The Dog Show Community has a strong and healthy following, thanks to the Irish Kennel Club and the myriad of Breed Clubs for the many varieties our little (and not so little) four legged friends come in. But most of all we rely on you the owners. Dog Showing is sociable, mostly good humoured and addictive activity. It can get you up and out of the house on those cold wet winter days and you can find yourself in a field with your dog on the same cold wet winter day wondering why you do it, but you'll be there again the next week enjoying it all the same.
If you are proud of your English Cocker Spaniel, why not enter it in a dog show? There are many categories in which you can compete with your dog, such as Exhibition, Agility, Obedience and Trials.
However this article will concentrate on Exhibition classes for the moment. Please note the Exhibition Breed Standard means the dog should have a Show Coat which requires a specific and skilled grooming regime and that Male dogs should be entire (two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum).
Now on to the serious stuff...
The Art of Showing
Showing a dog especially a Cocker Spaniel involves a lot of work time commitment from both handler and dog.
From both the handler and dog perspective it may be instinctive or a learnt art, in there lies a problem, but unless you both have the drive and commitment nothing will come of it, but there are a few starting pointers which we hope will guide you and your cocker on the right road.
First and more importantly - Yourself.
Give yourself time to be at show at least 30 minutes to 1 hour in advance to prepare and be ready. Bring with you drinks and food, and adequate weather shielding! Be aware, know your class, and when you are due to show your dog. Present yourself well, (not jeans, tee shirt, and runners). Your Ring Entry number should be clearly displayed (usually either on your left arm or clipped to the front of your jacket).
Recently trimmed a couple of days at least (not always possible). Washed and clean with no knots. Have a nice fine showing lead (not a thick leather walking lead). The animal should have adequate water, a short walk beforehand to allow nature to take its course and you should carry poop bags as you will be fined if you do not clean up after your dog.
When you arrive in the ring, your position is normally in numerical order so look at catalogue before going in so you know who is before or behind you.
On finding your position.
The Steward is always there to assist. Set your dog up, as indicated in the breed standard, you are now "showing your dog off". Poised head, gently sloping top-line and presented tail.
You will probably be asked to do a run with all competitors around the ring. Movement of your cocker is all-important, merry disposition - wagging tail, head up (you may need to put lead up towards ears to achieve this). Keep your dog between you and the Judge at all times.
Next in order, you will put your dog on the table for the Judge to examine your dog. The head and mouth are first inspected so ensure your dog is able and ready for strangers to "go over".
The Judge will then examine front, shoulders, top line, legs, tail etc, as the Judge moves from the front of your dog, go to his/her head to comfort and remove lead to give optimal expanse of your cocker.
The Judge will then ask for a triangle which entails walking/trotting your cocker from the judges point, in a triangle, this allows the Judge to see back movement, side movement and finally front movement. Keep your dog between you and the Judge at all times.
You again may be requested to do a straight up and down; this is to enforce front and back movement.
Return to your position and be ready to present your cocker for the final judging decision.
Once all dogs have been judged, the Judge will make a decision on which exhibits in their opinion are deemed winners.
Do not leave ring until asked to do so by Steward. Congratulate winner or wait to be congratulated (if you are the winner).
Remember please, to take all judgements with good manners.