American Kennel Club Dog Shows: Everything You Could Want To Know

For a new puppy owner, the world of dogs can be a mystery. Dog owners don’t just own dogs. Your dogs are intrinsically attached to your ambition, and showing dogs comprises a whole world that invites you and your puppy to explore and experience. Many of the American Kennel Club Dog Shows described here are designed to accommodate the purebred dog. However, some activities can be enjoyed by mixed breed and purebred dogs alike.

AKC Dog Show Confirmation

The dog show occurs particularly every weekend of the year, depending on where you live. Dog owners don’t think much about driving eight hours to a dog show or flying a few hundred miles to an important show. The shows range from shows of all breeds to shows of a single breed, called specialty. The specialties are oriented to a breed, although sometimes it is a group of dogs. Dog shows can compete with up to 5000 dogs or with only five. The world’s largest dog show is the ‘Cruft dog show’, which is held annually in Birmingham, England. More than 20 days, around 20,000 champion dogs are exhibited.

Everyone thinks they have a very good looking puppy. If your dog is a pure American Kennel Club (AKC) registered breed and is 6 months old, the dog is now ready to participate in the world of dog shows. You may even have bought your puppy from a breeder with the intention of confirming it. In the confirmation, the main consideration is the appearance and general structure of the dog and how closely he confirms to the breed standard.

If you want to participate in dog shows with your dog, the first thing you should do is go to dog shows in your area. Spend the day observing not only the judgments of your breed but also others. The judges examine the dogs and place them according to how close each one compares to their mental image of the dog as described in official breed standards. These judges are experts in the breeds they judge. They will examine each dog with their hands to see if the teeth, muscles, bones, and texture of the fur match the standard. They also examine, in each profile dog, the general balance and observe how each dog moves to see how all these characteristics fit together.

There are 3 types of confirmation shows:

  • The specialty show
  • Group show
  • All-breed show

Specialty shows are limited to dogs of a specific breed or group breed.

Group shows are limited to dogs from one of seven groups (for example, the all-terrier show)

All-breed shows are open to all breeds recognized by the AKC.

Most of the dogs in competition in the conformation shows compete for points for their championship. 15 points are needed, including 2 big ones (wins of 3, 4 or 5 points) under at least 3 different judges to become an AKC record champion, indicated by a Ch. before the name of the dog.

In a show, a dog can earn from one to five points to obtain a championship title, depending on the number of males or females who actually compete for the breed.

Classes For Dog Shows

There are 6 different regular classes in which dogs can be entered. The following classes are offered to male and female dogs separately in each breed entered at the show. Once the dog is a champion, he can compare the best of the breed without having to win in the other classes.
The classes are as follows:

Puppy class: Open for dogs 6 to 9 or 9 to 12-months-old-dogs that are not yet champions.

12-18 months: Open for dogs from 12 to 8-month-old-dogs that are not yet champions

Novice: Open to dogs that have never won a blue ribbon in any of the other classes or that have earned less than 3 ribbons in the beginner class.

Bred by exhibitor: Open to dogs that have been bred by the same person who exhibits them

Bred in the United States: Open to dogs whose parents mated in the United States and were born in the United States.

Open: Open to any dog of that breed.

After these classes are judged, all the dogs that won first place in the classes compete again to determine which dog is the best of the winning dogs. This is also done separately for male and female dogs. Only the best male (winning male) and the best female (winning female) receive championship points. A reserve winner prize in each sex is awarded to the runner-up. The winning male dog and the winning female dog then compete with the champions for the title of the best of the breed.

At the end of the best breed competition, 3 prizes are usually awarded. The best of the breed is given to the dog judged best in its breed category. The best of the winner is given to the dog judged as the best between the winning male and the winning female dog, and the best of the opposite sex is given to the best dog that is the opposite sex of the best winner of the breed.

Only the best winners of the breed advance to compete in the group competition (each breed falls into one of seven group rankings. Four placements are awarded in each group, but only the first-place winner advances to the best in show competition.

