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

Judging And Standards

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.

Benched Shows

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 allows for interaction of dogs and their owners with spectators and other owners and breeders as an educational process.

For the first time since 1991, the Westminster Kennel Club is offering competition for dogs that are not yet AKC champions. To become an AKC champion, a dog must win a total of 15 points in a number of shows. A dog can win as many as 5 points at any one show, depending on the number of dogs of the same sex entered in the classes. In those 15 points, a dog must win two majors, defined as at least 3 points, and those majors must be won under two different judges. To be eligible for entry in the classes at Westminster, a dog must have won at least one major in a previous AKC show. When a dog becomes a champion, it is eligible to be entered as a champion in the Best of Breed competition at any show and no longer needs to compete "in the classes."

The following classes are offered in each sex by the Westminster Kennel Club for dogs that are not yet AKC champions.

Bred By Exhibitor: For dogs that are handled by their owner and breeder.

American Bred: For dogs born in the United States from a breeding that occurred in the United States.

Open: For any dog of the breed.

In each sex, after these classes are judged, the dogs that won first place in a class compete again to see who is the best of the winning dogs. The male selected as the best of those class winners is Winners Dog (WD) and the female similarly selected is Winners Bitch WB). These dogs earn points toward their AKC championship title and then advance into the Best of Breed competition with the champions.

In the Best of Breed competition, the following awards are made by the judge:

Best of Breed (BOB) or Best of Variety (BOV): the dog judged as the best in its breed or variety. This dog advances to the Group.

Best of Winners (BOW): the dog judged as the better of the WD and WB

Best of Opposite Sex (BOS): the best of the dogs that are the opposite sex to the BOB winner

Grand Championship Points (GCH): With the addition of class entries, wins at Westminster awarded by the breed judge (Best of Breed, Best of Opposite Sex, Select Dog and Select Bitch) will win points towards the AKC's Grand Championship title. For details, see www.akc.org/grandchampionship.

Awards of Merit (AOM): At the discretion of the judge, an additional award made to outstanding entries that are not judged to be either BOB / BOV or BOS.


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).

Breeder: The owner of the dam (mother) when she was bred to produce this dog.

Breeder-Owner-Handler: An individual who bred, owns and handles that dog. 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.

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.

How The Judging Works

Competition at The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is held in three different levels. At each level, each competitor is judged in comparison to that breed's Standard (see above).

Judges select their winners based upon how close the dog comes to fitting this ideal as described in the Standard. Another important factor in the process is "judging on the day" as dogs, like most performers or athletes, may perform or "show" better on some days than others. This results in the sport's subjective basis: one judge, applying his or her interpretation of the Standard, giving his or her opinion on which of the entries may be the best dog on that particular day. Different judges may have different interpretations of the standard, and may have particular points that they feel are more important than others.

At Westminster, the first level of competition is in the Breed or Variety. There, one judge officiates over an entry that consists of dogs of only one breed. The entry may be only a few dogs or it could be many dogs (more than 40). The judge begins by judging the class dogs and selecting a Winner's Dog (WD) and then a Winner's Bitch (WB). Those dogs advance into the Best of Breed competition against the entered champions. From these dogs, the judge ultimately selects one as Best of Breed (BOB) or Best of Variety (BOV). The judge will also select a Best of Opposite Sex (BOS) winner, the Best of Winners (BOW) award, a Select Dog and a Select Bitch (see Grand Championship points above). Depending on the number of dogs in the entry, the judge may also, at their discretion, select winners of Awards of Merit for additional dogs of outstanding quality.

The BOB or BOV winner advances into the next level of competition, the Group. Currently, 190 breeds and varieties are recognized by the American Kennel Club and those are divided into seven different groups (Sporting, Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non-Sporting, Herding).

There, the Group judge examines all the dogs and chooses four placements, 1st through 4th. As before, only the Group winner advances. This takes place in each of the seven groups so that there are seven Group winners that advance into the final round of competition, Best in Show.

In the Best In Show competition, the judge will examine all seven finalists, first naming the Reserve Best In Show winner and then revealing their selection for the ultimate prize, Best In Show.


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.

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