Pre-Show To-Do List

Planning ahead for your dog show debut never hurts. In fact, it helps enormously, especially if you begin to feel a little nervous as the big day approaches (and who doesn’t?).

Making Travel Plans

If the show is a distance from your home, you might opt for spending the evening before the event in a dog-friendly hotel near the site, or on the show grounds if you’re lucky enough to own a motorhome. Chances are you’ll need to reserve your spot in advance, so check the premium list for information regarding motorhome parking or car camping at the show.

Tip: Since motels near a show site that accept dogs often book up quickly, call ahead for a reservation.

When estimating how long it will take to drive to the show, allow time for traffic tie-ups, severe weather, and finding the site.

If you’re scheduled for an early morning ring time and don’t want to leave home before dawn, travel the night before the show and stay in a motel or on the show grounds.

Ask for Directions

Because dog shows are often held in places you’ve never heard of before you’ll need to confirm the best routes. It’s not unusual for a GPS device to make a mistake, so line up backup directions.

Check the Car

Make sure your car is in tip-top condition with a full tank of gas. Are the tires OK? Is the oil gauge working? In warm weather you and your dogs will need a cool ride so don’t forget to check the air conditioning.

Take the Bait

Bring along a hefty supply of your dog’s favorite treats. Some dog show vendors sell cooked liver bait, but don’t rely on buying it. Perhaps they will run out before you arrive, or no longer make it.

Tip: If you want your dog to focus on you and perform well in the ring, reward her with a variety of fresh, cooked food cut in small pieces. Dried or pre-packaged tidbits are less enticing to your dog.


Organize your gear a day or two before you leave for the show. Don’t forget to bring these items:

  • Entry confirmation.
  • Judging schedule.
  • Tack box or bag with grooming equipment.
  • Grooming table for long-coated breeds.
  • Show collar and lead. An extra set comes in handy in case the first collar or leash breaks.
  • Regular leash and collar to walk her onto the show grounds and to exercise her.
  • Water bowl or travel bucket.
  • Bottled water or water from home.
  • Small ice chest for bait and food and beverages for you.
  • A favorite dog toy.
  • Crate and/or exercise pen.
  • Equipment dolly.
  • A roll of paper towels and several biodegradable plastic bags for cleaning up after your dog.
  • First-aid kit.
  • Emergency contacts and phone numbers.
  • Show clothes and apron if grooming your dog at the show.
  • Rain boots in severe weather.
  • If a grooming tent isn’t available at the show, bring reliable shade or protection from the weather for you and your dog.

Warning: Don’t let your dog drink local water. The change from the water at home to a strange, new source can cause digestive upset.

What Time to Arrive?

Once you know when your breed is expected in the ring, decide what time you need to arrive at the show. Take into consideration parking your car, unloading your dog and supplies, locating the grooming area or tent, and setting up your stuff. If your dog needs grooming, add extra minutes.

For good measure, add at least an extra hour for locating the ring, exercising your dog, buying or reading the catalog, checking in with the ring steward, and picking up your armband. Your dog needs time to settle into the show environment, too.

Warning: Allow enough travel time so you can avoid rushing your dog directly from the car into the show ring. She needs time to check out the scene and feel comfortable with her surroundings before showing her heart out.

Dog Shows 101

It's Showtime

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