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Best of Breed: CH Kwetu Pb's Power Play (Player), Rhodesian Ridgeback; Hound Group judging at the 2018 AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin, Orlando, FL.
©American Kennel Club

You and your dog have been training and practicing, you sent in your entry fees, and now, you’re getting ready to go to a dog show. Before you go, it’s crucial to know what to wear to a dog show.

Picking your outfit will depend on the sport you are competing in. The most essential thing is ensuring that you’re comfortable and able to bend and move. It’s also important to make sure you aren’t wearing any articles of clothing with profanity or any inappropriate slogans or pieces of information.

Conformation Fashion Etiquette

Conformation handlers usually dress more formally than competitors in other AKC sports. However, there aren’t any rules or regulations that define the expected attire for exhibitors, other than the fact that exhibitors can’t wear badges, clothing, jackets, or other garments in the ring that would identify an individual, their kennel name, or their dog. Many conformation events promote casual themes, especially if the shows take place in the summer or outdoors. Pantsuits and skirt suits are popular choices, along with any outfit with pockets to store bait in. Pick an outfit that makes you feel confident and allows you to move comfortably so you can show off your dog’s best attributes.

©American Kennel Club

We recommend wearing a color that contrasts with your dog’s coat. This way, the judge will be able to see the dog easily. It can also be helpful to wear clothing that doesn’t distract or draw the judge’s attention away from your dog. Your outfit should be functional because you’ll need to run in the ring with your dog, kneel, and bend down. You should be able to move comfortably (and avoid any wardrobe malfunctions) while performing these activities.

When picking what to wear, it’s also important to secure jewelry, hats, vests, scarves, and anything that’s dangling away from the dog. You want to make sure your dog has a clear view and that the judge can clearly see your dog.

When it comes to shoes, wear what works for you and your overall comfort while moving in the ring. For many handlers, that may be sneakers, while others prefer loafers or ballet flats. Remember that show floors can be slippery, so opt for shoes with good traction.

David Woo ©American Kennel Club

Wardrobe Etiquette for Companion and Performance Sports

In some companion and performance sports, handlers’ outfits may be up to their personal preferences. Usually, handlers competing in these sports dress more casually than they do in conformation. In general, the more active the handler will be, the more casual and comfortable their clothing is likely to be. One common exception to this is for conformation handlers who have to go quickly between rings at the same show. They may choose to wear a more formal outfit for the entire day. Here are some of our tips on deciding what to wear for a variety of dog sports.

Obedience and AKC Rally

The official clothing requirements for obedience and AKC Rally state that “club clothing, AKC event clothing, or breed clothing may be worn by anyone exhibiting a dog or by ring stewards.” The regulations for obedience and AKC Rally also explain that “clothing may display the person’s name, the dog’s call name, and/or the dog’s picture.” However, your clothing can’t be in poor taste, feature profanity, include any titles your dog has won, or have any information that could conflict with a trial sponsor.

Rally judge Mrs. Carolyn Wray; 2019 Rally National Championship, held March 15-17, at the Tulsa Expo Center, Tulsa, OK.
Photo by Pix 'n Pages ©American Kennel Club

Many competitors wear casual shirts, often dog-themed, and casual slacks or nice jeans when competing in these sports. You and your dog are a team, and you want to compliment your dog by looking nice while also being comfortable enough so you can move through the exercises and signs with confidence. To improve your ability to move smartly, you’ll want to wear clean and comfortable sneakers.


Because Agility handlers are actively running, comfort is key. Most competitors wear athleisure, jeans, or other casual options when competing. Like other sports, handlers can wear clothing that shows their dog, breed, the handler’s name, and the dog’s call name and breed. However, you can’t display titles earned. The Agility regulations specify that “writing or graphics on the clothing must not be in poor taste or contain profanity.” Clothing also can’t include any information that could conflict with a trial sponsor.

2023 AKC Agility Premier Cup held on July 8 in Columbus, OH.

Wearing appropriate footwear is also very important. Depending on the surface (common ones are turf, grass, or dirt), you may want to consider different types of running shoes for traction.

Fast CAT

The regulations for Fast CAT do not include specific information on handler clothing. As with all dog sports, we recommend avoiding clothing that’s in “poor taste” or that displays profanity. Because Fast CAT is an active outdoor sport, most handlers wear comfortable, weather-appropriate clothing that is easy to move in.

AKC Fastest Dogs USA held on September 16, 2022 in Kannapolis, North Carolina at the Atrium Health Ballpark, where breeds of all sizes raced across the finish line in the Fast CAT competition.
Rally judge Mrs. Carolyn Wray; 2019 Rally National Championship, held March 15-17, at the Tulsa Expo Center, Tulsa, OK.

AKC Scent Work

David ©American Kennel Club

When competing in AKC Scent Work, most handlers dress casually. Your clothing can include a dog’s call name and picture and can be related to a club or an AKC event. AKC Scent Work regulations specify that exhibitor clothing “must not be in poor taste or contain profanity. If there is a question, this determination is made by the judge.” In this sport, you’ll be actively moving and may be outdoors, so wearing weather-appropriate and comfortable clothes is essential.
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Canine Good Citizen (CGC)

This program is recognized as the gold standard for dog behavior. In CGC, dogs who pass the 10 step CGC test can earn a certificate and/or the official AKC CGC title.
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