There is a lot more to a show dog than just a dog who looks pretty and conforms to the breed standard. For starters, show dogs often have to be trained even more rigorously than pets because they need to know how to stack (either freely or "hard stacked"), and this is usually trained from the time the dogs are just puppies.
Here are pictures of Lyra stacking on a table:
1. Bad stack - see how her topline is not straight and how her rear legs look kind of "off"? This is because her back legs aren't far back enough, and also, her neck needs to be more extended to show better length. Her front legs are also not straight under her shoulders (we call this "posting"), making her look like she's reaching.
2. Better stack - Lyra's topline looks much better here--it is quite straight because her rear legs are extended further back. She's looking up at the treat I'm holding up here, so her neck is nice and long. Her front legs are also almost directly under her shoulders.
Besides learning how to stack, show dogs also need to learn to allow strangers to touch them, have a look at their teeth, and to be sociable. Obviously all dogs are born with different temperaments--some breeders will only keep show potential puppies who are also inherently outgoing, sociable, and not shy simply because it's easier to train such a puppy than one who is afraid of strange people and surroundings.
A show dog also needs to learn how to walk nicely in the show ring. Judges evaluate dogs based on what they look like when they walk. Do they have their tails up, showing that they are confident and having fun, or are their tails down, showing that they're unhappy or nervous? Do they have good reach (meaning they take large "steps")? Do they hold their heads up high? What do their toplines look like while they're walking? Some dogs have very nice and straight toplines while stacked or standing still, but when walking, their toplines fall apart.
This is what a dog walking in the ring looks like:
In Malaysia, Australia and the UK, dogs are awarded points and challenge certificates (CCs) at shows. Three CCs are needed for a dog (or bitch) to become a Champion. In Malaysia, 1 CC is worth 12 points (36 are needed to be a Champion). Reserve CCs are given out to the dogs who place 2nd. These are usually abbreviated to RCCs. An RCC is worth 4 points. In addition to that, there are many other breed classes such as minor puppy, puppy, junior, open, and so on. All these vary from country to country. In the US and Canada, there are no CCs--only points. To have a better idea of how the shows work here in Malaysia, visit the official Malaysian Kennel Association website.
After a dog has become a champion, the letters Ch. are added onto their names. For example, if Lyra wins her championship, her name will now be Ch. Riccaval Zeal Me A Kiss. A lot of the time, names of countries will be added onto that title to avoid confusion as to which country that dog has gained its champion title in. Malaysian champion dogs have Mal. Ch. added onto their names, US dogs have AKC Ch. added on, Canadian dogs have Can. Ch. added on, and so on and so forth.
Sometimes, when a dog is an extra outstanding specimen of his or her breed, they can be awarded titles such as Grand Champion (Gr. Ch.), International Champion (Int. Ch.), or other abbreviations such as BIS (Best In Show). At FCI shows, CACIBs (Certificat d'Aptitude au Championnat International de Beauteé) are also awarded in addition to CCs.
Some breeds such as Shih Tzus, Maltese, or Yorkshire Terriers have very long coats that touch the ground when they grow up. Grooming is an important part of these breeds' daily lives (even in between shows). They usually have their fur tied up, looking like this:
Okay, I hope that covered it for you! I am by no means an expert--I am still learning everything I can about the show world, so if you spot any mistakes that I've made, please let me know.
People seem to think that show dogs live some boring life, cooped up at home doing nothing to keep their coats in style. Some even think that teaching a dog to stack and stand still is cruel? How so? Training for shows is exactly like training any other trick or command to your dog. Bribe him or her with food and they would GLADLY do as you ask! So.. the idea that show dogs live sad lives? So not true! Show dogs are just like any other pet--when not at the shows, this is what they do:
Blog for the Dogs
Here's where I chronicle the dogs' daily lives, write reviews on dog products, and share tips on everything under the sun.