How AKC Dog Shows Work

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AKC Show Points
The American Kennel Club (AKC) requires a dog to receive 15 points total and two major wins to become a champion. A major win merits three or more points, and must be obtained from different judges. At least one other authority must award some of the additional points. That means the dog needs to win from at least three separate judges.

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Types of Dog Conformation Shows
The three types of dog conformation shows include:

  1. All-breed, competition for over 175 breeds and varieties of dogs recognized by the AKC
  2. Specialty, restricted to a specific breed or varieties of one breed
  3. Group, limited to dogs belonging to one of the seven groups, including Hound, Sporting, Working, Herding, Toy, Terrier, and Non-Sporting

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The Role of AKC Judges
After judges inspect the dogs, they present awards based on how closely each dog matches the representation of the perfect dog as defined by the breed’s official standard. Judges present first through fourth place awards in respective classes. Each dog winning an award also receives a ribbon. The award the dog wins determines the ribbon color. The seven group winners compete in the ring for Best in Show, which is the most distinguished award at a dog show.

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Seven Classes of Dogs
The owner, a breeder, or a hired professional handles each dog. Females and males compete separately in seven regular classes within their respective breeds:

  1. Open
  2. Puppy
  3. Novice
  4. American-bred
  5. Bred by Exhibitor
  6. Amateur-Owner-Handler
  7. Twelve-to-Eighteen Months

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Understanding Titles and Points
All first place winners in each class enter the ring again for a final competition to determine which one is the best of all the winning dogs. Males and females are assessed separately, and only the best male and female receive championship points. Three awards are customarily presented at the end of the Best of Breed Competition:

  1. Best of Breed
  2. Best of Winners
  3. Best of Opposite

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Steps for the First-Time Exhibitor
If you are a first-time exhibitor, follow these steps to get started showing your dog:

  • Register your dog with the AKC.
  • Ensure vaccinations are current.
  • Join a local specialty club.
  • Learn the proper grooming and presentation ring techniques.
  • Become familiar with the AKC dog show rules and regulations.
  • Escort your dog to handling classes.
  • Observe presentation and judging of your breed at a dog show.
  • Decide if you or a professional will handle your dog.
  • Enter a dog show and you’re on your way.

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