How Dog Shows Work

Think of a dog show as a series of small competitions. The winner of each little competition gets to advance to the next level and try for a bigger win.

In conformation shows the lowest level of competition is called "the classes". Here dogs and bitches (the proper term for the female canine - get used to hearing it because the steward yells it a lot at shows!) compete separately. At the class level, Dogs compete first.

Classes at most shows and the order in which they are called into the ring are:

Puppy Dog 6-9 Months Old (ribbons given for 1-4 place)

Puppy Dog 9-12 Months Old (ribbons given for 1-4 place)

Dogs 12-18 Months Old (ribbons given for 1-4 place)

Novice Dogs (ribbons given for 1-4 place)

Bred By Exhibitor Dogs (ribbons given for 1-4 place)

American Bred Dogs (ribbons given for 1-4 place)

Open Dogs (ribbons given for 1-4 place)


Let's pretend you have a Puppy Dog that wins the 6-9 month old class. You have now got a nice Blue Ribbon! However, your puppy has not earned any points toward its championship. The Blue Ribbon only gives you "bragging rights" and the right to go on to the next level of competition!


Winners Dog (only the first place dogs from each class may now enter the ring!) The dogs enter the ring in the order of their class. So, your puppy dog class winner will be at the end of the line of first place dogs for judging! ONE DOG IS CHOSEN AS WINNERS DOG AND GETS A LOVELY PURPLE RIBBON. THIS IS ALSO THE ONLY DOG THAT GETS POINTS TOWARD HIS CHAMPIONSHIP!

Reserve Winners Dog : after the winners dog is chosen, the second place dog from whatever class the winner was in gets to enter the ring to compete against the first place dogs from the remaining classes. (Example: if the Winners Dog was from the Open Class, the Second Place dog from Open now goes into the ring). Reserve Winners Dog gets a Purple and White Ribbon and NO POINTS - just bragging rights. There is a very slim chance that if for some reason the Winners Dog is found to be disqualified at a later date; the Reserve Winners Dog will be named the winner and receive the points. This doesn't happen often, but Reserve Winners is a safeguard in this event.


Next the competition goes to the Ladies. The same classes are called in for Bitches and after a Winners Bitch and Reserve Winners Bitch is picked.... it's time for THE BIG GUNS to enter the ring!


All finished Champions now enter the ring. The Males enter first, followed by the Females. Next the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch follow at the end of the line. From these dogs the judge will pick BEST OF BREED, BEST OF OPPOSITE SEX TO BEST OF BREED, and the dog or bitch that is BEST OF WINNERS. Males and Females compete against one another at this level.

The dog or bitch that wins BEST OF BREED goes on to compete "in the group".


The group competition is made up of the BEST OF BREED winner from each breed included in that particular group. (Sporting Group would be Spaniels, Retreivers, Pointers, Setters, etc) Here the judge will award Ribbons for first through fourth place. THE FIRST PLACE WINNER OF THE GROUP (G1) ADVANCES TO BEST IN SHOW COMPETITION.


This is the competition for the few survivors of the previous competitions that managed to win their Group. ONLY ONE ROSETTE IS UP FOR GRABS -- THE RED WHITE AND BLUE BEST IN SHOW AWARD!

So, there you have it, a basic rundown of what goes on at dog shows. There are a few "fine points" like how many dogs make a major, how you can get more points, how you can get points if you win Group with a dog that isn't a champion. Point Schedules are available for viewing at the AKC site, where you can order a rulebook that explains all the picky details I left out.


Breed Information

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Frequently asked questions not up and running quite yet

Before you show your dog.

How Conformation Shows Work

Obedience Trials

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