Different Types Of AKC Dog Shows

Junior Showmanship

If your children are interested in training and competition, you may want to participate in the junior showmanship. The junior showmanship evolved as part of the concept that dog shows should be a family sport, as well as entertainment. It began in the 1930s and has continuously grown in participation. It is now an integral part of almost all dog shows that are held in the USA and other countries. It is an excellent way to teach children how to handle, care for and respect their pets and also gives them a good start in the sport of dog show. Participating in the junior showmanship is also an excellent way to foster the relationship between young children and their dogs.

The rules of the American Kennel Club (AKC) state that the dog entered in a junior showmanship class must be owned by the junior handler or one of his/her relatives or members of his/her household. In addition, each dog entered must be eligible to compete in conformation or obedience, which means that the dog must be registered in the AKC. This does not mean that the dog must be of high quality, the rules state that judges should not judge by the quality of the dog, but only by the ability of the junior handler to handle the dog.

The class is divided into Novice and Open, which are divided into  Novice Junior and Novice Senior and Open Junior and Open Senior.

The Novice Junior class is for boys and girls who are at least 10 years old but onder14 years old on the day of the show and who have not won 3 first place prizes in a Novice class in a licensed or member show.

The Novice Senior class is for boys and girls who are at least 14 years old but under 18 and have not won the 3 first-place prizes in a Novice class.

The open junior class is for boys and girls who are at least 10 years old but under 14 years old on the day of the show and who have won 3 first place prizes in a Novice class.

The open senior class is for boys and girls who are at least 14 years old but under 18 and have won 3 first place prizes in a Novice class.

Agility Trials

One of the most popular, fastest-growing and fun dogs shows in the United States is agility. It was developed and introduced by John Varley and Peter Meanwell in 1978 in England as an entertaining fun between judging in a dog show. But this show was officially recognized as a sport by the AKC in the early 1880s. Agility is an exciting sport in which you guide your dog off-lead using verbal commands and hand signals over a series of obstacles on a timid course.

The titles that your dog can win in an agility test are:

  • Novice Agility Dog (NAD)
  • Excellent Open Agility Dog (OAD)
  • Agility Dog Excellent (ADX)
  • Master Agility Excellent (MAX)

To acquire an agility title, your dog must earn a qualifying score in its respective class on 3 separate occasions under 2 different judges. The MAX title is awarded after the dog awarded 10 qualification scores in the Agility Excellent class.

The only problem with your puppy’s training to compete in agility is finding the equipment and space for training. Many agility clubs can provide information on how to start your puppy towards an agility title. And even if you don’t compete, just training for agility can be a lot of fun for you and your dog.

Obedience Trials

You may notice that your puppy has attended ‘kindergarten’ and loves working with you by participating in your basic commands. If you have a ‘workaholic’ puppy in your hands, obedience may be the right event for you to try.

Obedience tests assess your dog’s ability to perform a series of exercises. Then he scores on his performance. In each exercise, you should get more than 50% of the possible points (20 to 40) and get a total score of at least 170 out of a total of 200. Every time your dog gets 170 points, he will get a ‘leg’ towards his title. 3 ‘legs’ and your dog becomes obedience titled. There are 3 levels where your dog can win a title, and each one is more difficult than the previous one. You can see levels divided into ‘A’ and ‘B’. Classes ‘A’ are for beginners whose dogs have never received titles, while classes ‘B’ are for more experienced handlers.

The 3 levels are Novice, Open and Utility and dogs that earn their utility titles can compete for their Utility Dog Excellent (UDX) ​​title or their Obedience Test Championship (OTCh) title.

  • On the first level, Novice will require your dogs to demonstrate the skills required for a good canine companion. He will have to step on and off-leash at different speeds, come when called, stay with a group of other dogs and show up for a simple physical test. If your dog passes, he will earn the title of his Companion Dog (CD).
  • The second level, Open, requires that your dog do many of the same exercises as in the Novice class, but without a leash and for longer periods of time. There are also jump and retrieving tasks. If your dog passes, he will get the title of  Companion Dog Excellent (CDX).
  • The final level, Utility, consists of more difficult exercises, as well as scent discrimination tasks. If your dog passes, he will earn his Utility Dog (UD) title.

Field Trials

The field trials are aimed at hunting breeds such as labrador and Golden Retriever, Pointers, Beagles, Spaniels, and Coonhounds. These tests try to simulate a hunting environment. The most common tests are those in which retrievers compete.

