Dog Shows: To Be A Champion



Most competitive events held under AKC rules are dog shows, where the accent is on conformation. After being examined by a judge, dogs are placed according to how well (in the judge's opinion) they measure up to their breed standard.

To be eligible to enter, an AKC-registered dog must be at least six months old on the day of the show and be of a breed for which classes are offered in the premium list (the list of breeds being show, obtained from the show secretary of the club sponsoring the show or the show superintendent). Dogs that are spayed or neutered are ineligible, as are dogs with disqualifying faults as described in their breed standard.

There are three types of dog shows: speciality, group and all-breed. Specialty shows are limited to dogs of one breed and group shows are limited to a particular AKC group. All-breed shows, as the name indicates, are for all AKC breeds.

Most show dogs are competing for points toward their championship. To become an official AKC champion of record, a dog must earn a total of 15 points. These points are awarded based on the number of dogs in actual competition--the more dogs, the more points. However, the number of dogs required for points varies with the breed, sex and geographical location of the show. The AKC makes up a schedule of points each year to help equalize competition from breed to breed and area to area.

Dogs can earn from one to five points at a show. A win of three, four or five points is called a major. the 15 points required for a championship must be won under at least three different judges, and must include two majors won under different judges.

There are six regular classes in which dogs seeking points may compete. (Dogs that are competing for points are frequently referred to as class dogs.) these classes are Puppy (frequently subdivided into 6 to 9 months and 9 to 12 months); 12 to 18 Months; Novice (dogs that have no points toward their championship and have not won three first prizes in the Novice class or a first prize in any but the Puppy classes); Bred by Exhibitor (The dog must be owned or co-owned by any one of the breeders of record or a spouse and must be shown by one of the breeders or a member of their immediate families); American Bred; and Open.

There is no intersex competition in these classes; dogs compete against other dogs, and bitches against other bitches. Only one male (dog) and one female (bitch) of each breed can win points at a show.

Judging in every breed proceeds along the same lines. The judge begins with the Puppy Dog class. In each class the dogs are evaluated and placements are made for first, second, third and fourth. Only the first-place winner in each class remains in competition; the others are eliminated.

After the judge has completed the Puppy Dogs, 12-to-18-Month Dogs, Novice Dogs, Bred-by-Exhibitor Dogs, American-Bred Dogs and Open Dogs, the first place winners from each class are brought back to compete against one another. This is called Winners class. The dog selected best is the Winners Dog. He is the male who receives the points at the show. Next, the dog that placed second to the Winners Dog in his original class is brought into the ring to compete with the other class winners for Reserve Winners Dog. The Reserve Winners Dog will receive the points if for any reason the Winners Dog is disallowed by the AKC.

The same process is repeated in bitches, resulting in a Winners Bitch (the only bitch of the breed to receive points at the show) and a Reserve Winners Bitch.

Next, the Best of Breed class is judged. All dogs and bitches that are already champions enter in the ring for this class, joined by the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch, the judge selects one Best of Breed. Then, between the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch, the judge selects a Best of Winners. If either the Winners Dog or the Winners Bitch is selected Best of Breed, it automatically becomes Best of Winners. (The Best of Winners gets the higher number of points, too. If the points at the show for the defeated Winner were higher than those of the Best of Winners, the Best now gets the same higher total.) the judges finishes the breed judging by selecting a Best of Opposite Sex to the Best of Breed.

At all-breed shows, this process of elimination takes place in every breed. Each Best of Breed winner then competes against other Best of Breed winners within its Group (Hound, Sporting, etc.). In the Group judging, the judge's job is to pick the dog that most embodies the standard for its breed. Four placements are awarded in each Group, but only the first-place winner remains in competition. Finally, the seven Group winners are brought into the ring and a Best in Show winner is selected. At the largest all-breed shows, more than 5,000 contestants are narrowed down to a single Best in Show winner.

Competing in shows is great fun for you and your dog. If you are interested in attending a show, you may find information in your local newspaper, at shops catering to pet owners or via your local radio or television station. A complete listing of nationwide shows is published each month in the AKC's Events Calendar, which accompanies a subscription to the AKC Gazette. A schedule of upcoming events is also available from the AKC's site on the World Wide Web at

The above is an excerpt from The American Kennel Club publication The Complete Dog Book, 19th Edition, Revised.

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