Do I want to show my Mastiff?
First we will discuss AKC conformation shows- which are presentation of the dog's 'conformation' (how closely they conform to their breed standard). In these shows, the dog's structure is evaluated both standing 'stacked' and in motion 'gaiting'. The best way to learn about your Mastiff and meet people who can help you get started is ideally to be mentored through the breeder you got your Mastiff from.
Also you will want to join your regional breed club (Southern States Mastiff Fanciers) and national breed club (Mastiff Club of America). Our members have years of experience with Mastiffs and are eager to share. They are a priceless asset to any first-time Mastiff owner and a life-long source of knowledge and support thereafter. In many cities and towns, you will also find local all-breed clubs. In the meantime, here are some other more general tips to getting started.
If you have purchased a “show” potential dog, your best resource for learning how to begin showing will be the dog’s breeder. If you can’t contact the breeder or he/she is unable to provide any assistance, go to one of the superintendent web sites (listed on this page) and locate upcoming shows in your region and make note of the entry deadlines.
Enter your dog first in a local conformation training class and practice learning to 'stack' and 'move' your dog. If there is a local kennel club in your region contact them- go to their website and see if any training classes are listed. If they are not, email someone in the club to ask them what options you have for conformation training classes that might be in a neighboring town.There are also countless resources out there to help you learn more about the art of presentation these days including watching training videos online.
Enter your dog into any shows when you feel ready! A week or so before the show is to be held, the actual judging schedule will also be posted and you will be able to see the actual time and ring number for Mastiff judging. Be at the show well in advance of your breed’s ring time so that you can introduce yourself and find some participants who might be willing to share some advice or act as mentors. (Don’t approach people who are grooming or prepping their dogs or appear to be anxiously awaiting the entry of their breed into the ring and, especially, don’t try to engage them during judging.)
The easiest way to find out about upcoming shows is to visit the web sites of the various show superintendents. A superintendent is an organization charged with the responsibility of setting up and organizing AKC events and reporting the results to AKC. Generally, superintendents cover limited geographic areas. In the southeast, the primary dog show superintendents are MB-F (www.infodog.com) and Onofrio (www.Onofrio.com) and Kevin Rogers (www.rogersdogshows.com).
For some of us the most rewarding championships are those they “owner-handled” to its championship. Whether this is your goal or not, it is always best to enter your dog in a conformation training class and begin training your dog for AKC dog shows. It not only trains the dog about what is expected of him but also teaches you how to present your dog. As with any sport some of us will find it comes more 'naturally' than others do.
This can be accomplished in two ways. One option is where you just meet the handler ringside at shows and the handler takes your dog into the ring. This is called 'ringside pickup'. The advantage is that your dog stays with you in between dog shows. The disadvantage is that the handler doesn't have time to 'train' your dog unless you can arrange to meet with them before the show or in between shows, if they live in your area.
The best way to find the right handler for your Mastiff is to visit several local shows and watch who is handling Mastiffs in the ring, making note of those you think are especially good or might work well with your particular dog. Ask your breeder or other trusted folks in your breed which handlers they like and why.
If you decide one of the handlers sounds promising ask for their business card ringside if the handler appears to be free. If they have the time, briefly introduce yourself as a new Mastiff owner, and ask for a business card. If the handler has few moments to spare between rings, they may take time to answer a few questions.
Generally, AKC shows have conformation competition (like the Westminster or Eukanuba shows you may have seen on television, but on a smaller and more casual scale), along with obedience and agility competitions. You might also see puppy versions of these same events or other non-competitive or “fun” events.
Many people enjoy the fact that spayed and neutered dogs are eligible to participate in these activities, whereas dogs competing in conformation (show ring) must be intact. In addition, owners often report that they feel a greater spirit of camaraderie and fun than they do competing in the more competitive conformation events.
As you begin to get involved and meet more people, you will find many more opportunities in your area – Carting, Fast Cat, Lure Coursing, Nose Work, Frisbee, Fly-ball, Therapy Dog, Search & Rescue… the opportunities are endless! Mastiff owners are always open to new ideas for activities suited to a Mastiff’s unique personality. You could probably find enough eager participants in your area to form several teams of talented Marshmallow Catchers! Just look around. Eventually, you and your dog will find the activity that’s just right for you.