Dog shows have been popular for a very long time as the ultimate showcase for enjoying the beauty of the canine world. Offering a wonderful opportunity to experience the thrill of competition combined with the joy of seeing beautiful dogs, some of the dog shows managed by the American Kennel Club in America draw over three million entries each year. These dog shows are based on tests of instinct and trainability, measuring such aspects as obedience, behavior, looks and agility, to mention just a few. Certain dog shows are basically conformation events with the purpose of examining and evaluating breeding stock among canines. Nowadays, the popularity of dog shows varies with events like large all-breed shows, with over 4,000 dogs entered, to small local specialty club shows, featuring a specific breed.
The World of Dog Shows
The American Kennel Club also known as the AKC maintains and manages a very large number of canine records today, including some 15,000 sanctioned and licensed events each year. The AKC is a national dog organization that oversees and maintains the registry of purebred dog breeds as well as supervising the showing of these dogs.
Dog show competitions usually start with class judging, which is divided by gender and age. The judges at any dog show competition choose their selection of dogs based on build, structure, fur color and texture, and correct head, tail, bite and ear-set. During the shows one can see the handlers run the dogs around the ring, individually and as a group, in order to show the motion, or gait, appropriate to their breed, all necessary elements to a breed's proper performance. For success in these dog shows owners have to invest time, money, work, training, grooming, devotion, and a love for dogs to achieve the desired goals for their pets. The effort and dedication which is a way of life for many dog enthusiasts, begins even before a dog is purchased. The financial aspect of showing dogs is multifaceted, with expenditures for items such as supplies, equipment and entry fees; handler fees; special vehicles like a large van that will hold crates, for transporting dogs to shows; providing good nutrition, clean housing, quality veterinarian care and regular grooming. Showing dogs can be an expensive proposition.
Classifications & Standards
There are usually three types of conformation dog shows which are categorized according to specific parameters of dog competitions. For example, "all-breed" shows offer competition for over 150 breeds and varieties of dogs recognized by the AKC. This type of all-breed show is often shown on television. Apart from all-breed shows there are "specialty" dog shows which are restricted to dogs of a specific breed or to varieties of one breed. Clubs which sponsor dog shows like the Bulldog Club of America are specifically dedicated to showing Bulldogs in the same manner that the Poodle Club of America's specialty show includes the three different varieties of the Poodle. There are also group shows which are limited to dogs belonging to one of the different groups like the hounds, herders, toy dogs and sporting dogs among others. For example, the Potomac Hound Group show is a specialty show which features only breeds belonging to the Hound group.
Normally there are general rules to be followed for the participation of dogs in these dog shows. Usually the dogs must be registered with the American Kennel Club in order to compete. The minimum age in which dogs can compete at these dog shows should be six months of age or older. Eligibility requirements are also dependent on the written standards for each breed.
Usually the conformation shows for dogs are divided into classes for puppies and adult dogs where the male dogs contend first followed by the females. The final class in a breed determines the best of breed. Classes are grouped by age for puppies, ranging from six months to nine months, and from nine to twelve months in age. There are different standards for adult dogs which are twelve to eighteen months and older.
Types of Dogs in Dog Shows
For dog shows there are classifications of the different groups of dogs based on their specific temperament or genetic traits. The important dog types include the following:
Sporting Dogs - These dogs are bred to hunt game birds both on land and in the water. Traditionally used for fetching fowl birds or other small tasks, the breeds that are classified within this group include Pointers, Retrievers, Setters and Spaniels. Traditionally active and alert, these sporting dogs make agreeable, well-rounded companions. Remarkable for their instincts in water and woods, many of these breeds actively continue to participate in hunting and other field activities. Dogs within this group need regular exercise and a balanced diet for their very active lifestyle.
Hounds - These breeds were traditionally bred for hunting game by sight or scent. This group includes such dogs as Beagles, Bassets, Dachshunds and Greyhounds. Most of the dogs from this category share the common ancestral trait of being used for hunting. However, some breeds rely more on the ability to track a scent to follow a trail and catch game. Other breeds within this group depend on physical stamina and prowess to outrun and hunt down their prey. A wide variety of breeds is included in this group who are genetically separate from others in their physical build and their special capabilities. For example, diverse breeds such as Pharaoh Hounds, Norwegian Elkhounds, Afghans and Beagles comprise this group, some of whom are famous for their distinctive ability to produce a specific sound known as baying.
