Showing dogs is a great sport where the thrill of competition is combined with the joy of seeing beautiful dogs. Dogs shows are one of nine types of AKC dog events in which AKC-registered dogs can compete. Other AKC events include tests of instinct and training ability, such as field trials or herding tests.

At a dog show, the main consideration is the dog's conformation or overall appearance and structure.

The Role of the Judge

Judges examine the dogs and place them in accordance to how close each dog compares with their mental image of the "perfect" dog as described in the breed's official standard. These standards include qualifications for structure, temperament and movement. In short, they describe the characteristics that allow the breed to perform the function for which it was bred.

These official written standards are maintained by each breed's national club and published in AKC's The Complete Dog Book.

The judges are experts in the breeds they are judging. They examine or 'go over" each dog with their hands to see if the teeth, muscles, bones and coat texture match the standard. They examine each dog in profile for general balance, and watch each dog gait, or move, to see how all of those features fit together in action.

Specialty vs All-Breed

There are two types of conformation dog shows: Specialty and All-Breed.

Specialty shows are limited to dogs of a specific breed or grouping of breeds; for example, the Bulldog Club of America Specialty is for Bulldogs only.
All-breed shows, on the other hand, are open to over 200 breeds recognized by the AKC.

How A Dog Show Works

Dog shows are basically a process of elimination, with one dog being named Best In Show at the end of the day. Along the way, some dogs accumulate points toward the title "AKC Champion".

Championship Points

Most dogs in competition at conformation shows are competing for points toward their championship. It takes fifteen points, including two majors
(wins of three, four or five points) under at least three different judges to become an AKC "Champion of Record" This is indicated by "Ch." before the dog's name.

At one show, a dog can earn from one to five points toward a champion title, depending on the number of males or females actually in competition for the breed. (Male dogs are often referred to as dogs, while female dogs are referred to as bitches.)

Once the dog is a champion, it can compete for Best of Breed without having to win in the other classes.

Types of Classes

There are six different regular classes in which dogs may be entered. The following classes are offered for male and female dogs separately in each breed entered at the how.

  1. Puppy - Six-to-nine or nine-to-twelve months.
  2. Twelve-To-Eighteen Months.
  3. Novice - Never won a blue ribbon in any of the other classes, or has won less than three ribbons in the novice class.
  4. Bred By Exhibitor - The exhibitor is also the breeder.
  5. American-Bred - Dog's parents mated in America and the dog was born in America.
  6. Open - Any dog of that breed.

After these classes are judged, all the dogs that won first place in the classes compete again to see who is the best of the winning dogs. This is also done separately for male and female dogs. Only the best male (Winners Dog) and the best female (Winners Bitch) receive championship points. (A Reserve Winner award is given in each sex to the runner-up.)

The Winners Dog and Winners Bitch then go on to compete with the champions for the title of BEST OF BREED. 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 best between the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch.

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

Only the Best of Breed winners advance to compete in the group competition. Each AKC- recognized breed falls into one of seven group classifications. Four placements are awarded in each group, but only the first-place winner advances to the Best In Show competition.

Below are links to the major dog show superintendents for our region:

Jack Bradshaw:
Jack Onofrio: