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.

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.

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
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 $5-10/day to pay for parking at the dog shows if you want to come watch, $40 to purchase win photos. Breeder will cover other costs. N/A
Breeding May be bred with breeder consent and only after clearing all necessary health screenings. May not be bred.


Note that the family of a show dog has some particular 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.

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? 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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