4-6 Month Puppy Competition
4-6 MONTH PUPPY COMPETITION
Ever since AKC began offering the 4-6 month old puppy competition I have had people asking me what I think about it and whether or not they should enter their puppies in it. I have a lot of thoughts on this and what you need to consider about this new offering and whether or not to enter your puppy.
Alternative to puppy matches
First let me say that I am very much in favor of the 4-6 month puppy competition. Years ago there were many options for easing puppies into the show ring. Fun matches and puppy matches were common and so much fun. We would load up our puppies and a few adults and meet at a park where the puppies could meet people, other puppies and adult dogs and get some early exposure to the dog show scene. Puppy matches are few and far between nowadays if not practically non-existent. It is such as shame as it really was a nice way to get our puppies out. This is one reason why I love the 4-6 month puppy competition so much. The 4-6 month puppy competitions are, I believe, the alternative to the puppy matches that we so rarely see anymore.
Dog show environment exposure
As a trainer, I am not in favor of expecting a dog, especially a puppy to perform in a novel environment without any preparation or early exposure. I have always taken my puppies to dog shows to get them used to the dog show environment. Before the 4-6 month puppy competition we really weren’t supposed to have young puppies at dog shows which makes it incredibly difficult to get them properly socialized and exposed that environment. Because we go to shows all the time we sometimes forget how overwhelming it can be for a puppy who has never been exposed to it. There are so many dogs and people, not to mention the rings, vendor booths and loud buildings. I certainly don’t want my puppies first dog show experience to be an actual show where he is entered and expected to perform and behave as an adult show dog would. The 4-6 month puppy competition gives us an opportunity to get our puppies out to shows without the risk of breaking any rules.
A great way to make it fun
The 4-6 month puppy competition is a great to get your puppy’s feet wet in the show ring. Most of the 4-6 month puppy competition judges try hard to make it a fun and easygoing experience for baby dogs. This is very important as your puppy’s first dog show experience can impact his career and how he feels about dog shows in the future. While I have only competed in the puppy competition a couple of times, I found the judges to be very gentle, soft and kind. Judges truly seem to enjoy judging the puppy competition and that alone contributes to making it fun for the puppies. This is helpful not only for the puppies, but also for new owner handlers who are just getting started with showing and find the regular competition stressful.
Is your puppy a candidate?
While I really love the idea of the 4-6 month puppy competition I would be remiss in not stating that there are some puppies that are not candidates for this competition. Puppies that are overly concerned or fearful may not be ready for the show ring even the more laid back 4-6 month puppy ring. If your puppy is shy or fearful of people, afraid of the table or uncomfortable with other dogs, he needs more safe, controlled socialization outside of a competition situation. Highly sensitive puppies are not ready for the type of scrutinization that the show ring demands. And frankly, there is no reason whatsoever to push a puppy that isn’t ready. You are setting your puppy up for failure by pushing a puppy that isn’t ready. Spend some more time with those babies outside the ring and get them ready before putting them in the ring. You have all the time in the world with a new puppy.
Keep it fun
My only real gripe with the 4-6 month puppy competition is that AKC has made it more competitive by offering a Puppy of Achievement and Certificate of Merit for puppies competing. The reason I am against this is that the last thing we need is people pushing puppies to win at this level. I wish it was ONLY for fun and practice and not trying to accumulate wins for any reason. Still, if people commit to doing it for the purpose of getting their puppies out there having fun and getting some experience, I am all for it.