terrier and working. If you are not sure which group your dog falls into, visit our Breeds A to Z or speak to your breed club
  • General show: this type of show can take place over several days, and has the option to hold classes for all dog groups

Next step - attending your first dog show

Once you have decided that you would like to try dog showing, the first step could be to attend one of our 'have a go' dog showing days. These are held all over the country and provide you with an invaluable experience.

Have you already done some training and think you might like to enter your first show? Learn more about attending your first dog show

Once you are ready, you can begin to think about entering your first show. Limited or open shows are a great place to start. They are more relaxed compared to a championship show. Once you feel comfortable in the ring with your dog, you may then decide to attend a championship show.