Ottawa Dog Show - May 24, 25, 26th 2024


Discover the art and science of canine excellence

OKC Conformation Dog

Table of Contents

What is a Conformation Show?

A conformation show is a competitive event where purebred dogs are evaluated by judges based on how closely they adhere to their breed standards. These standards describe the ideal physical attributes, movement, and temperament for each breed. The goal is to identify the dogs that best represent the ideal characteristics of their breed, which helps guide and improve breeding practices.

The format of a conformation show typically follows these steps:

  1. Breed Classes: Dogs are divided by breed, sex, and age into various classes (e.g., puppy, junior, open). Each class competes separately.
  2. Judging by Breed: Within each class, dogs are evaluated individually and then compared to one another. Judges examine each dog’s physical attributes, movement, and overall presentation against the breed standard. Winners from each class compete for Best of Breed.
  3. Group Judging: Best of Breed winners advance to group competitions. Breeds are categorized into groups based on their type and original function (e.g., Sporting, Working, Toy). Each group winner is selected based on adherence to breed standards.
  4. Best in Show: The winners from each group compete for the highest honour, Best in Show. The judge evaluates these finalists to determine which dog best exemplifies their breed and group standards.

Throughout the show, handlers present the dogs, guiding them through specific movements and poses to highlight their strengths. The judging process involves a hands-on examination and observation of the dogs in motion.

How to be a Good Spectator?

Being a good spectator at a dog conformation show involves understanding the etiquette and actively engaging with the event. Here are some tips:

  1. Respect the Rules: Follow all posted rules and guidelines of the show venue. This includes staying in designated spectator areas and not entering restricted zones.
  2. Be Quiet and Courteous: Keep noise levels down, especially when judging is in progress. Avoid sudden movements or loud noises that could distract the dogs or handlers.
  3. Do Not Touch the Dogs Without Permission: Always ask the handler or owner before petting any dog. Some dogs may need to stay focused or might be resting between competitions.
  4. Watch and Learn: Pay attention to the judging process and how handlers present their dogs. This can help you appreciate the nuances of different breeds and the criteria judges use.
  5. Respect the Handlers and Judges: Refrain from interrupting handlers when they are preparing their dogs or judges during their evaluations. Save questions and comments for appropriate times, such as after a class has been judged.
  6. Cheer Appropriately: Applaud and cheer for the dogs, but do so at appropriate moments, such as:
    • When the dogs individually running on the outside of the ring. (Never during the diagonal/straight down and back).
    • When the dogs are entering the Group Judging or the Best in Show Judging.
    • When winners are announced.
  7. Be Mindful of Space: Avoid blocking the view of other spectators and give ample space for handlers to move with their dogs.
  8. Educate Yourself: Familiarize yourself with the breeds, standards, and judging criteria. Many shows provide programs or brochures that can help you follow along and understand what’s happening.
  9. Enjoy and Participate: Engage with other spectators, ask questions (when appropriate), and enjoy the opportunity to see a variety of breeds and the skillful presentation of dogs.

By following these tips, you can enhance your experience and contribute to a positive atmosphere at the show.

What are the Groups of Dogs?

In conformation shows, purebred dogs are categorized into seven groups based on their historical roles, functions, and characteristics. Here are the seven groups:

  • Group 1 – Sporting: This group includes dogs originally bred to assist hunters in retrieving game birds. They are known for their agility, energy, and friendly dispositions. Examples include the Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, and Cocker Spaniel.
  • Group 2 – Hound: Hounds were bred for hunting by scent or sight. This group includes a diverse range of dogs with strong prey drives and keen senses. Examples include the Beagle, Greyhound, and Bloodhound.
  • Group 3 – Working: Working dogs were developed for various labor-intensive tasks such as guarding property, pulling sleds, and performing water rescues. They are typically strong, intelligent, and highly trainable. Examples include the Rottweiler, Boxer, and Siberian Husky.
  • Group 4 – Terrier: Terriers were bred to hunt and kill vermin. They are energetic, feisty, and often exhibit a strong, independent nature. Examples include the Airedale Terrier, Scottish Terrier, and Bull Terrier.
  • Group 5 – Toy: Toy dogs were primarily bred to be companions and lap dogs. They are small in size but often have big personalities. Examples include the Chihuahua, Pomeranian, and Toy Poodle.
  • Group 6 – Non-Sporting: This is a diverse group that includes breeds with a variety of backgrounds and purposes. These dogs typically don’t fit neatly into the other groups. Examples include the Dalmatian, Bulldog, and Poodle.
  • Group 7 – Herding: Herding dogs were developed to gather, herd, and protect livestock. They are intelligent, trainable, and often have a strong herding instinct. Examples include the Border Collie, German Shepherd, and Australian Shepherd.

These groups help organize the breeds for competition and provide a framework for judging dogs based on their specific functions and characteristics.

What are the Dogs Doing in the Ring?

In the ring at a dog conformation show, dogs are participating in a series of activities designed to showcase their physical attributes, movement, and overall conformation to breed standards. Here’s what typically happens:

  1. Stacking: Handlers position the dogs in a specific stance called “stacking.” This pose highlights the dog’s structure, including its topline, leg placement, and overall balance. The dog remains still while the judge visually assesses its conformation.
  2. Individual Examination: Each dog is individually examined by the judge. The judge looks at the dog’s teeth, eyes, coat, and overall physical condition. The judge also feels the dog’s body to assess muscle tone and bone structure.
  3. Gaiting: Handlers move the dogs around the ring at a specific pace to demonstrate their gait. The judge observes the dog’s movement from various angles to assess its stride, coordination, and how well it moves according to breed standards.
  4. Free Stacking: In addition to stacking the dog manually, handlers might also encourage the dog to “free stack,” where the dog naturally stands in a position that showcases its best features. This can demonstrate the dog’s training and natural conformation.
  5. Group Judging: After the individual examination and gaiting, dogs are often lined up together for a final comparison. The judge may take one last look at the dogs in a stacked position and while they move as a group.
  6. Presentation: Throughout the process, handlers present the dogs to their best advantage, ensuring they are clean, well-groomed, and alert. Handlers may use treats or toys to keep the dog’s attention focused.

The judge evaluates each dog against the breed standard, considering factors like structure, movement, temperament, and overall appearance. The dog that best meets the breed standard in the judge’s opinion is awarded.