Common Market? - Copy of an article I wrote for the Leo Club of GB Spring Newsletter 2007 Edition

Having now spent a year living in France and spent many hours driving to dog shows in 5 countries, I’ve been asked to share some information and some experiences about showing dogs in Europe. I thought I would start this article by setting out the basics, a survival guide if you will, some do’s and don’ts that will set you well on the way to showing your dog on the “mainland”

Before you can even think about showing your dog you will need a Pet Passport for each dog that wishes to travel. This is a far simpler process than many imagine and starts with a microchip and a visit to the vets. The process is as follows

  1. 1.An ISO compliant microchip must be inserted & registered. The PetLog scheme is suffiencient for this purpose as are many others.

  2. 2.The microchip is followed by a rabies jab.

  3. 3.Approximately 3 to 4 weeks later a blood test is taken and sent for analysis

  4. 4.Provided the results of the blood test are OK, then, 6 months from the date of the blood test is the date that your dog can travel back in to the UK

  5. 5.If for any reason your dog fails the blood test, then it’s another jab, another 3 weeks wait and another test, again, on passing the test, the 6 months clock starts ticking. Remember, the 6 months start from the date of blood test not from the result

  6. 6.Remember also that the 6 months means that this is the time when your dog can return to the UK, not when you can take it out of the country. To travel to most European countries requires little or no papers. Be warned, if you take your dog out of the UK and then try to re-enter the UK before the 6 months is up, then you can expect your dog to be denied entry.

  7. 7.In addition, when a dog re-enters the UK, the Pet Passport must show that your dog has had wormer and tic & flea treatment no sooner than 24 hours and no later than 48 hours prior to UK entry. This can sometimes be done at the show.

Fear not, most Vets are familiar with the process and will guide you through, bear in mind however that some vets are unsure and mistakes can happen as we found out when one of our dogs was tested at less than 12 weeks old. The results couldn’t be accepted (although passed) as its felt that the pup is still benefiting from the mothers immune system rather than its own, so although jabs can take place earlier than 12 weeks, the test cannot.

Although the process to gain a Pet Passport is common throughout member countries, the rules on maintaining them can vary. When we first put our dogs through the system, the UK rules for a booster was every 3 years, in France its every year, so its important to stay abreast of the latest thinking as to fall outside of the booster date is to start the whole process again. The best thing could be, to have your dogs Rabies booster done every year, this is important as at many shows you must take your Pet Passport and show it at the gate before entry in to the showground. The fact that you are correct under the UK system will mean nothing to the man on the gate as you stand there disappointed, outside the show knowing the only “place” you get that day is last in the car park. Also be aware that at many shows, each dog’s microchip is checked against the entry form you filled in and that must correspond to the Pet Passport

Seems like a lot of work so far, but really it’s straightforward…really. The DEFRA web site can provide a full range of information on this subject and can be found at

OK, so you have your Pet Passport and now you want to go to a show.

Like the UK, many shows are available for entry on the web. Each country has a number of show web sites and these have many of the shows, not all of them. Before you book in to any shows you will need to understand the system, which is a little different to ours in the UK

Let’s start by looking at the information you will need to supply at the point of booking

Whichever way you book, the information you need to supply will be the same

1. Dogs Name (Full Kennel Name)
2. Date of Birth
3. Owner
4. Breeder
5. Sire
6. Dam
7. KC Registration Number
8. The class you want to enter (Talk about this more in a minute)
9. Microchip and or Tattoo Number
10. Pet Passport Number (on occasions)
11. Credit or debit card
12. Address to send you the info

Price wise shows are €25 to €50 euros per dog, parking is sometimes include sometimes not. Options to have a cage are sometimes available and these are a good idea although can sometimes be expensive. There is no benching. More often than not the catalogue is included.

Note – Like Crufts, you are obliged under the rules of the show to stay until the end of the show or close to it, this normally means around 4 pm or so. Not great when you have a 5-hour drive to the ferry and it’s a Sunday afternoon. Getting home at 3 am Monday morning ready for work at 8 am is no fun.

