Dog Shows

I started to show in American Kennel Club conformation shows in 1998. AKC is the best known registry in the United States. It was the only club I was familiar with at the time. Many people consider AKC shows to be the gold standard when it comes to conformation shows.

When I first became aware of other show giving entities I didn’t give them much thought. However, over time, I have educated myself in the differences in other show giving organizations.

AKC conformation shows are the ones you will see televised, such as Westminster and the National dog show. A lot of time and attention is devoted to the handler and the dog trying to present the picture of perfection in their breed. It is not a causal affair! Not only are there the owner-handlers, but there are paid professional handlers that may show many breeds in the various groups. The AKC has grown over the years and added more events and the eventual inclusion of mixed breed dogs in performance events. The AKC is a club of clubs and has many licensed clubs around the country.

The United Kennel Club is the second oldest registry in the United States. Its original focus was on the all-around dog, or what is now referred to as the “Total Dog.” To earn that designation the dog must compete not only in conformation but in at least one of the performance events. The emphasis is on the natural look and abilities and original purpose of each breed. To that end, at UKC shows, there are no paid, professional handlers, no grooming areas and the only product allowed on a dog is brushing spray. You can’t even bring a brush or comb into the ring. The shows are usually all day affairs. It is not unusual to have parents and children all exhibiting their dogs. The entries in many individual breeds are usually low, but overall it makes for a full day. It is common to have a performance event, such as a Rally trial at the same time as a conformation show. In doing so, exhibitors can compete for Total Dog. There are two consecutive shows each day so you have an opportunity to earn points at 4 shows in 2 days. Most shows allow you to enter up to and including the day of the show. UKC seems to recognize more breeds than AKC and accepts new breeds into their registry sooner than AKC.

The International All Breed Canine Association has far fewer shows than AKC and UKC. Their shows are also all day events. At a typical show there will be judges from the US and from other countries. I like these shows because after you show, you sit down with the judge and they present a written critique of your dog. It is interesting to hear what each judge thinks and why they placed your dog as they did. Also, at IABCA shows each dog is judged against the standard and given a numerical score. It is possible for more than one dog to earn points towards their champion title in each show. They also run 2 shows per day, for 2 days. The downfall seems to be that after you earn a title, you have to pay another fee.

Since UKC and IABCA shows are all day endeavors you have a chance to see all the breeds being shown and to try to follow what the judge sees in the dogs they pick. You have a chance to learn more about other breeds and you meet owners of other breeds. There is usually one UKC and IABCA judge per show, so they will judge all the breeds. I like to see a judge refer to their book of breed standards before each breed in order to refresh themselves on the standard. It would be very difficult to remember the fine points of each breed.

I will admit that I started off as an AKC snob. I thought that anyone who showed at other shows must have a dog that wouldn’t be competitive against dogs at AKC shows. Curiosity finally got the best of me and I started to do my research. I couldn’t really judge without participating so I entered UKC and IABCA shows and found that I enjoyed them. My intention in showing in conformation was to do it as a hobby and I enjoy the socialization aspect of being with other “dog” people at all the different shows. The titles on my dogs are icing on the cake because I get to spend a day out with my dog!

The bottom line is - enjoy your dog!!!

Below: Milo and his ribbons from a UKC show