World of Dog Shows
Showing dogs is a great sport where the thrill of
competition is combined with the joy of seeing beautiful dogs. Dog shows are
one of many types of AKC dog events in which AKC-registered dogs can compete.
These events, which draw nearly two million entries annually, include dog
shows and tests of instinct and trainability, such as obedience trials,
Canine Good Citizen tests, field trials, agility trials, lure coursing,
rally, hunting tests, herding trials, tracking tests, coonhound and earthdog
Dog shows (conformation events) are intended to
evaluate breeding stock. The size of these events ranges from large all-breed
shows, with over 3,000 dogs entered, to small local specialty club shows,
featuring a specific breed. The dog's conformation (overall appearance and
structure), an indication of the dog's ability to produce quality puppies, is
of Conformation Dog Shows
There are three types of conformation dog shows:
offer competitions for over 150 breeds and varieties of dogs recognized by
the AKC. All-breed shows are the type often shown on television
Specialty shows are restricted to dogs of a specific breed or to
varieties of one breed. For example, the Bulldog Club of America Specialty is
for Bulldogs only, but the Poodle Club of America's specialty show includes
the three varieties of the Poodle - Standard, Miniature and Toy.
Group shows are limited to dogs belonging to one of the seven groups.
For example, the Potomac Hound Group show features only breeds belonging to
the Hound group.
Dogs May Participate
To be eligible to compete, a dog must:
- be individually registered
with the American Kennel Club
- be 6 months of age or older
- be a breed for which classes
are offered at a show
- meet any eligibility
requirements in the written standard for its breed
neutered dogs are not eligible to compete in conformation classes at a dog
show, because the purpose of a dog show is to evaluate breeding stock.
Role of the Judge
Judges examine the dogs, then give awards
according to how closely each dog compares to the judge's mental image of the
"perfect" dog described in the breed's official standard.
The standard describes the characteristics that allow
the breed to perform the function for which it was bred. These standards
include specifications for structure, temperament and movement. In short,
The official written standard for each breed is
maintained by the breed's national club and is included in the The
Complete Dog Book published by the AKC.
The judges are experts on the breeds they are
judging. They examine ("go over") each dog with their hands to see
if the teeth, muscles, bones and coat texture conform to the breed's
standard. They view each dog in profile for overall balance, and watch each
dog gait ("move") to see how all of those features fit together in
A Dog Show Works
Each dog presented to a judge is exhibited
("handled") by its owner, breeder or a hired professional. The role
of a handler is similar to that of a jockey who rides a horse around the
track and, hopefully, into the winner's circle.
Most dogs in competition at conformation shows are
competing for points toward their AKC championships. It takes fifteen points,
including two majors (wins of three, four or five points) awarded by at least
three different judges, to become an American Kennel Club "Champion of
The number of championship points awarded at a show
depends on the number of males ("dogs") and females
("bitches") of the breed actually in competition. The larger the
entry, the greater the number of points a male or a female can win. The
maximum number of points awarded to a dog at any show is 5 points.
Males and females compete separately within their
respective breeds, in six regular classes. The following classes are offered,
and are divided by sex:
Puppy - dogs between six and twelve months of age,
that are not yet champions.
Twelve-To-Eighteen Months - dogs twelve to eighteen months of age,
that are not yet champions.
Novice - dogs that have never won a blue ribbon in any of the other
classes, or have won fewer than three first place ribbons in the Novice
Bred By Exhibitor - the dog is not yet a champion, and the exhibitor
is the breeder and the owner.
American-Bred - a dog whose parents were mated in America, and the dog
was born in America. The dog is not yet a champion.
Open - any dog of the breed, at least 6 months of age.
these classes are judged, all the dogs that won first place in a class
compete again to see who is the best of the winning dogs. Males and females
are judged separately. Only the best male (Winners Dog) and the best female
(Winners Bitch) receive championship points. The Winners Dog and Winners
Bitch then compete with the champions for the Best of Breed award. At the end
of the Best of Breed Competition, three awards are usually given:
Best of Breed - the dog judged as
the best in its breed category.
Best of Winners - the dog judged as the better of the Winners Dog and
Best of Opposite Sex - the best dog that is the opposite sex to the
Best of Breed winner.
to Best in Show
Dog shows are a process of elimination, with one dog
being named Best in Show at the end of the show.
Only the Best of Breed winners advance to compete in
the Group competitions. Each AKC-recognized breed falls into one of
seven group classifications. The seven groups are Sporting, Hound, Working,
Terrier, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding. Four placements are awarded in each
group, but only the first-place winner advances to the Best In Show
Seven Groups in All-Breed Shows
Sporting - These dogs were bred to hunt game birds both on land
and in the water. The breeds in this group include Pointers, Retrievers,
Setters and Spaniels.
Hounds - These breeds were bred for hunting other game by sight or
scent. These breeds include such dogs as Beagles, Bassets, Dachshunds and
Working - These dogs were bred to pull carts, guard property and
perform search and rescue services. Among the breeds in this group are the
Akita, Boxer, Doberman Pinscher and St. Bernard.
Terrier - This group includes breeds such as the Airedale, Cairn
Terrier and Scottish Terrier. Terriers were bred to rid property of vermin
such as rats.
Toy - These dogs were bred to be household companions. This group
includes little dogs such as the Chihuahua, Maltese, Pomeranian and Pug.
