Raising a Champion, One Step at a Time

You know your dog is a champion, but how can you make it official? If the dog is a purebred and hasn’t been fixed, he or she can be entered into a dog show in North America.

According to the American Kennel Club — which has been around for more than 100 years and recognizes 173 dog breeds — dog shows are about dogs competing for points toward their AKC championships. In Canada, the points would go toward the Canadian Kennel Club championships (CKC.)

Your dog can be called a Champion of Record if it earns 15 points. Of those 15 points, at least two must be considered major wins (wins of three or more points by at least three different judges).

The number of championship points awarded at a show depends on the number of male dogs (dogs) and female dogs (bitches) competing in each breed.

The more entrants, the greater the number of points a dog can win. The maximum number of points awarded to a dog at any show is five points.

Dogs compete separately within their respective breeds in seven regular classes, which are further divided by gender. The classes are:

  • Puppy class: for dogs six to 12 months of age, who are not yet champions;
  • 12 to 18-months: for dogs in this age range who are not yet champions;
  • Novice class: for dogs six months of age and older who have not, before the date of closing of entries, won three first prizes in the Novice Class, a first prize in Bred-by-Exhibitor, American-bred or Open Classes, nor one or more points toward their championship.
  • Amateur-Owner-Handler class: for dogs at least six months of age who are not champions. Dogs must be handled in this class by their registered owner who must not, at any point in time, have worked as a professional dog handler, AKC-approved conformation judge, or an assistant to a professional handler.
  • Bred By Exhibitor class: for dogs who are not yet champions, exhibited by their owner and breeder.
  • American-Bred class: for dogs who are not yet champions, born in the United States from a mating which also took place in the U.S.
  • Open class: for any dog of the breed, at least six months of age.

After these classes are judged, the first-place winners — both male and female — compete again to see who is the “Best of the Winning Dogs.”

Only the best male (called the Winners Dog) and the best female (the Winners Bitch) receive championship points. The Winners Dog and Winners Bitch then compete with the champions for the Best of Breed award.

At the end of the Best of Breed Competition, three awards are usually given:

Best of Breed: given to the dog judged as the best in its breed category.

Best of Winners: given to the dog judged best of the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch.

Best of Opposite Sex: the best dog that is the opposite sex to the Best of Breed winner.

The ultimate prize is to have the dog named Best in Show at the end of a particular dog show. The prestigious title is handed out after a Group competition, in which the Best of Breed winners compete against other breeds in seven group classifications. The classifications are:

The Seven Groups in All-Breed Shows are:

  • Sporting: Bred to hunt game birds both on land and in the water, breeds include Pointers, Retrievers, Setters and Spaniels.
  • Hounds: Bred to hunt game by sight or scent, breeds include Beagles, Bassets, Dachshunds and Greyhounds.
  • Working: Bred to pull carts, guard property and perform search and rescue services, breeds include Akita, Boxer, Doberman pinscher and St. Bernard.
  • Terrier: Bred to rid property of vermin such as rats, breeds include Airedale, Cairn Terrier and Scottish Terrier.
  • Toy: This household companion group includes little dogs such as the Chihuahua, Maltese, Pomeranian and Pug.
  • Non-Sporting: A diverse group including the Chow Chow, Bulldog, Dalmatian and Poodle, these dogs vary in size and function, with many considered companion dogs.
  • Herding: Bred to help shepherds and ranchers herd their livestock, breeds include Briard, Collie, German shepherd and Old English Sheepdog.

The seven group winners are brought into the ring where they compete for Best In Show.

Every dog that wins an award at a show receives a ribbon: blue for first place in any regular class, red for second place, yellow for third place and white for fourth place.

Winners Dogs and Winners Bitch receive purple ribbons along with championships points, while runners-up receive purple and white ribbons.

Best of Breed winners receive purple and gold ribbons, while Best of the Opposite Sex winners get red and white ribbons.

The Best of Show winners receive a red, white and blue rosette and the best of group winner, in the different categories such as sporting dogs, non-sporting dogs, etc., receives a blue rosette. Second place is a red rosette, third is yellow and fourth is white.

Anyone interested in show dog competitions should contact their local kennel club. If the show ring is not your thing, clubs also offer obedience and agility classes.


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