Dogs may be exhibited off at a wide variety of different kinds of events, both in the United States and elsewhere throughout the globe. This article refers to conformation dog shows, sometimes known as “beauty pageants,” which are among the several types of events. Other forms of competitions include obedience trials, field trials (sometimes known as hunting trials), and herding tests, in addition to agility competitions, flyball competitions, and others.
This post focuses mostly on the AKC conformation shows since I am most knowledgeable about their system and the processes involved. There are two distinct categories of conformation shows: speciality shows and all-breed events. In contrast to specialty shows, which are limited to a single breed, all-breed events include competitions open to all AKC-registered dog breeds. The general look and structure of the dog, as specified by the “Standard” of the dog, are the primary factors that are evaluated during the conformation portion of the show. The Standard is a document that provides a written description of what the ideal example of the breed should look like. Each dog is given the opportunity to be evaluated by a judge during the competition, and the judge assigns a ranking to each dog based on how closely they believe the dog matches their own conception of what the ideal dog should look like, which is derived from their examination of the breed standard. Therefore, on any given day, a dog has an equal chance of winning and losing. The AKC has published copies of the standards in their book titled “The Complete Dog Book,” which is available for purchase.
The judge is presented with each individual canine. Judges are individuals who have researched the breed in question and possess a significant amount of information on the breeds they evaluate. Before an individual may get certified to judge by the American Kennel Club (AKC), they are required to pass a test, participate in interviews, and show that they have years of expertise in a breed. The judges are given identical instructions for evaluating each of the canines. The judge moves them at a trot so that they may assess how well the dog’s structure holds up while the dog is moving. In addition, the dog is “stacked” or posed in front of the judge (small breeds are put on an examination table), which enables the judge to physically inspect or “go over” each dog with their hands. The judge examines a number of aspects of each dog, including its teeth and bite, the muscularity of the dog, the texture and length of its hair, and whether or not the dog has the appropriate size, proportion, and structure.
DOG SHOW CLASSES
Dog shows are a kind of elimination; you begin the day with around one thousand pups, and the dog that wins the last award at the show is deemed to be the finest of the bunch and is awarded the title of “Best in Show.”
When the competition begins, it is at the “breed level,” which means that only dogs of the same breed compete against one other. Dogs may compete in a variety of different regular classes depending on the breed. The following classes are often present in every breed of dog, and they are broken down according to whether the dog is a male or female:
PUPPY – Dogs who are six to nine or nine to twelve months old on the day of the show, whichever comes first. Dogs who are less than six months old are not permitted to participate in the competition.
TWELVE TO EIGHTEEN MONTHS – This category is for children who are between twelve and eighteen months old on the day of the program.
NOVICE – Classes for dogs who have never earned a blue ribbon in any of the other classes or have won less than three blue ribbons in the novice class. These dogs are eligible to compete in the novice class.
BRED BY EXHIBITOR – indicates that the individual who is exhibiting the dog is also the one who bred the dog.
AMERICAN BRED – means that the dog was born in the United States of America and that the mating that resulted in the litter took place in the United States of America.
OPEN – Any dog of that breed is welcome to participate in this class. Each of these categories is reviewed on its own, with the categories pertaining to males (sometimes known as “dogs”) being evaluated first across the board. The assistant at ringside, also known as the ring steward, will make announcements such as “Puppy Dog number 7” or “Puppy Bitch number 6,” for instance. There may be as few as one or two dogs competing in any one class at many shows. After that, all of the dogs who came in first place in each of the classes go back into the ring to compete against one another once again. This allows the judge to choose which of the winning dogs is the greatest overall. Following the evaluation of the dogs, the procedure is then carried out once again with the female dogs (“bitches”). Only the one male dog that is deemed to be the best overall (Winners Dog) and the one female dog that is deemed to be the best overall (Winners Bitch) are awarded points toward the championship. In addition, the person who came in second place, usually known as the runner-up, will be given the title of “Reserve Winner.” The subsequent class will select which one individual will serve as the breed’s only representative for the remainder of the competition that day. This is the Best of Breed class, and the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch are also eligible to fight for the title of Best of Breed with the champions of this class. In the competition for the Best of Breed, there are three trophies handed out:
BEST OF BREED – the individual dog that was considered to be the greatest specimen of its breed on that particular day.
BEST OF WINNERS – the dog that the judge thinks is the best out of the two winners of their respective classes, Winners Dog and Winners Bitch.
BEST OF OPPOSITE SEX – is an award given to the animal that is the most exemplary specimen of its breed and is of the opposite sex as the Best of Breed winner.
