This section is from the book "British Dogs: Their Varieties, History, Characteristics, Breeding, Management, And Exhibition", by Hugh Dalziel. Also available from Amazon: British Dogs.
The exhibition of dogs has taken a strong hold on popular fancy, and is now a source of interest and pleasure to thousands in this country.
When fairly and honestly conducted, competition at these exhibitions gives rise to healthy excitement, and furnishes a stimulus to breeders to still further improve the several varieties of dogs.
Every season brings with it a new set of exhibitors spiritedly entering the arena, and courageously endeavouring to wrest the coveted laurels from those who have been earlier in the field and won successes.
It often happens that the tyro in exhibiting meets with most disheartening rebuffs through his own ignorance of, or inattention to, matters without which success is impossible.
I desire to point out, as clearly as I can, for the benefit of inexperienced exhibitors, rules of conduct and treatment in preparation for competition, each and all of which it is necessary more or less closely to observe, in order to succeed. First and foremost let me impress on the young exhibitor to make up his mind firmly never to entertain even the desire to win by resort to any subterfuge, dodge, or trick; unfortunately such things are done, but also, fortunately, by the few, otherwise, what honourably followed is a most interesting pursuit, would speedily loose character, and become that which no man of self-respect could take part in.
Forthcoming dog shows are announced in the various newspapers that treat of canine subjects, and the first thing the intending exhibitor has to do is to select at which show his dog shall compete. Before doing so, a schedule of prizes offered, with copy of rules, should be obtained from the secretary. Read carefully the conditions under which you can exhibit; if you approve of them, fill up the entry form according to the requirements, and in all things abide rigidly by the rules to which you have subscribed.
Having determined to show, you have now to consider the amount of preparation your dog requires, so that on the day of competition he may be shown at his best.
Many people are disposed to treat the condition in which a dog is shown too lightly; it is really of great importance, it adds or detracts much from the good impression the dog should make on the mind of the judge if the animal is to stand a chance of winning. Of course condition is not everything, still rank bad ones at times have won through the splendid form in which they were shown, for superficial polish does much in creating a favourable impression at first sight. True, he is but a poor judge who can mistake veneer for solid mahogany, but be your mahogany of the very highest quality it should not be needlessly handicapped by being exhibited in a dirty and unprepared state.
Some dogs require but little preparation, the main thing in all breeds is to have them in perfect health, so that they shall be seen to advantage through the fire and vigour of life displaying their forms to the best.
Fatness is not required in any breed of dogs. It throws the natural form out of proportion, and, whilst it may hide faults, it, on the other hand, obliterates good points. In all - and especially is it seen to effect in smooth haired varieties - there should be flesh hard and firm, with the sinews brought up and standing out like cords; nothing like softness or flabbiness should appear. This is specially required in such breeds as greyhounds, bulldogs, pointers, terriers, etc. In bloodhounds and mastiffs attention to condition is often neglected, and they are to be seen loaded with fat and looking as soft and unwieldly as prize pigs. In all breeds, long or short coated, excess of adipose matter causes sluggishness of action, whereas activity is a great characteristic of all dogs in health.
To get dogs into the best condition for exhibition attention to numerous matters of detail are necessary, and may best be here considered separately. First:
No trainer of greyhounds who can hope to be successful treats his dogs as if they were lumps of inorganic matter, to be individually kneaded by identical processes into exactly the same thing.
Dogs vary in constitution, and on that depends the amount and quality of the training he must receive in preparation for a show; some are gross feeders, others very dainty; some are naturally disposed to lay on flesh, others the reverse; and these and many other peculiarities will be observed and acted on by the intelligent kennelman. Again, the state of health at the time the dog is to commence his preparation must not be overlooked. A single dose of physic will rarely do harm, and if the dog is sluggish, and especially if there appears a tinge of yellowness about the eyes, such a pill as the following will be most suitable: Podophyllin resin 3gr., powdered rhubarb 24gr., powdered compound extract of colocynth 36gr., extract of henbane 24gr., mixed and divided into twenty.four pills, two of which should be sufficient for the largest breeds, and others in proportion. It should be made a rule in giving dogs pills which are to act on the bowels that they have soft sloppy food the day before, and also the day the pill is given.
For toy and very delicate dogs a dose of castor oil and syrup of buckthorn combined may be substituted.
It should also be considered whether the dog is at the time infested by worms. Few dogs escape these pests, and, although some dogs remain fat and sleek whilst enduring their presence, as a rule the animal has an unthrifty look; the food he takes seems to do him no good, the coat is either harsh or constantly coming off, and, under these circumstances, the extra feeding and all the unusual care to get him fit is thrown away. A vermifuge or worm medicine, judiciously selected and properly given, may always be tried with safety and hope of advantage, and if worms are present it should be repeated in a week. The time to give it is the morning, after the purge has been administered, and, whatever the worm medicine, it should be followed by a dose of olive or castor oil in two hours. Areca nut is a good vermifuge; it should be given freshly grated, and a sound and heavy nut selected - a worm-eaten nut, as many of them are, is of no value. The dose may be taken as two grains for every pound weight of the dog. Spratts Patent Cure for Worms is in the form of a powder very easily given, and I have found this invariably effective in expelling worms of all kinds, and safe to give even to the most delicate dogs. They are also remarkably cheap, and are, in fact, invaluable as a kennel adjunct.
Oil of male fern often proves most effective as a vermifuge; the dose is from ten drops to forty drops, and, from its irritating effect on the coats of the stomach causing vomiting, it should be given sheathed in such a vehicle as mucilage of acacia.
Dainty feeders are sometimes much benefited by a course of tonics, which stimulates the appetite and assists in digestion and assimilation. I have found cinchona most suitable, and, perhaps, the liquid extract of the bark is the most convenient form.