About Dog Shows

The basic purpose of dog shows is to facilitate the evaluation of breeding stock for use in producing the next generations.


Each breed's parent club creates a STANDARD, a written description of the ideal specimen of that breed. Generally relating form to function, i.e., the original function that the dog was bred to perform, most standards describe general appearance, movement, temperament, and specific physical traits such as height and weight, coat, colors, eye color and shape, ear shape and placement, feet, tail, and more. Some standards can be very specific, some can be rather general and leave much room for individual interpretation by judges. This results in the sport's subjective basis: one judge, applying his or her interpretation of the standard, giving his or her opinion of the best dog on that particular day. Standards are written, maintained and owned by the parent clubs of each breed.


The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is one of the few benched dog shows in this country. Originally, most shows were "benched" in some fashion, where the entered dogs were required to be in assigned areas (on benches) at all times when not being judged in the ring. This allowed for interaction of dogs and their owners with spectators and other owners and breeders as an educational process.


SPORTING: These are gun dogs that were developed to assist the hunter, and generally have high energy and stable temperaments. Pointers and Setters point and mark the game, Spaniels flush the bird, Retrievers recover the game from land or water.

HOUND: Hounds were originally classified as Sporting dogs, but were assigned their own group in 1930. These dogs are hunters that bring down the game themselves, or hold it at bay until the hunter arrives, or locate the game by tracking it by scent. Sighthounds hunt by sight, Scenthounds by tracking with their superior olfactory senses.

WORKING: These dogs are generally intelligent and powerfully built, performing a variety of tasks, including guarding homes and livestock, serving as draft animals, and as police, military and service dogs.

TERRIER: "Terrier" comes from the Latin word, terra (ground) as these determined and courageous dogs must be small enough and agile enough to "go to ground" to pursue their quarry (rats, foxes, and other vermin). All but the Australian Terrier and the Miniature Schnauzer were developed in the United Kingdom.

TOY: Toy dogs were bred to be companions for people. They are full of life and spirit and often resemble their larger cousins (e.g., Pomeranian as a Nordic breed, the Papillon a little Spaniel, and the Toy Poodle the smallest variety of the Poodle).

NON-SPORTING: The AKC originally registered dogs as either Sporting or Non-Sporting. Hounds and Terriers split off the Sporting Group, Toys and Working from the Non-Sporting, and later, Herding from the Working Group. The remaining dogs, with a great diversity of traits not fitting any of the above, comprise the Non-Sporting Group.

HERDING: This group split off from the Working Group in 1983. Herding is a natural instinct in dogs, and their purpose is to serve ranchers and farmers by moving livestock from one place to another.


BEST OF BREED (BOB): The dog selected or the award made by a judge to that dog chosen as the best representative of the Breed. Similarly, Best of Variety (BOV) is the same award given to the best representative of a Variety exhibited that day (see VARIETY). In either case, those dogs selected BOB and those selected BOV each advance to their groups.

BEST OF OPPOSITE SEX (BOS): The dog selected as the best in competition of the opposite sex of the BOB or BOV winner. This dog does not advance.

VARIETY: A division of a breed based on coat, color, or size. For example, Poodles (size: Standard, Miniature, Toy), Cocker Spaniels (color: Black, Parti-color, ASCOB); Collies (coat: Rough, Smooth).

AWARD OF MERIT: At the discretion of the judge, an additional award made to outstanding entries that are not judged to be either BOB / BOV or BOS.

BEST IN SHOW (BIS): The award or the dog selected from among the seven finalists as the best dog among all entries.

CHAMPION: A title or the dog that has earned a certain number of points (15) in competition with wins in AKC shows. A dog must be a champion to enter Westminster.

BREEDER: The owner of the dam when she was bred to produce the dog.

BREEDER-OWNER-HANDLER: An individual who bred, owns and handles that dog. Similarly, an Owner-Handler is someone who handles a dog that they also own.

BREEDER-JUDGE: Someone licensed to judge dogs of their breed.

PROFESSIONAL HANDLER: Someone who handles a dog for a fee.

ALL ROUNDER: An individual licensed to judge every breed.

STANDARD: The written description of the traits and movement of the ideal specimen of a breed, generally based on form and function. Each parent club creates and maintains their breed standard. Judges are to judge dogs by comparing them to the standard for their breed.

CONFORMATION: The structure and physical characteristics of a dog.

STACK: The pose itself or the posing of the dog by a handler in its natural stance.

GAIT: The action of movement of the dog. Generally speaking, a sound and balanced gait usually indicates proper conformation and structure.

BREED TYPE: The manifestation of those unique traits and characteristics of a dog that distinguish it as a particular breed.

BENCHED SHOW: A show where dogs are required to be on assigned benches while not being shown. This allows all concerned - spectators, breeders, handlers and owners - the opportunity to interact, ask questions, and share information about the various breeds.

LIMITED ENTRY: Where the entry is governed by certain parameters set by the club, such as total number of dogs or champions only; or in Junior Showmanship, a certain number of qualifying wins for the handler.

CATALOG: The compilation by breed of all dogs entered in the show, listing armband numbers, birthdates, sire and dam, breeders and owners.


About 600 creative writers, editors, publishers, artists and photographers around the world belong to the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA). Founded in 1935, the DWAA historically has held its annual meeting the weekend of Westminster. DWAA's annual writing competition culminates at the awards banquet held on Westminster Eve when talented winners are presented with a Maxwell medallion, named for its late renowned member and president, Maxwell Riddle. The organization's newsletter, The Write Dog, gives writing tips and keeps members informed of activities. For more information on DWAA, see

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