THE AKC GROUPS AND GROUP COMPETITION
The winner of the Best of Breed award is the only dog that will continue to represent the breed following the conclusion of the “breed competition.” The champions of each breed go on to participate in the group stage of the competition. Every breed that is recognized by the American Kennel Club is placed into one of seven different groupings. Although there are four spots up for grabs in each category (Group I, Group II, Group III, and Group IV), only the winner of the first place spot will move on to the next round of the Best in Show competition.
THE SEVEN GROUPS That Are Used In AKC ALL-BREED SHOWS (a complete and up to date listing of the breeds that are included in each group can be found on the website for the AKC):
- SPORTING – dogs are those that were developed specifically to hunt birds on land as well as in water. The Pointers, Retrievers, Setters, and Spaniels are all considered to be members of this group of dog breeds.
- HOUNDS – are dogs that were bred specifically for the purpose of hunting other types of game, either by sight (also known as sighthounds or gazehounds) or by smell (also known as scenthounds). These types of dogs include the Afghan Hound, the Beagle, the Basset Hound, the Dachshund, and the Greyhound.
- DOGS THAT WORKED – Dogs that performed a variety of tasks. Some of them were put to work pulling carts, watching over property, swimming, or performing tracking duties. The Akita, the Boxer, the Doberman Pinscher, and the Saint Bernard are some of the breeds that are included in this category. The Great Pyrenees and the Kuvasz are both examples of breeds that are considered to be herd guardians and are thus included in this category.
- TERRIER – This category has the greatest number of breeds, the most of which were developed to hunt and destroy vermin ranging in size from tiny to medium, such as rats and badgers. The breeds in question are the Airedale, Cairn, Scottish Terrier, West Highland White Terrier, and Bull Terrier, respectively.
- TOY – These dogs were bred to be companions, and were often kept as pets by members of royalty. The Chihuahua, the Maltese, the Pomeranian, the Pug, and the Yorkshire Terrier are all considered to be members of this group of small dogs.
- NON-SPORTING – These dogs have similar characteristics, but they don’t fall into any of the other categories for AKC dog groups. The Chow Chow, the Bulldog, the Dalmatian, the Tibetan Terrier, and the Poodle are all members of this eclectic group.
- HERALDING – Shepherds and ranchers developed these canines specifically to assist them in herding or “driving” their cattle. The Briard, the Collie, the German Shepherd Dog, and the Old English Sheepdog are all members of this group.
When it comes time for the final round of competition at a dog show, the seven dogs who won their respective groups are called back into the ring to fight for the title of BEST IN SHOW. This is the most prestigious award that can be won at a dog show. The panel of judges determines that the single dog is the “most ideal” dog for that day’s competition.
Points and AKC Championships
Although winning “Best in Show” is the ultimate aim of every competitor, there are a variety of additional reasons why dogs are shown in dog shows. The majority of dogs who participate in conformation shows are doing it in order to earn points toward their championship. It takes fifteen points gained at the dog show for a dog to become a champion, which is frequently indicated by placing a Ch. before the dog’s name. There must be two important victories, each worth three, four, or five points, among these fifteen victories. Before a dog may earn the title of “Champion of Record” from the American Kennel Club (AKC), it must first get point totals from at least three distinct judges, with the biggest victories coming from separate judges.
At any one competition, a dog may receive anywhere from one to five points toward the title of champion. Therefore, a dog cannot win a championship title in less than three competitions. The total amount of points that may be earned varies from competition to competition and is determined by the number of male and female dogs that are actually entered into the breed’s competition.
THOSE RIBBONS AT AKC SHOWS – What do they mean?
The judge will award a ribbon to every dog that either wins or places in their respective class. You’ll be able to identify what kind of award the dog has received by looking at the color of the ribbon.
A blue ribbon is given to the student who finishes in first place in any regular class (puppy, Bred-by, open, etc). In addition, a blue rosette is presented to the champion of each group competition, denoted by the designation “Group I.”
A red ribbon is given out to students who rank second in any normal class. In addition, a red rosette is presented to the competitor who comes in second place in each group competition (Group II).
The yellow ribbon is the prize given to students who come in third place in any normal class. In addition, a yellow rosette is presented to the competitor who finishes in third place in each group competition (Group III).
White is the color given to students who finish in fourth place in any normal class. In addition, a white rosette is presented to the competitor who finishes in fourth place in each group competition (Group IV).
Only the winners of the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch classes are given a purple ribbon, and only one is given to each winner. Given that they are the only classes that give points toward a championship, it goes without saying that they hold a significant amount of weight.
