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Dog Showing: Tips from John Averis

February 6th, 2020

Who would be the best person to talk to about dog showing and to get some advice other than the one and only, John Averis.

John is a 3rd generation championship breeder and handler of terriers. His grandfather, Les Atkinson, won Best in Show at Crufts in 1963 with a Lakeland Terrier Rogerholm Recruit. In 1998 John’s mom, Judith, handled their home breed Welsh Terrier Supreme Champion Saredon Forever Young to Best In Show at Crufts.

John has trimmed and handled numerous champions.

Over the years John has trimmed and handled numerous champions including Airedales, Irish, Kerry Blue, Lakeland and Welsh Terriers becoming a true multi-breed specialist. Awards include numerous Groups and Best In Shows at General Championship Shows, numerous Best of Breed at Crufts, Terrier Group Winner at Crufts 2017 with Ch. Saredon Enigma and four times BIS at the National Terrier Club show – the biggest Terrier Show in the world!

Have a read at what he had to say…

Your favourite show, John?

National Terrier.

Many of the terriers are vulnerable breeds… why is that?

I found it very sad that many of the terrier breeds are on a fast decline. I’ve heard many times that it’s because of the coat care but I don’t believe that. Unfortunately, fashion comes into play when it comes to dogs and some of our beautiful native breeds get forgotten. Personally, as an exhibitor of some vulnerable breeds, it gives me great pride in taking top honours with them.

It must be an amazing feeling to see the dogs you breed succeeding in show rings around the world?

As a breeder, it’s a wonderful feeling to see dogs we’ve bred winning top honours. Handling is a game, breeding is an art.

What age do you start training a dog?

After a basic lead training, all stems from there… the earlier the better. From your first grooming session, you’re teaching them to stand square on the table. This especially helps the breeds you have to present to the judge on the table. Once they learn the basic walking on the lead, you start show lead training them.  With terriers, you like them to look alert on the lead while moving. Try to do this with their head up, with the loose lead, not strung up. All this training takes time and the secret is patience. Practice makes perfect.

How often would you train?

Little and often, especially when you’re in the mood. Never do it when you are stressed or in a rush. You need to feel relaxed.

Free stand or stacking?

Both are good techniques. The best way is to have someone video you while you’re practicing and see what technique suits the dogs’ attributes the best. Always keep in mind that a dog can show itself better than you ever will, so if something catches your dog’s attention let him be and he will show himself.

And other tips for handling?

Always approach showing a dog in a calm and confident way. Any forms of tension and stress you may be feeling will go straight down the lead and affects your dog’s performance. When positioning your dog try to use slow deliberate movements rather than quickly grabbing your dog.


When to enter the first show?

In the UK puppy classes start at 6 months of age on the day of the show. I wouldn’t, however, recommend rushing into this unless you are confident in yourself and your puppy.

What else is included in the preparation, apart from grooming?

If you’re a show novice I would recommend going to a local ring craft to learn the basics of showing a dog. This will teach you the ring procedure and also makes your dog aware of the environment. On top of this, it allows you the opportunity to talk to other show people and get advice. 

What show would you recommend for a novice?

I always recommend starting in a ring craft. While you’re there they’ll have schedules for the local shows – companion shows and open shows. Championship shows come in the form of breed shows, group shows, and general all-breed championship shows.

What would you recommend for somebody’s first show?

Once you feel confident enough with yourself and your dog my advice would be planning. Always allow yourself plenty of time for your journey and ideally you want to be at the show at least an hour before your breed is judged. Find a good spot to set up in, which isn’t far from your bench and not too far from your breed ring. Make yourself familiar with the showground (this does depend on the size of the show). Exercise your dogs, get your ring number and start preparing for your class.

What do you recommend taking to the show?

All you need to take to the show are the essentials, depending on your breed. A brush, comb, stripping knife and scissors… I don’t take my best equipment to the show just in case I lose it. All the grooming should be done at home so all you need are the basic tools. I also always take a spare lead with me and don’t forget your ring clip to put your ring number on. I always forget mine!

Always take a water bowl and water, your bate and/or small squeaky toy, towels and poo bags… and of course, Calming Floral Spray. This is never missing in my tack box! It’s always handy to have if your dog gets nervous because of the crowds, other dogs, noise or the judges.

How to dress? Why is it important?

You need to dress smartly and comfortably. Depending on your breed, the colour of your clothes is important. If you have a black or dark dog it’s advisable to choose a lighter colour to make your dog stand out and not blend into your clothes. 

Any other advice for a novice?

💡 My advice would be to only enter one class. I see so many novices enter more than one class and I always think to myself… why? After the class judging is finished the ring steward will call all the class winners to compete for the best of sex. If you have entered more than one class and you lose in one of them you can’t compete for the best sex. 

💡 You can go to your class, in whatever order you like… first, last in the middle…there is no order but if you win your class you’ll be called back in to challenge the other class winners and the steward will place you in the class order. Always listen to the ring steward’s instructions and also do as the judge asks you as not all judges have the same procedure.

💡 Always make sure you are not between the dog and the judge. The rule of thumb is the dog is on your left side.

💡 If you are looking for advice from other exhibitors always wait till after the breed judging. Most people are concentrating and working on the final preparation to show their dog. With terriers, it can be weeks and weeks of work prior to the show and the last minutes before going into the ring are important and people don’t like to be disturbed.

💡 Sportsmanship is very important, win or lose. Always be courteous to other exhibitors and the judge.

💡 Your dog may be very well natured around other dogs but never assume that the other dogs are as well.

💡 One thing you can be sure of, you will make mistakes on the way. But the more shows you do the easier it gets.

💡 I get asked at many times at shows about grooming tips and people want to now the finest of details. I, however, found that when I judged, I was surprised by how many people forget the basics like cutting the dog’s nails and cleaning teeth. So, remember the basics!

ABOVE ALL ELSE, ALWAYS REMEMBER – THIS IS YOUR HOBBY, SO THEREFORE SHOULD BE A PLEASURE, SO GO AND ENJOY!

Jitka xx

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