Dog Show Terminology

I would never let you venture out to your first dog show without helping you understand some of the lingo! As with any sport, there are certain phrases and terms specific to showing dogs and below is a list of some of the most common.

Terms Often Used To Describe A Specific Dog or Line of Dogs

DOG: A two-fold word. This word is generic when it refers, for example, to the number of animals entered at the show. In reference to the sex of an animal, a “dog” is a male.

BITCH: A female canine.

ANGULATION : Angles created by bones meeting at their given joints.

GAIT: The pattern of footsteps at various rates of speed, each pattern distinguished by a particular rhythm and footfall.

SOUNDNESS: Refers to the mental and physical well-being.

EXPRESSION: The general appearance of all the features of the head.

TYPE – The sum of qualities that distinguish dogs of one breed (breed type) or dogs from one kennel (kennel type) from others.

PEDIGREE: The written record of a dog’s family tree of three generations or more.

General Dog Show Terms:

CLUB: The membership is comprised of like-minded people whose primary interest is in dogs and their welfare, promoting pure-bred dogs, and the competition in the ring. When you see the words “kennel club” or “dog club” or “dog fanciers association” in a club name it usually denotes an interest in conformation. When you see the words “training club” or “obedience trial club” or “agility” in a club’s name it usually denotes members with an interest in Obedience or Agility.

AKC DOG SHOW: This is an event Licensed or Sanctioned by the American Kennel Club. A kennel club must have their event approved by AKC in order to be able to award AKC points toward a dog’s championship.

SUPERINTENDENT: These individuals/organizations are in business to help clubs produce and manage their events. They are the club’s agent in the production of the club’s dog show.

RING: The area where you will exhibit your dog. This area is reserved strictly for the actual showing of your dog. It is NOT a practice area. You may see an empty ring during the day. This may not indicate that judging is over for that ring, it may be because the judge is having a lunch break, or it may be a ring that will be used at the time the Groups are to be judged.

AKC CHAMPION: In order to become an AKC Champion of Record a dog must obtain 15 points. Within the 15 points there must be two “major” wins under two different judges.

POINTS: In order to become a breed Champion your dog must amass a certain number points. Points are figured on the number of dogs/bitches entered that actually compete on that day and how many you have defeated with your win. There are also requirements for “major” wins under two separate judges. Points are awarded at the Winners level. The point schedule for each division is listed in the show catalog.

FINISHED: When you hear someone say their dog has just “finished” this usually means that with their win that day the dog has completed the requirements for its Championship.

TITLE: There are a number of titles offered in the various AKC events, each indicating the dog’s achievement at various levels.

JUDGING PROGRAM: In the judging program you will see numbers in parentheses after the breed names. These numbers are translated as follows:

If you see, for example, LC Chihuahuas (10-14-4-3) this means there are 10 dogs, 14 bitches, 4 dog specials (champions) and 3 bitch specials (champions).

Exhibitors use this information to help them determine whether there will be points within their entry. Since judging programs are written immediately after the entries close, before any proofing or corrections are done, the numbers in the schedule could have some discrepancies between the time the program is written and the catalog is produced. If you are looking for an elusive point or a major and the totals are borderline you may call the superintendent’s office a few days before the show to verify the total number of dogs or bitches. You are not permitted to find out, however, how many dogs or bitches are in your specific class.

WINNERS: The first-place winners in each of the regular classes compete for Winners. At the end of the dog classes Winners Dog and Reserve Winners Dog are chosen. At the end of the bitch classes Winners Bitch and Reserve Winners Bitch are chosen. The Winners Dog and Winners Bitch compete in the Best of Breed Competition for that breed at that show and compete against each other to determine the Best of Winners award. Championship points are awarded at the Winners level. If one goes Best of Winners or if it goes Best of Breed or Best of Opposite Sex from the classes it could affect the number of points it may get.

Best in Show: At an all-breed show, the only dog left undefeated at the end of all judging on that day.

Best of Breed: Dog selected by the judge as the best representative of a particular breed on that day.

Best of Opposite Sex: The best dog that is of the opposite sex to the Best of Breed winner.

