Dog shows (conformation events) are intended to evaluate breeding stock. The dog’s conformation, overall appearance and structure in comparison to the breed standard, is an indication of the dog’s ability to produce quality puppies.
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.
Types of Conformation Dog Shows
There are three types of conformation dog shows:
All-breed shows offer competitions for all breeds and varieties of dogs recognized by the governing Kennel Club (Canadian Kennel Club or American Kennel Club). 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 Canada Specialty is for Bulldogs only, but the Poodle Club of Canada’s specialty show includes Standard, Miniature and Toy Poodles. There are Specialty shows for Portuguese Water Dogs in Canada and the U.S.
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. Each AKC-recognized breed falls into one the following groups: Sporting, Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non-Sporting, Herding and miscellaneous. Portuguese Water Dogs belong to the Working Group.
Which Dogs May Participate
To be eligible to compete, a dog must:
- Be individually registered with the Canadian Kennel Club (or American Kennel Club for U.S. shows)
- 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
Spayed or neutered dogs are not eligible to compete in conformation classes, because their purpose is to evaluate breeding stock.
The 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.
As experts on the specific breeds, the judges 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 action.
Breed standards are maintained by the breed’s national club and included in CKC and AKC publications. 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.
How A Dog Show Works
Each dog is presented to the judge (“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.
In Canada most dogs at conformation shows are competing for points toward their CKC championships. It takes ten points, awarded by at least three different judges, to become an Canadian Kennel Club “Champion of Record.” The number of championship points awarded at a show depends on the number of dogs competing. 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 (dogs) and females (bitches) compete separately within their respective breeds, in six regular classes: Puppy (6-9 months), Puppy (9-12 months), Novice, Bred By Exhibitor, Canadian-Bred (or U.S.-Bred for U.S. shows), and Open.
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. The Winners Dog and Winners Bitch then compete with the champions for the Best of Breed awards.
Only the Best of Breed winners advance to compete in the Group competitions. Four placements are awarded in each Group, but only the first-place winner advances to the Best In Show competition.
How 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 can be found on the CKC or AKC web sites. (See www.ckc.ca and www.akc.org).