Showing For Newbies

Everybody has to start somewhere. As a long-time dog show attendee, I'd wanted to show my own dog for quite a while, and so one of the things I was looking for during the puppy search which resulted in my beloved Rakki was a dog I could show.

Now there are pluses and minuses to showing a rare breed. Competition can be hard to come by (sure, you win plenty of first place and best of breed ribbons, but they lose a bit of their shine when yours was the only dog present), many of the judges you run into are completely unfamiliar with your breed, which means you have a duty as a breed fancier to do your best to help educate them as best you can, AND it means group placements can be harder to come by than your individual dog's merit might suggest, since many judges simply won't place a breed they don't know well.

Dog showing, like most very involved hobbies, has its own jargon and customs, and to make it more complicated, these can change depending on which kennel club you show in.

In general, however, regardless of kennel club, there are some constants.

Some Show Terms and Concepts


Purebred dogs can be divided into groups of breeds which have something in common. This is normally purpose-related (herding, hunting, companion, police-type work, etc.), but in some clubs it can also be related to physical type. Dogs are usually shown in group order (although there are normally multiple rings of classes going on at one time), and they normally enter the ring for the group class in alphabetical order (by breed name), and the Best in Show ring in group number order. Since different clubs have both different groups and different group orders, this can get confusing if you show in more than one club (as I do). For example, just in North America, my breed (Swedish Vallhund), is in group 7 (Herding) in CKC shows, currently in the Miscellaneous Class in AKC shows pending full recognition in 2007 (the Miscellaneous Class is for dogs whose full recognition is pending, to allow judges to learn the breed before the breed enters its correct group, in this case group 7 (Herding), and starts earning championship points), group 6 (Herding Dog) in UKC shows, and group 4 (Spitz & Primitive) in ARBA shows. The Swedish Vallhund is in group 6 (Pastoral) in the UK.

So you need to pay attention to which ring you're supposed to be in, and when, and you will want to take note of which breeds are showing before yours, so that you can arrive in comfortable time beforehand. These things will normally be listed at the show's website (if there is one), in the show program, and is also available at the show secretary's desk (where you will normally go to check in and pick up your dog's number(s) when you arrive at the show).

Canadian Kennel Club Groups:

  1. Sporting Group
  2. Hound Group
  3. Working Group
  4. Terrier Group
  5. Toy Group
  6. Non-Sporting Group
  7. Herding Group

American Kennel Club Groups

  1. Sporting Group
  2. Hound Group
  3. Working Group
  4. Terrier Group
  5. Toy Group
  6. Non-Sporting Group
  7. Herding Group
  8. Miscellaneous Class

United Kennel Club Groups

  1. Guardian Dog
  2. Scenthound
  3. Sighthound & Pariah Dog
  4. Gun Dog
  5. Northern Breed
  6. Herding Dog
  7. Terrier
  8. Companion Dog

ARBA Groups

  1. Companion Group
  2. Herding Group
  3. Hound Group
  4. Spitz & Primitive Group
  5. Sporting Group
  6. Terrier Group
  7. Working Group

The Kennel Club (UK) Groups

  1. Hound Group
  2. Working Group
  3. Gundog Group
  4. Terrier Group
  5. Utility Group
  6. Pastoral Group
  7. Toy Group


Breed Classes Shows usually start off with classes for each breed, further broken down into classes based on age, sex and previous show history (details vary between kennel clubs). So you might have a class for female Swedish Vallhunds between 6-12 months of age, a separate class for males in that age range, and so on. Each time a dog wins a class, it moves on to the next level of competition (in most cases). The top level of competition at the breed level is "Best of Breed". The dog who wins Best of Breed (BOB) goes on to compete in the Group Class.

Group Classes The winner of Best of Breed for each breed in a given group goes on to compete in the Group Class (so you normally have one example of each breed in a given group in the group class). There is one group class for each group in the kennel club (Sporting, Hound, Working, etc.). The winner of Best in Group goes on to compete in the Best in Show class.

Best in Show The winners of the various Group classes go on to compete in Best in Show, the last class of the show, so the dogs in the Best in Show class are not only the best examples of their breed, they are also ostensibly the dog which most closely adheres to their breed standard from all the dogs in that group. The winner of Best in Show can have "BIS" placed in front of their name - this is not an official title in most clubs (official titles become a part of the dog's name), but does tell you that the dog in question has won a Best in Show.


I strongly recommend that you attend conformation handling classes, at least a few times, before you enter your first show. I'd been a lifetime dog show goer, and when I actually tried to do what I'd seen done thousands of times, I suddenly realized that I had no idea what I actually needed to do. Managing a lead, bait (treats), my feet and my dog was a whole lot harder than I'd imagined, and attending a few classes not only gets you and your dog used to the flow of classes (and your dog used to being handled by strangers as a judge will handle him), it helps your body learn what it needs to do, so you can think less about the basics of managing everything you need to manage, and concentrate on showing your dog off to his or her best.

The flow of a class is usually as follows: