In the Show Ring
UNDERSTANDING DOG SHOWS – AKC CONFORMATION
The American Kennel Club (AKC) is the primary canine registry in the United States. One of the many advantages of registering your purebred Dachshund with the AKC is the ability to compete in a variety of AKC sanctioned events with your dog. This page describes one of the most popular AKC events known as “Conformation”. Conformation refers to the type of competition that occurs at dog shows throughout the country. Many of these events are nationally televised, such as the Westminster Kennel Club Show and the AKC Eukeneuba National Championship. Though these are two of the most well known dog shows, conformation events are occurring all over the country throughout the year. Chances are there are at least a few dog shows each year within driving distance of wherever you live. If you enjoy watching dog shows on television, you will likely find attending one in person even more exciting. The AKC currently recognizes over 160 different breeds of dogs, from the Affenpinscher to the Yorkshire Terrier, and dog shows provide a great opportunity to see the best of these breeds on display.
The purpose of a dog show is to judge to what degree each dog being shown “conforms” to the official standard set for the breed. The standard for Dachshunds, as with other breeds, describes the idea appearance, features and descriptions determined to be ideal for a Dachshund. The standards are typically set by a breed’s “parent club”, in the Dachshund breed, the parent club is the Dachshund Club of America. Parent clubs are made up of members who breed and show dogs of the particular breed. Dachshunds come in three “Varieties” – “Long Haired”, “Smooth”, and “Wire Haired”. The standard is the same for all three varieties, except for the coat, which is different for each.
At a dog show, all dogs of a particular breed are competing with one another to determine which of them most closely conforms to the standard for that breed. The dog selected for this honor is designated “Best of Breed”, and moves on to compete against dogs of other breeds, but is always judged by the degree to which the dog conforms to the standard for its breed. Only unaltered dogs are eligible for competition in AKC conformation events. As the purpose of dog shows is to exhibit breeding stock, any dog that has been spayed or neutered cannot be bred, thus is ineligible to participate. The rules and procedures involved in dog shows are somewhat intricate, but can be easily understood if broken down and examined in detail.
Starting at the Beginning
You’ve purchased a new puppy, registered it with the AKC and are excited about the prospect of exhibiting your dog at dog shows in your area. The first milestone to work towards in this process is achieving Championship status for your dog. The title of AKC Champion in conformation is designated by the initials “Ch” in front of the dog’s registered name. You may also hear the term “finished” to refer to a dog that has met the requirements for his AKC Championship. Most of the dogs you see on televised dog shows have this designation. Whether or not you choose to show your dog (referred to as “handling”) yourself or engage the services of a professional handler, the mechanics of becoming a champion remain the same.
Becoming a Champion – The Road to Glory Begins
In AKC conformation events, your dog must be at least six months old in order to compete. All of the dogs of a particular breed will compete in the same show ring and be evaluated by the same judge. The dog’s gender, age and breeding designation are three factors that determine how your dog will be entered in the competition. Male dogs are referred to simply as ‘dogs’, while the females of all breeds are referred to as ‘bitches.’ Prior to determining which dog is selected as “Best of Breed”, a series of preliminary competitions occur to narrow down the competitive field. This begins with all dogs that have not yet achieved their AKC championship competing against each other for the points that they must accrue to earn this title. In order to become an AKC champion, a dog must accrue at least 15 championship points. We’ll discuss championship points in more detail in just a bit.
The males (dogs) who have not yet earned their championship compete against each other in various groupings or ‘classes’ (similar to heats in a track meet) to determine which dog most closely conforms to the breed standard. This dog is awarded the honor of being chosen “Winner’s Dog”. The bitches then compete against each other in different classes for the honor of “Winner’s Bitch”. The dogs or bitches in a particular class compete against each other and are awarded ribbons for first, second, third and fourth place. The first place winners from each class then compete for Winner’s Dog and Winner’s Bitch.