Dawn began her Pokémon journey with an overconfident Piplup. She wasn't able to gain his trust at first, but after rescuing him from a swarm of Ariados, the two became friends. Unlike May, she knew from the beginning that she wanted to follow in her mother's footsteps and be a Coordinator. After meeting Ash and Brock, she decided to travel with them, as their experience would likely be helpful to her. Like Ash, she is lucky enough to have seen a Legendary Pokémon at the start of her journey, the projected soul of Mesprit in Following A Maiden's Voyage!.
When Dawn began her journey she took a bicycle, but like Misty's and May's bikes, Ash's Pikachu destroyed it with his Thunderbolt. However, she did not mention this to Ash until more than thirty episodes after it happened. Dawn also had planned to take a large suitcase full of clothing with her, but her mother made her leave it at home due to its impracticality. Instead, Dawn took a backpack her mother had prepared for her. Johanna also gave Dawn the first Ribbon she earned as a Coordinator as a good luck charm, an item that would recur throughout the series as a symbol of Dawn's determination.
Upon arriving in Jubilife City, she registered for a Contest Pass for the Sinnoh region. She also obtained a Ball Capsule and some Seals and introduced her Contest cry, which is "Spotlight!" in the English dub and "Charm up!" in the original Japanese version. Dawn lost her first Contest in Arrival of a Rival! to Zoey, who became one of her closest friends and greatest rivals after the Contest. After her loss, an upset Dawn called her mother, but Johanna told Dawn not to rely on her and instead rely on friends and Pokémon. Eventually, in Dawn's second official Contest, she was able to narrowly beat her childhood friend Kenny to win her first Ribbon.
Dawn regularly trained her Pokémon for Contests and took the opportunity to practice her skills with Zoey whenever the two met, such as in A Stand-Up Sit-Down!. Zoey was always helpful to Dawn during their meetings and helped inspire her to come up with new combinations. However, even with Zoey's help Dawn was not able to perfect Buizel's Ice Aqua Jet despite coming up with the idea. Ash later accomplished Ice Aqua Jet in the Wallace Cup, after Buizel had been traded to him.
Despite her confidence and Contest training, in Dawn's Early Night! when she competed in the Hearthome City Contest she lost in the Appeals Round, making her the first main character to be eliminated from a Contest after the first round. In Team Shocker!, she did not pass the Appeals Round for the second time in a row. This marked a notable change in Dawn's character. After the second blow to her self-esteem, she didn't know what to do and was still very upset throughoutTanks for the Memories!. After this, she became more focused and regained her confidence after battling Maylene in Crossing the Battle Line!. She also began to practice in earnest for all her Contest's performances and battles. Following Zoey's advice to show off the Pokémon and not its moves, Dawn was able to pass through the first round in the Wallace Cup and eventually break her losing streak by narrowly defeating May in the final round of the competition in Strategy With a Smile!. Since this turning point, Dawn has maintained her focus and humility.
After learning of the upcoming Contest in Celestic Town, Dawn became very dedicated in her training to the point of overworking her Pokémon in A Lean Mean Team Rocket Machine!. Due to her intense efforts, she managed to win the Contest in Battling The Generation Gap!. One of Dawn's combinations in that Contest gave Ash the inspiration for one of his notable tactics which he uses later on, the Counter Shield. In A Breed Stampede!, her Mamoswine began to disobey her after evolving. Despite this, she was still eager to train it well and finally gained its trust after healing it in Trials and Adulations!. However, Mamoswine still rebelled and disobeyed Dawn after it was hit by an attack and lost its temper in the semifinals of the Lilypad Contest in Dressed for Jess Success!. Even though this caused Dawn to lose the Contest, she remained calm and optimistic that her and Mamoswine would be victorious the next time.
Her encounter with Mesprit, like and Ash and Brock's encounters with Azelf and Uxie respectively, proved to be fate as Team Galactic intended to capture the lake guardians to awaken Dialga and Palkia in the Spear Pillar. The lake guardians communicated telepathically with Ash, Dawn and Brock and teleported them to theTeam Galactic Headquarters. With the help of Cynthia, the three Trainers foiled Team Galactic's plans and freed the lake guardians in The Battle Finale of Legend!
