When someone talks about going to a "dog show," they are typically referring to a conformation show. A conformation show is one at which purebred dogs are evaluated to determine their degree of adherence to the breed standard (the "blueprint" of the breed which is determined by the breed club). The following is how things work in the US (show systems and the requirements to make a champion differ widely round the world).
There are all-breed conformation shows, in which all AKC breeds of dogs are eligible to compete, and Specialty shows, which are breed-specific and typically hosted by breed clubs. (A Boxer Specialty show is only for Boxers.) Sometimes clubs will consider the breed entry at an all-breed show to be their specialty show. The judging process is the same for both types of shows, but Specialty shows usually have additional competitions. Right now, we'll talk about an all-breed show, since they're the most common ones.
Dogs are judged in a tiered fashion. The first level of competition is the breed classes. There are several classes a dog can compete in, with other dogs of the same breed. In Boxers, they are typically:
_ 6-9 month puppy
_ 9-12 month puppy
_ 12-18 month
Bred-by-Exhibitor (dogs whelped in the United States, owned or co-owned by the breeder of record or their spouse, and handled by the breeder of record or their immediate family). Bred-by is intended as a breeder showcase.
American Bred (dogs bred and whelped in the United States)
Open Brindle (Brindle dogs only)
Open Fawn (Fawn dogs only)
No dog under the age of six months is eligible to compete at an AKC show. Dogs that have attained their Championship do not compete in the classes.
There are separate classes for dogs and bitches (so 6-9 month puppy dog is one class, 6-9 month puppy bitch is a different class). All of the dogs show first, then all of the bitches.
Sometimes (if it is expected to be a large entry) the classes are divided, which means there is 6-9 month fawn puppy dogs and 6-9 month brindle puppy dogs, etc.
In the classes, dogs are judged individually. The judge will typically have the entire class go around the ring, then stop and set up their dogs (present them in a "stacked" position - front feet square, back feet extended behind, balance forward, head and ears up, neck arched). The judge then "goes over" the dogs one at a time with his hands, checking the bite, the eye color, shoulder angles, depth of chest, slope of topline. In males he also checks for two normal testicles. Then the judge has the handler move the dog, typically "down and back" which is in a straight line away from the judge to one corner of the ring, then in a straight line back to the judge. This allows the judge to see the movement of the dog coming and going. There are several patterns a judge can use, including the diagonal (which is a down and back to the diagonal corner), the triangle, the L, and the T (which is rarely used). The handler then has the dog "free stack" (set itself up in the proper pose) in front of the judge, and then the judge send them on a "go around" (move around the ring to the end of the line). The judge then moves on to the next dog and repeats the process, until all the dogs have been judged individually.
From here, the judge must make his decision on which dog he feels most closely meets the breed standard. He may move the dogs, he may switch their position and then move them (if he's trying to decide between two, it's often helpful to see them together), he may have them stand with fronts or rears facing him (it depends on what his particular "hot button" is - all other things being basically equal, some judges base their decision on who has the better head, or front, or feet, or whatever). At last, the judge makes his decision and choose first, second, third, and fourth place in the class.
This happens for every class in dogs. After the winner of the Open Fawn class is picked, the winners of every class go back into the ring to compete for Winners Dog. The judge will typically move the dogs again, and may have some do down-and-backs or evaluated individual parts before he picks Winners Dog. Winners Dog is the one dog out of all the class winners the judge feels best meets the standard of the breed that day. The Winners Dog is the one that gets points that day (class winners do not get points). The points schedule is based on how many dogs were competing (for example, 25 dogs competing would be 3 points), and varies regionally (in one area, 25 dogs might be 3 points, while in another area 20 would be). Once Winners Dog is picked, the dog that took second place to him in the classes goes into the ring to compete for Reserve Winners Dog. Reserve Winners Dog is similar to First Runner Up at the Miss America pageant. If for any reason the Winners Dog is disqualified (uncommon, but it happens) the Reserve Winners Dog would get those points.
The same process is repeated for bitches. Winners bitch gets points based on the number of bitches competing (for example, 20 bitches would be 2 points).
Once both Winners have been chosen, it's time for the Best of Breed competition. Only dogs and bitches that have attained their Championship and that day's Winners Dog and Winners Bitch are eligible to compete in the Best of Breed competition. The judge again judges each dog individually (except the Winners, which he's already judged). The judge must make three choices here - Best of Breed (the dog or bitch that was the best example of the breed standard that day), Best of Opposite Sex (the best dog of the opposite sex to the Best of Breed - so if a dog took BOB, a bitch would take BOS), and Best of Winners (only the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch compete for this, and it goes to whichever one the judge feels is closest to the standard). Here is where the points get a little confusing.
The Best of Breed winner gets points based on the total number of dogs of its sex, and the total number of champion dogs of both sexes, competing that day. (So, in our example above, say a dog took BOB. 25 dogs, plus we'll say there were three dogs and two bitches in BOB competition, which brings us to 30 dogs, which is 4 points.) The Best of Opposite Sex winner gets points based on the total number of dogs of its sex, plus the total number of champions of its sex (so, 20 bitches plus two bitches in BOB is 22 bitches, which is 3 points). The Best of Winners gets the highest number of points available to class Winners (in our example above, if the Winners Bitch went Best of Winners her points would change from 2 to 3, because it was 3 points in dogs. If the Winners Dog went Best of Winners he would stay at 3 points). Still confused? Check out the AKC explanation of points here:
The Best of Breed winner then goes on to compete in the Group ring. Boxers are in the Working Group, so our BOB dog would compete against all of the other BOB winners of the breeds in the Working Group (Alaskan Malamutes, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, St. Bernards - you can see the whole list of Working Group breeds here:
http://www.akc.org/breeds/working_group.cfm) Dogs are again judged individually, and the judge picks the dog that he thinks is closest to its own breed standard as the Group winner. (Dogs in Group are not compared to each other, but to their breed standards.) Again, first through fourth place prizes are awarded (typically referred to as Group 1 (first place in Group), Group 2 (second place in Group), etc.) The Group winner is awarded the highest number of points available in any breed. (So, if our BOB Boxer winner, who currently has 4 points, took Group 1 over a Doberman who had 5 points, the Boxer would now have 5 points.) The most points any dog can win in one day is 5.
The winners from each of the seven Groups go on to compete in Best In Show. The Best in Show winner gets the highest number of points available from the Group winners (again, maximum 5 points).
Then, if the show was on a Saturday, they turn around and do it all over again the next day!
Article written by JulieM