Walk into a dog show and you’ll find yourself in the centre of a kaleidoscope of colourful canines and their two-legged support staff. Dogs on tables being carefully coifed, dogs being whisked from grooming areas to ringside, dogs striding sedately down matted runways like furry fashion models all add to the aura of a dog show.
How did dog shows get started and what is their purpose?
More than a century ago in England, a group of sportsmen hit upon the bright idea of having acknowledged dog experts assess their hunting dogs with an eye to selecting the cream of the crop for future breeding stock. That’s still the basic premise behind dog shows today.
Along with the quest for quality, dog shows have also become both sporting events where winning is a high, and social gatherings where folks can get together and gab about – what else? – dogs.
Without some basic understanding of how a dog show works, a newcomer may find it nothing more than organized confusion. The simplest way to understand a dog show is to picture a pyramid. It starts with hundreds of dogs and ends up with one supreme winner. A dog continues to compete until he’s defeated, so the dog ultimately designated Best in Show is the only undefeated canine in the competition.
What happens at a dog show
A dog show is a process of elimination (see opposite). For each breed, competition starts with the dog entries, in the following order: Junior Puppy, Senior Puppy, 12 to 18 Months, Canadian Bred, Bred by Exhibitor and Open. The winner of each class is brought back into the ring to compete for Winners Dog. Once the Winners Dog is chosen, the dog that placed second in the WD’s class returns to the ring to compete for Reserve Winners Dog. (If for some reason The Canadian Kennel Club disallows the WD’s win, the points will be allotted to the RWD.) The above is done all over again with the bitches.
Specials Only – dogs that are already champions – compete against other champions, and the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch for Best of Breed and Best of Opposite Sex. Best Puppy in Breed and Best of Winners are also chosen at this time. One dog could receive multiple awards – for example, Best of Winners could also be Best of Opposite Sex or Best of Breed.
Each Best of Breed then competes at the group level. There are seven CKC groups. The judge looks at all the Best of Breed winners in their group and decides which ones most closely resemble their own breed standard and places them from first to fourth. The winner of each group then goes on to compete for Best in Show. The Best Puppy of each breed competes in the Puppy Group (but there’s only one placement). Best Puppy in Show is judged after Best in Show.
Becoming a champion
A championship certificate is awarded when a dog earns 10 points under three different judges; at least one win must be worth two points. A dog is awarded points only if it has competition, so the only representative of a breed at a show would get no points unless it won a group placement. The number of dogs competing determines the number of championship points allotted to the winner, up to a maximum of five points per show. Earning a championship is sometimes referred to as “finishing” a dog.
The CKC has also awards a grand championship. The dog must be a champion and must earn an additional 20 points at the breed (Select Dog|Bitch, BOS), group and BIS level.
The role of the judge
A conformation dog show is not a comparison of one dog to another but a comparison of each dog to a judge’s mental image of the ideal breed type as outlined in the individual breed’s “standard.” Dog-show judges attempt to identify dogs that epitomize these published standards. This can be challenging because some descriptions are subjective.
Judges are generally certified to judge one or several breeds, usually in the same group, but a few “All Breed” judges have the training and experience to judge all the breeds.
Each class is brought into the ring and trotted around so the judge can see the way each dog moves. This is an indication of proper structure, which is important for health as well as function and looks. Each dog is then stood so that the profile
presented to the judge shows the breed’s correct outline. The judge examines each dog individually, checking things such as head shape and bite (if the teeth are properly aligned), proportions, front and rear angulatuon, topline, length of ears and tail, height, etc. The dogs are then gaited individually and together so the judge can compare and then place them.
Tips for the first-time spectator
- Check out the show’s catalogue or schedule, usually sold at the secretary’s table near the entrance. This will tell you where and when each breed is being judged.
- If you are interested in a particular breed, plan to arrive early. In most cases, once each breed has been judged, those dogs are allowed to leave; if you arrive later, you will miss seeing them.
- If you miss breed judging, you can still see judging of the seven groups, which takes place prior to Best in Show and will most likely include one representative of your favourite breed.
- Visit the grooming area and speak with professional groomers for tips on keeping your dog looking his best.
- However tempting, do not pet a dog without asking for permission first. The dog may have just been groomed in preparation for being judged.
- At each dog show you will find vendors and information booths. Many club booths offer helpful information to the general public.
- If you are thinking about getting a purebred dog, talk to the breeders and handlers. They are experts in their breeds. It is best to approach them after they have shown their dog, when they are not too busy to talk.
- If you bring a stroller to a show, be careful that you do not run over any dog’s tail, or that your child does not grab or poke the dogs it can reach. Avoid ring entrances, which are especially crowded.