Arriving at the Venue

Set off for your show in plenty of time and allow for traffic jams. It isn’t good to arrive in a panic – the dog will sense it and will be not give his best. Remember to take your entry pass (sent out by the Show Society in receipt of your entry) if you are off to an all breeds Championship Show.

Arrive in time to allow the dog a brief walk to stretch his legs and do what comes naturally (hence the poop bags – don’t leave them beside the car, dispose of them in a convenient bin or take them home!). You may want to leave him safely in his crate while you check in and have a look round.

If the show is a Benched Show, your exhibit will have been allocated a bench in a tent alongside others of his breed and the bench number will also be your class number. Refer to the catalogue to determine where your tent and show ring are located. For security, most people now take their travel crates onto the benches to keep the dog free from poking fingers and disturbance.

There will be a gate steward at the entrance to welcome you, whether it is a small or a large show. Breed Club shows are fun events which are managed by volunteer members who are the Club Committee. Home made refreshments are provided and there is always a raffle.

All breed Championship shows have food stalls, clothing, dog beds, coat preparations, pictures, books, veterinary products, grooming aids, carrying crates of all types, weekly dog press representation, photographers and the dog food manufacturers have a huge presence and often sponsor the shows.

Show technique
Disguise the fact that you are new at showing by getting it right first time!

Check where the dogs are standing in the ring. “Seen dogs,” dogs which have been judged in a previous class, will be always be asked to stand in a particular place in the ring, previously discussed between the stewards and the judge and “new dogs” will stand opposite. You will be a “new dog” so you will know where to go. Watch and listen for your class to be called. This is also your responsibility. If your class is called by the stewards and you miss it, you may have come a very long way for nothing.

Comb and settle your dog just as the previous class winners are clapped and the judge is writing his/her critique. Memorise your ring number and when the class is called, tell the ring steward your number and in exchange, you will be given a card carrying your catalogue number.

(At an all breeds Championship show your ring number will be above your bench. Don’t forget to wear it before you get to the ring, which may be a distance from the benches). Pin it to your ring clip in a visible place – both spectators and ring stewards will want to see it.

Stand in the line with the new dogs. If you feel the dog next to you is noisy or obstructive, this is the time to change your position, so go to the end of the line. If this is your first show, try and find a spot in the middle of the line so that you can see what others do. Make a mental note of which dog is at the front of the line, so that you can have your dog on his toes as soon as the judge completes the individual assessments.

At home, you will have practiced many times standing your dog to look like the winning dogs in the Border Terrier books. You may even have been advised to take your potential show dog to ringcraft classes. So if you have you will be prepared, but relax and don’t fuss the dog. Just set him up to look his best, keep him still and wait for the judge to walk down the line and have a first look.

The judge may then ask for the new dogs to move round the ring once or twice, while he/she watches movement. Always show your dog on the judge’s side, never get between the judge and the dog. If you do, the judge cannot assess the dog properly.

When the dog in front of you has been moved and the judging table is free, (don’t walk in front of the judge) lift your dog onto the table and again, stand him to look his best. Always retain control of his lead and avoid feeding him while the judge is examining him. Speak when spoken to and when asked to move, the judge will say whether a triangle is required or ‘straight up and down’ the central floor mat, once or twice. Always finish in front of the judge and try to have your exhibit looking up at you or the judge and standing still. When dismissed, go back to join the line of new dogs.

Allow the dog to relax – but not interfere with others – while you wait for the judge to finish. As soon as the last dog has been seen, stand your dog again, looking at his best, while the judge moves between the dogs, making up his/her mind.

If you are called out to the winning line, for example in second place, be sporting and congratulate the winner. It could be you next time.

If you are placed in the first two, wait while the judge writes a report about your dog. If you have entered another class with your dog, you will then be a “seen dog” and must stand with the other seen dogs.

