Dog shows began as competitions to evaluate breeding stock. They were similar to farm shows and county fairs. Today. some of that purpose remains, but they are also fun competitions and a chance to meet and get to know others with like interests. A dog show is usually conducted by either kennel clubs or breed clubs. A show that caters specifically to one certain breed is known as a specialty show. We are fortunate the Arizona White Mountain Kennel Club has resumed conformation shows in our area. Now our community can experience the wonder and beauty of a conformation show. A dog show is a confusing place to newcomers, and it can be bewildering to even find out what time the breed you are interested in is showing, and what ring number they're going to be in. I find that information on in the show catalog.
I am going to use Bernese Mountain dogs as my example on tracking the process of a show. In the Entry Breakdown, I see these numbers: Bernese Mountain Dogs 19-12 (3-1) for the regular entries. What on earth? Is it some sort of secret code? Well, sort of. What this means is that there are 19 as yet untitled male dogs entered, 12 as yet untitled females, and 3 champion males, and 1 champion female.
The 19 untitled males, or regular class dogs, will be divided into a number
of classes. Puppies have to be at least 6 months to be shown, so the classes
often consist of:
- puppy, 6-9 months
- puppy, 9-12 months (some of these are often combined if there are too few entries)
- puppy, 12-18 months (or 12-15 and 15-18 months)
- novice (for beginner handlers that want a chance at a ribbon and are too much a bundle of nerves for any of the other classes)
- American bred (breeder is American or bred in America, I've never known just kidding, it is for dogs bred and born in America; )
- Bred-by exhibitor (the handler is the breeder of the dog; I love seeing breeders show off their own dogs)
- Open class - all the more mature dogs are typically entered here.
Each of these classes will have a first through fourth place winner. The judge chooses which dogs in order of his perception of how each dog matches these the breed standard, which epitomizes the ideal dog. One dog is compared with another, but these comparisons must also be compared with the judge's image of the perfect dog of that certain breed and its standards.
Then it gets confusing. (Like you weren't already!) Each of the first-place winners
from the classes go back into the ring and a Winner's Dog is selected. That
dog gets the points. Points? Don't rush me, in a second! After the Winner’s Dog is selected, the second-place winner from the same class that the Winner's Dog won goes back into the ring, and a Reserve Winner's Dog is selected. If the WD is disqualified for any reason (he was entered in the wrong class, he didn't have a proper registration, etc), then the Reserve Winner's Dog becomes the WD and gets the points. This all happens again with the bitches.
Points. Points are assigned for each breed for each region based on the
number of entries the shows generally draw. From the AKC Point Schedule:
http://www.akc. org/ we can see that Arizona is in Division 7. That our point schedule says that it takes 15 dogs for a 5-point major (a major is at least 3 points). For 12 bitches entered, it's a 4-point major.
Winners Dog has been selected, then they go through the same process for the
Winner's Bitch and Reserve Winner's Bitch. We're done for the day, right?
Nope, not yet!
Time for Best of Breed competition. All of the Berners who are already
Champions enter the ring, along with the WD and WB. The judge is going to select the best Berner entered today, that is the Best of Breed. He/she then selects the best Berner of the opposite sex, as well as the Best of the Winners. If the Best of Winners is also the Best of Breed or Best of Opposite, there may only be 2 dogs selected. And a judge can refuse to hand out a ribbon, if all the dogs entered just aren't good examples of the breed, but that doesn’t happen often!
Now we're done. But nope! The Best of Breed winner goes on to the group
ring. The AKC now recognizes about 150 different breeds. Each of these are divided into 7 different groups, and the miscellaneous class (those are dogs that
aren't fully recognized yet. Berners are part of the Working Group, which includes 25 different breeds. The group judge is looking for the dogs which are the best example of their breed standard. This is the section of the dog shows that you will usually see televised for special shows like The National Dog Show,
or Westminster. You don't see the hours and hours of individual breed
competition. When you hear someone say, “Ziggy took a Group 4”, it means that he took 4th place in the Working Group. This weekend, he took a Group 1, which means that he was 1st place in the Working Group.
So we're done, right? Not yet! Each of the seven 1st in group finishers goes on to compete for the coveted Best in Show title. Again, the BIS judge is looking for the best example of a dog's breed standard. So, the judge must keep a list in his or her head of how each dog compares to the ideal dog described in the standard. You can frequently see the judges use the palm of their hand to measure and compare physical proportion.
Dog shows can be confusing places, but don’t despair, they are a great day in the sun with beautiful dogs and charming and eccentric people that are in love with their sport. I am glad this sport is back on the mountain!!
Past AWMKC President