No matter how handsome your puppy is, if you didn’t buy your Chihuahua as a potential show dog, chances are she won’t win at dog shows. Some dogs are rare exceptions, of course, but your Chi is probably tops at exactly what you bought her for-companionship.
Eventually, you’ll need another Chi if you want to get started in showing dogs, but in the meantime, make your companion Chi your compadre for learning the ropes. Take her to conformation class and discover how to train and handle her in the ring. She’ll love the attention, and you can make your novice mistakes on her. This way, you become a better handler for your next pup-the one you buy with showing in mind.
Take your time purchasing a Chihuahua with show dog potentials. Study the breed standard and attend a couple shows. Watching the judging helps you develop an eye for a show-quality dog. Soon, you’ll find out which attributes are more important to you, and which breeders’ dogs are strong in those traits. Then talk to the breeders whose dogs you most admire and check out their available show-potential pups.
Preparing for what show dogs do
Besides possessing physical batty and a steady temperament, your Chi must take travel, crowds, noise, and strange dogs in stride. She also must:
- Stand still for grooming
- Pose while the judge examines her
- Circle the ring at a smooth trot in a line with her competitors
- Gait solo in the designated pattern
- Keep her cool from the first burst of applause through the hush that settles over the arena just before the judge points to the winner
You know what to expect after watching a show or two, but how will your Chi get used to all that? And how will you ever be able to handle her in the show ring? Easy. You take lessons together. Dog clubs and private instructors offer conformation classes where you become familiar with the finer points of handling. At the same time, your dog gets used to stacking around other dogs and people. Check the Internet and ask your vet and breeder where quality show training is available.
When you attend conformation classes, you find out when matches take place in your area. Matches are practice dog shows-much like the real thing except they’re informal and no championship points are awarded. Matches are great for honing your handling skills and getting your dog used to the show atmosphere.
Of course, many people hire professional handlers to show their dogs. If you decide to hire a handler, choose one who has an excellent reputation for taking care of and winning with Toy dogs. Your dog’s breeder may be happy to help you locate and choose a handler.
Where are the dog shows, and how to enter?
Your conformation instructor will know where shows are scheduled in your area, but you need some written material when you’re ready to enter. There’s a few dog magazines, which list upcoming AKC shows. They also include the names and addresses of the show superintendents you need to contact if you want to receive show informations.
If your Chihuahua is ready to show, enter well ahead of the closing date so you aren’t disappointed. Late entries are usually not accepted.
Speaking dog show lingo
Every sport has its unique terminology, and dog showing is no exception. When studying the breed standard or evaluating dogs with other fanciers, certain words always come up. Knowing and understanding these terms early in the game is a good idea.
Here’s some most common used terms:
Type is what sets one breed of dog apart from every other breed. The concept of breed type is easiest to understand if you remember that each breed has only one correct type. It’s type that makes you instantly recognize the features that combine to make up a Chihuahua. Type enables people to differentiate your dog from a Papillon, Miniature Pinscher, or any other breed.
Soundness is the ability to function well, and it includes physical and behavioral characteristics such as a correct skeleton, proper musculature, and a stable temperament. Also, no handicaps, temporary or permanent, should inhibit the dog from using these attributes. A dog that’s deaf, blind, lame, overly aggressive, missing a testicle, or painfully shy is unsound. If a sound dog steps on a smoldering cigarette and limps because her burned pad hurts, she’s temporarily unsound and can’t be shown. But as soon as she heals enough to move normally, she becomes sound again.
Balance means that all parts of the dog fit each other without exaggeration of any single part. The size of the head corresponds with the size of the body, and height, width, and weight are proportionate. If people look at your Chihuahua and say, “My, what long legs she has,” or “Doesn’t she have a big head for her size?” chances are she lacks balance.
Don’t fret over balance too soon. Puppies often go through stages when they’re temporarily out of proportion, another word for balance. When your Chi is young, her head may look too big for her body. She may have a well-developed front and a wimpy rear, or she may seem to be walking downhill because her back legs grew faster than her front legs.
When it comes to condition, the ball is in your court. You can’t control whether your Chihuahua matures typey or balanced, but her condition depends on you. A Chi is in condition when she carries the right amount of weight for her size and has an immaculate coat with a healthy sheen, good muscle tone, clean ears, and clear eyes.
Style and showmanship
Style and showmanship are similar terms with respect to the show ring, but they’re not quite identical. Stylish is the dog-show term used to describe a dog that carries itself elegantly and with pride; a good showman indicates a dog with a pleasantly bold attitude that performs well during the judging.
If your Chihuahua has showmanship and style, she shows off her breed characteristics, making the most of her typeness. Judges recognize a dog like that easily. She steps out with pride-neck arched, head up, aspect bold, happy and eager-yet remains under control. A good showman that lacks style, however, may still be appealing because of her saucy, outgoing manner, but she’ll never fool a knowledgeable judge.
At a dog show, style often separates the superior from the good and the winners from the losers-especially when all other points are nearly equal. Style or elegance is a quality you can’t give your Chi. She was either born with it or wasn’t. She may be typey, sound, well balanced, and in fine condition, yet still lack style.
That doesn’t mean she won’t win, because a correct dog-especially one with showmanship-wins her share of champion points. However, what it does mean is that when competing against an equally correct dog that’s also stylish, your Chi will come in second.
You can do one of the followings, to help your Chi grow into the best show dog she can be:
- Give her plenty of socialization to bolster her confidence
- Lead-break her with praise and patience
- Keep your training periods upbeat and brief so she doesn’t become bored.