If you're a fan of dog shows (and even if you're not), you may have heard some of these terms that can leave you scratching your head in confusion. Some of them, such as "best in show", might be self-explanatory or easy enough to figure out, but others aren't so obvious. Here's a list of the less obvious (and the obvious) terms used in dog shows, and what they mean.



General terms for dogs and dog shows.


Parent Club (aka National Breed Club)

The officially recognized national organization governing each specific breed's independent specialty clubs. Parent clubs or "National Breed Clubs" are tasked with being the official guardians of their breeds and their written standards and stud book in this country, and to protect the welfare and integrity of their respective breeds.


Superintendent

A show official (usually a professional show managing company) licensed by the AKC, and hired by the show giving club to act as the coordinating management team for the show. The superintendent usually generates and distributes the premium lists, receives the entries, creates the catalogs, provides the equipment and materials needed, keeps all the records and generates the reports for the appropriate kennel club and the AKC.


Show Secretary

A show official (usually an individual) licensed by the AKC, and hired by the show giving club to act as the independent person responsible for creating the show documents and accepting show entries. The secretary usually generates and distributes the premium lists, receives the entries, creates the catalogs, keeps all the records and generates the reports for the club and the AKC. Typically they are not responsible for show equipment or anything of that nature.


Conformation

How well a specific dog's structure, type and temperament conform to it's breed's written standard of excellence. Conformation competition is also commonly referred to as "breed competition."


Premium List

A publication created by the show superintendent or secretary which is mailed to prospective exhibitors, listing the show giving club, the date and location of the show, the judges, classes and awards ("premiums") offered, etc. Premium lists contain forms and fees for entering, and list the closing date by which entries must be received.


Closing Date

The last date by which entries must be received by the show superintendent or secretary, in order for an entry to be valid and included in the show's competition. Entries usually close 3-4 weeks prior to the show date in order to allow the club to arrange the judging schedule and prepare and print the catalogs etc. Closing dates are always listed clearly in the premium lists.


Judging Schedule

A small (usually free) publication offered by the superintendent/show secretary which lists when and where each breed will be judged that day, and by whom. For a complete listing of dogs, their breeders, owners, etc, buy a complete catalog.


Judge

An adjudicating official tasked with evaluating and comparing how well, in his/her opinion, and in comparison to the other dogs entered in the class that day, a dog conforms to its breed's written standard of excellence. Other performance events also have official judges.


All Rounder:

A dog show judge that is licensed to judge all dog breeds or at least many different breeds.


Ring Steward

A judge's assistant who is tasked with coordinating the logistics of getting the exhibitors and their dogs into and out of the rings efficiently. Stewards check in the exhibitors, answer questions about ring procedures, call in the classes, prepare the ribbons and trophies for distribution by the judge, and maintain their own marked catalogs as back-up documentation for official placements. Stewards are responsible for the smooth operation of their rings, and the comfort of the judges they are assigned to assist. Some Stewards are club volunteers while others are paid for their professional services.


Exhibitor

The person presenting the dog in competition in the show ring.


Handler

The person presenting the dog in competition. Often a term used to refer to a professional handler.


Armband

A number printed on paper which an exhibitor/handler wears to indicate the entered dog's (or Junior's) reference number in the judge's book and catalog. This number is the only identification that the judge is allowed access to before and during the competition.


Lead

A thin leather, nylon, cotton, etc. piece of material usually with a metal snap or clip connector on one end to attach to the dog's collar, and a loop on the other end for the handler to hold on to, leading the dog around the show ring. This is not called a leash - which is a thick piece of material used to take your dogs for a walk or compete in obedience.


Bait:

Used to grab and hold a dog's attention in the showing ring, "bait" can be anything from small pieces of liver biscotti (dog candy), to squeaky toys. Use of bait is not allowed in certain shows or by some judges.


Benched Show:

A dog show that assigns dogs to separate benches when not in the showing ring. At benshed shows the dog must be on or by their assigned bence during the show's hours except for occational potty breaks. The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is a benched show and interested spectators can approach the benches to learn more about the dogs present. There are very few "benched" shows left in the United States.


Specialty

A show consisting of only one breed or variety, given by a "Specialty Club." Specialty clubs are groups of individuals (breeders, exhibitors, pet enthusiasts, etc.) who share a passion for a specific breed of dogs, and who host events specific to promoting that breed. Specialties usually draw a large entry of dogs, and wins at some specialties are chwrished within the national family of that breed's fanciers.


