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Holland Michigan Kennel Club

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The World of Dog Shows

The sport of showing dogs

combines the thrill of competition

and the joy of seeing beautiful dogs.

Common to all AKC shows and events:  participating dogs must be pure bred and individually registered with AKC.  They must be 6 months or older, be one of the breeds for which classes are offered and meet any eligibility requirements of the standard for that breed.

Types of Conformation Shows - There are 3


All Breed show offers competition for all the breeds and varieties of dogs recognized by the AKC.  This is the type that you typically see broadcast on TV.


Specialty shows are restricted to a specific breed or varieties of one breed.  As an example, the Bulldog Club of America Specialty is for Bulldogs only.  The Poodle Club of America specialty show would include the 3 size varieties of Poodles; Standard, Miniature and Toy.


Group shows are limited to dogs belonging to one of the seven groups.  For example a Bernese Mountain Dog group show would only be for Working breed dogs.


What about registration and Pure Bred Dogs?


While AKC registration means that the dog is pure bred, it does not indicate health or quality.   A reputable, responsible breeder is one that truly loves his breed, wants to do everything possible to remain true to that breed and improve it where possible.  This means knowing common health issues of the breed, researching the different bloodlines for the frequencies of those issues and any specifics that may not fit into the breed standard. With that information, the breeder looks for the best suited match to help improve the breed.  A lot of research, testing, time and money go into proper breeding practices.  It’s not a money- making business.  It is an act of love. Please, only buy a pure bred puppy from a reputable breeder.


What is a breed standard? 


Each breed has a detailed official standard.  That standard describes the perfect dog: how it would look, it’s structure, how it moves and temperament.  You’ll often hear the phrase “form follows function”.  Well, that means the official standard describes, in detail, a dog that could best perform the function for which it was developed whether it be companion, hunting, herding etc.  This standard gives breeders a goal to strive for.  The judge’s role is to examine the dogs and award according to his or her mental picture of the perfect dog described in the standard.


How it works

Click on the drawing to enlarge


Each dog is presented or exhibited to the judge by it’s owner, breeder or hired professional handler.  The dog show is a process of elimination as represented in the above chart.


*Males and Females compete separately within their breed in 6 regular classes if they are not yet champions..  They include Puppy (6-9 m and 9-12 m), 12-18 m, Novice (have never one a blue ribbon in any other class or fewer than 3 first place ribbons in the Novice), Bred by Exhibitor (shown by the breeder and owner), American bred (parents were mated in America and the dog was born in America) and Open which includes any dog of the breed at least 6 months of age.

*The next step is for all the dogs that won first place in a class to compete to see who is best of the winning dogs.  Again, Males and Females are judged separately.  Only the best male or Winners Dog and the best female or Winners Bitch receives championship points.

*The Winners Dog and Winners Bitch then enter the ring with dogs that are already Champions to compete for the Best of Breed award.  3 awards are usually given at this stage:  Best of Breed – dog judged as best in its breed, Best of Winners – the dog judged as the better of Winners Dog and Winners Bitch, and the Best of Opposite Sex – the best dog that is opposite sex to the Best of Breed winner.  It is very possible for the Best of Breed and Winners Dog or Winners Bitch to be the same dog.

*Now the Best of Breed winners advance in to the Group competition.  The first 4 places are awarded in each group.  As mentioned before, there are 7 groups in AKC and each breed falls into one of those groups. 

Sporting – dogs bred to hunt game on land or water.  These are the  Pointers, Retrievers, Setters and Spaniels.

Hounds – bred for hunting other game by sight or scent and include Beagles, Bassets, Dachshunds, Greyhounds, Afghans, Blood hounds and others.

Working class includes the dogs bred to pull carts and sleighs, guardian dogs, search and rescue.  Some breeds are Akita, Boxer, Great Dane, St Bernard, Malamute and Mastiff

Terriers are dogs that were developed to rid property of vermin.  You’ll see Airedale, Cairn, Scottish, Skye, Norwich, Norfolk and many others.

Toy breeds were mostly bred to be household companions. Chihuahua, Maltese, Pomeranian, Papillon, Chinese Crested and Havanese are examples.

Non-Sporting is a diverse group including Chow-Chow, Bulldog, Dalmation, Bichon Frise. These dogs vary in size and function and most are now considered companion dogs.

Herding dogs developed to help shepherds and ranchers handle livestock.  The Briard, Corgi Collies, Belgian Tervuren, Belgian Malinois, Old English Sheep Dog fall into this category.



And now the big finish! 

The first place winner from each group

that means 7 dogs, are brought into the ring

 to be judged for

Best in Show.


Junior Showmanship


Youngsters 10 to 18 years have the opportunity to compete with others their own age at various AKC events.  Juniors competing in conformation events are judged on how they present their dogs.


How to Get Started Showing Your Dog


The best way to start is by joining a local kennel club, whether all breed or breed specific.  Local clubs have information on training classes for show ring and obedience.  Local clubs also have Fun Matches where you can test you skills in the ring.


        Make sure your dog is registered with AKC

        Be sure your dog is current on inoculations

        Attend shows to observe your breed being judged and how others groom and present your breed

        Use the knowledge of your breeder

        Don’t be afraid to ask questions


Tips for the Spectator


        If the grooming area is open to spectators, visit and talk to the groomers.  Get tips on keeping your dog looking its best.

        Do not pet a dog without asking permissions first.  (This rule should be followed everywhere and in every situation in life-not just the grooming area of a dog show)

        You will usually find vendors and information booths that will offer helpful information.

        Wear comfortable shoes and clothing.  You’ll be doing a lot of walking and standing.  Seating is usually limited.

        If you are considering getting a purebred dog, talk to the breeders and exhibitors.  They are the experts in their breeds and you may find the breed you are interested in is just not right for you and your family lifestyle.

        Be careful not to step on or roll a stroller(many shows prohibit them) over a dog’s tails or paw.  Do not let your children grab and poke at any dogs.  Avoid the ring entrances.  They are especially crowded.

** Most Importantly,

Have Fun!**


Find out more about AKC Conformation & many other events at

Safety Begins With You!   Be responsible ... Teach others  how to properly approach and treat a dog.

many of the doggy graphics are generously shared by Fuzzy Faces