Dog Show 101: Westminster Dog Show

More than a contest about appearance, judges look for the best all-around example of a breed.

By | Posted: January 14, 2015, 8 a.m. PST

Dog shows can seem very similar to beauty pageants to first-time observers, but the shows are not just about ribbons and Poodles with poufs on their derrières. Dog shows are about recognizing dogs whose lineage has made them into paragons for their particular breeds, and helping to ensure that the best specimens of the breed are used for breeding.

Vizsla 

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is a conformation show, one of the many types of dog competitions; others include agility and rally. At conformation shows, dogs are judged based on how well they conform to the written breed standard.

The breed’s club writes the standard, a set of guidelines used to determine how a breed should look, move, and behave. It is based on the dog’s history and purpose, and is intended to ensure the dog is best suited to perform the tasks he was bred to do, whether that was herding, retrieving, or being a great companion.

The dogs in the show are judged against the breed standard, not each other. The dog closest to the breed standard, according to the judge, is deemed the winner. If you’re wondering why the Komondor has dreadlocks, or why no white German Shepherd Dogs participate in the show, it’s because the breed standards dictate the appearance of these breeds.

"All-breed shows,” such as Westminster, include 180 dog breeds, including two new this year, the Coton de Tulear and Wirehaired Vizsla.

dogshow 
 

Like many sports, dog shows have rules, so following the action can be confusing at first. Here’s a rundown of how a typical dog show works:

The entrants enter the ring. If they are all of the same breed, then you are watching the breed judging. Once the judges choose the breed winners, they all compete in their group, such as terriers or toy dogs. The seven group winners then advance to compete for the top honor, Best in Show.

At each level the judge has all of the dogs take a turn trotting around the ring. Typically, at the other end of the leash is the dog’s owner, a friend or family member, or a hired handler who is experienced handling dogs in dog shows.

One by one, the dogs approach the judge. She watches how each one moves. When the dog stops, he does a "stack,” a pose that creates the proper posture for the breed. The judge then touches the dog to make sure he has all of the appropriate qualities beneath the coat — correct topline, proper musculature, and so on. Then she has the dog trot "up and back” in front of her to see his movement again.

 

Afghan 
 

 

When that’s done, she may have the dogs take another turn around the ring. She then points out the dogs that she likes and has them go around the ring again, then stand in a line and stack again. She places the dogs in order, and may have them take another turn around the ring; then she points to the first, second, third, and sometimes fourth place winners.

When choosing the Best in Show dog, judges look for the dog that is closest to the standard of the breed, but also take into account how the dog performs in the ring and the dog’s overall personality.

Afghan 

 

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