In Double-Time Battle Training!, Dawn, Ash, and Brock watched Zoey compete in the Brussel Town Pokémon Contest. Zoey was victorious, and to celebrateCandice treated the group to an array of desserts. During their meal, Candice introduced the Tamato Berry Ice Cream Sandwich, describing it as "hot and spicy on the inside and cold on the outside", and saying that often times things that don't seem to go well together are actually the most compatible. The dessert and Candice's words inspired Dawn to create a new combination using Ice- and Fire-type moves. After many failed attempts, she perfected her technique called Flame Ice, which involved Cyndaquil using Flame Wheel while being encased in Mamoswine's Ice Shard attack. She used this move later in the DaybreakContest.
She has two childhood friends that appeared in the anime, Kenny and Leona, both of whom call her Dee Dee (Japanese: ピカリ Pikari). Dawn has prevented them from telling Ash and Brock about the reason why she has this nickname, but in Yes in Dee Dee, It's Dawn!, it was revealed that the reason for the name was due to her hair glittering (ピカピカ pikapika) after being shocked by the class pets in her kindergarten, Plusle and Minun, making it appear that she hadDiamond Dandruff. Due to the trauma from being teased by her entire class with the nickname, she has a certain fear of Plusle and Minun.
In the final round of the Daybreak Town Pokémon Contest, Ursula battled Dawn using her Plusle and Minun and deliberately had her Pokémon shock Dawn's hair to recreate "Diamond Dandruff". Even though Dawn temporarily succumbed to her trauma, she was able to overcome her inhibition with Mamoswine's and Cyndaquil's encouragement. Ultimately, she defeated Ursula, winning her final fifth Ribbon as well as the opportunity to participate in the Sinnoh Grand Festival.
She later trained in Teaching the Student Teacher! where she came up with a new tactic for the Grand Festival, the Ice Chandelier, which she managed to perfect by trial and error. Though she originally wanted to see Pachirisu use its Discharge attack while surrounded by Mamoswine's Ice Shard, she eventually decided to cover Pachirisu in a larger bubble of ice from Buneary's Ice Beam. This gave Pachirisu enough room to run, making Ice Chandelier look its best. Besides coming up with combination moves, she also acquired a new Pokémon, Togekiss. Dawn trained with Togekiss in With the Easiest of Grace! to find a way to battle with it while not ignoring its need to move gracefully, and she was eventually able to adjust her own battling style to accommodate her new Pokémon.
Dawn entered the Sinnoh Grand Festival in Last Call — First Round!, using her Buneary and Cyndaquil in the Appeals Round. She progressed through the round and battled Ursula first in the next episode. With Mamoswine and Pachirisu she was able to successfully use her combination Ice Chandelier to defeatUrsula's Gabite and Flareon. In the following episode, she defeated Jessilina and progressed to the finals. Dawn would face Zoey in the final round, which fulfilled the promise the two had made with each other after their first Contest to some day meet in the last round of the Grand Festival.
It was a very evenly matched and close fight between her Piplup and Togekiss and Zoey's Glameow and Gallade, but in the end Dawn lost. After the finals, she met with her mother and returned the Ribbon Johanna had given her as a good luck charm at the very start of her journey. Dawn said that she no longer needed to walk in her mother's shadow, and only needed her Pokémon's care and support to become a Top Coordinator, proving to her mother and to herself how much she had grown as a Trainer.
After the competition, Zoey told Dawn that Candice was throwing a victory party for her in Snowpoint City and that Dawn was also welcome; however, Dawn declined the invitation, stating that she still wanted to support Ash in his upcoming battle at Sunyshore Gym and in the Lily of the Valley Conference. She then thanked all the Pokémon that had traveled with her through Sinnoh for their hard work and pledged to not give up her dream of being a Top Coordinator.
After Ash competed in the Sinnoh League, she contemplated whether or not to go with Ash and Brock to Kanto. However, she received invitation by Paris for her Buneary to work with her for a short while as a Pokémon fashion model and decided to stay in Sinnoh. Dawn and Ash later shared a final high-five, their trademark exchange throughout the Diamond & Pearl series, before Ash and Brock left for Kanto.
After Buneary's modeling work with Paris was completed, Dawn decided to spend some time at home before considering her next move on her journey to become Top Coordinator. In SS024, Dawn decided to go to the Hoenn region, since Hoenn is the region Contests originated from. However, though she was certain she would take Piplup, she did not know if she should take all of her other Pokémon with her to Hoenn or not. She sought advice from Professor Rowan, who instead sent her to help a new Trainer who was having trouble deciding what her first Pokémon would be. Dawn and Shinko ran into an Ariados's web, reminiscent of the first challenge Dawn faced with Piplup. Dawn's Cyndaquil evolved into Quilava in order to protect the two Trainers, and it was then that Dawn realized all of her Pokémon still had potential to grow with her. She decided to take all her Pokémon to Hoenn with her and soon left on her new adventure with her dream of becoming a Top Coordinator burning as bright as ever.
