It's not easy finding a breeder willing to sell a show quality puppy to a newbie. Start shopping around now. You may have to co-own your first show puppy. There are pluses and minuses to this arrangement. Make sure you know what you're getting into.
Every new puppy contract is different. Read it carefully before you sign it. Also, most things can be negotiated, so ask!
Show quality puppies are expensive. It's best to start saving now. I set up a CD with my credit union two years before I got Jedi. I had money sent to my CD every payday. I thought $2500 would be plenty for puppy, crate, vet visits, necessary equipment, puppy classes and incidentals. In hindsight, I should have saved more.
A show dog can eat up a lot of your disposable income. Everything from top quality dog food to the latest in grooming products seems to cost more than you think. Once you factor in the cost of handling classes, entry fees and travel expenses you realize that you're broke. And you do it anyway.
Showing dogs can take up a lot of your free time as well. You'll find that you're always at class, grooming, practicing or traveling. There's a dog show going on somewhere in the United States every weekend. You'll have to learn to be frugal and practice restraint. Click here for a list of tips on showing a budget.
Not everybody will be thrilled about your new puppy. I actually lost "friends" who were appalled that I would pay for a puppy "when there are so many homeless dogs out there." Others were horrified that I would not neuter Jedi. (Show dogs must be intact.) Granted, most of those friends were fanatical rescue nuts and I'm probably better off without them -- but it still hurt.
You'll have to develop a thick skin. You'll always find someone with something negative to say either inside or outside the ring. If I had a dollar for every negative -- and untrue! -- thing someone has told me about German shepherds I would be able to show Jedi for the next five years sans budget. Remember, just because someone says something doesn't mean you have to listen.
You will never know everything. In fact, the more I learn about showing, the more I discover I don't know squat. It can be disheartening. My advice: learn your breed standard inside and out. Talk to as many veteran fanciers as you can. Read, read, read. Join your parent club. Network. And above all else, have fun.
You will lose a lot more than you will win. The judges are very knowledgeable and do the best they can, but in the end it's still a subjective opinion. You won't always agree -- but you will always go home with the best dog.
Your dog has no clue about winning or losing, but he will pick up on your stress and anxiety. Relax and try to have a good time. Seriously, it's just a dog show.
I cannot stress enough the importance of comfortable shoes. You will be on your feet all day walking, running and standing around waiting. Spend the money on a good pair of shoes!
This is not a complete list! I've been doing this off and on (honestly, more "off" than "on") for almost two years and I learn something new at every show. I promise to keep sharing as I go. I hope that you'll share what you learn as well. Maybe then we can all become decent handlers. Deal? -- K
Tomorrow's Topic: Zero Apologies
Tomorrow's Topic: Zero Apologies