Dog Show FAQ

What exactly is a “dog show”?

“Dog show” can actually refer to many different canine events. Because of the propose of our club, this page addresses AKC conformation shows, where a dog is judged on how s/he conforms to their breed’s standard. This is the type of show like the Westminster Dog Show, as seen on TV.

Other kinds of shows include obedience, agility, herding, tracking, carting, lure coursing, weight pulling and more. For more information on various types of canine sporting events, visit AKC dog events .

Conformation shows can be further divided by type – some are all-breed, where any AKC recognized breed can exhibit, and others are specialized by one breed or a group of breeds.

The Central Iowa Kennel Club hosts two all-breed (conformation) dog shows in January each year. They are back-to-back, one on Saturday and a whole new show on Sunday. More information about our show.

Can spectators attend?

Yes! Spectators are welcomed and encouraged. For the vast majority of dog shows, there are no tickets to order. Admission fees vary by show, the cost for spectators at the CIKC show is $2/adult. For some shows, there will be a charge for parking as well.

Please read about spectator etiquette.

Will there be puppies for sale at the show?

No. However, a show is a great opportunity to learn about and meet different breeds, as well as make connections with breeders.

Not every breeder at a show is responsible and not every dog there should be bred. Anyone can enter a dog show and any AKC registered dog, without a disqualifying fault, can be shown.

Note: The AKC cannot guarantee health or quality of the dogs in its registry, so being “AKC registered” does not denote quality.

Showing is one piece of the breeding puzzle, health and temperament are as just as important as conformation. Not all breeders are created equal. Buyers are encouraged to do their research and take their time making a decision. A great starting point is this article about finding a responsible breeder.

Can I bring my dog?

No, non-entered dogs should be left at home.

Can I bring my camera? Are pictures allowed?

Yes. Most owners are happy to have their dog photographed, even assisting by trying get the dog to cooperate. If the situation allows, try to ask permission first.

You may take pictures of the dogs in the ring, however flash should be avoided as to limit distractions for the exhibitors, dogs and judge.

How can I find dates and locations of shows in my area?

Infodog is a great resource for finding shows. Just click your state and you’ll find all sorts of dog sports listed. To attend a conformation show, look for an All-Breed show or a Specialty show of the breed in which you are interested.

All-breed shows run all day and you can attend any part you would like. If you have a specific breed you wish to see, check the judging program before you leave home so you don’t miss them. Many things are happening simultaneously at a show. There are multiple rings, each with their own judge.

Most shows only last one day, although multiple shows are often clustered at one location over a span of 2-4 days. Each day is a separate show.

Why do people show their dogs? What do they win?

Showing is an expensive hobby, not a money-making venture. It’s a fun way to meet people with similar interests, participate in a sport with your dog and gain unbiased opinions about a dog’s breeding potential (although not all people that show breed their dogs).

Mostly, all that an exhibitor will win is a small ribbon. For some wins, a trophy or dog related item is offered. Cash prizes are occasionally offered for big wins, however these cash prizes do not offset the money spent to show a dog. In general, prizes won do not come close to the expense of showing when one figures entry fees, traveling & equipment expenses and all other expenses that go along with showing a dog.

What goes on in the ring? What is the judge looking for?

At a conformation show, judges are looking to see how closely the dogs conform to their breed standard. They examine (“go over”) each dog with their hands to see if the teeth, muscles, bones and coat texture conform to the breed standard. They view each dog in profile for overall balance, and watch each dog gait (move) to see how all of those features fit together in action.

Most show dogs are competing for points towards their championship. Points are awarded based on the number of dogs defeated at a show. The larger the entry, the greater the number of points can be won.

The most points that can be won on one day is 5. Points are based on a scale and it varies by breed, gender and geographical location. For instance, in one breed, it might take 20 dogs to make a 3-point win, while in another breed it might only take 7 dogs to earn that same three points. AKC reevaluates point scales every year.

It takes 15 points to obtain a championship, including two majors (wins of three, four or five points) awarded by at least three different judges, to become an American Kennel Club “Champion of Record.”

For each breed, there is only one male (males are called “Dogs”) and one female (females are called “Bitches”) that can win points towards their championship that day. Dogs and bitches are judged separately in their classes.

There are various classes in which dogs/bitches can entered. All the Dog classes for a particular breed are judged, with the class winners all coming back into the ring to compete for Winners Dog (WD) and Reserve Winners Dog (RWD). After that, all the bitch classes are judged and Winners Bitch (WB) and Reserve Winners Bitch (RWB) are selected.After WD/WB have been selected, there is a final competition within the breed for the Best of Breed (BOB) Winner.

For BOB, both WD and WB come back into the ring. There will also be dogs that are already champions (called “Specials”). Specials do not enter the ring until BOB judging, as they are not competing for points towards their championship, rather they are competing for a ranking style “point”.

During the BOB judging, the judge will award one dog the BOB ribbon. At the same time, the judge will select “Best of Winners”, which is solely a competition between WD and WB. The judge also selects a “Best of Opposite Sex” winner. If a female goes BOB, the judge will select the best male; if a male goes BOB, the judge will then select the best female.

All dogs within the breed are now done showing, with the exception of the one Best of Breed winner. The BOB for each breed will go on to compete in their respective Group. In the AKC, there are seven different groups – Sporting, Non-Sporting, Herding, Working, Terrier, Toy and Hound.

The winner of each group then goes on to compete for Best In Show. Shows are a process of elimination, that whittles all the dogs entered down to one Best In Show winner at the end of the day. Along the way, there is one dog (male) and one bitch (female) in each breed that had the opportunity to win points towards their championship.Once a dog has been beaten, they are usually done for the day. At the typical (unbenched) dog show, exhibitors are not required to stay at the show once their dog is done being shown. If you are hoping to watch a particular breed, check out a judging program before leaving for the show.

Read the AKC’s “Beginners’ Guide to Dog Shows” for additional details of how the show process works.

How can I get involved in showing?

A good first step is joining a club. Learn first hand about dog shows, gain valuable contacts and earn peer respect by assisting with club needs. This may also help decide if this is a hobby for you.

It is advantageous to join a club and become involved before purchasing a show potential dog, as your experience and contacts will lend to a more educated purchasing decision.

Although there are various types of clubs, for someone looking to start showing in conformation, a breed or all-breed club would be a good choice. AKC’s website has a club search to help you find the right club.

What other types of activities can I do with my dog?

Tons! Obedience, agility, therapy work, tracking, herding, weight pulling, and more.AKC’s website has a wealth of information on these activities.