Tips for Starters

By Lesley Brocklehurst

Having put in time and effort to train your dog, do not spoil everything by being disorganised or unsure of procedures on the day. Observe what happens at shows so you are well prepared.


Arrival and Music

Plan to arrive in plenty of time to acquaint yourself with the venue and to attend to the needs of your dog[s] Always consider the weather especially when hot and ensure there is sufficient ventilation and water for dogs left in cars.

Display a name identification notice [usually provided] so you can be quickly found should there be a problem identified by a car park helper

Check your music before handing it in at the music check in table, making sure you have labelled it clearly with your name, class name and number and running order. The appropriate track MUST be clearly identified too. Check beforehand whether you can use an ipod or a tape. If using a tape ensure your music is at its beginning . Always have a spare copy of your music which you can hand in or take with you to the ring.

Preparing to Work

At most shows you can practise in the ring before the event begins but you must not have food on your person in the ring at any time. If busy, it may not be beneficial for your dog to train in the ring. A quick play might be more appropriate.

The use of a squeaky toy in and around the ring is not appreciated by many, whose dogs are distracted or even frightened by the noise.

Exercise your dog before your class, so there is NO chance it will foul in the ring and you will be eliminated.

Get changed and ready to work in good time. Be available to work when it’s your turn, so no one has to go looking for you. It is your responsibility!

<p?You should have a catalogue/ running order for your class so that you can check if anyone before you is missing. You will miss your chance to work in the ring if not ready in time – be warned!

Costumes and Props

Make sure you have practised before the show, in costume, so your dog is familiar with it.

A costume should be relevant to the theme/style/story of your performance and not be OTT or bring disrepute to our sport.

Put as much thought into what you wear under your costume as the costume itself. Ask a friend to watch you in action if in doubt!

Do not have props which are irrelevant to the performance or which are not used.

Be ready to place them in the ring immediately the previous competitor has exited. Ask the ring steward to help if needed.

You must not waste time fussing about assembling and placing props and keeping the judges waiting. Time is of the essence.

Entering the Ring

Make sure you do not obstruct the previous team as they leave. Stand well back with your dog.

Wait for the steward to tell you when to enter the ring.

Go straight to your starting place with dog under close control. [It is better to take it in on a lead than to drag it by the collar or risk it running off.]

Acknowledge the judges – a smile and nod is sufficient if you do not wish to bow with your dog.

Remember there must be no punitive correction or rough handling [eg yanking the collar, shouting, hitting or prodding.] This rule applies not only to the ring but also to any set up/ practise area; in fact anywhere that constitutes the show ground, including the car park.

No practising is permitted in the ring before you start, so avoid even a weave or a go round, otherwise you may lose points before you even start! Your “set up” should be practised as part of the routine.

Your Performance

Set your dog up quickly and indicate clearly to the DJ to start the music.

Be confident! Time in the ring should be enjoyable and positive for you both. Your dog will need encouragement and praise, and you need to think ahead and give cues in good time.

Always try to position your dog so the judges had a good view of its moves, [i.e. not hidden by the handler or by props]

Plan to have a definite ending to your performance such as a pose, taking care to finish with the music- not before or after.

If your dog is overawed by the occasion/environment and you wish to train the rest of the routine, make sure the judges know to stop marking – indicate this to them clearly.

You may use a toy in a training round but be careful not to arouse an already over excited dog.

At the end, leave the ring with your dog under control, on a lead if necessary. Do not let it run out and upset other waiting dogs and don’t throw a toy or play with your dog until you are well away from the ring side.

We all have off days when things go pear-shaped, so accept failure with good grace. If you ask for help or don’t agree with the results then listen and accept what is said. Go away and think about it rather than argue.

Pitfalls to be Aware Of

  • If your dog seems to be a bit lame – simply don’t work him/her, it is unfair and potentially will do more harm. If your dog has an on/off problem and your vet can find no underlying reason, remember that judges are not able to accept a letter from your vet saying the dog is OK to work. “Sick notes” are not permitted by the K.C. at any event or show.

    Judges will assess the dog as they see it and if necessary will disqualify it from the class and further competition. See rule 22 e, on page 10 of your HTM Regulations booklet 2014.

  • If your music fails partway through your routine. Do not panic, just stop and wait for the DJ to sort the problem. Your music will be re-started just a few seconds before it failed so you have time to collect yourself together and then continue to the end. Judging will re-commence from that point too . Always have back up music either in the envelope or by the ring side. Most music failures are due to poor quality CDs and recordings or dirty /old/scratched CDs.
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