9 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Dog Shows

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

We’ve all had that moment when we were watching tv, casually switching channels when we happened to come across the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Fancy dogs and their equally fancy owners prancing about.

Yeah, you know the show…

But here are some facts you might not know!

9. They Keep Dogs Pampered With Some Strange Stuff

Handler Sharon Rives says there are all sorts of tricks for the different breeds:

“Every breed is going to have their own quirky thing they do to make the coat look a certain way. One handler told me you should put dryer sheets on a wavy coat. Others say you should wash your dog’s coat in Dawn dish soap if you want it to be straight.”

But people are very tight-lipped about their methods. And for good reason: snitches are everywhere.

Again, from Rives:

“People don’t want to share their secrets, and because there are things that are not allowed. It’s a self-regulating sport. If you see somebody doing something they shouldn’t be, you’d report it.”

8. No biting. Or else.

Rives says there’s one quick and easy way for a dog to get disqualified:

“If a dog bites a judge or a handler or another dog, that’s pretty much it for the rest of its career. Aggression is not ever acceptable.”

7. No $$$ For Winning?!

Yeah, that’s right. These people spend all that time and money to train these dogs… and they don’t win actual money.

Handler David Fitzpatrick explains:

“You get trophies and a lot of swag. We came home with bags of loot, but not one penny. It’s not about the money. It’s about competing at this historic event.”

6. Soup Cans For Training

Teaching dogs to hold a certain position when judges poke and prod isn’t easy.

Rives says that her parents trained dogs in the ’80s with soup cans. Four of them to be exact, one for each paw.

But she doesn’t employ the same tactics:

“Now I have what we call stacking blocks, sort of a wooden device with four feet on it for the dogs to stand on and it’s adjustable. I start when they’re puppies with that and they stand on it for a couple minutes and as they get older they spend more time on it, maybe 15 or 20 minutes a day, to help train their muscles and body to remember to stand in that correct position.”

5. Dog Names Have Hidden Codes

All of these pro doggos have fancy names like “Veritas Sexy And I Know It.”

Yeah, that’s really a name. Sharon Rives gave it to one of her Australian Shepherds.

The dog actually answers to “Wiggle”, but Rives explains why she has a longer version:

“Typically the prefix of the name is the kennel the dog is from. Veritas is my kennel name, so whenever I breed a dog, every dog has the word veritas in their name. The rest of Wiggle’s full name is from Top 40 Songs, and I gave every puppy a different song title for its name.

4. Dogs Don’t Really Like Shows

This one might be obvious, but dogs aren’t really bred to run around on fake grass.

Handler Karen Mammano shares some insight:

“Golden retrievers were never meant to run in circles in a show ring. They were meant to be out hunting and doing that job and other breeds were meant to be out pulling sleds. So I try and make it as fun for them as possible.”

3. Doggie Treadmills Are A Thing

A dog’s trotting pace is actually quite important to judges, so a lot of handlers put their pups on treadmills to modulate their trot.

And yes, there are special treadmills made for these premier pooches. Some cost more than $1,000!

But it’s worth it says, Rives:

“They’re developing their muscles just like any athlete, any runner or football player or any athlete that has to train muscles to do something over and over again.”

2. Handlers’ Cars Have Insane Safety Systems

The American Kennel Club is NOT fucking around when they register handlers.

Take this car checklist as one example, explains Mammano:

“We have a generator, air conditioning, heat, a 30-gallon water tank. We have to have fire extinguishers that haven’t expired and a heat monitor in the vehicle so if the air conditioning goes out the monitor knows. We’re pretty much self-contained.”

1. Handlers Routinely Get Hurt

Some would think this is a pretty tame sport, but all those left-hand turns really do a number of the body.

Fitzpatrick explains:

“A lot of my peers have had their knees and hips replaced. You get tired just from being at the show.”

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