Field tests are not for the casual fancier, as they are very competitive and expensive. Training for field trials implies a daily commitment to work with the dog. While there are wonderful stories of owners who have trained their dogs in a puddle of nearby mud, the owners ideally need a considerable body of water and considerable land to properly train the dogs. While many non-retrievers have excelled in retrieving, your chances with a Labrador or Golden Retriever by far exceed the possibilities you would have with a Poodle or a Rottweiler, no matter how talented the dog is.

Tracking Trials

All dogs love to use their nose. They use them to communicate with other dogs and people every day. Tracking tracks allow dogs to demonstrate their natural abilities to recognize and follow scents.
There are 3 titles that a dog can win in event tracking.

The first level is called TD, or Tracking Dog title. A dog can win its title by following a track established by a human from 30 minutes to 2 hours before. The rules describe certain turns on a track of 440 to 500 yards.

The second TDX title or Tracking Dog Excellent is earned by following an older track (laid down 3 to 5 hours before) and longer than 800 to 1000 yards with more turns while overcoming physical and scent obstacles.

A dog that has earned its Variable Surface Tracking title or VST has demonstrated its ability to track through urban and wilderness environments by successfully following an old track of 3 to 5 hours that can take him down a street, through buildings or for other areas devoid of vegetation.

Sheepdog Trials

Shepherd Dog Trials today keeps many of our working sheepdogs in shape. Ironically, the trials were designed to improve the ability of a sheepdog. Now the tests help dogs in shape and their acute instincts. In England, where these trials are very popular, they are televised and have large audiences. The most common contenders in sheepdog trials are Border Collies, Australian shepherds, and Australian Cattle dogs, although any number of herding dogs participate.

Like the agility and obedience tests, these tests involve both the handler and the dog. The handler moves the dog with hand signals and whistles. In the US, these are called Herding Tests and are not as exciting as the equivalent British sheepdog trials.

Flyball Trials

Is your dog an athletic dog, active and with a special affinity for tennis balls? If so, flyball may be the right sport for him. Flyball is a relay race between 2 teams of 4 dogs and 4 trainers. Each dog takes turns running on a course that includes 4 jumps with a flyball box at the end of the course. The dog presses a pedal at the front of a flyball box, which releases a throwing arm that throws a tennis ball up in the air. The dog catches the ball and runs back to the starting line. Then another dog takes his turn. The first team to have 4 dogs that successfully complete the course is declared the winner.


Some dogs love to play with their frisbees, sleep with them, eat with them and live to play the next game of fetch. People have taken this natural love and developed a sport that allows dogs to show their amazing athletic aptitude.

Frisbee contests are held throughout the country. They are divided into beginner and intermediate levels. Each consists of 2 different events. The first event is called mini-distance, which is played in a 20-yard field.

Competitors have 60 seconds to make as many pitches and catch as possible.

The second event is the free-fight event that consists of a choreographed series of acrobatic movements with music.

Judges award points on a scale of 1 to 10 in each of the following categories:

  • Degree of difficulty
  • Execution
  • Leaping agility
  • showmanship

Bonus points can be given to competitors with spectacular or innovative free-fight movements.


Schutzhund is a German sport that gained acceptance in the United States for a while. It involves teaching protection dogs how to move through a restless crowd, look for criminals, stop an intruder, give a warning and more. Obviously this sport is intended for certain breeds. many trainers do not recommend intensifying the natural instincts of already aggressive dogs, such as Rottweilers and Doberman Pinscher. These breeds are naturally capable of performing guard work without specialized sleeve work and the like. Dogs with a Schutzhund degree can track, protect and perform obedience in stressful situations.


Rally-O is not is a traditional obedience. It is not traditional agility, it is sometime between the two, but it is based on its own merit. In rally-O classes, which can be timed or not timed, the dog team and the trainer move continuously and perform exercises that include stop, left, turn, turn right, about turn, about  U-turn, spirals, Figure-eight and jump, as well as basic obedience commands.
Any breed of dog over 6 months of age, including mixed breeds, can compete in rally-O

Canine Good Citizen

A good way to make sure that your puppy has the good manners you will need is to train for the Canine Good Citizen test. The American Kennel Club (AKC) has developed this program to encourage all owners to properly train their dogs. It emphasizes the responsible ownership of the dog and teaches your puppy good manners at home and in the community. All dogs of any age, purebred or mixed breed, can take the test of Canine Good Citizen and earn a certificate of AKC, as well as the right to add the title of CGC (Canine Good Citizen) to their names.

