AKC Dog Shows
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Click here for a listing of upcoming dog shows in the Maryland/D.C./Virginia area.
At a dog show, the main consideration is the dog's conformation or overall appearance and structure.
Specialty - Group - All-Breed
There are three types of conformation dog shows: specialty, group and all-breed.
How A Dog Show Works
Dog shows are basically a process of elimination, with one dog being named Best In Show at the end of the day. Along the way, some dogs accumulate points toward the title "AKC Champion."
The Role of the Judge
Judges examine the dogs and place them in accordance to how close each dog compares with their mental image of the "perfect" dog as described in the breed's official standard. These standards include qualifications for structure, temperament and movement. In short, they describe the characteristics that allow the breed to perform the function for which it was bred.
These official written standards are maintained by each breed's national club and published in AKC's The Complete Dog Book.
The judges are experts in the breeds they are judging. They examine or "go over" each dog with their hands to see if the teeth, muscles, bones and coat texture match the standard. They examine each dog in profile for general balance, and watch each dog gait, or move, to see how all of those features fit together in action.
Most dogs in competition at conformation shows are competing for points toward their championship. It takes fifteen points, including two majors (wins of three, four or five points) under at least three different judges to become an AKC "Champion of Record." This is indicated by "Ch." before the dog's name.
At one show, a dog can earn from one to five points toward a champion title, depending on the number of males or females actually in competition for the breed. (Male dogs are often referred to as dogs, while female dogs are referred to as bitches.)
Once the dog is a champion, it can compete for Best of Breed without having to win in the other classes.
Types of Classes
There are six different regular classes in which dogs may be entered. The following classes are offered for male and female dogs separately in each breed entered at the show.
Puppy - Six-to-nine or nine-to-twelve months.
Twelve-To-Eighteen Months - Twelve-to-eighteen months.
Novice - Never won a blue ribbon in any of the other classes, or has won less than three ribbons in the novice class.
Bred By Exhibitor - The exhibitor is also the breeder.
American-Bred - Dog's parents mated in America and the dog was born in America.
Open - Any dog of that breed.
After these classes are judged, all the dogs that won first place in the classes compete again to see who is the best of the winning dogs. This is also done separately for male and female dogs. Only the best male (Winners Dog) and the best female (Winners Bitch) receive championship points. (A Reserve Winner award is given in each sex to the runner-up.)
The Winners Dog and Winners Bitch then go on to compete with the champions for the title of BEST OF BREED. At the end of the Best of Breed Competition, three awards are usually given:
Best of Breed - the dog judged as the best in its breed category.
Best of Winners - the dog judged as best between the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch.
Best of Opposite Sex - the best dog that is the opposite sex of the Best of Breed winner.
Only the Best of Breed winners advance to compete in the group competition. Each AKC-recognized breed falls into one of seven group classifications (see page 6). Four placements are awarded in each group, but only the first-place winner advances to the Best In Show competition.
The Seven Groups in All-Breed Shows
Sporting - These dogs were bred to hunt game birds both on land and in the water. The breeds in this group include Pointers, Retrievers, Setters and Spaniels.
Hounds - Were used for hunting other game by sight or scent. These breeds include such dogs as Beagles, Bassets, Dachshunds and Greyhounds.
Working - These dogs were used to pull carts, guard property and for search and rescue. Among the breeds in this group are the Akita, Boxer, Doberman Pinscher and St. Bernard.
Terrier - This is the largest group, with breeds including the Airedale, Bull Terrier and Scottish Terrier. Terriers were bred to rid property of vermin such as rats.
Toy - These dogs were bred to be the prized companions of royalty. This group includes little dogs such as the Chihuahua, Maltese, Pomeranian and Pug.
Non-Sporting - This diverse group includes the Chow Chow, Bulldog, Dalmatian and Poodle. These dogs share attributes but don't fit into the mold of other dog groups.
Herding - These dogs were bred to help shepherds and ranchers herd their livestock. Among this group are the Briard, Collie, German Shepherd Dog and Old English Sheepdog.
The Road to Best in Show
Finally, the seven group winners are brought into the ring where they compete for BEST IN SHOW, the highest award at a dog show.
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