Have you ever been to a conformation dog show and thought you had just entered a three ring circus? Now that the Westminster Kennel Club Show at Madison Square Gardens is being televised, it is a bit easier to follow a dog show, but what really goes on? The premise of an all breed conformation dog show is to find the one dog that is the best representation of its own breed. The way this is done is to judge the dog’s physical structure and overall appearance against a set standard for the breed.
At an all breed conformation dog show, the first thing that happens is that the breeds are judged against their own kind to find the best single dog of one given breed. For example, all Labrador Retrievers would compete against each other. This competition is done in the breed ring. After a dog wins its breed, it goes on to the group ring and competes against the other dogs in a specific group. The different groups are Working, Herding, Non-sporting, Terrier, Toy, Hound and Sporting. So a Labrador Retriever would be shown in the Sporting Group, and a Chihuahua would be shown in the Toy Group. After a dog wins in their group ring, they go on to the Best in Show ring and are shown against all the other group winners that were chosen that day.
There are two other kinds of conformation dog shows: specialty shows and group shows. The specialty show is held for one specific breed; for example, there is an American Staffordshire Terrier specialty show every year. Only AmStaffs are invited, but they could come from all over the world, as long as they are registered with the AKC (if the show is held in the United States). The group show is open to dogs of a certain AKC group, i.e., a show for the hound group would be open to Bloodhounds, Greyhounds, Afghan hounds and other dogs in that group. Each dog entered in any AKC or breed club sanctioned dog show must at least meet the minimum requirements for their breed. Each dog is judged by a set standard for its own breed, and can earn points toward a championship.
It takes fifteen points to become an AKC champion. Out of those fifteen points the dog must earn two majors, which is an awarded score of either three, four or five points. The way they determine how high the points awarded will be, is by the number of male and female dogs entered in the show. The more dogs entered, the higher the points awarded. There are seven different classes that a dog can be entered in depending on their age, whether or not their handler is an amateur, who their breeder is, and whether they were born in the United States. After the seven different classes are judged, the winning males and females are brought back and compete again to see which one is best. The males and females are judged separately and only the top two dogs judged “Best Female” and “Best Male” are given championship points.
Besides regular conformation dog shows, you can attend field trials for agility, tracking, herding and hunting, as well as lure coursing, rally, and obedience trials. You can find shows scheduled in your area by visiting the American Kennel Club’s website for more information. These shows are also a great way to get a feel for a specific breed of dog, and what they are capable of doing. So, if you are looking for a new game to play with your own dog, you might want to give one of these shows a look.
Read more articles by Ruthie Bently
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