Now we’re in the thick of the puppy show season, here’s how to look as though you know what you are talking about (and learn something at the same time)

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  • Dress with intent: suits and flat cap or panama for the men, summer dress and if you’re really going for it, a hat for the ladies. But think demure straw, not Royal Ascot.
  • Sit at the edge of the ring where you have a good view of what’s going on and don’t take your eyes off the hounds throughout the judging. Laughing and talking at the back with only an occasional glimpse at the ring is not an option.
  • Earwig on a conversation with one of the aficionados at the ringside and nod sagely if they deign to share an opinion on anything going on in the ring.
  • You may have never looked at a hound critically before but looking at their symmetry — feet, elbow, shoulder and from behind — is a good starting point.
  • Have a few stock phrases on hound conformation that you can repeat at random — “not so sure about that one’s shoulder, that big dog is slightly weak behind, I like the way the lemon bitch moves,” — that sort of thing. Most people won’t actually know that you’re bluffing.
  • Instead of using your puppy show card, which lists the young hounds and their breeding, as a fan or a sun shade/umbrella, keep referring to it throughout the judging. When the final results are called, make a note of the winning order which you can use as a reference later in the day.
  • Scones with cream and jam may beckon after the judging but if you’re really eager to impress, forget the tea and try and collar one of the judges to talk you through his decisions.

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  • Chat to one of the masters or the huntsman/kennel-huntsman and ask him if the judges’ choices were in line with his own. Sometimes the winners, are obvious but in a big kennel with a large and quality entry it can be more difficult for a novice to spot the best.
  • After the tea, don’t flee the premises — hang around the ring where the cognoscenti will be viewing the older hounds. You will look keen and probably learn something at the same time.