So you want to take a run at that #1 spot-whether top in your breed, in your group or the coveted run to be one of the top dogs all breeds in this country here is a guideline to help you figure out your goal and most importantly how to get there.
As explained in Leadingedge Dog Show Academy’s online course, first and foremost you must have a goal. There is no way to get where you want to be without knowing where that is. Pick a goal. If number one in your breed (breed or all breed points) or number one in your group or beyond. Decide where you want to be at the end of the year and plan accordingly.
Once you have a goal then you need to do some research. Luckily in this day and age the answers you need are at your fingertips. Look at the results either on Canuckdogs.com or caninechronicle.com and see how many points the dog of your breed had for that position over the last 3 years. The average of these three years is your goal. Then you can even go beyond this research and look up the record for the dog that had the most points in those three years (either again on Canuckdogs or by getting and AKC report) You can see if they went to many shows or a few larger ones and more importantly how many shows they went to over the course of the year and how many on average they went to each month.
Money, money, money. Have a budget and stick to it. You can get pretty close to how much it is going to cost you. If you are going to 80 shows, over 22 different weekends you can cost out your entries, hotels and gas fairly easily. Don’t forget win photos and of course advertising. (more on this later)
Now lets say it is March or April. Perhaps the top winning dog of all time in your breed is out for another year and is kicking but. At this point you may want to “slow your roll” and make this a warm up year for a better campaign next year. Perhaps you are winning EVERYTHING and it is time to re evaluate your goal and go for top in your group instead of number one female in your breed. Watch how things are developing and go from there. Of course if you are meeting all of your milestones just keep with the plan.
When it comes to advertising you definitely need to have a handle on your estimated costs and expenses and how much money is left after that. I think it is important to advertise a little in November/December before the campaign year. Then I think an ad or two in January/February. An ad in or before the summer especially if you an advertise your ranking. BUT the most important month for me is September. If you think of your campaign as a game of Jeopardy then September is Double Jeopardy, where the points can really add up.
Now lets talk about social media. Social media is an effective form of advertising and of course it is free. A little about social media etiquette. Do not tag judges. They don’t usually appreciate it and everyone you know considers it to be in bad form. NEVER tag a judge in a photo of a win from months ago the week before going to a different show they are judging at. I find the exception to the “don’t tag a judge” rule is for foreign judges or after a National Specialty. Visitors from another country usually enjoy showing others what the dogs were like while they were away and most judges consider judging at the National Specialty the greatest compliment and again like to show others what the dogs looked like that they awarded. I let the judges in these occasions tag themselves or ask to be tagged or often they will ask you privately send them a photo so that they may post it. If at any time a judge posts a win photo of my dog or asks to be tagged of course you comply.
This brings us to the subject of photos. Some dogs are photogenic and some are not. DO NOT fool yourself. I would rather see you use ONE good photo for the entire year than any bad photos. Your dog will only be remembered for the bad ones. Trust me on this.
Maybe you have decided to go to as many shows as possible and give your dog as many chances to win as possible. Maybe have decided to go to all the local shows until September and then see where you are and start travelling more. Which ever way you have decided think about your competition and who will be there. Sure it is nice to go to your National specialty but if it is conjunction with a 4 day all breed weekend do you really need all of that breed competition? There are plenty of years where you can go to your National, the campaign year doesn’t need to be it.
As we show in LEDSA’s “How to campaign your dog” we want you to act like a winner. What we mean is this. Take your wins and your losses with equal grace. No one likes a poor loser, but a poor winner is worse. Win or lose stay at the show as long as you can. Watch and support your competitors. Watch Junior handling and be there to support them and as well new comers in the sport.
If you lose the breed or the group watch the winners and be objective. You don’t need to tell anyone else what you think but make sure you know where your competition is better than your dog. (or where it could be perceived to be better) Use it as a learning experience so that you can be better tomorrow.
No matter what happens, go with the flow. If you are winning stay on that path. If you are consistently not reaching your goals then figure out where you are going wrong and adjust.
In conclusion campaigning your dog is planning and execution of that plan. Remember you are always taking your best friend home.