National

An annual specialty show hosted by the breed's national parent breed club. Usually considered that breed's most important, competitive, and prestigious event to win or place well in.


Regional

An annual specialty show hosted by a local breed club that is sponsored by the breed's national parent breed club. Usually held in locations through out the country to give local exhibitors and members of the national club a chance to compete in a show sanctioned by the national club.


Sweepstakes

A  set of non-regular classes, usually offered at specialty shows, which are specifically designed to recognize outstanding young dogs and puppies. Winners of Best in Sweeps, Best Opposite Sex in Sweeps, and often all of the class placement winners, receive a portion of the entry fees as prizes for their placement. Sweepstakes are the ONLY competition where money prizes are normally awarded.


Veteran Sweepstakes

A  set of non-regular classes, usually offered at specialty shows, which are specifically designed to recognize outstanding veteran dogs. Veteran dogs are determined by ag and must be at least seven years old to compete unless the show giving club designates entries of six year olds.. Winners of Best in Veteran Sweeps, Best Opposite Sex in Veteran Sweeps, and often all of the class placement winners, receive a portion of the entry fees as prizes for their placement. Sweepstakes are the ONLY competition where money prizes are normally awarded.


Region

A grouping of states with similar numbers of entries, which AKC designates as a Region for calculating point schedules.


Point Schedule:

A list by region stating the number of dogs or bitches in competition at a show that are necessary for specific points. Depending on the numbers of dogs or bitches entered the winner can earn between 1 and 5 points at a show.


Points

In conformation ("breed") competition, AKC awards dogs and bitches between one and five points towards their Champion of Record title - depending on the regional point schedule and/or how many dogs defeated - to both the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch of each breed entered at a show. To receive the title of Champion in US, a dog must earn at least 15 points; at least 6 of which must come from two different judges, and be "majors." A "major" is a substantial achievement earned by defeating a large number of dogs relative to that breed. A major consists of either 3, 4, or 5 points. Points are also earned by AKC Champions of Record toward a Grand Championship. These points start accumulating only after a dog becomes an AKC Champion. To earn a Grand Championship dogs must earn 25 points, including three majors and must defeat at least one other AKC Champion at three different shows. In addition Grand Champions can continue competing for the Grand Championship levels, Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum.


Best of Breed (BOB):

The dog that best represents its breed standard.


Best in Variety (BOV):

When a dog breed has several varieties of the same breed, such as Miniature Poodle, Standard Poodle, Toy Poodle, Best in variety is awarded in lieu of Best in Breed.


Best of Opposite Sex to Best of Breed or Best Opposite Sex (BOS):

The dog that best represents its breed standard, but in the opposite sex of the Best in Breed winner.


Best in Show (BIS):

The overall winner of the dog show, selected from the Best in Breed winners, and the highest distinction in a conformation dog show.


Best in Specialty Show (BISS):

The winner of Best of Breed at a Specialty Show is also considered the Bust in Specialty Show.


Select Dog (SD): At each AKC show one AKC Champion dog competing for Best of Breed can be awarded Select Dog if the judge thinks they are worthy of the points towards his Grand Championship.


Select Bitch (SB): At each AKC show one AKC Champion bitch competing for Best of Breed can be awarded Select Dog if the judge thinks they are worthy of the points towards her Grand Championship.


Award of Merit (AOM):

A distinction given to exceptional dogs that do not qualify as Best of Breed, Best of Opposite Sex, Select Dog or Select Bitch. Awards of Merit can, however, also be given to any of the above except Best of Breed at the judges discression.


Winners Dog (WD):  

The class (aka "unfinished" or "non-champion") dog (male) who has defeated all other class dogs of that breed at that show is the ONE male of that breed to be awarded points towards his Championship. The first place winners from each of the dog classes in that breed that day, compete for Winners Dog. After one Winners Dog is selected, the dog who originally took 2nd place to his in the class is asked to come in and compete with the remaining dogs  for "Reserve Winners Dog." The winner of the "Reserve" is like a "runner- up" and is only awarded points if, in the future, the Winners Dog is found to be disqualified for some reason and the award is disallowed (this does occasionally happen). During the Best of Breed competition, which is held after all class dogs (male and female) of that breed have been judged, the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch compete with each other for "Best of Winners." They may *also* be awarded Best of Breed or Best of Opposite Sex to BOB against the other, already finished champions in the BOB competition.


