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Show Dog: The Charmed Life and Trying Times of a Near-Perfect Purebred

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  760 ratings  ·  106 reviews
A veteran magazine journalist captures the idiosyncratic world of professional dog showing, from the local competitions held in florescent-lit school gymnasiums to the granddaddy of them all, The Westminster Dog Show, as he follows a lovable novice dog through his inaugural year in competition.
Hardcover, 393 pages
Published February 7th 2012 by It Books
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3.92  · 
Rating details
 ·  760 ratings  ·  106 reviews

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Jul 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Since Tom and I and our current Best In Show Dog, Gr. Ch. CR Wicca's Trade Secret (Trader)and our handlers, Heather Bremmer and Kevin Bednar, are in this book, I have to give it 5 stars!!
Mar 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
What an enjoyable read! Interspersed with chapters about the dog on the cover (Jack, an Australian Shepherd) and his quest to win Champion and then Grand Champion status (while remaining a pet, no less)are chapters about the history of dog shows, the history of dogs, and tidbits about dogs. It read so quickly! And I was sorry when it was over. You can't really ask for more from a non-fiction book. Even if you don't *LOVE* dogs, this might appeal to you.
Isaak Bonilla
May 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was AWESOME. It gave me a completely different perspective as to how the dog show world works for people who dont normally get to show. It also gave me a nice refresher as to what the breed standard is, as after a while a forgot a lot about it. Finally, gives a nice history of the breed, as i probably wouldnt have been able to learn that information without having read this.
S. Lilly
Jul 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book for anyone entertaining the idea of showing their dog and has very, very deep pockets. Having grown up spending just about every bloody weekend at a dog show from infancy to about age 12 - (my father bred herding/working dogs)...well let's just say this book offers the insight, costs, conflicts and joys of showing dogs. It clearly explains why - you cannot make money breeding and raising show dogs even if you're in the top 20 of your breed. This is something I have been tell ...more
Dec 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Jack is a show dog, owned by a newcomer to the dog-show world. He lives mostly with his owner, but is mostly shown by a professional handler, and thus straddles the gap between the total show dog, and family pet.

Jack fairly easily earns his AKC Championship - perhaps too easily - but falters some in his climb up the rankings. This book follows Jack on his year or so on the circuit. Along the way we meet some great dogs, and learn a lot about purebred dogs and the history of the sport of showing
Becky Hummer
I am determined to finish this book as I really want to learn all about the show world. However I am finding it very difficult to keep my interest. I am finding that the show world is very complicated and although this book is helping me some I believe if you want to learn it would be better to get involved in the world personally. I have started helping a friend as she shows her beautiful Yorkies and chasing the points for their championship. Even she says she doesn't know everything. It has be ...more
Dec 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
As an avid dog show person (my gig is agility and obedience instead of conformation,) I thought this book was fantastic. It was a very truthful and fun window into the world of dog showing. I think it is a must read for anyone who is thinking about stepping into the world of AKC conformation for the first time. Even if you're not an aspiring owner/ people will enjoy this read.
Mar 01, 2012 rated it liked it
By the end, I knew more about Jack -- the show dog on the cover -- and his show history than I cared to know. Some judicious pruning of Jack's efforts would have made for a tighter book. The parts about dog shows, however, were quite interesting, and that's why I picked the book up in the first place.
I Loved this book! I really enjoy reading about the personal experience of someone and their pet,especially when it includes breed specific info, as this book did.

I also enjoyed the bits about other breeds and specific dogs.