So what class do you enter, well, there will be no surprise to learn that the classes run somewhat differently to the UK, so does the awards system. Shows fall in to two main categories, shows with Country awards, i.e. CAC and, shows that offer CAC’s and CACIB’s, which, as you can imagine is similar to a CAC but with an international element. A CAC is offered by the country Kennel Club or breed club and the CACIB if offered by the FCI, an international regulatory body that most of the kennel clubs around the world belong to except countries such as the UK and the USA who have their own systems. A CAC or CACIB is just like CC’s are here but, the resultant title when enough are won is either a country Champion (4 CAC) or an International Champion. (3 CACIB) I won’t bore you with the details on how each of these is won but its fair to say it’s as hard to do either of them, as it is to do 3 CCs in the UK.

So what class can you enter? This pretty much depends on the age of your dog, so here’s the run down

6 - 9 months Puppy Class
9 – 18 months Young Class
15 – 24 months Intermediate Class
18 months and over Open Class
There are also Champion Classes

So you can imagine that the Open class gets to be quite large, I have known an Open class of more than 50 dogs on many occasions, which has taken over 4 hours to judge.

One big difference in Europe is that every dog takes home a written critique regardless of result. This means that judging takes a lot longer when compared to the UK. The critique explains your dogs good and bad points and you feel that even if you didn’t get a place at least you know why. I like this idea personally and would welcome the idea in the UK.

Other smaller differences are

  1. At the breed shows each class could have a different judge

  2. The best Dog, Best Bitch and Best of Breed decisions are often made by all the judges together

  3. The “challenge” is run a little differently

  4. There is often a Ring of Honour at the end of the show where the final 4 dogs in each class are finally placed in front of the whole show, by there respective Judge who singled them out earlier in the day. This common in breed shows but not general Championship shows.

    OK, you got your Pet Passports, you booked a show and the big day comes.

The first challenge to showing in Europe is to get there. One big difference we’ve found is that Shows can often be a weekend activity, sometimes with 2 shows over the 2 days. Shows are very sociable events, certainly the club shows are. So depending on where you are going will dictate your travel needs. I would suggest you set off the morning of the day before the show, do most of your dog prep prior to leaving and make sure you have everything you need in the car.

Most people would go Dover - Calais and drive from there. The choice is Ferry or Tunnel; Ferry is often cheaper but slower but either way you will end up in the Calais area. I’ve noted a couple of web sites to contact for travel information and costs. We always use the ferry and depending on time of year, pay £50 to £100 per car return (up to 5 people). You can pay less or more if you travel at certain times of the day, usually the early hours are cheapest. Also, you will have to pay to take your dog on the ferry; this is around £20 - £30 each dog.

The ferry is around 2 hours and the tunnel around 30 minutes; check-in time varies but in general about 30 minutes to 1 hour prior to departure. In the high season you should allow more time as they get very busy.

Try the web site of Norfolk Line Ferries and Euro Tunnel (Not Euro Star as they don’t take cars) On the Ferry, you must leave your dog in the car and access to the car deck is denied, on the train, you stay with the dogs in the car as its so quick.

OK, so you made it to France. Left turn Belgium and Holland, right turn France and Spain, straight on for Germany and Luxemburg. To give you an idea of travel times, Belgium is less than an hour, Holland around 2 hours, Germany around 5 hours and Spain you can expect around a 12 hour drive. These figures are from Calais and take you to the boarder; you may need to travel well in to the country of course. Leonberg for example is 7 to 8 hours drive from Calais.

Remembering they drive on the wrong side of the road, using a Tom Tom or other “Sat Nav” device is the best advice I can give you. They have come down in price a lot in recent years and the Tom Tom 700 or 710 or 900 or 910 which comes with full European street level mapping would be my weapon of choice. I cannot describe how useful these are, an absolute life saver really, get one, just get one and be done, you’ll thank me for it.

