This page is based on Australian Dog Shows Conformation shows are an assessment of the physical characteristics of individual dogs against the ‘breed standard’ for each breed. The breed standard is a description of the ideal physical (and temperamental) characteristics for individual breeds. The assessment is made by the judge according to how he or she interprets the breed standard, so it is important to remember that when you show your dog you are receiving the opinion of that particular judge. Just because one particular judge does not select a dog for Best of Breed does not mean that a different judge would have the same opinion. Although the Australian National Kennel Council is the national body it does not run any dog related events or keep any dog related records or registers. All events, records and registers are controlled by the State body that has representation with the ANKC. The ANKC’s main function is to maintain unity through the Australian dog world for such things as Australian Breed Standards and qualifications for titles. The are several different types of dog shows in Australia. These include Championship Shows; Open Shows or Parades and Members Competitions. To be eligible to compete in Championship Shows, Open Shows and Parades it is necessary for the dog to be registered with and the owner be a financial member of the ANKC affiliated State controlling body (other specific rules apply to dogs that are on ‘lease’ agreements from interstate). Members Competitions on the other hand only requires membership of the club that is holding the event – and there are sometimes classes available for pure bred unregistered dogs (unless the competition is a Championship show sponsored by a breed club). The various aspects of dog showing can seem very confusing at first so the following is intended to help the novice gain an understanding of how it all works; In most shows the following class classification is used:

  • Baby Puppy 3-6 months
  • Minor Puppy 6-9 months
  • Puppy 6-12 months
  • Junior 9-18 months
  • Intermediate 18-36 months
  • State Bred 6+ months
  • Australian Bred 6+ months
  • Open 6+ months
  • Junior Handler For Handlers under the age of 17 or 18 years (depending on State)

In Membership Competitions there may be additional classes including Best Head, Best Gait, Best Brace (matched pair of dogs) and Progeny class (for either sire or dam and two offspring). In some breeds there are slight conformation variances for ‘show’ dogs and ‘working dogs’ so there may also be classes for Best Working Dog. Some Membership competitions may also have novelty classes such as Best Companion Dog, Best Handler over/under certain ages. CHALLENGE POINTS AND THE AUSTRALIAN CHAMPION TITLE Challenge Points are only awarded at Championship Shows and are given to the Best Dog (called Challenge Dog) and Best Bitch (Challenge Bitch) for each breed. One hundred Challenge points are required (under a minimum of four different judges) before a dog can be awarded the title of Australian Champion. Once a dog has been awarded the title of Champion, the title is retained for life and the initials Ch. become part of the dog’s registered name eg: Ch. Rex Rover. The number of Challenge points awarded depends on the number of same sex dogs entered in the competition for each breed. It is possible for a dog to be awarded Challenge points even if there are no other dogs of the same sex in the breed. Points are awarded as follows: five points for the winning dog plus one point for every dog of the same sex (of the same breed) exhibited in the competition. That means that if there is only one dog for that sex exhibited that dog will be given six challenge points, if there are two dogs, the winner will receive seven points and so on up to a maximum of 25 points for one show. Theoretically it is possible for a dog to be granted the title of Champion without ever competing with another dog – this is unlikely for the more popular breeds but quite possible for breeds that are low in numbers. In this case, to determine how close the individual dog is to the breed standard, it may be necessary to consider the number of In Group and In Show awards (explained in detail later on) that the dog has received as Challenge points are also awarded for these (up to the maximum of 25 points in one show). The reason for this is that In Group and In Show awards indicate that the individual is a very good example of its breed. HOW IT ALL WORKS This is the confusing part of dog shows, so I will try to be as clear as possible. In All Breed shows, dogs are judged alphabetically by breed according to Group classification. The seven groups are usually judged at the same time (depending on the number of entries and the size of the show) and a different judge is usually allocated to each group, however, as an example, if the judge of the Toy group is also a German Shepherd Dog specialist judge they may also judge this breed – this information is usually provided on the advertisement for the show. The same judge may also judge more than one group, obviously one after the other, or on separate days. The order of judging is as follows: Breed Judging For each breed dog classes are judged before bitch classes, starting with Baby Puppy Dog and finishing with Challenge (or Best) Dog in Breed. Each class is called to the ring and exhibits enter in catalogue order. Generally, all exhibits go around the ring in a circle for the judge to look at as a group, then each dog in turn is ‘stacked’ or set up by the handler for individual examination by the judge. Depending on the breed, this will occur on a judging table or on the ground. The judge will look at the dog’s teeth, may re-stack the dog (a good handler can hide the dog’s faults such as slightly crooked legs or if the dog is slightly out at the elbows by the way they stack the dog), may span the dog’s chest if chest size is a breed requirement and for males will examine to see that there are two apparently normally descended testicles because if there isn’t, this is classified as a disqualifying fault. The judge will then ask the handler to move the dog out – this is usually in a triangle pattern so the judge can examine the dog’s movement from three different angles (from the back, side on and head on). Each dog in the class is examined in the same manner and at this point the judge may award placings or ask to have all or just some of the dogs moved out again before awarding placings. The dogs in each class are placed first, second, third and occasionally fourth, and it is the winners of each class, excluding Baby Puppy that compete for Challenge if it is a Championship Show or Best Dog in Breed if it is not. The dog that is selected as Challenge will then leave the ring and the dog that came second in the same class as the Challenge winner returns to the ring to compete for Reserve Challenge. Once this is chosen, the bitches are judged by the same process starting with Baby Puppy Bitch class. It is up to the judge’s discretion as to whether a Challenge certificate is awarded or not – the judge must consider that the dog is good enough to be awarded the title of Australian Champion, and it can and does happen that Challenge awards are withheld. I was at