A New Handler's Guide to Bulldog Conformation Specialty Shows: What to Expect

As a new handler in Bulldog conformation specialty shows, you're about to embark on an exciting journey. You'll be working with adorable Bulldogs, learning the intricacies of the show ring, and developing your skills as a handler. However, it's essential to be prepared for the challenges that come with being a newbie.

In this article, we'll give you an insider's perspective on what to expect as a new handler in Bulldog conformation specialty shows. Spoiler alert: being new in this sport is hard. It takes tough skin to participate side-by-side with handlers who have been doing this for, literally, decades. You need to take the initiative to be included, and, you’ll be physically exhausted after a show (standing on hard floors, repetitive kneeling and bending). But, I’ve learned that the people in the Bulldog community are friendly and they are focused on the same goal: promoting a healthy breed of Bulldogs. They want the best for the dogs and will do anything for those pups!

Ask Questions, Ask Often

One of the most valuable assets you'll have as a new handler is other experienced handlers who can offer guidance and feedback. Don't be afraid to ask questions, even if they seem silly or obvious. Other handlers have been in your shoes before and will be happy to share their knowledge and expertise.

From how to properly present your dog in the show ring to what to wear, experienced handlers will be more than happy to offer advice and tips. Be prepared to ask questions like:

  • How do I properly present my dog's movement and structure?
  • What are the judge's priorities when evaluating bulldogs?
  • When do I go in the ring with my dog?
  • What could I do better with my dog the next time I am in the ring?
  • Can you show me how you stack your dog?  Or, how do you get your dog to walk so well in the ring?

The "New Handler" Comment

Unfortunately, as a new handler, you'll likely hear comments like "You must be new around here" or "You're still getting the hang of it." While these comments might be well-intentioned, they can be frustrating and demotivating. Remember that everyone starts somewhere, and even experienced handlers have had their fair share of mistakes.

Instead of getting discouraged, use these comments as an opportunity to learn from others. Ask them what they mean by their comment, and take their feedback as a chance to improve. Remember that you're not alone in this journey, and many handlers have been in your shoes before.

Understanding the Flow of the Show

One of the biggest challenges for new handlers is navigating the flow of the show. With multiple categories, and a language of its own, it can be overwhelming to keep track of everything. Don't worry if you get confused – it's normal! Take time to study the show program, talk with the ring steward, and pay attention even when you are not in the ring.

As you navigate the show, don't be afraid to ask for help or clarification. Other handlers or show staff will be more than happy to guide you through the process. Remember that even experienced handlers can get lost in the show ring – it's all part of the learning process.

Tips for Success

As a new handler in Bulldog conformation specialty shows, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Arrive early to get a good spot for your dog on the perimeter of the ring (or in the grooming area).
  • Make sure your dog has gone to the bathroom, is well-groomed and comfortable before entering the ring.
  • Practice your presentation skills beforehand – remember to smile! Confidence goes a long way.
  • Keep a positive attitude and focus on learning from your experiences.

Equipment Recommendations

I have a checkoff list of things to pack before shows, after a few experiences of feeling a little unprepared 😊.  Here’s what I have to have, at a minimum:

  • A simple leash (“Lead”) – not the kind you buy at Petco or Chewy – these are simple leads that don’t distract the judge from the dog’s body.
  • Baby wipes – dogs can be gross.  Wipes help to make sure they are clean in the ring.
  • Scissors – my first two shows, I didn’t shave off any of my pup’s whiskers, but I do it now because so many people pointed out that I need to do it. Scissors are easiest for me.
  • A dog crate – this is where your dog will relax when they are not in the ring.
  • A small battery-operated fan – the crate can be a little stuffy, so a fan helps keep the dog cool and relaxed. Trust me.  It seems high maintenance but it’s useful.
  • A dog brush – my dog sheds a second set of fur every 48 hours, so, the brush is important to keep the pup clean from fly-aways.


The Bulldog Club of America needs new handlers to continue to grow our community, so helping new handlers is an important part of our mission. As a new handler in Bulldog conformation specialty shows, you're about to embark on an exciting journey. While it may take some time to get used to the show ring and navigate the flow of the event, remember that everyone starts somewhere. By asking questions, seeking feedback, and staying positive, you'll be well on your way to becoming a successful handler. Good luck!

Submitted by Lisa Mueller