Working Dogs - These dogs were traditionally bred to pull carts, guard property and perform search and rescue services. Though most of the dog breeds were initially bred to be of service to humans, some have specific capabilities which set them apart from other breeds. Strong muscular features, powerful hind legs and the audacity to take physical strain are some of the distinctive qualities of this breed. Among the breeds in this group are the Akita, Boxer and St. Bernard. Some of the dogs of the Working Group are very famous in rescue operations for the armed forces and for emergency services. The Doberman Pinscher, Siberian Husky and Great Dane are included in this group, to name just a few. Very loyal and quick to learn, these intelligent, capable animals make wonderful companions. While many of these breeds are also used for family purposes as a companion dog, their bulk and strength alone makes them better suited to perform functions as working dogs with proper training.
Terrier – The breeds in this group were traditionally bred to rid pests like rats and other vermin from owners' properties. This group includes breeds such as the Airedale, Cairn Terrier and Scottish Terrier. Known to be very energetic and lively the breed sizes range from fairly small, as in the Norfolk, Cairn or West Highland White Terrier, to the grand Airedale Terrier. But Terriers typically are known to have little tolerance for other animals, including other dogs which sometimes brings out their tendency to be ferocious and fierce. Their ancestors were bred to hunt and kill vermin. Care and attention is needed for their fur and skin which needs special grooming requirements. In general, they make engaging pets, but require owners with the determination to match their dogs' lively characters.
Toy - These dogs are those breeds which had been traditionally bred to be household companions because of their lively and friendly personalities. This group includes little dogs such as the Chihuahua, Maltese, Pomeranian and Pug. The diminutive size and winsome expressions of Toy dogs are some of the chief qualities of this Group which makes them very endearing to their masters. In the world of fashion too nowadays this group has attracted a lot of attention thanks to celebrities. For example, Paris Hilton’s Chihuahua publicity gave this breed a virtual boost in social demand and interest. For city dwellers who want to adjust their pets to the moderate living spaces, this group comes as the best choice. Perky and very jovial, these dogs are easy to carry while traveling around which does not call for any specific attention.
Non-Sporting - This specific group of dogs comes under the broad category of companion dogs without any general appearance similarities. Some famous breeds of the non-sporting groups include the Chow Chow, Bulldog, Dalmatian and Poodle. These dogs vary in size and function, and many are considered companion dogs. Here are sturdy animals with as many different personalities and appearances as there are breeds, such as the French Bulldog and the Keeshond. Some, like the Schipperke and Tibetan Spaniel are visually awesome. Others, however, like the Poodle and Lhasa Apso are valued for their personality and demeanor. The breeds in the Non-Sporting Group are a varied collection in terms of size, coat, personality and overall appearance.
Herding - These dogs were bred to help shepherds and ranchers herd their livestock. The Briard, Collie, German Shepherd Dog and Old English Sheepdog are some of the breeds in this group. The Herding Group, created in 1983, is considered to be one of the newest AKC classification. These dogs were traditionally part of the breeds which belong to the Working Group. All breeds share the fabulous ability to control the movement of other animals which are used for herding purposes like cattle, sheep and horses. Breeds especially like the Corgi, one foot tall at the shoulders, can drive a herd of cows many times its size to pasture by leaping and nipping at their heels. In big sheep and horse ranches it is a common sight to see these dogs attentively shepherd these animals with their distinctively trained traits. In general, these intelligent dogs make excellent companions and respond beautifully to training exercises.
AKC,A beginner’s guide to dog shows - http://www.akc.org/events/conformation/beginners.cfm
Dog Breeds & Types of Dogs - http://www.dog-breeds-online.com/dog-breeds.html
Different Types of Dogs and their characteristics - http://www.puppy-basics.com/typesofdog.html
Types of Dog Shows - http://www.actca.asn.au/Activities/showingmain.htm