How a Dog Show Works

From a Stud Book started in 1878, the AKC registered the first purebred dog, an English Setter named “Adonis.” Since then the AKC has added more than 189 breeds, with newly recognized breeds joining the AKC list every year.

Based on the original purpose for which they were bred, or their current function, all AKC breeds are divided into seven groups:

  • Sporting – Flushes out and retrieves game birds on land or in water.
  • Hound – Hunts prey by sight and scent.
  • Working – Pulls heavy freight sleds or carts, aids fisherman with nets, rescues travelers, guards a flock or family members.
  • Terrier – Originally hunted vermin or larger game underground.
  • Toy – Serves as companions.
  • Non-Sporting – Possesses abilities that do not fit into other categories.
  • Herding – Controls the movement of other animals. Possesses stamina and athletic ability to drive livestock or herd sheep.

The Miscellaneous Group includes breeds waiting for AKC-recognition. They compete at conformation shows, but are not eligible for championship points. Each Best of Breed winner in the Miscellaneous class competes for Best in Miscellaneous Class.

The Judge

Judges examine the dogs with their hands and award first through fourth places ribbons according to how closely the entrants come to the breed’s standard. When they “go over” each dog they check if the teeth, muscles, bones, and coat texture conform to the breed’s standard. The judges look at each dog’s profile to observe balance and watch each dog move around the ring and in a straight line to see how its structure fits together in motion.

Remember: The judges are breed experts. Most count years of experience as either breeders or professional handlers.

The Breed Ring

Dog shows begin with individual breed judging in separate rings and different judges. Every breed of dog competes against its breed. The judge evaluates the dogs against each other and against their breed standard, or the official description of the ideal specimen as defined by the respective breed club.

One dog in each breed is chosen as the Best of Breed or Best of Variety winner and advances to compete at the next level—the group ring.

The Group Ring

Each Best of Breed winner competes in its respective Group. In the Group Ring, each breed winner competes for the first, second, third, and fourth place. The Group One winner from each group moves on to the Best in Show ring.

Dogs who regularly win or place in their groups are usually excellent examples of their breed and love to show off. Their experienced handlers know how to groom expertly and train these dogs and keep them in top shape.

How does the judge evaluate one breed over another, especially when each breed is so unique? The judge knows the breed standard of every breed in the Group and selects the dog that comes closest to its breed standard.

The Best in Show Ring

THE FINALS! The seven winners of each group compete in the Best in Show ring. One judge selects a Best in Show (BIS) winner and a second-place runner-up known as the Reserve Best in Show (RBIS) dog.

Remember: At all-breed dog shows the Best in Show and Reserve Best in Show dogs compete three times in one day—first against dogs of their breed, progressing to the other winners in their Group, and the last evaluation in the Best in Show ring.

National Ranking

In addition to adding the prestigious title of Best in Show in front of their names, receiving a large rosette and a trophy or two, champion dogs at this level receive points—one for every dog they defeat in the show.

For example, if 2,001 dogs entered the event, and 1,801 competed in that day’s competition, the BIS dog receives 1,800 points. These points accumulate throughout the year for a national ranking. On December 31, the ten dogs in the U.S. with the most points claim the honor of finishing the year in the Top Ten.

The number one dog that defeats the highest number of competitors is the number one dog, which, next to winning its National Show, is the most impressive title in dogdom.

Dogs competing in the groups accumulate group points toward National Top Ten and Top Twenty group rankings. The same applies on the breed level with breed points.

The Championship Point System

For a championship title, a dog must win fifteen points. Of the fifteen, six or more of these points must have been won at two shows with three, four, or five championship points each and under two different judges. At least one other judge must award the balance of the points.

Remember: Major show wins earn three, four, or five points. A championship requires two majors.

Every year the AKC establishes the number of dogs that must compete for a certain number of points at a show. Dogs and bitches earn a different amount. The number of points differs in each of the twelve geographic divisions of the United States and Puerto Rico and remains in effect from May 15 of one year to May 15 of the following year.

Each year the point schedule changes based on the number of dogs competing the previous year and the breed’s popularity.

Tip: To find out how many points your breed earns if all of the dogs entered compete at a show, check the website or a show catalog. Many exhibitors memorize this information and can recite it in their sleep!

Warning: Only dogs in the ring and judged count for points. If a dog is disqualified, dismissed, or excused, it is subtracted from the count.

Warning: If a class dog moves up to the Best of Breed class it is counted as a champion, not in the class point tally.

Dog Shows 101

How the Breed Ring Works

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