Playtyme Papillons of Distinction - AKC Breeder of Merit

How a Dog Show Works

WD, WB, BOW, BOB, G1 and so on…. So what do all these acronyms mean?

Anyone who as been in Field or job for a period of time realizes that there is “Jargon” that becomes common knowledge and acronyms become a normal way of describing something. The dog world is no different,  this field has Jargon galore and what can sometimes be seen as a totally different language all together. This page of our website is here to try and help you understand and bring clarification to the lingo used.


  • ·         How a Championship is earned
  • ·         Points 
  • ·         Some common terms

The World of Dog Shows

Showing dogs is a great sport where the thrill of competition is combined with the joy of seeing beautiful dogs. Dog shows are one of many types of AKC dog events in which AKC-registered dogs can compete. These events, which draw over three million entries annually.
Dog shows (conformation events) are intended to evaluate breeding stock. The size of these events ranges from large all-breed shows, with over 3,000 dogs entered, to small local specialty shows, featuring a specific breed( Like: just papillons). The dog's conformation (overall appearance and structure), an indication of the dog's ability to produce quality puppies who look like the breed standard (a detailed written guide to every aspect of what the breed should look like), is judged.  So conformation dogs must not be spayed or neutered.

Types of Conformation Dog Shows

There are three types of conformation dog shows:

All-breed shows offer competitions for over 150 breeds and varieties of dogs recognized by the AKC. All-breed shows are the type often shown on television

Specialty shows are restricted to dogs of a specific breed, or to varieties of one breed. For example, the Papillon Club of America Specialty is for Papillons and Phalenes only, but the Poodle Club of America's specialty show includes the three varieties of the Poodle - Standard, Miniature and Toy.

Group shows are limited to dogs belonging to one of the seven groups. For example, the Potomac Hound Group show features only breeds belonging to the Hound group such as the Beagle, American Foxhound, Basset Hound, the Dachshund, Etc..

Which Dogs May Participate

To be eligible to compete, a dog must:

  • be individually registered with the American Kennel Club
  • be 6 months of age or older
  • not be neutered or spayed
  • be a breed for the classes that are offered at a show
  • meet any eligibility requirements in the written standard for its breed

Spayed or neutered dogs are not eligible to compete in conformation classes at a dog show, because the purpose of a dog show is to evaluate breeding stock. Dogs also must have a Full registration and not Limited registration

The Role of the Judge

Judges examine the dogs, then give awards according to how closely each dog compares to the judge's mental image of the "perfect" dog described in the breed's Official Written Breed standard. (or breed standard)

The standard describes the characteristics that allow the breed to perform the function for which it was bred. These standards include specifications for structure, temperament, coat type, color and movement etc.

The official written standard for each breed is maintained by the breed's national club (Papillon Club of America) and is included in the The Complete Dog Book published by the AKC.

The judges are experts on the breeds they are judging. They examine ("go over") each dog with their hands to see if the teeth, muscles, bones and coat texture conform to the breed's standard. They view each dog in sillouette profile for overall balance, and watch each dog gait ("move") to see how all of those features fit together in action.

How a Dog Show Works
......Classes, points, major wins.... how a championship is obtained

Each dog presented to a judge is exhibited ("handled") by its owner, breeder or a hired professional. The role of a handler is similar to that of a jockey who rides a horse around the track and, hopefully, into the winner's circle.

Most dogs in competition at conformation shows are competing for points toward their AKC championships. It takes fifteen points, including two majors (wins of three, four or five points) awarded by at least three different judges, to become an American Kennel Club "Champion of Record."

The number of championship points awarded at a show depends on the number of males ("dogs") and females ("bitches") of the breed actually in competition. The larger the entry, the greater the number of points a male or a female can win. The maximum number of points awarded to a dog at any show is 5 points. If the show has a small entry in that particular breed, the points may only be 1 or 2 in which no Major is awarded.

Males and females compete separately within their respective breeds, in seven regular classes. The following classes are offered, and are divided by sex:

Puppy class - For dogs between six and twelve months of age, that are not yet champions (optional class).

Twelve-To-Eighteen Months class - For dogs twelve to eighteen months of age, that are not yet champions (optional class).

Novice Class- For dogs six months of age and over, which have not, prior to the date of closing of entries, won three first prizes in the Novice Class, a first prize in Amateur-Owner Handler, Bred-by-Exhibitor, American-bred, or Open Classes, nor one or more points toward their championship (optional class).