One of each of the Reserve Winners, also known as the runners-up in the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch divisions, will get a purple and white ribbon. These ribbons are the only ones given out.
One and only one Blue and White Ribbon is presented to the dog or bitch who is chosen Best of Winners. This dog or bitch is judged to be the superior of the two dogs that competed in the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch competitions.
The dog who was judged to be the “Best of Breed” in each breed was presented with a Purple and Gold Ribbon, of which there was only one. The dog who won the Purple and Gold medal was deemed to be the finest of its breed on that particular day, and it would go on to compete in the Group competition as the representative of its breed.
The dog that is judged to be the “Best of Opposite Sex” in each breed is the recipient of the Red and White Ribbon, of which there is only one. This honor recognizes the superiority of the dog within the breed that is of the opposite gender to the one who took home the prize for Best of Breed.
Only one of the following ribbons is given out at the conclusion of each show: the red, white, or blue ribbon. It is awarded to the dog that was deemed to be the best in show at the very end of the competition.
TIPS IF YOU ARE GOING TO WATCH A SHOW
- Usually, a separate booth will be set up near the entrance to the event where you may purchase a show catalog. Look for a table that is labeled “Catalogs,” or inquire at the table where the Superintendants are located. This will tell you which ring each breed is being judged in as well as the time that it will take place. It also gives you information about the people who own the dogs who are participating in the event. If you know in advance which superintendant will be judging the show, you may be able to locate the timetable for judging on the homepage of the organization that will be doing the judging.
- It’s easy for individuals to lose one other in the chaos, noise, and crowds that characterize dog shows. Determine ahead of time a meeting time and location, just in case somebody gets lost. The booth occupied by the Superintendent is a nice option. If you have children or people who are on the shorter side, you should select a location that they can easily access from the ground or by standing on a chair.
- If you have your heart set on a certain breed, you should get there as early as possible. After the evaluation of each breed is complete, the judges will let the losers of each competition go. In the event that you come late in the day, you will be unable to view them. The majority of dog shows are finished by 3 or 4 in the afternoon. The majority begin at between 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning.
- Even if you do not make it in time to see the judging of the individual breeds, you will still have the opportunity to watch the judgment of the seven different groupings. It’s likely that the Best of Breed winner for your preferred breed will be included in the category that your breed belongs to. To reiterate, the catalog will include information on the other dogs of the breed who were entered into the competition on that particular day.
- Under no circumstances should you pet or touch a dog without first obtaining the owner’s consent. It’s possible that the dog was recently groomed in preparation for being judged, and just like humans, some dogs become anxious before entering the show ring. BEFORE TOUCHING someone else’s dog, YOU SHOULD ALWAYS ASK FOR PERMISSION.
- At many dog shows, there will be merchants selling various dog-related goods, some of which may be unique while others will serve a functional purpose. The majority will accept either a credit card or a local check. The food that is offered at dog shows will vary depending on the area. If you are familiar with the food that is often served at fairgrounds, then you can usually expect to find the same food (and pay the same price) at the dog show.
- Because you will be doing a lot of walking and standing, you should choose shoes that are comfortable. At dog shows, you’ll probably see a lot of people wearing tennis shoes since they’re so comfy. If you do not bring a chair with you or come early, you should be prepared to stand in order to have a good view of the event since there is often a limited number of seats available.
- If you are considering buying a certain pure-bred dog, you should go to the breeders of that dog as well as the people who manage that dog. These people are specialists in their breeds and can tell you all you want to know about their breeds. When approaching individuals at shows, it is usually preferable to approach them after they have showed their dog, when they are not too busy to speak to anybody else. You may even ask them where they have their station set up for grooming dogs, and then chat to them there after they have finished showing their dogs and caring for them.
- If you bring a small kid and a stroller with you to an event, we ask that you please use extra caution near the dogs. It is much too common for someone to run over the tail of a dog, or for a youngster to reach out and grab or poke the pets that are within their line of sight.
- Steer clear of the entrances to the rings while classes are changing since they get quite crowded in that area. If you see someone that you would want to talk to, do your best to keep an eye on them from a distance so that you don’t get in the way of whatever they are doing. The majority of dog show handlers exhibit more than one dog of the same breed, and they change their dogs right outside the doors to the arena between classes.
COMMON DOG SHOW TERMS
The acronym for the American Kennel Club is AKC.
Angulation refers to the angles that are generated at the joints where the bones of a dog meet.
A dog is kept focused on the person who is performing him tricks by using a variety of tasty treats and other enticements known as bait. Liver, meatroll slices, hot dogs, and little dog biscuits are the four foods that are used the most of the time.
Baiting refers to the practice of using liver or another kind of reward to attract the attention of the dog and make him seem attentive.
When the dog’s mouth is closed, the relative position of the top and lower teeth may be observed. This is referred to as the bite.
A person who breeds dogs is referred to as a breeder. In addition, according to the criteria established by the AKC, a dog’s breeder must have been the owner of the dog’s dam at the time that the dam was bred.
Exhibitor is the name given to the person who attends a dog show with their own canine companion and enters the animal into the competition.
A fancier is someone who takes a keen interest in and is typically involved in some aspect of the sport of competing with purebred dogs.
Gait is the manner in which a dog moves, and it provides information about the structure and health of a dog.
To “groom” a dog is to “brush, comb, trim, or otherwise make the dog’s coat tidy and suitable in accordance with the written Standard of the breed.” Grooming may be done in a variety of ways.
A person or agent of a dog’s owner who brings a dog into the show ring or works the dog at a field trial or other performance event on the owner’s behalf is referred to as the dog’s handler. At dog shows, there are a great number of professional handlers that display dogs.
Classes in the Junior Showmanship division are those in which the judge gives places depending on the skill of the person who is handling the dog. The ages of the people who are in charge of the animals range from 10 to eighteen years old.
The dogs participate in a relaxed and casual competition known as a match in which no championship points are granted but they do acquire experience in a genuine show ring and under real show circumstances.
A breed’s Parent Group is the national club that represents the breed to the American Kennel Club. The AKC website includes a directory of parent clubs that you can peruse.
Points are credits gained toward the overall goal of achieving champion status.
Stacking refers to the process of posing the legs and body of the dog in order to create an aesthetically pleasing profile.
Winners is the name of the prize that is presented at dog shows to the canine and human competitors who are judged to have the greatest overall performance in the regular classes for their respective breed.
Dog Show Superintendents
Show Superintendents, sometimes known as “supers,” are the individuals responsible for managing the operational aspects of the shows. They are the ones who collect the entries, set up the rings, determine the judging hours, and print the catalogs, among other responsibilities. They are a wealth of information for anyone who are interested in dog shows, and they will send out information about forthcoming events that they will be managing. You may send a letter or give the supers a call and seek to be included to their mailing lists by expressing your interest in receiving their newsletters. The current show supers are mentioned here, and links to their websites have been provided for those who have websites.
- William G. Antypas, P.O. Box 7131, Pasadena, CA 91109
Telephone- 818-796-3869 fax – 818-577-2444
- Jack Bradshaw, P.O. Box 7303, Los Angeles, CA 90022
Telephone- 213-727-0136 FAX – 213-727-2949
- Margery M. Brown, 2242 London Ave., Redding, CA 96001
- Norman E. Brown, P.O. Box 2566, Spokane, WA 99220
Telephone- 509-924-1089 FAX – 509-924-1421
- Thomas J. Crowe, P.O. Box 22107, Greensboro, NC 27420
Telephone-910-379-9352 FAX – 910-272-0864- or -P.O. Box 9999, Madison Heights, MI 48071
Telephone- 313-588-5000 FAX – 313-588-7380
- Helen M. Houser, P.O. Box 420, Quakertown, PA 18951
Telephone-215-538-2032 FAX – 215-376-4939
- Ace H. Mathews , P.O. Box 86130, Portland, OR 97286
Telephone-503-233-4241 FAX – 503-233-2306
- Eileen McNulty, 1745 Route 78, Java Center, NY 01482
Telephone-716-457-3371 FAX – 716-457-9533
- Jack Onofrio, P.O. Box 25764, Oklahoma City, OK 73125
Telephone-405-427-8181 FAX – 405-427-5241
- Bob Peters, P.O. Box 579, Wake Forest, NC 27588
Telephone- 919-556-9516 FAX – 919-554-0519
- Robert A. Reed,177 Telegraph Rd., Ste 405, Bellingham, WA 98226
- Lewis Roberts, P.O. Box 4658, Federal Way, WA 98023
Telephone-206-547-1982 FAX – 206-952-8059
- Kevin B. Rogers, P.O. Box 203, Hattiesburg, MS 39403
- Elaine Saldivar, 4343 1/2 Burns Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90020
Telephone-213-663-5868 FAX 213-644-1471
- Kenneth A. Sleeper, P.O. Box 828, Auburn, IN 46706
Telephone-219-925-0525 FAX 219-925-1146
- Nancy Wilson, 8309 E. Camelback Rd., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
- Kathleen Zimmerman, P.O. Box 6898, Reading, PA 19610
Telephone-610-376-1880 FAX- 215-376-4939