The dog must complete 10 steps to pass. He must show that he is a dog that anyone would like to have, that he is safe with children, that he would be welcomed as a neighbor and that he makes his owner happy without making another person unhappy.

An increasing number of states have passed the legislation of Canine Good Citizens and the CGC program has been adopted by several other countries.

The American Kennel Club encourages all owners to participate in this program. You can find out where a test will take place in your area by contacting your local breed club or the AKC directly.

To get your CGC, your puppy must pass the following tests:

  1. Accepting a friendly stranger
  2. Sitting politely for petting
  3. Appearance and grooming
  4. Walking on a loose leash
  5. Walking through a crowd
  6. Sit and down on command
  7. Coming when called
  8. Reaction to another dog
  9. Reaction to distraction
  10. Supervised separation

Therapy Dogs

There is nothing more rewarding than seeing another person get a lot of happiness and delight from his puppy as he does, and there are some dogs that seem to adore each and every smile. Getting involved with therapy work is a wonderful way to spread the joy of owning a dog to those who benefit most from it. Statistics show that some aspects of medical care are having a real impact and creating some remarkable results with the sick, the elderly and people with special needs. If your puppy has a particularly even and friendly temperament, the therapy work can be perfect for him and especially rewarding for you.

You can have your puppy visit the elderly in nursing homes or patients in hospitals, or you can enroll him in a program that helps educate children about the care and training of dogs. If you contact therapy programs or your local humane society, they can better inform you about the programs in your area and the best way to start your puppy.

Assistance Dog

Some puppies can be trained to help people with physical disabilities. They can help the blind to move independently, help the deaf to hear the phone or the doorbell, and help those confined to wheelchairs to do daily activities, such as opening doors or finding things they need. There are special programs that screen and train these puppies, and some also offer foster programs for people who can welcome puppies and train and socialize them until they are ready to be placed with that special person.

Search And Rescue Dogs

In almost any city, you will find a search and rescue dog unit. These dedicated handlers and their dogs go to disaster scenarios and help find survivors and victims. They also help to find people who may be lost. They travel great distances and give up much of their time and energy to help others. And they do it for the personal sense of satisfaction they receive, not for money or glory.

It takes a special dog and owners to devote a lot of themselves to helping others. Search and rescue dogs come in different breeds, but they all have some traits in common, such as athletics, ability to track and perseverance. Certifying as a search and rescue dog is not easy. You must perform rigorous training exercises in the same conditions that the dog will be facing before being allowed to go to work.

Instinct Test

Instinct tests have been designed to evaluate a dog’s natural instincts or, in some cases, to wake up a dog’s dormant. There are hunting tests to participate in sporting breeds that do not actively participate in field trials. Earthdog trials to attract small terriers and dachshunds, Lure coursing events to challenge housebound whippet and Saluki: sled fulling to harness the Huskies and Malamutes; Coaching trials to intensify Dalmatians; water tests to test water dogs, such as Newfoundland and Portuguese water dog; and herding tests to wake sheepdogs, who meet sheep, goats, and geese for the first time in training sessions for these tests.

These events are less intense than field trials and sheepdog trials and do not require as much training. In line with current trends to return to nature, with homeopathic medicine, miracles and mysticism, the instinct tests for our dogs bring them to our new era of thinking.

Versatility Programs

Each breed recognized in AKC has a parent club organization that is dedicated to the protection and improvement of that breed. In recent years, parent clubs have issued new awards to promote versatility within the breed. Many breeders tend to focus on a single area of dog sport, such as conformation shows and do not attempt to incline the dog in obedience or another field. The dual championships, which combine conformation championships and field tests, have become increasingly scarce in recent years and have won few triple championships (conformation, field and obedience championships).

Of course, certain breeds are more naturally versatile than others. Sports dogs have won more dual championships than all other breeds combined. Other breeds such as the German Shepherd Dog, the Border Collie, and the Poodle have won more than one championship title.