Best of Variety: At an All-Breed show, the award that is given in lieu of Best of Breed for those breeds divided by varieties. At specialty shows, the Best of Variety winners are judged in the Best of Breed competition. There are nine breeds that are divided into varieties: Cockers, Beagles, Collies, Dachshunds, Bull Terriers, Manchester Terriers, Chihuahuas, English Toy Spaniels, and Poodles.

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

TROPHY TABLE: Located in the club area, this table has a display of certain trophies offered that day. Usually trophies are awarded in the ring. However, sometimes you will receive a trophy card in the ring at the time you receive your award. The card will usually note the award. Take that card to the trophy table and give it to the person manning it. They may ask you to sign the card at the time they give you the trophy.

CATALOG: Each club must produce a show catalog. This book contains information about the showgiving club, a copy of the judging schedule and championship point schedule for that area and specific information about each dog entered and an index of the owners’ addresses in the back of the catalog. Some catalogs feature the owners’ addresses with the entry information. They are usually available at the club tables; sometimes the club also sells them at the admittance gates.

ARMBAND: The number worn on an exhibitor’s left arm that corresponds to the number in the event catalog and the judge’s book. This number is the identifier that links the dog in the ring to that dog’s information as published in the catalog. The number is also used to associate any points, awards, or placements with the dog’s AKC registration number.

STACKING: The process of posing a dog’s legs and body to create a pleasing profile. In the case of Chihuahuas, they are stacked on a table for the judge’s inspection as well as taught self stacking while on the ground.

BAITING: When a handler or exhibitor uses food or another oject to focus the dog’s attention or to have it look alert in the ring.

LEAD – The equipment used to lead the dog around a show ring. Can be a thin piece of material (leather, nylon, cotton, etc.) usually with a metal snap or clip connector on one end to attach to the dog’s collar, and a loop on the other end for the handler to hold.

JUNIOR SHOWMANSHIP: This is a way for youngsters ages 9-18 to participate and compete against each other. In Junior Showmanship the handling abilities of the junior handler are judged, not the merits of the dog.

CLASSES: Another two-fold word. You enter your dog in one of the classes in order to be judged. For example, if you have a puppy, you may want to enter it in the Puppy Class. Puppy Classes are sometimes divided by age (6 months and under 9 months; 9 months and under 12 months). Once a dog has reached 12 months of age it is no longer considered a puppy. Classes may refer to the regular or non-regular offerings at the show. The “regular” classes that may be offered at a show are: Puppy, 12-18, Novice, Bred-by-Exhibitor, American-Bred, Open. Sometimes the word refers those judged prior to Best of Breed.

MATCH SHOW: There are no points available at these events. Clubs are required to have matches on their way to being approved. These types of matches are run like a point show and demonstrate the club’s ability to perform the duties required of a point show. A fun match is simply that: fun. Matches are good practice for you and your dog as well. This is an excellent way for you to understand judging procedure and your dog to be in a show situation. At a match you usually enter your dog that day and get your armband at the entry desk.

Terms Used To Describe The Participants in a Dog Show

EXHIBITOR: One who is involved in bringing a dog to a show and entering it in the appropriate class.

FANCIER: One who is especially interested and usually active in some phase of the sport of purebred dogs.

HANDLER: A person or agent who takes a dog into the show ring or works a dog at a field trial or other performance event.

PROFESSIONAL HANDLER: A person who conditions, trains and exhibits dogs for a fee.

JUDGE: Official approved by the AKC to evaluate dogs at specific AKC events. Judges examine the dogs and place them in accordance to how close each dog compares with their mental image of the “perfect” dog as described in the breed’s official standard. These standards include qualifications for structure, temperament and movement. In short, they describe the characteristics that allow the breed to perform the function for which it was bred.

The judges are experts in the breeds they are judging. They examine or “go over” each dog with their hands to see if the teeth, muscles, bones and coat texture match the standard. They examine each dog in profile for general balance, and watch each dog gait, or move, to see how all of those features fit together in action.

JUNIOR HANDLER: Person between the ages of 10 and 18 who competes in an AKC-sponsored class called Junior Showmanship. Junior handlers are judged on their ability to show and handle their dog, not on the quality of the dog.

RING STEWARD: A judge’s assistant who coordinates exhibitors and dogs entering and exiting the ring

How a Dog Show Works
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