- Swinub → Piloswine → Mamoswine
- Egg → Cyndaquil → Quilava
- Aipom → Ambipom
- Chansey, the Egg Pokémon, and the evolved form of Happiny. Chansey is a kind Pokémon who shares its egg with those who are sick or injured.
- Gabite, the Cave Pokémon. Gabite goes wild for precious jewels, first digging them up and then stashing them in its nest.
- Pikachu, the Mouse Pokémon. It can generate electric attacks from the electric pouches located in both of its cheeks.
- Happiny, the Playhouse Pokémon. It loves round white things. It carries a round stone in its pouch that looks like an Egg, and gives it to people that it likes.
- Meowth, the Scratch Cat Pokémon. It sleeps a lot during the day time and during the night-time it becomes active, moving around its territory. Meowth, the Scratch Cat Pokémon. When it sees round objects, it plays and loses track of time.
- Togepi, the Spike Ball Pokémon. Happiness is stored in Togepi's shell, and it shares its happiness with kind-hearted people.
- Wobbuffet, the Patient Pokémon. Wobbuffet like to live in dark areas so they can keep their pitch black tail concealed.
- Aggron, the Iron Armor Pokémon. Aggron's steel horns can destroy the firmest of bedrock and it digs tunnels as it looks for iron to eat. Aggron claims a large mountain for its territory, and fiercely defends it from those who trespass.
- Gible, the Land Shark Pokémon. Gible once lived in the tropics, and to avoid cold it lives in caves warmed by geothermal heat.
- Steelix, the Iron Snake Pokémon, and the evolved form of Onix. Steelix's body is much harder than any metal as it is tempered underground under high pressure and heat. Strengthened by the pressure and intense heat of living underground, its body is stronger than steel.
- Turtwig, the Tiny Leaf Pokémon. Its shell is made of earth and when it absorbs water, it becomes harder.
- Grotle, the Grove Pokémon and the evolved form of Turtwig. Grotle lives near water in forests, and leaves the forest during the day to allow light to shine on the tree on its shell.
- Torterra, the Continent Pokémon. Its large back and sanitary nature offer an ideal place for smaller Pokémon to build their nests.
- Buneary, the Rabbit Pokémon. By quickly extending its rolled-up ears, it can launch a powerful attack against its enemies.
- Yanmega, the Ogre Darner Pokémon. When it flutters its wings, it creates a shockwave that can cause internal damage to its opponents.
This listing is of the Ribbons Dawn has obtained in the Sinnoh region:
- Floaroma Ribbon (Settling a Not-So-Old Score!)
- Aqua Ribbon (for winning the Wallace Cup; Strategy with a Smile!)
- Celestic Ribbon (Battling The Generation Gap!)
- Chocovine Ribbon (Another One Gabites the Dust!)
- Daybreak Ribbon (Playing the Performance Encore!)
Grand Festival ranking
Dawn has competed in the following Grand Festivals:
- Sinnoh Grand Festival - Runner-up (A Grand Fight for Winning!)
Dawn has competed in the following Pokémon Contests:
- Jubilife Contest - Top 4 (Arrival of a Rival!)
- Unofficial Contest - Runner-up (Borrowing on Bad Faith!)
- Alamos Contest - Unknown (The Rise of Darkrai)
- Hearthome Contest - Appeal Round (Dawn's Early Night!)
- Solaceon Contest - Appeal Round (Team Shocker!)
- Sandalstraw Contest - Runner-up (Old Rivals, New Tricks!)
- Lilypad Contest - Top 4 (Dressed for Jess Success!)
- Pokémon Dress-Up Contest - N/A (All Dressed Up With Somewhere To Go!)
- Hearthome City Tag Battle Competition - Runner-up (with Conway; Smells Like Team Spirit!)
- Hearthome Collection - Winner (Arriving in Style!)
- Pokémon Summer Academy Triathlon - N/A (One Team, Two Team, Red Team, Blue Team!)
- Pokémon Ping Pong Tournament - Top 4 (To Thine Own Pokémon Be True!)
- Twinleaf Festival Battle Tournament - N/A (Challenging a Towering Figure!)
- Pokémon World Tournament Junior Cup - Top 8 (Battling Authority Once Again!)