Winners Bitch (WB):

The class (aka "unfinished" or "non-champion") bitch (female) who has defeated all other class bitches of that breed at that show is the ONE female of that breed to be awarded points towards her championship. The first place winners from each of the bitch classes in that breed that day, compete for Winners Bitch. After one Winners Bitch is selected, the bitch who originally took 2nd place to her in the classes is asked to come in and compete with the remaining bitches for "Reserve Winners Bitch." The winner of the "Reserve" is like a "runner- up" and is only awarded points if, in the future, the Winners Bitch is found to be disqualified for some reason and the award is disallowed (this does occasionally happen). During the Best of Breed competition, which is held after all class dogs (male and female) of that breed have been judged, the Winners Bitch and Winners Dog compete with each other for "Best of Winners." They may *also* be awarded Best of Breed or Best of Opposite Sex to BOB against the other, already finished champions in the BOB competition.


Reserve (or Reserve Winners)

See "Winners Bitch" and/or "Winners Dog" descriptions below.


Best of Winners (BOW)

A competition between the Winners Dog and the Winners Bitch, held during the Best of Breed Competition, whereby the two dogs are judged as to which one is considered to be most closely conformed to its written breed standard. The winner of BOW receives the highest number of points given to that breed's WD or WB that day. For instance, if it was only two points in Dogs that day, and 4 points in Bitches, and the Dog won Best of Winners, he, too would be awarded 4 points.


Major

"A Major" is a big win for a class dog who has defeated enough dogs that day by going Winners Dog or Winners Bitch, to earn either 3, 4, or 5 points towards its championship. The point schedule is different for each breed, sex, and region, depending upon entries. Also see "Points" definition below.


Finish

In conformation competition, to finish means to have won enough points to be awarded the title of Champion of Record. In obedience a finish is a transitional movement the dog makes between the completion of a recall, and the return to the heel position.


Special

Slang for a Champion of Record who is being actively campaigned for national recognition/ranking and Grand Champion points.


Stack

To cause your dog to stand in a manner that best displays it's virtues. In most breeds, the dog's forelegs are stacked in alignment with their withers, and their rear pasterns are squarely aligned and presented at a 90 degree angle from the floor. There are exceptions by breed i.e. German Shepherd Dogs, etc. One may "Hand stack" their dog by manually placing each foot in it's best position, or else "Free stack" by using a hands free method of using bait, verbal commands, body language, or lead correction to get the dog to stack itself.


Gait

The most efficient way of moving for a particular dog. Most breeds are gaited at a trot or jogging speed.


Breed Standard:

The physical and temperamental description of the dog breed that all dogs of that breed are judged against. The breed standard is set and enforced by the parent club for each breed.


Specific parts or aspects of a dog often mentioned in the Breed Standard.


Croup

The lower spinal region of a dog, containing the back of the pelvis to the root of the tail.


Loin

The area of the body between the last ribcage and the beginning of the pelvis. (In human terms, this would be the waist). The lower portion of the loin is known as the "tuck-up."


Occiput

A boney section of the skull located at the back of the topskull. Also known as an Occipital Protuberance. This bone, during puberty, or if not situated properly in an adult, creates an unattractive bump (or protuberance) in the shape of the headpiece. Situated properly, it creates a slight dome to the skull.


Pastern

The area between a dog's paws and it's lower arm, which - in the front - relates to a human wrist area, and in the rear relates to a human's sole of foot. In the rear, the pasterns are topped by "hocks" which relate to a human heel / ankle bone. Often, this entire rear foot assembly in general is mistakenly referred to as the "hock." A good way to understand and visualize the components of a dogs foot / leg assembly is to sit in a chair barefooted and rest your weight on just your bent toes. Your toes and ball of foot would be the dog's "paw" or foot; your soles would be the pasterns, and your heels/ankle would be the hocks. See also Stifle and Patella.


Patella

The knee joint of a dog's rear legs which allow the dog's legs to bend and flex as they move. The patellar joint consists of bone, ligaments and muscle tissue. A frequent disorder of this joint, Patellar luxation is a looseness or hyperextension of the joining tendons which allows the kneecap to slip off of its "runners" causing pain and inability to move correctly. Luxated Patellae can be surgically corrected. LP is thought to be a genetically inheritable tendency, but can also be caused by injury.


