Whether it’s the Crufts Championships or your regional Championship obedience show, there’s nothing quite like that feeling you get before a big event.
It’s normal to be a little nervous – and often nerves can help you put on a top performance.
But there are things you can do before a big show, to help you feel ready and go out into the ring bursting with confidence.
STEP 1: Fail to prepare and prepare to fail
It’s an old saying, but one that is certainly true when it comes to getting ready for a big dog show...
Jacqui says: ‘I don't leave anything to last minute. The night before I make sure everything we need for the big day is packed. That includes dog treats, toys, towels, leads and poo bags. The night before I lay out my clothes, shoes and even my lucky earrings to make getting dressed in the morning as easy as possible.
Before heading to bed, I put my flask by the kettle and put some sandwiches in the fridge. They might sound like little details, but avoiding faffing around in the morning means you can leave on time and avoid unwanted stress that will negatively affect both you and your dog.’
STEP 2: Practice makes perfect
It’s worth pulling out all the stops to make your training sessions count – that could mean investing in a new Tug-E-Nuff dog training toy, or finding moments to put in extra practice outside of the training arena.
Jacqui says: ‘It’s also worth having a final rehearsal the day before or even the morning of the show, so you and your dog both have your routine fresh in your minds.’
STEP 3: Visualise success
Visualisation is a technique used by the world’s top athletes – and if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for you and your four-legged friend.
Jacqui says: ‘When you get any spare time before or even on the morning of the show, take a few moments to visualise you and your dog doing a fantastic job. You can also run through the whole day in your mind – from arriving and checking out the course to cooling down and getting your hands on that trophy. Visualisation can really help to ease nerves and the calmer you are, the calmer your dog will be.
STEP 4: Warm up!
It’s essential to arrive at the showground early enough to fit in a warm-up session.
Jacqui says: ‘Before you go into the show ring make sure your little athletes are limbered up and ready for action. I’ve done a canine massage course which I find brilliant for warming up and cooling down. But if you don't feel confident about massaging then just ensure that the dog has had a chance to warm up his or her muscles.
‘I find warming up is a great opportunity to get focussed before the competition. It’s also a great way to help prevent injuries – so make sure it’s part of your plan.’
STEP 5: Don’t put too much pressure on yourself
When you take part in a competition, it’s hard not to want to do your best. But it’s important not to focus so much on winning that you forget to enjoy the experience.
Jacqui says: ‘It might sound silly but I often say to myself that I am never going to have this moment again so I should just try to make it fun for my dogs and myself.’
What are your top tips for preparing for a big show? Let us know in the comments!