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In a dog show, judges familiar with specific
breeds evaluate individual dogs for how well they conform to
published breed standards, hence the more accurate term is
conformation show (or, sometimes, breed show).
"Dog show" is often used by the general public to refer to any event
involving dogs, such
sports, but in the dog world it more specifically refers to conformation
Handlers set up their dogs for judging so that their stance is perfect when the
judge views them.
Judging and winning at dog shows
- For winning in working dog trials and dog sports, see the individual
articles, a listing of which can be found at
List of dog sports.
Dog-show judges attempt to identify dogs who epitomize the published
standards for each breed. This can be challenging, because some judgements must
necessarily be subjective. For example, what exactly entails a "full coat" or a
"cheerful attitude", which are descriptions that could be found in the breed
Strictly speaking, a dog show is not exactly a comparison of one dog to
another, it is a comparison of each dog to a judge's concept of the ideal
specimen as dictated by the
breed standard, containing the attributes of a given breed and a list of
conformation points. Based on this, one dog is placed ahead of another.
All-breed judges must therefore have a vast amount of knowledge, and the ability
(or inability) of humans to retain all these details mentally for hundreds of
breeds (and to maintain their objectivity despite their personal preferences) is
the subject of intense debate, particularly from the
dogs. Politics in the purebred dog world can be as vicious as in any other
arena; there have been charges of favoritism, nepotism, bribery and even
drugging of competitors' animals.
The judge is supposed to remain free from bias on several counts. A canine
judge must, for example, disregard personal or public notions about what a
good-looking dog is, and judge strictly to the standard. Judges must also assess
specimens of all breeds objective, regardless of personal favourites. In some
breeds, the males and females of the breed have decidedly different appearances,
and it is often the males who have the quintessential look of the breed.
The judge must set personal preference asided and decide objectively whether the
bitch is a better example of the female of the breed than the dog is an example
of the male.
Winning at dog shows differs in many countries. Dogs shown in the United
States, for example, have different championship requirements than those in
Dogs compete at dog shows to earn points towards the title of Champion. Each
time a dog wins at some level of a show, it earns points towards the
championship. The number of points varies depending on what level within a show
the win occurs, how many dogs are competing, and whether the show is a major
(larger shows) or minor (smaller shows).
Dogs compete in a
fashion at each show, where winners at lower levels are gradually combined to
narrow the winners until the final round, where
Show is chosen.
At the lowest level, dogs are divided by breed. Each breed is divided into
classes based on sex and age. Dogs (males) are judged first, in their age
classes. Within one breed, there are puppies (dogs under a certain age), mature
male dogs (subdivided by age into junior, limit (or
intermediate) and open); bitches (female dogs) have
The winners of all classes in each sex (called Puppy Dog, Limit Dog
etc.) compete for Challenge (best) Dog and Challenge Bitch; the
individuals who will challenge each other for the accolade
of Breed. The remaining class winners are joined by the runner-up from
the class from which the challenge winner was selected and there are
competitions for second place in each gender, called Reserve Challenge Dog
and Reserve Challenge Bitch. This is for fairness, as one class may
contain a stronger field of specimens of the breed. If the judge believes that
this is the case, the Challenge Dog and Reserve Challenge Dog, for example, may
both be from the same class.
From the two finalists (Challenge Dog and Challenge Bitch) is selected Best
of Breed. The runner-up is deemed Best of Opposite Sex (or Runner-up
to Best of Breed). There is then a run-off in which the second best
individual in the gender of the winner (the Reserve Challenge) is brought
back to stand against the Best of Opposite Sex (the Challenge who did not
win) for the title of Reserve Best of Breed. So, if the Best of Breed is
the Challenge Bitch, the Reserve Best of Breed may be the Challenge Dog or
the Reserve Challenge Bitch.
