The country's largest dog show, the AKC National Championships, is coming, so it's the perfect time for your dog to learn a new trick

By Kelli Bender
December 20, 2019 04:08 PM
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Nick King

The country largest dog show is approaching. On New Year’s Day, Animal Planet will air the AKC National Championship Presented by Royal Canin, which hosts over 11,000 canine competitors.

That’s a lot of well-behaved, perfectly-groomed pooches. While watching these show dogs prance and pose on the first full day of 2020, you may get to thinking if your own pup could hold their own in the show ring.

Jason Taylor, the National Pro Sales Director at Royal Canin and Assistant Show Chairman for the AKC National Championship, has a few tips for any dog owner looking to get their canine a little more “show ready,” even if the dog never plans on competing.

For Taylor, who also shows and raises Afghan Hounds with his wife in his free time, it is important that the everyday dog owner knows that many show dogs are bred for that purpose and only have careers that are a year or two long before retiring and focusing on a life of relaxation.

“For the most part, especially these top dogs in the country, they are bred to be that,” Taylor tells PEOPLE, adding that most show dogs are chosen at 8 weeks old.

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Most of the other dogs in the world aren’t going to fit the standards held by dog show competitions, but that doesn’t mean your pup (and yourself) can’t learn a thing or two from professional show dogs, especially when it comes to provide you and your pooch with a happy, healthy relationship.

Cater You Dog’s Diet to Their Needs: Dogs have different nutritional needs throughout there life which can be based on breed, age, activity level and much more. Royal Canin makes a variety of dog food, including food for dogs of different ages and breeds, so that each canine’s individual needs can be met. To find the food that does that most for your dog’s health — this is include the health of their coat, mind, joints and more — Taylor recommends talking to your veterinarian.

It’s All About Baby Steps: When it comes to teaching your dog a new task or trick, “Break it down,” Taylor says. Don’t rush your dog to do new things. Instead, for example, when you are trying to clip your dogs nails, start by just holding their paw for a few moments. After a day or two, once they become comfortable with that, try clipping a single nail, gradually, over the next few weeks, working to a place where your dog is comfortable having all of their nails clipped in one calm sitting. Make sure to keep plenty of treats and toys on hand to reward your dog for their good work.

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Start Grooming Right Away: Using the baby step process above to approach grooming (baths, brushing, nail clipping) shortly after you bring your pup home. It will be easier for your dog to acclimate to your ideal dog care routine, if you start working on it right away, instead of putting it off. “It’s easier to teach your dog their grooming routine over 2-3 months and have it over with, than struggle with it for 12 years,” says Taylor.

Make Training Fun: “It needs to feel like a game for them,” Taylor says of training. “Use lots of praise, clapping and kissing when you train, even when your dog tries and fails.”

“Try to ignore the stuff they don’t do the way you want them to. Ignore it for now, it will all more itself out,” he adds. Overall, dog training is simple, not easy, and depends on the trainer staying patient and consistent for the dog to truly thrive.

Train Them Young: All dogs, even show dogs, go through a “naughty” puppy stage, assures Taylor, but don’t let that wild toddler-esque behavior stop you from starting socialization and behavior training at an early age.

“The magnificence you see in a champion show dog really starts at puppy hood. We need to feed them, groom them, train them to become that. That’s true for any dog,” according to Taylor.

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To highlight the importance of puppies, Royal Canin hosted the first annual Royal Canin Puppy Pre-Show, ahead of the AKC National Championship. Hosted by professional “dog rater” Matt Nelson of WeRateDogs and Gideon Kidd from I’ve Pet That Dog, the pre-show welcomed seven puppies into the ring to compete for their own Best in Show title.

Unlike the adult dog competition, the judges for the puppies are everyday dog lovers — you included. To help decide which of the seven puppies deserves the top title, watch the Royal Canin Puppy Pre-Show and then vote for your favorite pup, based on their performances in events like Kibble Quest and Puppy Playtime, on social media by sharing your choice along with the hashtag #RoyalCaninPuppies. Voting for the puppies is open through Dec. 22. The elected winner of the Puppy Pre-Show will be announced on Jan. 1 during the airing of AKC National Championship Presented by Royal Canin on Animal Planet at 6 p.m. EDT.