A wealth of information about showing dogs, as well.
Aug 09, 2013 added it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
Too many snarky comments from the author.
Jan 04, 2013 rated it did not like it
Didn't finish. Not nearly as interesting as I hoped.
Denise Terry
Nov 26, 2018 rated it liked it
I started out with really high hopes for this book. I love dogs. I love watching dog shows. I even have enjoyed the handful of dog shows I have attended. I had a really hard time staying with the book once I got about 1/3 of the way through it. I would put it down and have to force myself to pick it back up. Maybe my expectations of the book were off and I never recovered. But I think the more likely reason is that I was looking for a story focused on the people and the dogs, specifically Jack, ...more
Sep 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: animals, nonfiction
A great layman's introduction to the dog show world. This documentary-style book was entertaining and very readable, with just enough technical details to make it educational as well. I especially enjoyed the brief spotlights on various breeds and their history. Fun read!
Mary Ronan Drew
Feb 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Ah, show dogs! The prima donnas of the canine world (and that includes the males.) I picked up this newly published book in hopes a little dog show reality would help me get over my crush on Westminster's 2012 Best in Show, Malachy. This Pekingese, as Josh Dean says, is an animal that appears to be a Pac Man ghost bred to an angora goat and looks pretty much like Cousin It from the Addams Family. What better way to take my mind off Malachy than to read a book about Jack, an Australian Shepherd, ...more
Apr 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
I do have to say I am partial to dogs. Long ago I grew up with shelties (that would be Shetland Sheepdogs) and some of them had been show dogs but were given to us in retirement. While I no longer have dogs due to my life style and I am currently owned by cats (one being a purebred Abyssinian who just wasn’t good enough for the cat shows) someday I want to have another dog. Now, I always thought it would be a sheltie but after reading this book I am almost sold on an Aussie – otherwise known as ...more
Jul 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dogs, journalism
I absolutely adored this book. Dean is the perfect interloper into the strange, intense, awesome world of dogs. He writes about conformation, but I think that those of us involved in agility, rally-o, obedience, tracking, hunting, herding, schutzhund, search and rescue, earth dog, flyball, disc, dock diving, and lure coursing will also find quite a few of our people here.

It would have been easy to write a book to appeal to the outsider, spending 400 pages on how the sport of conformation works a
Lily A. Mell
Mar 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reality, humor
Show Dog is a highly informative and clever book chronicling around 2 years in the life of a Blue Merle Australian Shepherd, GCh Wyndstar's Honorable Mention - more commonly known as Jack. Josh Dean not only tells of experiences at Jack's various shows, but also devotes a chapter to the evolution of the purebred dog and another to Mr. Wheeler, the famous blogger that created Dog Show Poop, a popular Dog Show blog.
He explains in detail the ways of Judges, Professional Handlers (which is a job, b
Christie Bane
Jul 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
I loved this book, because it covers in depth two subjects near and dear to my heart: dog shows and Australian shepherds. The author basically follows a top show dog around for a couple of years, and gets to know his owner, his breeder, his handler, and various other people involved with show dogs. If you have any background, involvement, or interest in purebred dogs and dog shows, I can't imagine that you would not love this book. It's very well-written, and the author has, I think, an extremel ...more
Joan Colby
Oct 25, 2012 rated it liked it
The book follows the career of Jack, an Australian Shepherd in AKC conformation showing; giving a thorough (sometimes too much so) look at what some would see as a subculture devoted to breeding and exhibiting perfect canine specimens. As one who has trained and shown obedience competitors, I confess to a prejudice against conformation shows believing the emphasis on looks has in many cases created extremes that result in dogs who can’t breathe, procreate naturally and are prone to inheritable d ...more
Oct 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
A fascinating view into the world of dog showing especially from my perspective as a vet.

As a veterinarian some of the things described made me cringe - such as people feeding their dogs whole orders of Chicken McNuggets or attaching heavy magnets to their dogs ears. (Please don't try at home!)

