People ask me what you need in order to show dogs and I tell them a leash, a dog with AKC papers and an entry fee. Now the better question is how can you be successful at showing dogs? That my friends is the harder question.
I did not actually follow the advice I now give. I picked Aussies because I had them before and it seemed a no brainer. Truthfully that was really dumb, mostly because there are something like 200 breeds to choose from and while I do love Aussies, in hindsight I probably should have gone a different direction.
I now tell people to go to a dog show and walk around Day 1, watch the show and all the different rings and just see what breeds look interesting and then go home and read up on them. Once you have a list then the next day go back and talk to exhibitors (usually after they show) on your top three breeds and ask questions. If someone is not friendly then move to the next.
Once you get to a couple of breeds I strongly suggest going to the parent club website and looking for breeder referrals. There you can connect and at the same tie join your local all breed club. First they love new volunteers and secondly you can learn so much just by going to meetings and many times someone knows someone that has a breed you are interested in.
Things to consider
Lifestyle – if you live in an apartment there are dogs of all sizes that can fit your lifestyle but you also need to be honest. If you have minimal time for grooming do not get a poodle or a Pekinese. Border Collies are gorgeous but they need a ton of time to be kept busy or they will find things to be busy on.
Breeders are usually honest on this type of stuff. They will tell you the good and the bad (and if they cannot think of anything bad with a breed then thats a red flag!)
I love Hamilton but he is not an apartment dog, Tibbies have a voice that can literally break the sound barrier – like a murder is going down. They do not do well with neighbors close by. Remember a Tibetan Spaniel was a guard dog and those monks must have slept soundly because their scream can literally give you hearing issues.
Health – some breeds are healthier than others. Check out the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and see the health testing. Pekingese get a bum rap for being unhealthy (and mean everyone tells me how their Great Aunt Bertha’s peke bit them) but in truth they are very healthy when bred by a reputable breeder. Every breed has it’s issues. When you talk to your potential breeder ask about health, if they try to say their dogs are healthy and have zero issues (that’s right red flag). If they have never seen a health issue they are lucky, delusional or lying.
Every breed has issues, many have genetic tests but not all. If there was a crystal ball out there we could wipe them out. A good breeder tries their best to keep chances at a minimum but unfortunately issues come up and it is heartbreaking. It is more important to hear how they are attempting to minimize chances of issues.
Contract – most breeders have them and you need to really read them and understand. You many love Sweet Suzy and want a puppy from her girl Lucy Lucy Apple Juicy (RHOBH fans will get that) but you read the contract and see she wants two litters back and $2500. Do not buy a dog and just hope things will be alright. Assume the thing that bothers you the most in the contract will happen. Can you live with it? If not try and discuss changes and if not, find another breeder.
Timing – the right dog will show up at the right time. Do not jump because this one is available. When I decided to get a show Pekingese I waited over a year. I had casually asked but did not really follow through and then decided I was going to bite the bullet. Well it took over a year for it to happen. I dutifully called David once a month and checked in.
In the end I cannot love my two girls more and they were completely worth the wait.