Get Started in Conformation Dog Shows – American Kennel Club

He’s your best friend, and he’s pretty handsome, if you say so yourself. you think he has what it takes to compete in a dog show, but where do you start? here’s everything you need to know to start showing your dog:

  1. learn the basics

First things first: The official term for dog shows is conformation, as in the act of conforming or producing conformity. Although a dog show may seem like a beauty pageant, it is not: dogs are not compared to each other; they are being measured by how closely they conform to the standard for their particular breed. why? because the closer a dog’s appearance approaches the breed standard, the better the dog’s ability to produce puppies that meet the standard. It is also the reason why mixed breeds and spayed or neutered purebreds are not eligible to compete.

Reading: Dog show dogs


  • six months or older on the day of the show
  • akc recognized breed
  • registered with the akc
  • not spayed or neutered
  • no disqualifying faults, as established by the breed’s parent organization.
  • in good health and up-to-date on vaccinations.

Conformation event sizes range from large all-breed shows, with over 3,000 dogs entered, to small local specialty club shows featuring only one breed. each dog is exhibited (“handled”) by its owner, breeder or hired professional (“handler”). Most of the dogs compete for points towards their AKC championships. 15 points are needed to become an AKC “Record Champion”. the maximum number of points awarded in an event is five. males and females compete separately within their respective breeds. Learn more about the evaluation process here.

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Finally, be sure to review the akc code of sportsmanship for more information on the core values ​​of participants in akc sports and events.

  1. attend a show in person

We cannot stress enough how important it is for you to become familiar with what really goes on at a conformation event. go to a show, or shows, and get acquainted with what’s going on in the ring, and experience the energy and camaraderie between the spectators in the stands and the competitors (also called “exhibitors”). It will also give you an idea of ​​whether you want to show your dog yourself or hire a professional (“handler”).

  1. join an akc club near you

newcomers are encouraged to join their local akc club. Not only do they offer invaluable resources and training classes, but you’ll also meet new people with similar interests who are more than willing to share their knowledge and lend a hand.

  1. prepare yourself and your dog

A conformation class will prepare you and your dog for your first experience, and for your best chances of winning. Classes are often conveniently held during the week and focus on how to handle your dog in the show ring. contact a local akc club to inquire about training opportunities.

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In addition, your dog should know basic behavior such as walking on a leash on his left side and how to stack. he must also be very comfortable with other dogs. In addition to taking classes, we encourage you to visit dog parks to practice your socialization skills. Finally, before his first show, his pet must be well groomed: think trimmed nails, tangle-free fur, and dirt.

If you think you’d feel more comfortable hiring a professional handler, learn how to hire one here.

  1. try a match schedule

Would you like to have a practice run before going to a real show? That’s what party programs are for. Here, you and your dog socialize in an educational and informal environment, meet other dog show enthusiasts and exchange stories. another bonus? Experienced handlers, judges, and other dog owners will provide guidance and feedback you’ll want before you step into the ring.

While it may seem like a lot to learn, don’t forget that the goal here is for you and your dog to have fun together! a competitive spirit doesn’t hurt either.

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