Dog Shows 101: Are They Right for Your Dog?

With the highly anticipated Crufts Dog Show right around the corner (and Westminster just passed, congratulations Flynn!) we thought it would be great to talk about all the aspects of dog shows. After all, we all consider our own dogs the absolute best and at some point may have thought, “Hmm, I bet my dog has what it takes to win a dog show.” While that may be true, there is a lot more to these magnificent display’s that lead to that sought-after “Best in Show” title.

What Is a Dog Show?

Dog shows, also known as conformation shows, are shows that involve the act of dogs performing to see whether they measure up to the standards and physical characteristics of their breed. These events are very popular across the United States and Britain, attracting millions of participants a year.

Dog shows are typically divided into three types, those being all-breed, specialty, and group shows. If you’ve turned on the television and have seen a dog show, there’s a good chance that it was an all breed dog show. Over 100 types of dogs of various breeds and features compete in all breed shows. Specialty shows are shows that are geared towards a certain type of dog. For instance, there can be a Norwegian Elkhound club, or there can be a club that is geared towards a general dog breed with many different subtypes. Group shows are geared toward dogs that belong to a specific group i.e. hounds, pit bulls, etc.

The History of Dog Shows

During late June in 1859, the first ever recognized dog show took place in none other than England. About 14 years later, the original Kennel Club was born. Almost 11 years after that, the Americans took after the British and founded the American Kennel Club. The Kennel Club, also known as KC, hosts a show every spring that is famously known as Crufts. The Crufts dog has expanded so much over the years, that it has earned a spot in Guinness World Records as the biggest dog show in the entire world. It is also the largest one in the United Kingdom, while the US-based Westminster dog show is the most popular one in America.

Some of the things that would take place during these dog shows would include testing their obedience, their people skills, hunting skills, tracking skills, and their speed. In most cases, they were separated by gender, age, and other qualities. Dogs that were members of the same breed would compete with each other. They would also be observed to see whether they would bring about healthy babies or not. Over 2000 dogs are entered into these shows to be displayed and analyzed. Today, over 20,000 dogs are entered into the competition, while over 100,000 people participate every time. Owners would bring their dogs at a young age and if they were successful, they would earn ribbons as prizes. The more ribbons they earned, the better chance they had of earning a spot in Westminster. Because of Westminster being so prestigious, owners would have to succumb to very strict and stern rules and requirements to be considered.

What Does It Take to Win in a Dog Show?

Imagine that the dog show is something similar to the Oscars or the Olympics. If the competition is intense, as well as the rules and what it takes to get in, you should know that the judges are nothing short of strict and professional. Some things that the judges will do in a dog show is examining the dog very closely to see if it lives up to its breed’s expectations. If the breed is ferocious, having wolf-like teeth that are strong and sharp, does the dog have this? Does it have a healthy, strong build with rippling muscles and powerful bone structure? Is the coat smooth and thick? Is the gait proud and demanding, or is it weak? That’s what the judges will be checking for. Depending on your dog’s final judgment, it will receive a ribbon of a certain color in either first or fourth place. The colors of the ribbons also depend on class, gender, activity, and what specific dog show you are participating in.

In order for your dog to be eligible for entry, it must be registered with the AKC. It must belong to a breed that is in the show and must be at least 6 months old. It must also match up to the requirements that its breed has and cannot be a dog that has been neutered.

How to Get Started in Dog Shows

Now that you know a little more about dog shows, if it sounds like something you and your furbaby might enjoy, try looking online to see if there are any dog clubs available in your state for you to join. Becoming a member of one of these clubs ensures that your dog will get the training it needs to be eligible for a Westminster dog show or Crufts dog show. Even if your goal isn’t to bring your dog to that particular point, it is still a great opportunity for you to spend quality time with your dog and learn more about its breed and capability as a protector. If you don’t want to be the one that has to “handle” your dog for a competition, you can contact a professional to do it for you.

You should also make sure that your dog is in good condition to begin training. bows for dogsSome dog show websites offer information such as how to get your dog tested to see if it is fit enough for the show, where not to buy a dog, where to find trainers and mates, etc. After that, visit or check out a live dog show to get a feel for how it works and what you will be doing. There are also certain classes that you can attend to learn about dog show etiquette, how to present your dog, and many other things that will help you prepare.

To keep your pooch looking their best whether at home, out and about, or at a dog show, check out our selection of adorable doggy bows here!