How a Dog Show Works


Dog shows are basically a process of elimination, with one dog being named Best In Show at the end of the day. See the chart, which illustrates the steps in this process. Along the way, some dogs accumulate points toward the title “AKC Champion.”

Championship Points
Most dogs in competition at conformation shows are competing for points toward their championship. It takes fifteen points, including two majors (wins of three, four, or five points) under at least three different judges to become an ACK “Champion of Record.” This is indicated by “Ch.” before the dog’s name.

At one show, a dog can earn from one to five points toward a championship title, depending on the number of males or females, actually in competition for the breed. (Male dogs are often referred to as dogs, while female dogs are referred to as bitches.)

Once the dog is a champion, it can compete for Best of Breed without having to win in the other classes.

Types of Classes
There are six different regular classes in which dogs may be entered. The following classes are offered for male and female dogs separately in each breed entered at the show.

PUPPY Six-to-nine or nine-to-twelve months.
NOVICE Never won a blue ribbon in any of the other classes, or has won less than three ribbons in the novice class.
BRED BY EXHIBITOR The exhibitor is also the breeder.
AMERICAN-BRED Dog’s parents mated in America and the dog was born in America.
OPEN Any dog of that breed.

After these classes are judged, all the dogs that won first place in the classes compete again to see who is the best of the winning dogs. This is also done separately for male and female dogs. Only the best male (Winners Dog) and the best female (Winners Bitch) receive championship points. (A Reserve Winner award is given in each sex to the runner-up.)

The Winners Dog and Winners Bitch then go on to compete with the champions for the title of BEST OF BREED. At the end of the Best of Breed Competition, three awards are usually given:

Best of Breed – the dog judged as the best in its breed category.

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

Best of Opposite Sex – the best dog that is the opposite sex of the Best of Breed winner.

Only the Best of Breed winners advance to compete in the group competition. Each AKC-recognized breed falls into one of seven group classifications. Four placements are awarded in each groupbut only the first-place winner advances to the Best In Show competition.

The Seven Groups In All-Breed Shows

Sporting – These dogs were bred to hunt game birds both on land and in the water. The breeds in this group include Pointers, Retrievers, Setters and Spaniels.

Hounds – Were used for hunting other game by sight or scent. These breeds include such dogs as Beagles, Bassets, Dachshunds and Greyhounds.

Working – These dogs were used to pull carts, guard property and for search and rescue. Among the breeds in this group are the Akita, Boxer, Doberman Pinscher and St. Bernard.

Terrier – This is the largest group, with breeds including the Airedale, Bull Terrier and Scottish Terrier. Terriers were bred to rid property of vermin such as rats.

Toy – These dogs were bred to be the prized companions of royalty. This group includes little dogs such as the Chihuahua, Maltese, Pomeranian and Pug.

Non-Sporting – This diverse group includes the Chow Chow, Bulldog, Dalmatian and Poodle. These dogs share attributes but don’t fit into the mold of other dog groups.

Herding – These dogs were bred to help shepherds and ranchers herd their livestock. Among this group are the Briard, Collie, German Shepherd Dog and Old English Sheepdog.

Finally the seven group winners are brought into the ring where they compete for BEST IN SHOW, the highest award at a dog show.


Each dog that receives an award is given a ribbon by the judge. The color of the ribbon denotes the type of award the dog has won.

Blue awarded for first place in any regular class. Also awarded for the winner of each group competition, usually in “rosette” form.
Red awarded for second place in each class. Also awarded for second place in each group competition, usually in “rosette” form.
Yellow awarded for third place in each class. Also awarded for third place in each group competition, usually in “rosette” form.
White awarded for fourth place in each class. Also awarded for fourth place in each group competition, usually in “rosette” form.
Purple awarded to the winners of the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch classes. Since these are the classes in which championship points are earned, they are highly coveted.
Purple and White awarded to the Reserve Winner, that is, the runner-up winner of the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch classes.
Blue and White awarded to the dog that wins Best of Winners, that is the best of Winners Dog and Winners Bitch winners.
Purple and Gold awarded to the dog judged “Best of Breed” in each breed competition. This is highly coveted, as it is the ticket to advance into the group competition.
Red and White awarded to the Best of Opposite Sex. This award is given to the best dog in the breed that is the opposite sex of the Best of Breed winner.
Red, White and Blue only one of these is awarded at the end of each show. It goes to the ultimate award winner, the Best In Show.

And be sure to learn all of the Dog Show lingo  – That way you too can confidently be a part of the event and join the conversations!

Dog Show Terminology
Dog Show Spectator Etiquette and Tips