Go To Dog Shows Before Bringing A New Puppy Home

Today I wanted to explain why you should go to dog shows before bringing a new puppy home.

For the last 4 days I have been at Crufts, the largest dog show in the world.  I’ve been helping out on the Azawakh breed stand, telling people all about this rare African sighthound (pictured here).  I’ve been on my feet for 4 whole days answering questions like ‘where does this breed come from?‘, ‘what is it for?‘ and ‘why are they so skinny?

Crufts is an amazing show packed full of everything doggy you could imagine, and some things you’d never even think of!

It’s a huge shopping event for dog lovers, who bring their dogs to check out the delights too.  But for you the important thing about Crufts, and other similar events in your country, is that they can give you so much useful information about different dog breeds.

Dog shows like Crufts are often organised by national Kennel Clubs.  These ‘look after’ the purity of the pure breeds of dog.  These dog shows are essential sources of information about all the different kinds of dog breeds.  Here are two ways they can really help you.

  1. Dog breed information.  At Crufts, they have a huge section called Discover Dogs.  As many pure dog breeds as possible (well-known and not well known) are represented.  Owners and breeders of these dogs volunteer their time to answer questions about life with their chosen dog breed.  At these stands you can usually pick up leaflets and go on mailing lists.  You can also often get hands on with the dogs.  Last year my partner Robin collected a box file full of leaflets including vital facts on dog health and diseases in the breeds.  He will probably do the same for me this year!
  2. Dog showing.  Dogs come to be shown and judged against a breed standard.  However you should go and see the dogs and owners on the show benches waiting for their turn in the ring.  That’s where you’ll see the dogs in a more normal state and get to talk to passionate owners about them.

So today I wanted to give you some tips about how to use dog shows to find out about dog breeds before bringing a new puppy home.

  • Go with an idea of the dog breeds or breed types (eg gundog type, sighthound type, terrier type) you think will suit you.  The big shows often have hundreds of dog breeds represented.  Going through them all would be mind-boggling!  Do some homework first on dog breeds and find out what you think makes a good fit with your lifestyle.
  • Go armed with a list of key questions to ask about each and every dog breed you  think might match your lifestyle.  Make a list using your computer, and print out lots of copies.  Or you could write them by hand and photocopy them.  Leave a  generous block of space between each question for the answer. Take these on a clipboard and carry a pen at all times!
  • Go to each ‘discovery booth’ for each of your possible dog breeds and ask those questions.  Write down the answers on one of your sheets.  Remember to put the breed name at the top otherwise you will forget which dog breed it was!
  • Do this same process for those dog breeds at the showing benches.  Showing benches are where owners sit with their dogs before being called into the show ring.  Owners are usually devoted to their dogs and delighted to be asked for their opinions.  Find a couple of owners per breed who are really likeable and approachable.  Ask the same questions.
  • Remember to ask for recommendations for ethical dog breeders for that breed.  You might find if you ask quite a few people that several names keep coming up.
  • Take a separate pad of paper.  Make a note on that pad of any new questions which you think you should ask.  When you are talking to people often you’ll find an answer will lead you to a new and important question.
  • Register yourself for newsletters about particular breeds – you will find these opportunities at the ‘discovery booths’ and it is usually totally free of charge to be on an e-mail list.
  • If the cost is very low, or even free, you could also register to be part of a breed association – effectively a members club where members are passionate about the breed.  You’d get asked for more opinions and given more information this way.  However, it’s best to restrict this to the top 2-3 dog breeds on your list.
  • Take away as much free information as you can.  Most discovery booths have leaflets about their dog breed including some really useful leaflets on health and diseases in the breed.  They may also have lists of their top rated breeders.
  • Watch the dogs in the discovery booths and on the show benches.  See how they behave.  This is a more normal behaviour than  in the show ring.  Is this behaviour something you could live with?
  • If you can find a really responsive owner or breeder, ask them if they would mind you helping them take the dogs outside for a short walk to relieve themselves and get some fresh air.  Some dogs are good with all new people and the owner or breeder might be happy to let you get some hands on experience.
  • See if you can get a home visit to an owner or breeder for a dog breed you really like.  If you have struck up a good rapport quickly at the show, they can often be delighted for you to see the dogs at home.  You might even get to stay overnight.

I did a lot of research at dog shows like Crufts before getting my first rescued greyhound.  There were several pure breeds I was interested in at the time.  I looked at all of them and followed all the tips I’ve listed for you to find the ideal breed for me.

However I did make some horrible mistakes before I got it right.  I wish that when I was looking someone had created the Free Guides I’m offering you.  If you’re thinking of bringing a new puppy home then sign up for your Free Guides here.    Send article as PDF   

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