An Insider Look at the World of Competitive Dog Shows in Australia

27 May 2024

Competitive dog shows, a fascinating showcase of canine pedigree and training excellence, are a major event in Australia, drawing participants and spectators from across the nation. From local club competitions to prestigious events like the Royal Melbourne Show, these gatherings highlight the immense dedication and deep knowledge required from both dogs and their handlers. This article offers a peek behind the scenes of Australian dog shows, providing insights into training techniques, breed standards, and the commitment necessary to excel in these competitive environments.


Understanding Breed Standards

Central to all dog shows are the breed standards, meticulously detailed by organisations such as the Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC). These standards describe the ideal characteristics of each breed, encompassing physical attributes like size, weight, and coat, as well as behavioural traits such as temperament and movement. Judges at these events evaluate each dog against these standards, determining how well each contestant exemplifies their breed’s ideal traits.


Training for Perfection

The journey to becoming a show dog starts early and involves comprehensive training and socialisation. Puppies are introduced to a variety of environments and situations to ensure they grow into well-adjusted, confident adults. Basic obedience is crucial, as dogs must respond reliably to commands such as sit, stay, and come. However, show training goes beyond basic commands:


Stacking: This involves the dog holding a specific pose to best display its breed characteristics, often with the handler’s help to adjust stance and tail position.


Gaiting: This is how a dog is judged on its movement. Dogs must learn to move smoothly at their handler’s side, showcasing their structure and gait as outlined by their breed standards.


The Handler’s Role

Handlers are instrumental in presenting dogs at shows. They must be skilled in grooming and showcasing the dog, enhancing the animal’s best features to align with breed standards. Effective handlers are also attuned to their dogs’ needs, providing reassurance and calm in the stimulating environment of a dog show. The relationship between handler and dog is pivotal, with the best handlers understanding how to elicit top performances from their canine partners under intense scrutiny.


The Dedication Behind the Scenes

Participation in dog shows demands a significant investment of time, effort, and resources. Handlers and owners often travel across Australia, attending various events throughout the year. Preparing for each show involves extensive grooming and training sessions, alongside the costs associated with travel, entry fees, professional grooming supplies, and sometimes the services of professional handlers.


More Than Just Ribbons

Although winning titles and ribbons is a goal for many, the world of dog showing offers much more. It fosters strong bonds between dogs and handlers through shared training and experiences. It also supports the health and preservation of dog breeds, with breeders using show feedback to refine their breeding programs, aiming to produce specimens that are not only beautiful but healthy and true to breed standards.



The world of competitive dog shows in Australia is both demanding and rewarding, blending artistry, discipline, and scientific breeding principles within a community passionate about canine welfare. Whether one is a seasoned handler or merely a dog enthusiast, these shows provide a window into the depth of commitment and love shared between humans and their beloved canine companions.

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