Non-Sporting - This diverse group includes the Chow Chow, Bulldog,
Dalmatian and Poodle. These dogs vary in size and function, and many are
considered companion dogs.
Herding - These dogs were bred to help shepherds and ranchers herd
their livestock. The Briard, Collie, German Shepherd Dog and Old English
Sheepdog are some of the breeds in this group.
Finally, the seven group winners are brought into the ring where they compete
for Best In Show, the highest award at a dog show.
Road to Best in Show
Dog show classes are a process of elimination
that ultimately results in one dog being selected Best In Show.
Each dog that receives an award is given a ribbon by
the judge. The color of the ribbon indicates the type of award the dog has
Blue - awarded for first place in any regular class. Also awarded to
the winner of each group competition, usually in the form of a
Red - awarded for second place in each class. Also awarded for second
place in each group competition, usually in the form of a
Yellow - awarded for third place in each class. Also awarded for third
place in each group competition, usually in the form of a
White - awarded for fourth place in each class. Also awarded for
fourth place of each group competition, usually in the form of a
Purple - awarded to the winners of the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch
classes. Since these are the classes in which championship points are earned,
these ribbons are highly coveted.
Purple and White - awarded to the Reserve Winners; that is, the
runners-up to the winner of the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch classes.
Blue and White - awarded to the dog that wins Best of Winners; that
is, the better of the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch winners.
Purple and Gold - awarded to the dog judged "Best of Breed"
in each breed competition. This is highly coveted because it allows
advancement to the Group competition.
Red and White - awarded to the Best of Opposite Sex. This means the best
dog of the breed that is the opposite sex of the Best of Breed winner.
Red, White and Blue - only one of these is awarded, at the end of each
show. It is given to the ultimate award winner, the Best In Show.
Do I Get Started Showing My Dog?
The best place to start is by joining a local
kennel club, whether an all-breed kennel club or a breed-specific specialty
club. A listing of clubs by state can be found on our Club
Search page or through our customer service department by calling (919)
Local clubs will have information on training classes
for the show ring, and for obedience and agility classes. Even if the show
ring is not your ultimate goal, the relationship that training forms between
you and your dog will be very rewarding to you both. Local clubs also have
"Fun Matches" where you and your dog can test your skill in the
Handling your dog is an exceptional and enjoyable
experience. From the grooming table to the show ring, you and your dog will
develop a bond. While training classes offer the best hands-on way to
practice for the show ring, attending shows and observing your breed is also
a great way to gain understanding of what judges and other competitors do.
If you do not wish to handle your dog yourself, or
have a friend or family member do it, you may contact a professional handler who charges a fee for showing your
You're on your way! You are entering a sport that
will bring many hours of enjoyment and education to every member of your
family. You will make many friends in the sport, and will enjoy your dog and
your new hobby for many years to come.
The AKC offers youngsters 10 to 18 years of age the
opportunity to compete with others their own age at various AKC events.
Juniors competing in conformation events are judged on how they present their
for the First-Time Exhibitor
- Make sure your dog is
registered with the AKC.
- Be sure your dog is current
on all inoculations.
- Learn the proper techniques
for grooming and for presenting your dog in the ring.
- Join your breed's Parent
Club, or a Local Specialty and/or All-Breed club in your area.
- Become familiar with the AKC
rules and regulations for dog shows.
- Attend some dog shows to
observe your breed being judged and how others present your breed. Get a
Judging Program at the show to find out ring number and judging time.
- Use the knowledge of your
- Don't be afraid to ask
- Attend handling classes with
the First-Time Spectator
- If the grooming area is open
to spectators, visit it and talk with professional groomers to get tips
on keeping your dog looking his best.
- However tempting, do not pet
a dog without asking for permission first. The dog may have just been
groomed in preparation for being judged.
- At each dog show, you will
find vendors and information booths. Many club booths offer helpful
information to the general public.
- Wear comfortable shoes -
you'll be doing a lot of walking. Unless you bring a chair or arrive
early, be prepared to stand most of the time, as seating is usually
- If you are considering
getting a purebred dog, talk to the breeders and exhibitors - they are
experts in their breeds
- If you bring a baby stroller
to a dog show, be careful that you do not run over any dog's tail, and
that your child does not grab or poke the dogs it can reach. Avoid
having them near ring entrances, which are especially crowded. Some
shows prohibit baby strollers.
Angulation - Angles created by bones meeting at their joints.
Baiting - Using liver or some treat to get the dog's attention and
have him look alert.
Bench Show - A dog show at which the dogs are kept on assigned benches
when not being shown in competition, so they can be viewed and discussed by
attendees, exhibitors and breeders.
Exhibitor - A person who brings a dog to a dog show and shows it in
the appropriate class.
Fancier - A person who is especially interested, and usually active,
in some phase of the sport of purebred dogs.
Gait - The way a dog moves, movement is a good indicator of structure
Groom - To brush, comb, trim or otherwise make a dog's coat neat.
Handler - A person or agent who takes a dog into the show ring or who
works the dog at a field trial or other performance event.
Heel - A command to a dog to keep close beside its handler.
Match Show - A usually informal dog show at which no championship
points are awarded.
Miscellaneous Class - Transitional class for breeds attempting to
advance to full AKC recognition.
Pedigree - The written record of a dog's family tree of three or more
Points - Credits earned toward a championship.
Soundness - Mental and physical well-being.
Stacking - Posing the dog's legs and body to create a pleasing