What’s a Dog Show?…a Crash Course in Conformation and More


Lena Groth, Staff Writer

Yes, I know. Showing dogs is a unique hobby for a teenager like me. You’ve probably heard of the Westminster Dog Show that fancy production in New York City every February, the World Series of dog shows. At first glance, a conformation dog show might seem unusual. However, there is a purpose behind it. At a conformation dog show, dogs are judged on how well they conform to their breed standard. The purpose of this is to preserve dogs that are fit to do the jobs they were bred to do, such as herding, guarding, and hunting.

First, dogs are judged with other members of their breed, the best dog going on to compete in its breed group. Dogs are separated into groups based on their original jobs. The winner of each of the seven groups competes for Best in Show at the end of the day. However, our sport is slowly fading, and we rely on the young generations to save it. The solution to this is the Junior Showmanship competitions at dog shows. This competition is open to young people ages 9-18. Instead of judging the dogs, the handling skills of competitors are compared. The competitor with the best skills at the end is crowned “Best Junior Handler”, which is the equivalent to Best in Show in the competition. Young people like me can sometimes even be seen in the ring with adults in regular competitions! But if conformation is not your speed, there’s a sport for everyone. You can participate in agility, the fast-paced “obstacle course” for dogs. If your dog has a love of water, then dock diving is for you! These are only a few of the offerings and the list goes on!

If I have grasped your interest, and you would like to learn more, visit the American Kennel Club website. You can learn the ins and outs of every dog sport available. In addition, you can search for dog events near you, where you can observe the happenings of a dog show and chat with exhibitors. The sport of dogs, in my opinion, is amazing. I am coming up on my third year of showing, and the number of life lessons in addition to dog knowledge I have learned is astounding. The best parts are the bonds you will form with your dogs, and the lasting friendships you will make with fellow competitors. The ribbons you win are the icing on the cake.