Don’t fill the car up in the UK, do that in France or Belgium, the price of fuel, particularly Diesel is cheaper, currently around 69 pence per litre, petrol a little more but still cheaper than UK. Find the supermarkets if you can, Champion or Intermache etc (The Tom Tom will take you to one) as these are the cheapest. Not all UK credit and debit cards are accepted in France, despite that you have MasterCard or Visa, it depends on how the machines are configured, make sure you have a few hundred Euros on you just in case. You may also find that you can pay for your show on the day. The German Club and the Dutch Club shows allow this but general shows don’t.

Seeing you are away for the weekend then you will need accommodation. We always use the cheap motels, “Formula 1”, “Etap”, “Premier Class” and countless other chains. Again your Tom Tom will take you to these places. They cost €30 -€40 per night and sometimes include a coffee in the morning. Don’t expect anything too grand, they’re basic but very clean and have en-suite bathrooms as such. You dog(s) will be allowed in also, although you will have to pay a little extra for this. All in all we have never paid more than €40 euros for this kind of motel and that’s me, the wife, 2 kids and at times 4 dogs, which is interesting in a room of 15 x 8 with 2 single beds and a bathroom. One of the best things is that no matter what time of night you arrive, you can book in. These motels have automated check-in and payment machines outside the front door. You select the language, select the room size, add the dogs and pay by credit card. The machine then issues a print out of your receipt and access code. Tap the code in to the front door, then in to your room door and hey presto, jobs a good’n.

Just a small tip: when arriving late the night before a show, I always like to find the showground or exposition centre first. I then add it to my Tom Tom favourites and then ask Tom to find me a hotel. This way I know exactly where the venue is and I can then find a hotel in relation to the venue as Tom provides a list of hotels based on distance from the showground. In the morning, I know exactly where I’m going, or at least Tom does and how long it will take to get there. This is by far the least stressful method.

OK, Back to the big day…

Facilities at some of the exhibition centres are sparse, you should consider the following:

  1. 1.Take your “Show bag” including everything you will need to prep and show your dog
    a. In some countries they won’t tolerate any form or sprays or powers whatsoever. Don’t bother even trying as someone will grass you up.

  2. 2.Something to sit on, no chairs are provided and it’s a long day

  3. 3.Cash in the local currency for food and incidentals (normally expensive)

  4. 4.A catalogue is normally included in your entry fee

  5. 5.Members of the public are invited in to the show (at a cost) and want to see the dogs (Just like Crufts)

  6. 6.Possession is 9 / 10ths of the law. Because there is no benching, people crowd the ring (although they’re not actually in it for the next 5 hours) set up shop and stake their claim. Do the same if necessary, if there’s a problem, plead ignorance and a lack of language skills and all will settle down in the end.

  7. 7.If you booked a crate, find it and don’t think it will be anywhere near your ring, but your numbers will be on it.

  8. 8.Before judging, see the Steward for your numbers if no create.

So, the important thing now is to understand what ring and in what order the breed will be judged in. The dogs go first and then the girls, but they might do the dogs class and then the matching girls class, there might be different rings for each and/or a number of Judges, one for each class at club shows, Open classes of 50 plus dogs is not unusual.

As the class is called, I watch to see who enters the ring, what class does it look like and furthermore can I see a number on someone who just entered the ring. A quick check in the catalogue to see where that number appears and, if it’s my class I’m in the ring like a rat up a drain pipe.

