Conformation Dog Show Process

An example of a conformation dog show is the Westminster event. And while you may understand that each entry in this event is judged according to its breed standard, (hence the descriptor: "conformation" or adherence to the descriptions for each breed), you may wonder how a champion title is obtained. It takes more than one show to gain the points needed.

There is a set procedure to judge the entries and an elimination process to whittle it all down to the most worthy specimens. Each Registry, such as the AKC or UKC have their own rules.

Some of them are awarded points.

When 15 points have been accumulated, the title of CHAMPION (CH) can be added to the registered name. In other words, that specimen has "conformation" to the breed standard, judged by many over time.

Sometimes, if it is an exceptional specimen, and there are a lot of competitors, that will occur rapidly in only a few shows.

Other times, it can take years to get those elusive points.

The competition at a dog show goes beyond simple point collection with additional elimination that declares the best entry for the day… BEST IN SHOW.

Conformation Dog Show Classes And Winners

Here’s how it goes:

Exhibitors enter in a conformation dog show based on their breed (obviously) and that competition is broken down into a variety of “classes”.

Those classes are divided into two groups, dogs (males) and bitches (females).  

It makes the elimination process a little more manageable.  

The male classes go first then the female classes repeat the process.

There is no telling how many entries will be in each class at any conformation dog show.

But each class enters the ring, gets evaluated by the conformation dog show judge and a first, second, third and fourth place for that class is chosen.

conformation dog show process

You can get a nice little ribbon but no points if you win your class.

The first place winner of each class then goes back in the ring to be evaluated by the judge in what is called the Winners Class.

First place is called WINNERS DOG (for the males) and WINNERS BITCH (for the females).

They each get points depending on how many other entries they beat and the geographical location of the event.

At a small conformation dog show, you may only get one point, at larger events maybe 3 or 4.

Remember, we are aiming for the 15 point mark.

how dogs win at conformation dog shows


Once a WINNER is chosen, the second place entry from the WINNERS original class joins the others in the Winners class and a RESERVE DOG is chosen.

That process is repeated for the bitches as well.

The title of RESERVE is analogous to Miss Runner Up in the Miss America Pageant. In case Miss America cannot fulfill her duties, yada, yada, yada…..

Actually, if you understand that the Miss America Pageant is all about picking the physical specimen that best fits the "ideal woman" then you understand the concept of "conformation". 

Sorry, I digress… Back to the conformation dog show….

dog show process

Now the WINNERS DOG and WINNERS BITCH go back in the ring with any entries that are already Champions. The judge evaluates for the best of this class and that is BEST OF BREED (BOB).   

If one of the WINNERS gets this title, they accumulate more points depending on how many Champions they beat.

Let’s say the BEST OF BREED is a male. The judge then decides which bitch is the BEST OF OPPOSITE SEX (BOS). That too gives extra points if the WINNERS BITCH were chosen.

The judge also decides on BEST OF WINNERS which is choosing between the WINNERS DOG and WINNERS BITCH. BEST OF WINNERS gets the higher number of points awarded either

That ends the competition within each breed. But it’s not the end of it by a mile.

Winning points at dog show
Winning points at dog show

The BEST OF BREED Sheltie then enters the ring and competes against the BEST OF BREED for other breeds within their group.

So, for Shelties, they compete against all the other breeds in the HERDING GROUP. I’ve shown just a sample of each in the graph below for the sake of brevity. (I guess it’s really too late for that though, eh?)

First, Second, Third and Fourth place are chosen, but only FIRST place goes on to compete against all the GROUP winners for…. Drum roll please….. BEST IN SHOW!!

And you wonder why it takes so long to get through it all?

Just take two aspirin and call me in the morning.

Best in Show
  1. shelties
  2.  ›
  3. dog shows
  4.  ›
  5. conformation dog shows