A Quick Lesson about Dog Shows



There are three types of conformation dog shows: Specialty, Group and All-Breed.
Specialty shows are limited to dogs of a specific breed or “varieties” of a breed; for example, the Dachshund Club of America is for Dachshunds only and would include longhair, smooth, and wirehair (the three Dachshund Varieties).

Group shows are limited to dogs from one of the seven groups; for example, the Inland Empire Hound Club of Southern California can put on shows that are for hound breeds only.

All-breed shows, on the other hand, are open to over 147 breeds recognized by the AKC.


Dog shows are basically a process of elimination, with one dog being named Best in Show at the end of the day. Along the way, some dogs accumulate points toward the title “AKC Champion.”


Most dogs in competition at conformation shows are competing for points toward their championship. It takes fifteen points under at least three different judges to become an AKC “Champion of Record.” This is indicated by “CH.” before the dog’s name. Two of the dogs’ wins must be majors (wins of three, four or five points).

At one show, a dog can earn from one to five points toward a championship title, depending on the number of males or females actually in competition for that breed. (Male dogs are referred to as dogs, while females are referred to as bitches.)

Once the dog or bitch is a champion, it can compete for Best of Breed (or Best of Variety) without having to win in the lower classes.


PUPPY – Six to nine months of age or nine to twelve months of age that are not yet champions.

TWELVE TO EIGHTEEN MONTHS – Twelve to eighteen months of age that are not yet champions.

NOVICE – Is for dogs or bitches six months of age and over, which have not, prior to 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, and have not yet earned any points toward their Championships.

BRED BY EXHIBITOR – The person handling the dog in the ring was one of the breeders and is still one of the owners.

AMERICAN-BRED – Dog’s parents were mated in the USA and the dog was born in the United States.

OPEN – Any dog of that breed can show in this class.

After the above classes are judged, all the dogs that have won a first place in the classes compete again to see who is the best of the 1st place winning dogs. This is done separately for dogs and bitches. Only the best male (Winners Dog) and the best female (Winners Bitch) receive championship points. A Reserve Winners award is given in each sex to the runner-up. (Points will only go to the Reserve Winner’s Dog or Reserve Winners Bitch if Winner’s Dog, or Winner’s Bitch is deemed ineligible for the win).

The Winners Dog and Winners Bitch then go on to compete with the Champions for the title of Best of Breed (or Best of Variety). At the end of the Best of Breed Competition, three awards are usually given:

BEST OF BREED (or BEST OF VARIETY) – The dog judged as the best in it’s breed category.

Best of Winners – The dog judged as best between the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch.

Best of Opposite Sex – The best canine that is not the same sex as the Best of Breed Winner.

Only the Best of Breed winners advance to compete in the Group Competition. Each AKC recognized breed falls into one of the seven group classifications, Sporting, Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding. Four placements are awarded in each group, but only the first-place winner advances to the Best in Show competition.

When you see a “CH” in front of a dog’s name you now know how it earned the title.