Conformation Grooming & Training

Preparing for participation in a Conformation event involves grooming appropriate for the breed as well as training your dog to present themselves at their best to the judge.

The first step in preparing to show your Collie is to know the Breed Standard. Understanding what a judge will be looking for will help you determine your dog’s strengths and weaknesses, which in turn affects both grooming and training. While grooming cannot overcome some structural issues, the goal is for your dog to come as close in appearance, movement and expression as possible to the standard.

For Rough Collies, careful grooming before a show is needed to highlight their features for the judge. Regular grooming including bathing, brushing and trimming between shows makes it easier, but attention to details immediately before or at the show is what helps make a champion.

The best place to start learning to groom for the show ring is the dog’s breeder or other Collie owners who show their dogs. Besides providing information, watching an experienced owner groom their own dog can provide a practical demonstration of what is involved. Breeders and other owners can also, as an alternative, provide the names of local professional groomers if you prefer. Another source of information is at a local dog show, seeing how dogs have been groomed, talking to owners (after they have been in the ring!), and visiting dog show vendors.

Training for the conformation ring is not as easy as it looks! As a handler, you will need to learn what judges typically look and ask for, as well as ring etiquette. The dog must learn three main behaviors for the ring: gaiting (trotting in the ring while looking his best), stacking (posing and standing still) and allowing the judge to do a hands-on examination over the dog’s entire body, including the mouth. In many areas, local clubs or dog training facilities offer handling classes.

If you would like to learn more about Conformation, detailed information is available at:

Getting Started in Conformation” – AKC

Welcome to the Dog Show” – AKC

AKC Event Search

Judging the Collie” – Collie Club of America

The Collie Breed Standard – Overlake Collie Club website