one show in which four of the bitches in a particular breed had already earned their Champion title, but the judge did not award Challenge at all. When the judging for Challenge and Reserve Challenge Bitch is completed, the Challenge Dog re-enters the ring to compete with the Challenge Bitch for Best In Breed. Whoever wins this leaves the ring and is replaced by the Reserve Challenge of the same sex as the Best of Breed who then competes with the opposite sex Challenge winner for Reserve or Runner Up Best In Breed. The Best and Reserve Best of Breed automatically win their respective Class in Breed, except when they are in the same class in which case the Reserve misses out in going through to the Class in Group competition. The winners of each class then compete with the opposite sex winner of the same class for Class in Breed and the winners for each class then progress to compete for Class In Group. Group Judging (also called Group Specials) When all of the breeds in the group have been judged, the Best of Breeds return to the ring (in alphabetical order according to breed) for judging of Best in Group (BIG). Once the BIG has been chosen, the Reserve Best of Breed to that dog re-enters the ring to compete for Reserve or Runner-up in Group. The BIG and RUBIG are automatically awarded Class in Group for their respective Class except in the case where they were both exhibited in the same class (regardless of the breed) in which case the RUBIG misses out in competing for Class in Show. Once the BIG and RUBIG have been awarded, judging of Classes in Group commences with the winners of Baby Puppy in Breed. There are no reserve placings for Classes in Group. In Show Judging (also called General Specials) General Specials are judged by one judge only and take some time as the judge needs to fully examine the dogs that he or she has not previously seen. The judging of General Specials commences with judging of the seven dogs that have won Best in Group. These dogs then enter the ring in the following Group order to compete for Best In Show (BIS): Toy (1) Terrier (2) Gun Dog (3) Hound (4) Working Dog (5) Utility (6) Non-Sporting (7) When the BIS has been awarded, the RUBIG to the BIS returns to the ring to compete against the other BIG winners for Runner-up or Reserve in Show. The BIS and RUBIS winners automatically win Best in Class in Show, unless they are from the same class in which case the Runner Up in Show misses out. Judging of each Class in Show then commences with Best Baby Puppy in each Group. OTHER DOG SHOW AWARDS There are other awards that can be received and these are usually based on Point Scoring systems. In Australia, the Top Dog of the Year award is awarded to the dog that earns the most points for Best in Show and RUBIS wins at All Breeds Championship shows for the year. The Pal Open Show/Parade Top Dog of the Year is awarded to the dog that earns the most points at Open Shows and Parades during the year. Points for this award are allocated for Best in Show, RU Best in Show, Class in Show, Best in Group, RU Best in Group and Class in Group respectively. Individual clubs (single, multi breed or group clubs) may also have point scoring for members to compete for Top Dog of the Year for the individual club. SOME ADVICE FOR THE NOVICE Dog shows can be confusing so it is a good idea to attend a couple before competing so that you can get a feel for how it works. You will show your dog to its best advantage if you know how to show it off – showing dogs is not just a matter or walking round in circles (although it may seem like it to the newcomer!) If you have a good relationship with the breeder of your dog they may be able to help you in the preparation of your dog, and if they are showing on the same day they can give you some guidance. Make sure that you have a collar and lead (or proper show lead) according to what is normally used for your breed. Obviously this has nothing to do with the conformation of your dog, but it can go a long way in making your dog presentable. Also, show leads are generally slimmer and therefore obstruct less of the dog’s neck. Make sure you get to the show on time – you will be nervous enough without also being late. Make sure you listen to the Ring Steward. There is a three call rule in showing – that is three calls and you are out! Usually the first call will be for the next breed to be judged, the second call will be for the next class and exhibitors numbers for the class to be judged and the final call is just before the class enters the ring and is for exhibitors in that class who have not turned up. You may be lucky to have your number called three times – but DON’T count on it, especially at big shows. To make sure that you know what pace is best for your dog, if you can’t tell, walk him out at different paces in front of someone who is experienced enough to determine your dog’s best pace. Read as many books on showing as you can get your hands on – particularly in relation to your own breed’s grooming requirements. There is also etiquette to consider – most people will let you off if you make mistakes when you are new to showing, but they will get annoyed if you don’t learn from them. A couple of the main things are when you are in the ring DO NOT crowd the dog in front of you – it will distract the dog in front, your own dog and you may end up with a dog fight in the ring. Don’t let your dog get to close to other dogs particularly if you have a dominant breed or individual dog – dog shows can be a stressful situation for some dogs, with all the noise and activity and they may well lash out at other dogs if given the chance. Before every show check that your leads and collars are not worn or damaged – it is not easy to catch a loose dog amongst hundreds of other dogs! Make sure you pick up any mess that you or your dog leaves behind. This includes trash, dog hair and droppings. If you are unsure whether you have progressed past the breed judging check with the steward – if you have been awarded Challenge and don’t stay for the Group Specials you can have the Challenge points cancelled at the judges discretion. A crate or show cage is a necessity for dog showing (unless you have a giant breed that makes other arrangements necessary) because you may need to leave your dog for short periods (getting catalogue and number, getting lunch or going to the toilet). Some dogs seem to like the security of a crate and settle down to sleep – you will however find others that just bark and bark and bark, so keep your fingers crossed that you don’t end up near one like this. Take a bowl and a bottle of water for your dog and a chair for you to sit on because you may have a long wait. Remember that you are not competing for sheep stations! Being a good sport, win or lose is important. When you enter a dog show you are agreeing to get a judges opinion of your dog and if you can’t accept that another dog may be considered by the judge as better than yours then you shouldn’t be showing. Showing is a subjective sport – the winner depends on someone else’s opinion and personal choice. If you don’t have fun there is no point in continuing because your dog will be able to sense your feelings and will react accordingly. May Best in Show be yours!