Monday, April 8, 2013

Dog Show 101

Hubby and I spent most of the weekend at dogs shows. I am NOT an expert in this area (I'm not even a novice really) yet I found myself explaining things to people who knew less than me. Here is some of the stuff I think newbies need to know to enjoy the show.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) has different types of dog shows -- Agility, Conformation, Field Trails, Obedience, Rally, and Tracking being the big six. Today I'm talking about Conformation, where dogs run around the ring and are judged as to how well they "conform" to the breed standard. Thanks to the televising of Westminster Kennel Club's annual dog show, most people are familiar with this type of show.

Conformation shows come in different varieties: the Specialty Show and the All Breed Show. Hubby and I attended both this weekend. (Apparently there is also a Multi-Breed Show -- more than one breed but less than an all breed -- but I've never seen one.)

On Friday the German Shepherd Dog Club of North Florida held two specialty shows, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. These shows were only open to German shepherds. The dogs were separated into Dogs (males) or Bitches (females) and entered into different classifications:
  • Puppy, 6-9 months
  • Puppy, 9-12 months
  • Puppy, 12-18 months
  • Novice (for dogs over 6 months old that haven't won first place more than twice)
  • Bred By Exhibitor (for dogs being shown by the person who bred, owns and handles it)
  • American Bred (for dogs bred in the United States)
  • Open (for all eligible dogs over 6 months old)
A dog can be entered in only one class per show, and handlers put a lot of thought into which class they choose. Chances are that the Open class will be the largest and most competitive group, so handlers often choose a smaller class if available.

The males went first. (Males always show first.) The judge carefully examined each dog. She had them run around the ring together and separately so she could look at the dogs' gait and movement. She also put her hands on each dog, checking teeth, testicles and everything in between. The judge compared each dog to the breed standard, which she must know by heart. (FYI: The breed standard for German shepherds is here.) The winner of each class was brought back into the ring to determine the Winners Dog. Then the judge did the same thing with the females to determine the Winners Bitch. Winners Dog and Winners Bitch both received points towards their championship title. (Points can be confusing. I'll try to explain them in another post.)

Afterwards, the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch were brought back into the ring. They were joined by dogs of both sexes who have already received their championship title. All these dogs competed for the title Best of Breed (BOB). Best of Opposite Sex (BOS) was given to the best dog of the opposite sex of the BOB. The Winners Dog and Winners Bitch also competed to determine who was the Best of Winners (BOW). By the way, it is possible for the BOW to be BOB or BOS as well.

A specialty show stops here. However, in an All-Breed show BOB competitions are going on in multiple rings for every breed. At the end of the day each BOB winner competes with the other dogs of his respective Group (Sporting, Hound, Working, Toy, Non-Sporting or Herding). The Group winners then compete for Best in Show.

The Greater Orange Park Dog Club held All-Breed shows on both Saturday and Sunday. Over 800 dogs competed simultaneously in six separate rings. It was fun and exciting to watch, though we didn't stay to see Best in Show. We were tired and none of club members made BOB for German shepherds.

For more info on Dog Showing, I recommend The Absolute Guide to Showing Your Dog by Cheryl S. Smith. I got this book several years ago and read it cover to cover. I still refer to it when I get confused -- which is pretty often! Did you learn something or did I just make it worse? Either way, I hope to see you at the next show! -- K