Now we’re in the ring naturally we’re in number order, ready for the judge. Just like the UK we line up and start to stand the dog. If you do this, you’ll notice you’re probably one of just a few or even the only one. Most people don’t show and handle their dogs as we do. The idea of ring craft is hit and miss at best and to be honest, you can feel out of place by doing it. You’ll also notice that people don’t dress up and on occasions don’t prep their dog either. That’s not to say that we’re right and they’re wrong, it’s just different. You can imagine, there I am showing the dog with everything I’ve got, suited and booted showing my best moves and not really knowing if its having any effect. I did consider adopting the Euro method at one point, but being British and maintaining a stiff upper lip, I decided that showing “Johnny Foreigner” how we strut our stuff would mean I was mildly professional or maybe they think I’m a complete Charlie, so despite the fact that its 35 degree’s and everyone is in shorts and tee shirts, there I am looking like a walking Turkish bath, only with more steam and sweat, mentally I’m laying back and thinking of England and everyone else is thinking that mad dogs and Englishmen is the explanation.

Now for the moment of truth, up to the Judges table to be judged, just like the UK except they are talking about you in a different language, you hear the odd word you understand and wonder if the rest is good or bad. Through hand signals and of course watching those before you, you are now off and running with your dog, unless, like me on at least 2 occasions you set off on your run to find that all you have running with you is a lead. That not withstanding, the issue now is how do you get back to the dog, who is looking at you just as bemused as everyone else. The choice are, a) you can run back to the dog with a “ I don’t think anyone noticed” attitude or b) if you are really brazen about it, you could explain to the Judge that its part of your new handling routine to show your dog “Au natural” either way, everyone knows you look like a complete berk!

Triangle complete and maybe some other movement and back in line. Now, with so many dogs and classes taking so long to judge, the class is generally split in to two parts with the other group being called-in when the Judge is ready. What you will also find is that even those in the class that are in the ring come and go at will, don’t be surprised if just 3 or 4 dogs are actually in the ring with you.

So decision time then. The Steward will call you all back in the ring and will at some point start to dismiss dogs from the ring. This is done by handing the owner their critique. If you are fortunate enough not to get the “Dear John”, then you’ve made it to the final decision. If the group you are stood in is 4 dogs or less than you have a place and you can start to congratulate yourself. More often than not there are more than 4 and the judge will pick the final 4 from that group. This is normally done by looking at movement. A word to the wise, European Judges like to see the dogs run…and run, and run. Don’t be surprised if laps get in to double figures by the time the Judge makes the final decisions, on a hot day this is no fun and bets are normally on as to who’ll pass out first, me or the dog.

With a bit of luck and a good dog you make the line up, you take your trinket and if you do really well you find yourself in the challenge to see who is getting the CAC, and any CACIB. When all is finished, you have your critique, you have your trinkets and even a show memento its time to think about how you get out of the showground before the minimum time.

As I said before, you’re obliged to stay till the minimum time. Depending when you are judged, this could mean several hours’ wait. The only thing I can suggest is that you see the show secretary or find some other show official that takes pity on you and gives you special dispensation to leave. However, I have also known that some people have found it necessary to leave via a fire exit or find some other means of escape. Although I couldn’t possibly condone this action, I have found myself caught up in a crowd of people and dogs unable to manoeuvre my way out to find myself outside the show. Thankfully I had my dogs, all my possessions and family with me at the time (How fortunate)

One way or another you will find yourself back at the car loading up for the journey home. Just a reminder at this point, your dog must have had its passport updated with Tick and Wormer by a vet. You cannot enter the UK within 24 hours and you cannot enter after 48 hours. What this could mean is that you dog must see the vet on arrival in France or even have this done before you leave the UK if your visit is that quick. Make sure you get the timing right, you don’t want any problems at Customs.

Set the Tom Tom to “Home” and settle in for the long journey, I find this a good time to reflect on the weekend’s events. Regardless of outcome, we enjoy showing in Europe and find that people are very pleased to see UK dogs there. We have a lot to learn from the people of Europe and they can no doubt learn from us too. The Leo community is a great one, we have made a lot of contacts and many friends along the way and you will too.

I urge you to take a trip in to Europe even if it’s without your dogs the first time, but do come. I am always happy to assist if I can so do ask, I look forward to seeing you in the ring sometime soon.

Good luck

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