Dog Shows Explained: What’s the Fuss About?

With all the recent excitement surrounding the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about.  What really is the point of a dog show?

dog_showThere are many types of dog shows, but the most “stereotypical” one is a conformation show.  Conformation refers to the appearance and body structure of a dog.  In this type of show, there is a winner for each breed as well as several overall award designations.  The Best of Breed/Variety (and Best of Opposite Sex to Best of Breed/Variety) is the dog that best reflects the ideal standards for that breed.  There are several categories the judges consider from head to toe when evaluating the dogs:

  • Balance of overall proportions
  • Weight
  • Size
  • Eye color, size and shape
  • Ear shape, length and position
  • Head and muzzle shape and size
  • Thickness of whiskers
  • Teeth and bite
  • Position and height of tail
  • Shoulders
  • Legs
  • Coat
  • Color
  • Attitude
  • Gait (the dog’s walk)

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in particular is one of the most famous dogs shows in the world.  There are almost 200 distinct breeds represented, and in the most recent show there were close to 3,000 four-legged participants from around the world.  In addition to the ribbon awards given for Best of Breed/Variety, there are many other award designations for different groups and overall awards.

Dog Shows: the Good and the Bad

There is some controversy surrounding dog shows.  Some argue that they are important to maintain the integrity, purity and existence of the distinct breeds that have developed over time.  There is also a lot of tradition surrounding dogs shows.  The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show has been going on since 1877.

Others argue that dog shows promote inbreeding, which leads to perpetual health problems.  Some express concern about practices associated with specific breeds, such as tail-docking.  There are also concerns that breeding and dog shows communicate a message that purebred dogs are somehow better than mixed breeds when it comes to individuals looking for a new pet.

Breed Variation

How did all these different breeds come about?  Evidence of the first breed variations was discovered thousands of years ago.  Selective breeding has developed breeds that have many different uses to people.  The AKC classifies breeds into groups.  The primary ones are: sporting group, herding group, non-sporting group, working group, toy group, hound group and terrier group.  Each group of breeds also has its own winner at most conformation shows.

Members of the sporting group, such as retrievers and spaniels, may actively participate in hunting and field activities.  The herding group specializes in controlling the movement of other animals, while the working group may excel at guarding property, pulling sleds or participating in rescue efforts.  Most members of the terrier group resulted from efforts to breed dogs that perform well at hunting and killing vermin.  Hounds share a history of ancestors with keen hunting and tracking abilities.  The non-sporting group is a diverse collection of breeds of many different sizes, personalities and appearances.  Lastly, members of the toy group make great pets, especially in small spaces or city living environments.

The Westminster Kennel Club 138th Annual Dog Show just wrapped up on February 11.  You can find a complete list of event winners on their website.

Learning about different breeds can be interesting and fun.  When considering a new pet, always consider local dog rescues in your search!  Even if you have a particular breed in mind, there is often a rescue organization that can help you find a dog that is the right fit.  No matter what type of dog you adopt, make sure to expose them to proper training so you can have the best relationship possible with them!  Feel free to contact Bed and Biscuit Austin for help.


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