Subtitled, Show Ring Secrets, this is a book I have now read four times – the first read I was overwhelmed with the information, the second and third times I read it as prepping and psyching for big events, and now this fourth time I realize just how many of our top exhibitors in Australia have read it.

Written by an incredibly successful professional handler with input from yet another top notch handler, this book is a fairly well structured collection of thoughts of the professional looking into the realm of reality for so many of us, the owner-handler. Australia, and many other countries, don’t have professional handlers who travel the country with a team of dogs placed in their care, yet, there is plenty of sound, practical, and functional advice in this rather slender hardback book published ‘way back’ in 1992. Unfortunately this topic of show ring handling isn’t covered by a great number of books or videos or even websites, yet that void is very nearly conquered by Alston.

Alston takes you through the whole scenario, from the very basics, which you must master, to the technicalities and nuances of specialling a dog in the USA. While not a whole lot of parallel advice for exhibitors in other countries will be evident at the specialling level, there are still tons of salient points and tips professional and ordinary exhibitors can draw from even this section. Also alien to many around the world are the dogs that are featured, it will take a talented or determined person to appreciate some of Alston’s top winners if viewed under Australian adopted breed standards. But one still has to admire how he has handled, prepared and won the judge’s nod with these dogs.

Yet again, with an American publication, I have to say there are things I would never do, yet I have seen some of these done within Australian show rings. For example the pulling and twisting of an English Springer by its tail to make it show ‘better’ – may be it did, but that dog did not win that day, and it’s son still inherited it’s father’s barrel ribs and sickle hocks (the dam had neither), so what’s the point? It gained nothing that day, and if a novice or compassionate exhibitor saw this happening how will our sport of dog exhibiting continue? Alston was not advising such a method, he used it as a sample of different things get different dogs to ‘show’.

The introduction of the book states, “This book is written for the amateur exhibitor who already knows the basics of showing a dog. It is directed toward those amateurs who are truly interested in the sport of dogs, and who plan to hone their skills to win more consistently in the show ring.”

So to some of the very many great positives I found in this book. And I quote,
“A judge can only judge what is presented in the ring. The American Kennel Club allows a judge approximately a minute and a half per dog. The judge cannot wait to assume. He or she must judge what is seen. If you do not present what the judge wants to see, you are going to lose. So you must leant to present your dog as efficiently as possible in the least amount of time. It takes work, practice and dedication.”
“The perfect handler is invisible. But how can that be? Well, you should be able to watch a Best in Show lineup, walk away from the ring and say to your friends ‘That was an absolutely gorgeous dog that went Best in Show. Who handled it?'”
“Training comes in two parts, training your dog and training yourself. You can a train a dog no matter what age, whether it is a young puppy or four or five years of age.”
“Most handlers would tell you they would rather have a good show dog than a good dog any day. This is for two reasons. When you get beaten showing a good dog, it is a real big downer. When you win with an average dog that is a good show dog, even though it isn’t a top specimen of the breed, it makes the handler feel good because it means he or she was able to use talent to bring out the best in that dog”
“Refrain from extra movement or activity in the ring. Every move you make should enhance the presentation of the animal. If you don’t have a specific reason to do something, then don’t do it.”
“if you have a judge who insists on keeping all the dogs in the sun, you have a choice. Either put your dog in the shade or ask to be excused from the class and write that show off”

This is just a tiny selection of great comments and ideas from this excellent book.