Dog Shows and how they Work

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 leading the horse 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 Record."

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 and is called a Major. 

Males and females compete separately within their respective breeds, in six regular classes. The following classes are offered, and are divided by sex: 

Puppy - For dogs between six and twelve months of age, that are not yet champions.

Twelve-To-Eighteen Months - For dogs twelve to eighteen months of age, that are not yet champions.

Novice - For dogs six months of age and over, which have not, prior to the date of closing of entries, won three first prizes in the Novice Class, a first prize in Bred-by-Exhibitor, American-bred, or Open Classes, nor one or more points toward their championship.

Bred By Exhibitor - For dogs that are exhibited by their owner and breeder, that are not yet champions.

American-Bred - For dogs born in the United States from a mating which took place in the United States, that are not yet champions.

Open - For any dog of the breed, at least 6 months of age. 

After 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 Winners Bitch.

Best of Opposite Sex - the best dog that is the opposite sex to the Best of Breed winner.


Dog Show Terms

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 and condition.

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.

 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 generations.

Points - Credits earned toward a championship.

Soundness - Mental and physical well-being.

Stacking - Posing the dog's legs and body to create a pleasing picture.