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Raising a Champion: A Beginner’s Guide to Showing Dogs

As many of you know, Cuba will be the first dog I've ever shown in conformation or "dog shows." His breeders have been a fantastic...

Casey Lomonaco  |  Nov 4th 2010


As many of you know, Cuba will be the first dog I’ve ever shown in conformation or “dog shows.”

His breeders have been a fantastic source of support for me. Always ready and willing to answer questions or give me hints, they’re wonderful mentors. The problem is, they’re a continent away; they live in the lovely Pacific NW and here I sit on this rainy day in upstate New York. Not one to pass up an excuse for shopping, I purchased a copy of Raising a Champion: A Beginner’s Guide to Showing dogs by A. Meredith John and Carole L. Richard, available for purchase on Amazon and Dogwise.

On the whole, this book is a pretty fantastic resource for a conformation rookie like myself.

This book is rather encyclopedic and provides a nice general overview of: what to expect at a dog show, what to pack when attending a dog show, how to train your dog for showing, how to select equipment with which to show your dog, and offers a very nice, clear explanation of the titling process and obtaining points towards your championship.

Authors John and Richard are obviously not clicker trainers, but for the most part, the exercises used to teach fundamental ring behaviors like stacking, gaiting, and stand for examination are overwhelmingly positive, well-explained, and easy-to-follow. My favorite book thus far actually providing clicker exercises for training these behaviors is Positive Training for Show Dogs: Building a Relationship for Success by Vicki Ronchette, which serves as a wonderful accompaniment to Raising a Champion. While I prefer Ms. Ronchette’s training approach, I really do like John and Richards’ attention to detail, particularly the discussion and diagrams regarding various gaiting patterns. The authors’ approachable writing style in Raising a Champion is complemented by many wonderful pictures illustrating the exercises with a variety of breeds.

When I purchased Raising a Champion, I was less concerned with learning about training exercises for in the ring and more focused on understanding the culture of shows, how to prepare for shows, and perhaps most importantly, making sense of the point accumulation process. In this regard, Raising a Champion does not disappoint. The reader is guided through the process of selecting and preparing for a dog show, what to do/expect when you are at the show and actually in the ring, and finally, how to make sense of the judging process and the accumulation of points toward a championship.

If you, like me, are preparing your first conformation dog for the ring, this book is one you’ll want to have on your shelves. It’s a fantastic guide for rookie conformation handlers, chock full of practical tips to help set you and your dog up for success in the ring. While it is certainly no replacement for a well-taught conformation class (which provides handlers with feedback on their skills from an experienced instructor and the opportunity to practice in an environment where there are a variety of other dogs), it is a great supporting resource and answers those questions which are not related to training in particular but showing in general. Instructors of conformation classes may choose to recommend this book as a textbook to their clients in a conformation handling class; and breeders who are adopting show-quality puppies to novice handlers may want to consider including a copy in their adoption package.

Showing a dog can be expensive – you invest in training fees, grooming equipment, travel costs, etc. At $25, this book is an affordable investment that will help you on your way to your first Championship!