Friday, April 3, 2015

C -- Conformation Shows

The American Kennel Club has many 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 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. (Please note: This is conformation, with an O, not confirmation, with an I.)

Conformation shows come in different varieties. A Specialty Show is a dog show of only one breed, given by a Specialty Club. An All-Breed Show is a dog show where all (or almost all) the different purebred breeds are being shown and judged simultaneously. A Limited-Breed Show has more than one breed but less than an all breed (i.e. a Herding Club hosts a show for all the herding breeds). Matches are practice dog shows for new dogs and dog handlers. Matches are run like regular dog shows but no points are awarded towards championship. Regardless of show variety, they always start out the same.

The dogs are separated into Dogs (males) or Bitches (females) and entered into different classes:
  • Puppy, 6 to under 9 months
  • Puppy, 9 to under 12 months
  • Puppy, 12 to under 18 months
  • Bred By Exhibitor (for dogs being shown by the person who bred, owns and handles it)
  • American Bred (for dogs bred and born in the United States)
  • Open (for all eligible dogs over 6 months old)

A dog is entered in only one class per show, and handlers must put a lot of thought into which class they choose. The Open class is the largest and most competitive group, so novice handlers (like me!) often choose a smaller class if available. Handlers will also choose different classes if they have multiple dogs to show. For example, a friend has two adult females of the same breed; one is shown in Open, the other in American Bred.

Males always show first. The judge carefully examines each dog. She has them run around the ring together and separately so she can look at the dogs' gait and movement. She also puts her hands on each dog, checking teeth, testicles and everything in between. The judge compares each dog to the breed standard, which she must know by heart. The winner of each class is brought back into the ring to determine the Winners Dog. After the winner is chosen, the 2nd place dog from his class is brought back into the ring. The dogs go around again and the judge chooses a Reserve Winner. Reserve is like first runner-up, and if the winner is disqualified for any reason (usually a paperwork error), the reserve winner gets the win. Then the judge does 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 explain them in another post.)

Afterwards, the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch are brought back into the ring. They are joined by dogs of both sexes who have already received their championship title (called Specials) who are earning points towards a Grand Champion title. All these dogs compete for the title Best of Breed (BOB). Best of Opposite Sex (BOS) is given to the best dog of the opposite sex of the BOB. The Winners Dog and Winners Bitch also compete to determine who is 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 or Limited-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.

So what does the winner get? Points towards a Champion or Grand Champion title, a giant ribbon and bragging rights.

CH Enchanted's American Thunder
Ring activity can move pretty fast, especially if you're not sure what's going on. I suggest that you fork out the $5 or $10 to buy a catalog. This is a booklet sold at shows which lists each entered dog's entry number, class entered, registered name and number, breeder's name, owner's name, the dog's parents, and date of birth. A catalog will help you follow along, especially if you mark it up (so take a pen). It's also fun to see if the judge agrees with your opinions.

So, ready to see a dog show? Infodog and Onofrio Dog Shows can help you find a show near you. -- K

P.S. I'm posting this as I head out the door for a weekend of shows. Jedi and I have two specialty shows on Friday and all-breed shows on both Saturday and Sunday. Want to know how we do? Check back Sunday!

Tomorrow's Topic: Dressing the Part