Overall it helped me better understand how people may get drawn into showing in the first place and why it can be so addictive. I could totally see myself getting sucked into the cycle of victory and disa
I'd really give this 4.9 stars because it's a REALLY good book. I was extremely skeptical as a)a handler, b)a dog lover, and c)someone who hated with a passion, Best in Show . So having USA Today calling it the print version of that horrible movie, I was really skeptical but I wanted to read it because I have handled before and wanted to see how bad it was... Turns out Dean is a decent guy who did his research (though I will say he did get a few things wrong: Missed several breeds that have thr ...more
Julia Longtin
Jan 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
I thought this was a very entertaining book to read. It was really hard to put down. This book was exactly what I was looking for, a fun look into the world of showing dogs. We're thinking of getting a dog that we may want to pursue a championship with and I've been trying to read as much about the subject as possible. This book definitely enlightened me! A couple criticisms are the number of footnotes are especially hard to read in the e-book form, I just ended up reading them after I read ever ...more
Oct 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
A really interesting read about campaigning a dog in the crazy world of dog shows. Dean manages to balance the history of showing, and of various breeds, with great insight into the owners/handlers/backers of these dogs, and the dogs themselves. Lots of good insider info into just how time-consuming (and expensive!) it is to get a dog to the highest level, and he doesn't make the mistake of turning the whole thing in to a freak show; it's a respectful look at the people who earn their livings in ...more
Lindsay Racen
Dec 18, 2015 rated it it was ok
I originally got this book for free from book bub and I had hope as an obsessive dog mom of a Weimaraner and in my past life a austrailian cattle dog. I saw it had a ton of 5 star reviews and at this point I'm convinced out of passion from the dog show community. But I was open minded and excited. Unfortunately I was massively disappointed. Not because it was terrible writing. It was decent. And maybe it was my expectations which sometimes happens. But I wanted more about the star dog in the boo ...more
Debra Daniels-zeller
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: dog, nonfiction
I'd actually give this book a 3.75 because I had a few problems with the author's style of writing and I'm not a great fan of Australian shepherds. That's just my bias. Overall I liked a lot of this book because it's unique, nothing like it has been done before as far as I can tell, but I often got confused, did the author have a dog or why did he write in the first person as his owner? At times it was over the top hilarious, like Jack getting the wrong bitch pregnant, but when the narrative ver ...more
Michelle Dodd
Jan 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Dog Show World Exposed & Enjoyed

A wonderful examination of how dog shows work, who goes to them & why they do it. You have to be a little crazy & a lot in love with a dog breed to get involved in this craziness. For a year the author follows a young Australian Shepherd around the show circuit. Talking with owners, handlers, judges & others on the circuit to learn what it is about the sport that causes people to spend large amounts of money & time to find the perfect dog,
Feb 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Great research and personal investment in the subject results in an insightful and entertaining read. You'll meet and empathize with a variety of animal and human characters who share their lives with our intrepid author over the course of a year. All the while you'll learn more about dogs (including the quirks of their intercourse and strategy of breeding informed by advanced science), varieties thereof, history of same accompanied by crazy anecdotes of all kinds rendered with good humor and mo ...more
Aug 02, 2012 rated it liked it
I have participated in AKC conformation and have always had mixed feelings about the experiences. as an owner breeder handler who never went beyond finishing Champions it was an eye opener to read the perspective of Josh who had no experience beyond observing and Heather/Kerry who are in it to win at the highest levels. I still have mixed feelings but perhaps my opinion is swayed some by reading other perspectives.

Whether you enjoy watching dog shows only or are active in the sport, this book i
Mar 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
book by journalist Josh Dean, is excellent. It provides insight into the world of showing dogs without making show people sound kooky or freaks. I found it to be a balanced look at the ins and outs of showing a dog as a special (trying to be among the top dogs in the breed, around the country), from the owner's perspective as well as from the handler's perspective. It was funny but honest, and I identified with some of what was said, despite never having shown a dog after it has finished its cha ...more
Kyle Wendy Skultety (
Started off interesting, then got tedious, as every single dog show was recounted. There is a lot of behind the scenes information, such as how judges come to choose Best in Show, and tips and tricks to make your dog look better in the ring (powder, hairspray), but this book was a bit too long for my taste. The idea that showing your dog costs lots of money and returns almost nothing except notoriety and breeding contracts was emphasized, as was the personalities of both the people and the dogs ...more
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Josh Dean is a New York based journalist whose work has appeared in Popular Science, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, GQ, Men's Journal, Rolling Stone, Inc., Fast Company, ESPN the Magazine, and many others, covering subjects as diverse as pee wee go-kart racing, snowboarding in Iran, the byzantine world of small production watchmakers, and a start-up nuclear fission company. He is a correspondent for Outs ...more