In multi-breed and all-breed shows, the winners of
all breeds within the kennel club's
groupings then compete. So, for example, all the
Terrier Group breed winners compete to determine Best
(sometimes called Best in Group). These are known as the
The audience at a dog show is expected to be participatory and vocal, and
often applaud the silkiest, fluffiest or more popular breeds while ignorant of
breed requirements. Those who are owners and breeders may cheer for a
popular handler or a sympathetic favourite from a particular
the judge is supposed to ignore all attempts to influence the decision.
Finally, the winners from each group compete for
Note: This describes the Australian model; there may be differences in
Dog shows in the UK
There are several types of show in the
The smallest are the Companion Shows, where there are usually a few conformation
pedigree dogs, and several "novelty" classes, such as waggiest tail and
handsomest dog, which are open to any dog including
These shows are usually held to support a charity or other good cause.
Then there are Open shows, which are open only to dogs registered with the
Kennel Club. There are many Open Shows that are held all around the country.
Here the dog & handler can gain experience and the dog can gain points towards a
Junior Warrant award or a Show Certificate of Merit.
There are also Limited shows, which are open only to members of the Society
or Club running the show, and Challenge Certificate winners (see below) cannot
Finally, there are the huge Championship shows, where dogs can gain points
towards a Junior Warrant and compete for the highly coveted Challenge
Certificate (CC). If the breed is sufficiently numerous, the
Kennel Club awards a Challenge Certificate for the Best Dog and Best Bitch.
A dog needs three CCs from three different judges to be awarded the title of
Champion one of which must be awarded when the dog is over 12 month old. The
most prestigious Championship show is
each dog entered at Crufts has had to qualify by certain wins at Championship or
Open show level.
Championship titles and registered names
A dog who has earned the Championship title is entitled to use the
designation "Champion" (or "Ch") in front of his name, for example, Ch.
Emerald's Brightest Sparkle.
have a registered name, that is, the name under which they are registered
as a purebred
with the appropriate
club, and a call name, which is how their owners talk to them.
The registered name often refers directly or indirectly to the kennel where
the dog was bred; kennel clubs often require that the
kennel prefix form the first part of the dog's registered name. See
registered name for a discussion of dogs' names.
Prestigious dog shows
Dog shows take place all year in various locations. Some are small, local
shows, while others draw competitors from all around the country or the world.
Some shows are so large that they limit entries only to dogs who have already
earned their Championships. Therefore, winning Best in Breed or Best in Show can
elevate a dog's, a breeder's, or a kennel's reputation to the top of the list
overnight. This greatly increases the value of puppies bred from this dog or at
the dog's kennel of origin.
Probably the two best-known, largest, and most prestigious annual dog shows
Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and
History of dog showing
The control of points awarded to dogs in most countries is maintained by a
national pedigree registry in that country.
The Kennel Club of Great Britain is generally recognized as one of the first
organizations, if not the first, to register purebred dogs. A second historic
registry is the
American Kennel Club. France, Italy, and other countries began to maintain
important kennel club registries in the 19th century.
Establishing and maintaining a separate breed of dog and, therefore, separate
breeding stock and separate registries, from the 14th to 21st century, was not
always only a matter of looks or fashion. Dogs have been man's partner for
thousands of years. Centuries ago, owners required certain skills and behaviors
of some dogs, and many breeds that are recognized today reflect the different
jobs that owners historically required dogs to do. A man living in the desert
might have needed a dog that could run in sand and last a few days without water
or food--that would probably mean a dog with large paws, like a camel, and a
very sparse coat to deal with the heat. A man living in polar regions might need
a dog that could swim icy waters, run in ice and snow, and survive that region,
which would likely mean a lot of coat and a sturdier frame to survive swimming
and plodding through snow.
Today, there are dogs who will search the ruins of a bombed building or an
avalanche in an effort to find survivors; others assist the blind or the
disabled; still others serve as a first defense line to sniff out bombs or
drugs. These dogs can do these jobs because they preserve traits historically
required of dogs for performing their jobs. A dog standard is a blueprint that
describes the physical attributes that a dog breed must have to do its job.
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