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While watching a dog show on television or in person, many casual viewers find themselves completely mystified about aspects of the sport. But here are answers to four basic questions to give you a better understanding of dog shows.

Who Attends Dog Shows?

Most dog handlers you’ll see in the TV portion of the show are professionals. They’ve spent the year showing a “string” of dogs on behalf of the dogs’ owners. Among a pro handler’s responsibilities are the grooming, conditioning, transportation, and diet of their charges, often with the help of assistants. But some handlers you’ll see on TV are the dog’s owner and breeder. They’re technically “amateurs,” but there’s nothing amateurish about their expertise.

The dog show judges come from the ranks of breeders, amateur breeder-handlers, pro handlers, and dog club members. Many have played all these roles. Judges are AKC-approved and licensed, and the club that is sponsoring the dog show selects the judges.

Berger Picard – GCHS CH Double D’s Hidden Assets At Pur-Plesur CM

How Do Dogs Get Into the Dog Show?

Much has already been decided by the time you settle in with your popcorn and beverage of choice. During the day at the show, dogs compete for awards within their respective breeds. The coveted Best of Breed award entitles a dog to move on to the “group showing” you see on TV. Here, an overall winner in each of the AKC’s seven breed groups is determined. By the time your feet hit the ottoman, a vast entry has been winnowed down to just one dog of each breed.

How Are Different Breeds Judged?

The judge doesn’t compare dogs of different breeds to each other. The judge compares each dog to the breed standard of its particular breed. The breed standard is a written guide that emphasizes what features make the breed unique and what qualities it must possess to do the job it was created for, including physical characteristics and temperament. The AKC “parent club,” the national organization devoted to the breed, writes the standard and the AKC approves it. The standard is both the breeder’s “blueprint,” and the instrument by which a judge uses to evaluate a breeder’s work.

The American Kennel Club
Each dog is judged by how well it conforms to its breed standard. Biggie the Pug won the Toy Group at the AKC National Championship in 2018.

Why Can’t Mixed Breeds Compete in Dog Shows?

Showing dogs serves a purpose: the maintenance and improvement of the breeds. Beneath the glamour, competition, and showmanship, a dog show is essentially an exhibition of breeding stock. It’s a place where breeders gather to exhibit their stock and have it judged by an expert. As such, it would be pointless to hold conformation dog shows featuring mixed breeds, purebreds without pedigrees, and purebreds incapable of reproducing.

However, mixed breed dogs are welcome to enroll as canine partners and compete in sports other than conformation, including Agility, Fast CAT, and more!

The AKC National Championship, presented by Royal Canin, is the dog world’s biggest event of the year! Learn more about conformation and follow your favorite breeds at dog shows throughout the year. They might be competing for the coveted Best in Show title in December! 

Related article: How Does a Dog Win a Dog Show?
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