Pet dog/show dog

While we were walking last week, a gentleman stopped to admire Kunga and began asking questions about him.  Of course I had to brag a bit and tell him that Kunga’s my champion show dog boy.

“Really?” he said.  “What’s the difference between a show dog and any other dog?”

That’s one of the more interesting questions I’ve had about Kunga, and it made me think a bit before answering.

Let’s see…a show dog requires all the same basic obedience training that a pet does: they have to be house-broken, learn to come when called, walk nicely on a lead, and behave around the house. They still need all the same equipment any other dog does: dishes, beds, toys, collars.  And of course they need the same vet care.

But a show dog has probably been better bred than a mutt, and selected for beauty, health, good temperament, and ability to perform.  The show dog had better be very well socialized to people and other animals, as well as used to loud noises, strangers petting him in intimate places and looking at his teeth, and long car rides.  The pet dog may not have to have the patience of a show dog, who has to endure apparently endless hours in a crate waiting for their turn, then run around a ring several times, which must seem incredibly pointless to the dog. If the dog is showing in agility or the other performance events, he had better be well-trained and in terrific physical shape. If they’re conformation dogs, they have to learn to stand quietly for an exam and run smoothly with a handler upon demand.

But other than that?  My show dog lolls around in the sun most days, and is just as good as any other dog at getting muddy or wet and tracking it all into the house.  Both my show boy and my non-show girl demand a lot of ear-scratching and tummy rubs and regular meals and walks. And I brag about the astonishing abilities of my non-show Bloodhound as much as about the achievements of my boy.  After all, she’s smart, he’s just good-looking.

So next time I’m asked, I’d have to say the differences are: not much!

My “fancy show dog” asking when I’m going to get out of bed and feed him

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  • Brenda Lott

    Excellent points! Other than having some additional patience in re to the public groping in the show ring and on the show site in general – all of our show babies are “pets” and family members. I try to bear in mind that a show dogs’ “careers” are such a short period of time in their lives, for most breeds. My dogs will show 3 or 4 years out of a 12-14 year life-span (God willing). During that time they are picked and poked at, bathed and groomed endlessly, kept within a specific weight range, driven or flown all over the country – as you say, just to run around a silly little ring at a specific speed and allow a perfect stranger to “invade their personal spaces”.

    What folks don’t realize about dog shows if they’ve never accompanied and exhibitor is the fact that it’s a ton of preparation for about 20 minutes of presentation. I’m very certain our dogs think that shows are just the silliest things humans have yet to come up with. Yet, they indulge us. 🙂 I regularly refer to my pups as “Toddlers in Tiaras – with FUR!”

    • Alxe

      Love that name, Brenda! And a good note that a show “career” only lasts a short portion of the dog’s whole life.

  • Charles

    And that’s the honest truth. Bean could have been a “fancy show dog” but I had zero (and still have zero) interest in showing, I just wanted the best dog I could get in terms of health and temperament which meant going to a breeder rather than a shelter (I know a lot of people would disagree with me and condemn my decision) and to be honest I wouldn’t have it any other way. With the addition of my new puppy Shovel my little pack of two are going to be a learning experience for a long time and I’m happy as a clam to see that same goofy blue face on the bed wondering why I’m not up yet in the morning.

  • Vickie Byrne

    I just raised a nice litter of ten black Great Dane puppies. When asked the difference between the “show” puppies and the “pet” puppies, I said–not much! In a really consistant well-bred litter, it might be a slightly crooked tooth, a little too much white, or lighter colored eyes. I had a couple of pups with white toes in this litter, which I would not take to the show ring, but those white toes will never cost anyone a vet bill! Same with the pup that has lighter eyes than I like. The important thing is, I raised a litter with the emphasis on good health and temperament AND to meet the breed standard. My best show pick boy went to a lovely family home in New Jersey and if they decide to show him a bit–that is frosting on the cake! The most important thing to me is that all my babies be loved and cared for and be a major part of their forever families lives!