The Difference Between a Show Dog and a Pet Dog

Why I Show Dogs 2

As you begin their research for a well-bred, healthy dog, you’ll hear the same term over and over again. Show quality. But what, exactly, does “show quality” mean?

Let’s talk about dog shows for a minute.

The purpose of a dog show. Historically, the purpose of a dog show (like the ones you see on television) is for a judge to evaluate breeding stock. Breeders come into the ring with their best specimen, prance around in a circle, let the judge put their hands on the dog to feel its structure, and once everyone has been looked at, someone is declared the winner. Succinctly put, that dog won because the judge thought it was their best looking [insert dog breed here] of the day based on what they saw. Also, here’s another article on someone else’s opinion of what a show or pet quality dog is.

When breeders are successful at the dog shows, it’s an indicator that they’re breeding structurally and temperamentally correct dogs of the breed they are showing.

So why is that important?

It’s important because every breed comes with a blueprint that says what it’s supposed to look like, and breeders work very hard to preserve that blueprint. You may know that as “the breed standard.” This is what makes the Golden Retriever look like a Golden Retriever, and what makes a Chihuahua, a Chihuahua.

So what does it mean to own a show dog? How is that different than owning a pet dog? 

Here’s a chart that outlines the differences between a “show quality” dog and a “pet quality dog” for ME personally:

  Show Dog Pet Quality Dog
Dog Ownership

Co-ownership agreement. 

Outright sale with Limited AKC Registration.
Structure Structurally correct enough to be very competitive in my region: CA, NM and AZ. Not as competitive in the dog show ring, or not competitive at all. Structural imperfections may include but are not limited to: short ears, long ears, incorrect topline, low tail set, missing teeth, turned out feet, long toes.
Personality Outgoing, fun-loving, bright and cheery. May be outgoing, fun-loving, bright and cheery, but could also possibly introverted, shy, reserved with strangers.
Health Healthy. Healthy.
Training Must have basic obedience training AND be crate trained and travel well in a car. Must have basic obedience training.
Grooming Nails kept trimmed, bathed only as necessary. Nails kept trimmed, bathed only as necessary.
Spay/Neuter Dog cannot be spayed or neutered. Dog should be spayed after first heat cycle or neutered after 12 months of age.
Time Commitment Sporadic weekends through the year for breeder to “borrow the dog” for training or showing purposes. Average commitment is 4-8 weekends over the course of the dog’s show career (approx. 12-24 months). N/A
Cost Approximately $35/day for show entries. There are typically two shows per weekend; one on Saturday and one on Sunday. Bait is about $10 for the weekend. $5-10/day to pay for parking at the dog shows if you want to come watch, $40 to purchase win photos. The cost for your breeder to show your dog for you is $0. N/A
Breeding May be bred with breeder consent and only after clearing all necessary health screenings. May not be bred.

Ownership of a show dog. On paper, I typically “co-own” dogs that I’ve bred, and/or plan to show because selling a show-prospect dog means the dog is placed with Full AKC Registration (as opposed to Limited), and without a co-ownership, you could technically breed your dog seventeen times starting when its nine months old, and there’s nothing I’d be able to do to stop it. The “co-ownership” is a tool breeders use to ensure their dogs don’t get used indiscriminately. That said, primary ownership is YOU, and I don’t overstep into any of the day to day decisions. It is YOUR dog, and YOU get to decide what he/she eats, where he/she sleeps, how he or she is trained, etc. (Photo at left is me showing Erin’s “LadyBug” in Ardmore, Oklahoma.)

The time commitment of a show dog. We actually don’t spend too much time showing the Barrett dogs; maybe a handful of times each year. Unless there’s a regional event or specialty, I also don’t like the Barrett dogs competing against one another, so we usually pick one boy and one girl to go to any one show (because boys and girls don’t compete against each other). Show expectations: I would plan no more than 4-5 weekends of shows between 6-18 months, and another 4-5 weekends of shows between 18-36 months. It’s very possible she’ll earn her CH well before that. The contract will also stipulate that either party may change their mind at any time about the dog being shown. In other words, we all go in with the best of intentions, but you are free to change your mind and retire her early any time you’d like. Photo at left is Mango winning her first Major at the age of 7 months in January 2018.)

The cost of a show dog. Entry fees are typically $35/day or $70/weekend. Bait is about $10 for the weekend. And then there’s gas and hotel. If I’m showing in Southern California, I’m typically staying at my mom’s house or a friend’s house, so there wouldn’t be hotel expenses. So then it’s just gas divided by however many dogs I’m showing that weekend. (Photo at left is Mango at the WCA Winter Specialty in Ardmore, December 2017.)