Your dog may be fun at home when he is leaping about and barking, but you may be asked to remove your dog if it is unruly in the ring. Similarly, if your dog shows any aggression towards other dogs, you may consider withdrawing it before you are asked to do so. So do socialise your Border – they are naturally gregarious, and if at first you don’t succeed. Practice makes perfect – Try again!

Showing The Border On A Loose Lead
(Based on an article written for the BTC yearbook)

When first asked to write on this topic in 1989, I made reference to the many showing ‘styles’ in dogs, all designed to bring out the best attributes of one’s chosen breed and when gaiting a dog in the ring, to show off movement to best advantage.

I wondered at the time why I might have been asked to write on the topic, as it had never occurred to me to show my Borders any other way than on a loose lead. However, on looking round, especially since writing the original piece, I am increasingly aware of Borders being ‘strung up’ and therefore moving on their tiptoes – frequently erratically.

What do I mean by ‘strung up?’ I mean that the dog is shown on a tight lead, often secured by the handler above or at his/her waist height so that the dog has no option but to step out by the handler’s side, on its toes, with its neck fully extended. This particular ‘look ‘can be seen from the ringside in handling Fox Terrier exhibits, for example.

A Border exhibitor who emulates this method of ring presentation may believe that they are showing their dog to its maximum advantage and perhaps in some cases, think they are disguising faults in movement which may be more apparent on a loose lead. A good judge should always find those faults.

I wrote in 1989 that ‘movement in our breed is not its strength at this point in time’ and sadly, I still feel we have a long way to go. But surely by attempting to disguise the faults rather than as breeders, eliminating them at source, we are only perpetuating the problem? Novice exhibitors who are keen to learn, watch their peers in the show ring and pick up both good and bad habits.

Most exhibitors now take puppies to training classes, puppy socialising classes and ring craft. Over 30 years ago, particularly in rural areas, no such classes existed. One watched dogs in the show ring, sought advice or followed by example.

Nothing will correct a badly constructed puppy but we can help normally developing puppies to move freely and correctly, by looking carefully at their housing and activity areas. For example, by removing physical obstacles which may cause problems in the longer term. Creating a pen or run where a puppy must permanently stand on its hind legs in order to see out, or giving pups a bed or kennel which they have to jump up into or onto, could damage good conformation.

Pups should be encouraged at an early age to follow adult dogs when walking out. If the dam is included in the team, pups will soon catch on. Talking to them while walking helps keeps their attention and interest. Walking young puppies should be kept to a modest half mile or so at the outset, when first inoculations are over, with plenty of free running at home. A simple slip lead is then introduced and a supervised puppy will run about trying to shake it off or lose it, but will soon tire and can then be encouraged to walk on the lead – always giving it plenty of praise and at the outset, letting it think that you want to go in the direction it wants to go. Then start the walking outside again – something with which it is already familiar.

Pulling or jerking at the lead of a lively, reluctant youngster can result in a wilful adult and a reluctant exhibit in the ring.

Natural movement requires the dog to drive from behind. Stringing up a dog in the show ring immediately limits that natural action. Similarly, a dog distracted by titbits does not move naturally in a straight line because it is ‘crabbing,’ looking upwards to its handler for treats. Often the exhibitor is watching the judge and not the dog. All attention should be on your dog while it is on the move, ensuring its pace is correct for maximum effect; that the dog moves on the mats provided and that the dog is happy on the move and moving parallel in a straight line.

A Border is a dour little dog and generally not a lover of show rings. It does not carry its neck ‘crested’ with head upwards and forwards naturally. It does not tiptoe with short steps on the move either. Stringing it up will give that artificial appearance.

A free moving dog is a pleasure to watch. If Border exhibitors were to loosen their grip there would be some surprises, but faults will never be hidden by stringing up. However, it is worth persevering to achieve ring movement on a loose lead, thus avoiding one of the more unpleasant and insidious fashions which have been creeping into the breed since before 1989!