If you're an avowed dog lover and enjoy competition, the dog show industry could be an ideal choice for a career or small business. Dog shows can be highly competitive, and there's no guarantee that you'll make money, but the best dogs can win thousands of dollars, and there are dog showing opportunities virtually every weekend. You'll need plenty of breed-specific knowledge and lots of experience working with dogs to successfully show a dog.
Select the breed you want to work with. If you're an admirer of a particular dog breed, you can make a living showing the breed. If you're not sure which breed to choose, read dog breed books and guides and select a breed that works with your lifestyle. If you're active and high-energy, a dog such as a border collie might be ideal, but if you love little dogs with fewer exercise needs, try a breed such as a Yorkshire terrier.
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Attend events at your local kennel club. The American Kennel Club is the primary club that sponsors dog shows. Veteran breeders and showers can give you ample information about your chosen breed and point you toward reputable breeders. Before you select your first show quality puppy, you'll need all the information you can get, so spend plenty of time networking with other breed enthusiasts and reading up on your chosen breed.
Choose a puppy bred by a reputable breeder who has a history of breeding show quality dogs. The puppy should conform perfectly to breed standards and should be able to pass a temperament test. Obtain a copy of the puppy's pedigree, and register the puppy with the American Kennel Club. You won't be able to show your dog if you don't register it.
Hire a dog trainer to work with your dog, or train your dog yourself. Show dogs need to be well-socialized, so expose your dog to a variety of people and situations. Then begin working on basic obedience training, including commands such as "sit," "heel" and come. Your dog will need to walk confidently and obediently in the show ring.
Enroll your dog in its first dog show. The American Kennel Club lists popular dog shows, and local kennel clubs can also provide you information about upcoming shows. Some shows have age or weight requirements, so check the guidelines for the show you've chosen. Have the dog groomed by a professional groomer immediately before the show, and ensure that your dog's fur style matches show guidelines. Practice walking in the ring, getting your dog to sit and ensuring that your dog can adopt all the poses required by the show. Your dog must conform to behavioral standards as well as appearance ones. If your dog's breed is active, ensure your dog is lively in the show ring, but if you are the owner of a slower-paced dog breed, your dog will need to be calm and deliberate.
Attend the dog show with your dog. You can either hire a professional handler to walk in the ring with your dog, or show your dog yourself. A handler might be better-equipped to ensure your dog behaves, but an unfamiliar handler might make your dog anxious, so ensure your dog knows the person who will be showing it. Most dogs don't win on the first go-round, but a dog show is great practice for both you and your dog. After the show, talk with other dog showers, particularly if they have dogs that are the same breed as yours.
Your dog will need to be in excellent health and receive regular veterinary care. This can be costly, and may not be offset by your winnings for several years. Neither mutts nor puppies bred by "backyard breeders" -- who don't provide papers -- can compete in conformation shows. They can, however, compete in obedience and trick shows. These shows typically pay less. You'll have more opportunities to win money if you enter your dog in a wide variety of shows. If your dog wins several shows, people might be interested in breeding their dog with yours. Puppies from proven parents can be sold for several thousand dollars, and breeding a show quality dog can help you expand your income.
Never breed dogs and then sell them to people who cannot care for them. Giving them away for free is also unwise, as it can add to the pet overpopulation problem and cause your puppy to end up in the hands of irresponsible people. There is no guarantee of making money from dog shows, and much success in the industry is based upon luck.