  • Most families provide a deposit up front that I use to pay for entry fees, travel expenses, etc. It’s easier for me to make the entries since they’re kind of complicated. We can do it that way with your dog, or you can pay for the entries yourself as we go along. I’ll leave this entirely up to you. Also: We’re pretty sophisticated. We keep the accounting on an online spreadsheet that you can log into anytime you want to see where we’re at. There’s also a private Barrett calendar that you’ll have access to so you can see where my travels will take us to, next. 

The time commitment of an owner. You’re ALWAYS welcome to come to the dog shows and root for us!!!! And heck, if there’s any inking you’re a competitive person and want to learn to show your dog yourself, there’s always that option as well. #teambarrett is growing by the day, and there are a few of us in the family who are showing dogs now. Alternatively, you can also stay home and wait for your dog to return at the end of the weekend. (Photo at left is Shadowfax’s parents: They came to the dog shows on the last day of a three-day circuit and watched him win his third 5-pt Major!) 

Starting a show dog. We start evaluating puppies when they’re about 6 months old to see if they’re ready. Some are and some aren’t. Sometimes, puppies go through awkward gangly puppy phases and don’t turn into swans until they’re about 12-18 months of age. That’s ok! What we want to do is evaluate every dog and see if they’re competitive. If they’re not, we don’t put them in. My philosophy is if we’re going to enter, we plan to win.!!! (Photo at left is Mango, entered in a Puppy Competition when she was five months old.)

Assume it will take about 6 weekends of showing for your dog to earn his or her Show Championship. Some take less time, some take more. 

Other obligations. You can’t spay or neuter the dog, it MUST be crate trained, it MUST ride well in the car, appropriate grooming is critical, and there are the occasional weekends where the breeder (me!) would want to borrow the dog back so it can compete at the dog shows.

  • Owning an in-tact female. The only con about having an in-tact female is that at about a year of age, she’ll come into heat. If she’s like a typical Barrett dog, it will be every six months. This is where crate training is helpful, because she’ll probably spend a lot of time in her crate for the week or two that she’s actively bleeding. (There are also panties she can wear around the house to keep it all contained.) The other drawback is that doggie daycare places typically won’t allow any dog older than 6 months to go to daycare; so if you’re out of town, you’ll have to rely on a network of friends to watch her. (And if we plan ahead, I can either babysit her myself or she can come join me on whatever showing adventures we might be doing that weekend.) 

Breeding. I never go in with the intention that we’re going to breed a dog. That decision is entirely up to you! My job is to support you, regardless. If you’ll consider it, let’s chat! If not, please know that there no “obligation” for you to breed your dog. In the last year, Erin (owner of Bug and Gracie) has dipped her toes into breeding, and most recently, Brent just had a litter with his girl, Elleven. I’m mentoring both of these folks through their litters, and they’re having an amazing time!! But it was their decision to get into breeding, and I’m just here to support them. We can talk more about this down the road. Nothing about breeding has to be committed to, today. (Photo at left is a breeding collaboration between Barrett Weimaraners and Base Camp Weimaraners. Fact: When Erin emailed Kim back in 2014, she was “just looking for a pet puppy.”) 

If this sounds acceptable to you, the prospective Barrett puppy owner, let’s talk, because I’m always looking for folks to allow me to show their dogs. (Oh heck, if you would like to get involved, that would even be better!)

What’s in it for me? Success at the dog shows is one way to validate the Barrett breeding program. These dogs are seen in the eyes of the public, and we WANT the public to know how wonderful well-bred Weimaraners are. It’s also where fellow breeders can see what the Barrett dogs look like. This is most helpful when folks are shopping for stud dogs, which we breeders do with one another all the time. Having more of my dogs represented at the dog shows, which is always a good thing for any breeder and their breeding program.

What’s in it for you? Bragging rights. And assurance in knowing that your dog is truly an ambassador for our breed.

Questions? Comments? Concerns. Email me anytime at trailingfriday [at] gmail [dot] com.

Cheers! – Kim

'The Difference Between a Show Dog and a Pet Dog' have 1 comment

  1. December 26, 2018 @ 2:27 pm Janice Davies

    Fantastic information. I’m an owner of 2 Weims in Australia. My breeder supported me to start showing at an age of 63. I met some wonderful people. I was able to get my bitch through to be a champion plus compete in obedience trials. My first Weim (who was neutered) I then decided to show him. He also gained his neuter champion. He also competed in obedience trials. I don’t know what I would do without them.


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