Learning to handle your dog in the ring.
by Robin Camken
(published with the permission of the author)
Most first time owners of Bernese Mountain
Dogs are unfamiliar with dog shows or purebred dog competitions. Depending
on the terms under which you purchased your Berner, obtaining a
championship may be one of the requirements. Your breeder may think that
your puppy has the potential to do well in the show ring and may ask if
you are interested in having your dog shown. Once you learn what dog shows
are all about, you may want to try your hand in the ring yourself, rather
than have someone else do it for you. Showing your dog can be a fun and
Left: Rose Tierney with Ch
Right: Krista Rohrbach with MBIS, MBISS Can/Am Ch Bernina Bach Bruno
A few things before you start
Before you get started in conformation
showing, ask the advice of your breeder as to whether or not your Bernese
is suited for show ring competition. All Bernese have faults, some more
than others. There is no point spending all the money it takes to show a
dog, if they are not of good enough quality or temperament to be
To enter a dog show, your dog must be
registered with the Canadian Kennel Club or another recognized foreign
canine registry. The dog must also be intact, (not spayed or neutered). In
Canada, your dog can be registered on a non-breeding contract and still
enter a dog show. The dog must be six month of age or older to enter a
Finally, obtaining a Championship does not
mean your dog has the qualities necessary to become a candidate for
breeding. Remember, a dog show is about a dog's outward physical
appearance and not its ability to produce a quality litter. Obtaining a
championship is just one of many steps that go into the deciding what
makes a potential brood bitch or stud dog.
Junior Handlers at the 2001 Specialty Show
Training for a dog show is a little
different than obedience training. You want your dog to pay attention to
you, to trot in a straight line, stand when you stop, and allow a judge to
examine them from head to toe. It is a good idea to take some show
handling classes before you compete to learn the show ring routine and
protocols. Instruction in show handling usually includes: ring patterns
and gaiting, how to stack and present your dog, and how to use bait. It is
also recommended that you try a few fun matches before entering a real
show ring. Fun matches are an excellent way to test your skills and get
feedback from the judge on how to correct any mistakes. Contact your local
Kennel Club to find out when and where the next Correction Match or
Sanction Match is going to be held.
Another aspect of showing is grooming.
Grooming for the show involves accentuating the dog’s qualities primarily
by improving the appearance of their coat. Fortunately for Bernese, there
should be limited grooming involved. Their feet need to be trimmed, the
hair on their ears tidied up, and a good bath and blow dry to improve the
look of their coat. You may want to leave this task up to a professional
groomer your first few times in the ring, but as you become more
experienced, your grooming skills should also improve.
The Dog Show
The goal of a dog show is to choose the best
dog from the best examples of the breed presented on that day. The judge's
job is to compare the physical attributes of the dogs to the breed
standard and to the other dogs in the ring. At the end of judging the best
example of breed is chosen.
Chantal Therrien showing
her boy Sierra (Ch Nevada)
The Breed Standard
The breed standard is a description of the
ideal physical characteristics for a specific breed of dog. The standard
illustrates in words the appearance and structure of the perfect Bernese
Mountain Dog, if one existed.
Structure of a Canadian Dog Show
Conformation dog shows in Canada consist of
three main stages: the breed competition, the group competition, and the
best in show competition. The breed level starts with a competition
between the dogs of various classes. Examples of the classes that can be
Males and females are judged separately.
A Puppy Class at 2003 Specialty Show
The winners among the dogs in each class
then compete for the best male (Winner’s Dog) and best female (Winner’s
Bitch). The two “Winners” dogs are awarded a set number of points
depending on the number of dogs entered in the competition. These points
go towards a championship title.
3 to 5
10 to 12
13 or more
point in the breed competition another class of dogs enters the ring.
These dogs are called “Specials” and are dogs that have already obtained a
championship. The Winner’s Dog and Winner’s Bitch compete against the
Specials for the Best of Breed ribbon. At the end of the breed competition
ribbons or prizes are awarded for Best of Breed, Best of Opposite Sex, and
Best of Winners. If you have a puppy, the puppies then go back into the
ring to compete for Best Puppy in Breed.
A championship title is awarded when the dog
has earned a total of 10 points under at least three different judges.
Most important: Don’t forget to
have fun while you’re in the ring. If you’re happy, your dog will be too.
A great resource for finding upcoming shows
and show results is Canuck Dogs website.
For a Schedule of upcoming Dog Show in
Canada Championship Dog Shows see
Here’s a site that will answer all your
questions about the strange dog show terminology.