The Dog Show: A Newcomer’s Guide to Dog Shows

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By: CertaPet Staff Updated: December 10, 2020

dog show

Dog shows are a great way for pet parents to show of their furry friends!

A Look at the Different Types of Dog Shows 

Does your dog love to strut their stuff? Dog shows are a great way for pet owners can show off their puppers to the world. The American Kennel Club (AKC for short) recognizes three types of dog shows—all-breed, specialty, and group shows.

As the name suggests, an all-breed dog show will generally include over 175 participants, where each dog is a specific breed.

Specialty dog shows are shows where the participating dogs belong to either the same breed category or the same family. For example, a specialty show can involve any dog that is a member of the Spitz-family dog breed.

Finally, group dog shows are reserved for puppers that belong to a single AKC category of dogs. For instance, the AKC could have a group show which is specific to hound dog breeds only! As a result, just dog breeds that belong to the hound category will be eligible to compete.


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Breaking It Down: The Groups in Best Show 

The American Kennel Club states that there are precisely 7 groups dog enthusiasts can register their furry-friend in. These groups are categorized based on the specific dog breed’s purpose. The groups include:

  1. Sporting Group
  2. Hound Group
  3. Working Group
  4. Terrier Group
  5. Toy Group
  6. Non-Sporting Group
  7. Herding Group

The Sporting Group

The sporting group consists of Spaniels, Retrievers, and Pointers. Dog breeds belonging to this class are often alert, agile, and have a high prey drive. The Cocker Spaniel, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, and German Shorthaired Pointer are just some of the dog breeds that are classed under the sporting group.

The Hound Group

One of the most distinctive features present in dogs belonging to the hound group is their keen sense of smell. Hound dogs are ancient types of dog breeds that are well-known for not just their hunting abilities, but also their incredible sense of smell and tracking skills.

Many dog breeds fall into this category, a few of these include the Basenji, Beagle, Afghan Hound, Irish Wolfhound, and Pharaoh Hound.

Working Dogs

The third class of show dog group is the “working dogs”. As the name suggests, dogs belonging to the working group were built for guarding, protecting, and pulling carts, etc.

Dogs that fall into this category will not only have a strong protective nature, but they will be incredibly muscular and sturdy. Some dog breeds that are classed as working dogs include the Alaskan Malamute, Doberman Pinscher, Great Dane, and Cane Corso.

The Terrier Group

Dogs that fall under the fourth category—the Terrier group—all tend to share one common feature, that is, they are highly energetic dog breeds.

Terrier dog breeds were designed to hunt small animals, in particular, vermin like rats and mice. A few dog breeds that fall into this category include the Airedale Terrier, Border Terrier, Bull Terrier, and Irish Terriers.

dog shows

The Toy Group

According to the AKC, the toy group belongs to a select few dog breeds who are known for their friendly and loving personalities.

Dog breeds classed as toy dogs will have a small stature but big personality. Some classic toy breed dogs include the Affenpinscher, Chihuahua, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and Maltese.

The Non-Sporting Group

The non-sporting dog group is an umbrella term which can describe an array of dog breeds. The non-sporting group can include dogs of all different shapes and sizes.

Dogs that fall under this category are often pets that make great companions and watchdogs. Dogs that fall under the non-sporting group include the Bichon Frise, Coton de Tulear, the Chow Chow, Dalmation, and Boston Terrier.

Herding Dogs

As the name implies, herding dogs are a type of dog breed who have a natural inclination to control other animals. These dogs are not hunters or trackers. Instead, these dogs have a unique ability to control the movement of livestock.

Dog breeds that fall under the herding category include the Bearded Collie, Australian Cattle Dog, and Old English Sheepdog.


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Only For AKC Breeds? Can Any Dog Take Part? 

If you’ve got a mixed breed dog, then showing them at an American Kennel Club dog show will be impossible. The purpose of dog shows held by the AKC is to establish and judge dog breeds based on standards such as their purpose, their personality, and physical traits. As a mixed dog breed has no official set standards, they cannot compete in dog shows set by the AKC.

