5 Fashion Lessons to Take Away from the National Dog Show

The event is fashionable for dogs and their handlers alike.
Publish date:
November 25, 2016
dogs, Dog Show

There is no denying that dog shows are fabulous affairs. Between the pups' voluminous hairdos and shiny coats, there is a ton of time and energy spent primping for the few minutes of time in the ring where it's all about showing off.

But the glitz and glamour doesn't just end at the four-legged. The event is fashionable for dogs and their handlers alike, and while the attention is meant to be on the dogs, it is known as an unspoken rule to dress to impress as a handler showing. Allison Taylor, a saleswoman at Sparkle Britches Ladies Boutique which focuses a lot on selling dog show attire, said, "There aren't any specific requirements or rules, but it's a respect to the judges to dress up and look professional. You don't want to take focus off your dog because they are truly the star of the show, but in respect to the dog and the sport, you want to look appropriate.

And the ladies at the National Dog Show, sponsored by Purina, definitely brought it in the fashion department (and a few men, too!). Find out what great style takeaways we took from what could be considered the biggest dog event of the year.


According to Taylor, many woman like to add a little sparkle to their ensemble, especially when the show is being televised. "Ladies like to wear something that'll catch the light," she said. While it's not recommended to go too far in the flamboyance department (it is about the dog after all), glittery jewelry or bejeweled accents might be just enough to catch the attention of the judges and audience. Sparkle on, ladies.


One of the most popular outfits of choice for female dog handlers is the skirt suit. Not only is it professional and classic, it's easy to move in if bought in the correct fit. Sharon Jones, an experienced dog handler, weighs in on the tradition. "If you're showing a small breed, you don't want to be wearing a long skirt that's going to interfere with the dog," she said.

Additionally, you want to avoid the other extreme. "You have to bend over and move a lot so you have to make sure your skirt isn't too tight or too short so that it hikes up in the back," Jones said. Pantyhose may seem like a dated choice, but in this case they are suggested, as you certainly want to avoid a wardrobe malfunction that will give the judges an entirely different kind of show.


It goes without saying that flats are the key to a successful day in the ring. "Ladies are preferred not to wear heels when they're running with their dog because you don't want to trip or step on him," Taylor said. Also, sometimes dog show days mean 10-plus hours on your feet. Non-skid soles are important to avoid tripping on the slippery carpet, and many woman prefer to wear something with memory foam on the bottom. While that may seem like an old-fashioned choice, there are so many comfortable options that are also cute and fashionable.


The junior handler program has become very popular at national dog shows, as it keeps a family tradition alive and brings in a whole new wave of dog-lovers and showers. "The juniors have to learn how to dress appropriately as well," Taylor said. "The girls wear little ballet shoes and skirts while the boys wear suits." There are no age requirements at dog shows and handlers as young as six have gone on to win group rounds. It truly is a well-fashioned event for all ages!


The standard dress for men is a business suit, but many of the male handlers like to show off a little pizzazz of their own. Whether that be in the form of a fancy lapel pin labeling them a professional handler or a printed tie, the male handlers definitely dress to impress. Bonus points if your suit matches your pup!

This post originally appeared on InStyle.com: 5 Fashion Rules We Learned at the National Dog Show