Amateur-Owner-Handler Class– For dogs that are at least six months of age that are not champions.  Dogs must be handled in the class by the registered owner of the dog and is limited to exhibitors who have not, at any point in time, been a professional dog handler, AKC approved conformation judge, or employed as an assistant to a professional handler (effective January 1, 2009) (optional class).

Bred By Exhibitor Class - For dogs that are exhibited by their owner and breeder, that are not yet champions (optional class).

Dogs only need to be entered in One class depending on which class best describes them.
If your dog doesn’t accurately fall into the previous categories then they would then be entered into one of the following classes

American-Bred - For dogs born in the United States from a mating which took place in the United States, that are not yet champions (mandatory class).

Open - For any dog in the breed, at least 6 months of age (mandatory class).

After these classes are judged, all the dogs that won first place in a class compete again to see who is the best of the first place winning dogs.
Males and females are judged separately.

Only the best male (Winners Dog) and the best female (Winners Bitch) receive championship points.
 The Winners Dog and Winners Bitch then compete with the champions for the Best of Breed award.
At the end of the Best of Breed Competition, three awards are usually given:

Best of Breed - the dog judged as the best in its breed category.

Best of Winners - the dog judged as the better of the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch. (remember these were the female and male winners from the class divisions)

Best of Opposite Sex - the best dog that is the opposite sex to the Best of Breed winner.

Select Dog - awarded at the judges discretion to dogs who are worthy of points toward their Grand Championship

The Road to Best in Show (this is usually the part you see on TV)

Dog shows are a process of elimination, with one dog being named Best in Show at the end of the show.

Only the Best of Breed winners advance to compete in the Group competitions. Each AKC-recognized breed falls into one of seven group classifications. The seven groups are Sporting, Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding. Four placements are awarded in each group, but only the first-place winner advances to the Best In Show competition.

The Seven Groups in All-Breed Shows

Sporting - These dogs were bred to hunt game birds both on land and in the water. The breeds in this group include Pointers, Retrievers, Setters and Spaniels.

Hounds - These breeds were bred for hunting other game by sight or scent. These breeds include such dogs as Beagles, Bassets, Whippets, Dachshunds and Greyhounds.

Working - These dogs were bred to pull carts, guard property and perform search and rescue services. Among the breeds in this group are the Akita, Boxer, Doberman Pinscher and St. Bernard.

Terrier - This group includes breeds such as the Airedale, Cairn Terrier and Scottish Terrier. Terriers were bred to rid property of vermin such as rats.

Toy - These dogs were bred to be household companions. This group includes little dogs such as the Chihuahua, Maltese, Papillon, Pomeranian and Pug.

Non-Sporting - This diverse group includes the Chow Chow, Bulldog, Bichon Frise, Dalmatian and Poodle. These dogs vary in size and function, and many are considered companion dogs.

Herding - These dogs were bred to help shepherds and ranchers herd their livestock. The Briard, Collie, German Shepherd  and Old English Sheepdog are some of the breeds in this group.

Finally, the seven group winners are brought into the ring where they compete for Best In Show, the highest award at a dog show.

Tips for the First-Time Spectator

  • If the grooming area is open to spectators, visit it and talk with professional groomers to get tips on keeping your dog looking his best.
  • However tempting, do not pet a dog without asking for permission first. The dog may have just been groomed in preparation for being judged.
  • At each dog show, you will find vendors and information booths. Many club booths offer helpful information to the general public.
  • There is always a Superintendents table where information about Dog Shows and a schedule of showtimes for breeds can be obtained.
  • Wear comfortable shoes - you'll be doing a lot of walking. Unless you bring a chair or arrive early, be prepared to stand most of the time, as seating is usually limited.
  • Typically there is a parking fee, and a few shows have an admittance fee.  Shows at fairgrounds usually do not have an admittance fee.
  • If you are considering getting a purebred dog, talk to the breeders and exhibitors, but not around the time when the breed is ready to be judged - they are experts in their breeds and are willing to talk after the pressure of showing is done
  • If you bring a baby stroller to a dog show, be careful that you do not run over any dog's tail, and that your child does not grab or poke the dogs it can reach. Avoid having them near ring entrances, which are especially crowded. Some shows prohibit baby strollers.