Sternum

The "breastbone" on a dog. Located on its forechest midway between its point of shoulders, a somewhat protruding post sternum is desirable in most sporting, working, and herding breed - as it is thought to indicate a chest cavity large enough to accommodate lungs and heart expansion as they work in heavy physical activity.


Sidegait

The movement of a dog as it is seen from the dog's side. Look for how effectively it tracks, and how appropriately it reaches with it's front legs, and drives off of it's rear.


Stifle

The curved area on a dog's rear legs containing the thighs and patella (knee). The actual bend of stifle regulates how much flexibility the dog will have to drive off of its rear.


Stop

The skeletal junction on the skull's foreface between the back of the muzzle and the beginning of the topskull. Collies and Afghans have very little "stop" and Chihuahuas, Labrador Retrievers, and St. Bernards have a great deal of "stop."


Topline

The spinal section of a dog from it's withers (top of shoulder blades) to the end of it's croup (at the tail root).


Withers

The point at which the shoulder blades (scapulae) meet. This critical structural point and its adjoining muscles and ligaments regulate how effectively a dog is able to cover ground with the rest of its front assembly. the tightness or looseness of the shoulders can make the difference between a sloppy thrown front and a clean tracking one. The angulation that the shoulders make create the transition between the neck and spine, and contribute to how easily a dog can reach ahead of itself and how it carries it's head. The withers is also the point at which actual HEIGHT of a dog is measured with a tool called a wicket. The height of the dog needs to be determined for obedience, agility and flyball competition as it will determine the jumping height of the dog.


The Classes at Dog Shows


Initial competition is divided by sex; dogs (males) and bitches (females). Each sex is entered into one initial class according to the exhibitor's choice. Available classes are:

     •     Puppy class (May be divided by age i.e. 6-9 months and 9-12 months)

     •     Twelve to eighteen months (this is not considered a puppy class)

     •     Novice - 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 – 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 (Only for breeder/owner/exhibitor of the dog or bitch)

     •     American Bred (Dogs and bitches that were born in USA)

     •     Open (All ages, regardless of country of birth or ownership)

     •     Breed Competition (For finished champions, Winners Dog - male and Winners Bitch - female)


Bred By

A competitive class in conformation, the Bred by Exhibitor class is a breeder's showcase of the specimens s/he is most proud of - and those that they wish to represent the best of their kennel. Exhibits must be shown by the actual breeder of record who is also listed as an owner of the dog - not a handler. AKC has recently implemented a program to award dogs who finish their championships entirely from the BBEx class. A medallion is given to the breeder as special recognition. An additional medal (gold over silver) is awarded after finishing five Champions from the BBEx Class and another medal (silver over gold) is awarded for finishing ten Champions from the BBEx Class.


Veterans

A non-regular but competitive class for dogs at least 7 years old, designed to honor those dogs who have maintained their structural integrity, health, vigor and love of showing into their golden years. Boxes of Kleenex are mandatory at ringside...trust me.


Brace

Two dogs of the same breed and exact same ownership being shown together as a pair in order to display the breeder's consistency in their breeding program. Dogs selected to be shown in a brace should display the same attributes, virtues, style and type. Brace competition is a non-regular competition and no points are awarded.


Common terms for dog shows in regards to keeping dogs safe and secure or ready for showing.


Set Up

The area on the show grounds in which you establish your home-base for grooming and holding your dogs while you are not in the ring. Pray for a space close to the rings!


Crate

A containment unit used to safely transport and house a dog during rest periods. They are helpful at shows for keeping a dog safe and allowing them a place to rest when not showing. Dogs feel very safe and secure in their crates, which double as their private "dens."


Crates are a CRITICAL piece of safety equipment for ALL dogs travelling in cars. Crates function in much the same way as does a child's safety seat; preventing dogs from being hurled through glass windows during a collision, and taking the impact of a crash. DOGS (and people for that matter) SHOULD *NEVER* ride loose in the back of a truck. If you wouldn't allow your three year old barefoot human child to stand on a hot or wet and slippery truckbed floor with no protection from the elements or from the effects of a sudden stop, bump, turn, or collision, why would you allow your dog??!!


Ex-Pen

A portable wire fencing unit taken to shows to allow dogs a safe, clean place to stretch out if you plan to be at the show all day.


Groom

To bathe, dry, comb, clip and scissors a dog to best exhibit its virtues. Very strict rules and traditions govern "correct" grooming, and significant talent and experience is required to become excellent at show-grooming the long coated breeds.

Dog Show Vocabulary