3 Tips to Get You (and Your Dog) Ready for the World of Dog Showing 

  1. Do you want to show your furry friend? If you’d like to get started then consider joining some local showing clubs in your area. This will not only help you understand a show dogs requirements, but it will help you learn more about your dog’s competitors.
  2. Dog shows aren’t just about how pretty your pooch is! Many show judges will judge your dog’s behavior and how you handle your dog.
  3. If you’re new to the world of dog showing, then you’ve got a lot of grooming to do! Dogs entering the show need to be in tip-top condition. In other words, they need to be well-groomed at all times.

A Step by Step Guide to the Show Process

Enrolling your pooch into a showing competition will require a lot of hard work and training. According to the AKC, to be eligible for competition, your dog must be registered with the American Kennel Club. All dogs entering the any AKC competitions must be unfixed (not spayed or neutered), and they must be a purebred.

When a purebred dog qualifies for competition, they will be presented to judges who are termed as experts in a specific breed.

Many competitors may hire trainers or individual handlers to show their dog for them.

The American Kennel Club conformation dog shows can be further broken down into different categories. These include: Best of Breed, Best of Winners, and Best of Opposite Sex.

Throughout the competition, dogs have the opportunity to acquire points from competing in different classes.

Dogs that compete for the Best of Breed class may have the opportunity to be awarded Grand Champion points.

The 9 Classes in a Dog Show

Within a show, male and female dogs can compete at different classes for their breed type. There are approximately nine classes dogs can compete in. These are:

  1. Puppy class: All puppies in this class must be between 6 to 12 months of age.
  2. Six-to-Nine class: All dogs in this class must be between 6 to 9 months of age.
  3. Twelve-to-Fifteen class: All dogs in this class must be between 12 to 15 months of age.
  4. Fifteen to Eighteen class: All dogs must be between 15 to 18 months of age.
  5. Novice: Is a class reserved for dogs who are above 6 months of age.
  6. Amateur-Owner-Handler: Is a class for dogs 6 months and older. In this class, all dogs must be handled by their owners.
  7. Bred by Exhibitor: Is a class for dogs who shall be exhibited by an owner or breeder.
  8. American Bred: Is a class devoted to dogs who were born and bred in the United States of America.
  9. Open class: Is a class where any dog breed above the age of 6 months can compete.

dog show rules

Find a Show Near You! 

Do you think your pup is ready to compete?

The Kennel Club’s database offers a range of credible shows occurring across the United States. There are many shows provided by the Kennel Club, some of these include shows for flyball, agility, and even obedience training.


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The Westminster Dog Show is the Ultimate Challenge!  

No doubt, the Westminster Dog Show is perhaps the most popular of all shows. Like the National Dog Show held in the United States, the Westminster Dog Show is a conformation all-breed show, where participants for every dog breed can attend.

Other Dog Shows Worth Mentioning! 

Maybe you’re not into fancy shows such as the Westminster competition! Don’t worry there are plenty of other fun shows worth participating in!

The Fun Dog Show is perfect for every dog owner!  This competition has classes where dogs can compete for Most Awesome Eyes, Gorgeous Golden Oldie, Dogs with a Disability, and more!

The National Dog Show   

The National Dog Show is a conformation competition which is held once a year during Thanksgiving. Competitors of this type show only consist of purebred dog breeds.

Beverly Hills Dog Show       

The Beverly Hills Dog Show is reserved for purebred dog breeds that compete for a Best in Show title.

Saving the Best for Last: The Rescue Dog Show

Although the AKC only allows purebred dogs to enter dog show competitions, there are a few select shows that support rescue dogs of all breeds.

The American Rescue Dog Show was created to help shelter dogs of all breeds, purebred or mixed. Any pup can compete at this event for titles such as the world’s most adorable dog. To learn more about the Rescue Dog Show of America, make sure you check out the Hallmark Channel for more info.

rescue dog show


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