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The dog show basics you need to know to enjoy the @Eukanuba Championship Show #celebratedogs

Written by Rachel Phelps

In December, I had an amazing opportunity to be a dog reporter at the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship.  I quickly learned this show world is confusing.  For example, you may wonder how do they decide who is the best dog?  Or, what does BOB or group winner mean?  Luckily, I had some great guides that taught us a lot about the “fancy” world that weekend.

I’m going to give you a crash course with the best explanations I can.  This way, you can watch the Eukanuba National Championship on TV this Saturday (2/5) at 2 pm eastern time and not be confused.

How do dogs get invited to compete?

Not every dog can go to the national championship.  You have to be invited by the AKC.  Only the top dogs are invited based on how many points the dog has.  Points are awarded to the dogs based on how well they do at other dog shows. There is a whole confusing formula that I can’t wrap my dog brain around, but basically, the bigger the show, the more points you get.  Once you get so many points, you are declared a champion, and you have Ch. in front of your name.  To be invited to the national championship, you have to be a champion and be in the top percentile of your breed’s show dogs.

How are the dogs judged?

Many people are surprised to know that the judge is not comparing the dogs.  He/she is comparing each dog against the written breed standards for that breed.  Every dog breed in the AKC has a written description of the ideal specimen of that breed. For example, my breed standard says I must be white (duh) and have non-floppy ears.  A judge has the hard task of determining which dog best matches their breed standard.  Whichever dog the judge decides best meets their breed standard is selected as the winner of that competition.

What is Best of Breed (BOB)? 

The first show each dog competes in is Best of Breed.  In this competition, each dog competes against all the other dogs of their same breed. The winner for each breed competition receives the title of Best of Breed.  These winners will move on to compete in Best in Group.

What is Best in Group? (Unlike Best of Breed, you will see this judged on TV)

There are six groups based on the dog’s purpose.  Each of the Best of Breed winners are divided into one of the following seven groups for their next competition:

  • SPORTING: These are gun dogs that were developed to assist the hunter, and generally have high energy and stable temperaments.  Examples include the: Pointer, Setters, Spaniels, and Retrievers.
  • HOUND: These dogs are hunters that bring down the game themselves, hold it at bay until the hunter arrives, or locates the game by tracking it by scent.  Examples include the: Dachshunds, Greyhounds, Whippets, and the Beagles.
  • WORKING: These dogs are generally intelligent and powerfully built, performing a variety of tasks, including guarding homes and livestock, serving as draft animals, police, military, and service dogs.  Examples include: Boxers, Great Dames, Mastiffs, and Saint Bernards.
  • TERRIER: “Terrier” comes from the Latin word, terra (ground) as these determined and courageous dogs must be small enough and agile enough to “go to ground” to pursue their quarry (rats, foxes, and other vermin). Examples include the West Highland White Terrier, Fox Terrier, and the Scottish Terrier.
  • TOY: Toy dogs were bred to be companions for people.   Examples include: the Papillons, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Toy Poodles, and the Havaneses.
  • NON-SPORTING:  this is the catch-all group:  These dogs have a great diversity of traits not fitting any of the groups.  Examples include: Standard Poodles, Bulldogs, Chow Chows, and Dalmatians.
  • HERDING: Herding is a natural instinct in dogs, and their purpose is to serve ranchers and farmers by moving livestock from one place to another. Examples include:  the Collie,s Cardigan Welsh Corgis, Old English Sheepdogs, and the German Shepards.

In the Best of Group competition, all of the best of breed winners in that category compete to be the best dog in their group.  For example, in the terrier group, every best of breed winner that is a terrier would compete against each other.  The dog selected as the best of the terrier group is considered the Best of Group for the terriers and moves on to the next competition Best in Show.  This process is repeated for all groups until only seven dogs (one from each group) remain.

What is Best in Show?

All the group winners compete one last time and the top dog is awarded the Best in Show ribbon.

Now that you know how this works, make sure to watch the show on Saturday and let me know below in the comments who we were rooting for to win it all.



About the author

Rachel Phelps

Rachel Phelps, “America’s Pet Parent,” is an award-winning writer, photographer, and certified dog trainer. She keeps busy managing the career of her Internet celebrity dog Preston from Preston Speaks. Her three Westies — who think they are mini-humans — and three cats rule the house. To learn more about Rachel go to: Rachel Phelps Website

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