Everything you need to know about dog shows

Ever wonder how dog shows work? We have the answer for you right here.

Dog shows, which are technically referred to as “conformation shows,” represent the best of purebreeds. This world is an aristocracy, open to purebloods only, no mixed-breeds allowed.

Essentially, dog shows are the canine equivalent of beauty pageants.

Each dog is measured against the “Breed Standard,” an idealized specimen of that breed, and the one that most closely resembles the Breed Standard earns the title “Best of Breed.”

The Best of Breeds then face each other to see who will win Best of Group, and then those Best in Group dogs will face each other to determine who wins overall Best in Show.

Various countries have slightly different groups they use to classify competitors, but for the sake of clarity we’ll just use the American Kennel Club’s groups, which are largely self-explanatory.

The Herding Group is made up of dogs that traditionally herd cattle and sheep, including the Australian Shepherd, Border Collie and Shetland Sheepdog.

The Hound Group features dogs that were bred to track down varmints and other game, and includes the Beagle, Dachshound and Saluki.

The Terrier Group is for “dogs of great determination, courage and self-confidence, with a great willingness to go to ground in search of its quarry,” according to the Kennel Club of Philadelphia. Breeds included here are the Airedale, Boston Terrier and Scottish Terrier.

The Toy Group features tiny morsels of canines. “Their small size and portability make them ideal for city dwellers and those with limited space,” the KCP states. Breeds that go here include the  Chihuahua, Pekignese and Yorkshire Terrier.

The Sporting Group consists of breeds specialized to help hunters find, track and retrieve their quarry, and include the Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever and Pointer.

The Working Group is for dogs who generally serve a specific function to aid humans – the Boxer, Doberman and Great Pyrenees all belong to this group.

Finally, there is the Non-Sporting Group, which is essentially a miscellaneous classification, and includes everything from Bulldogs to Dalmatians to French Bulldogs.

The most famous dog shows are the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at New York City’s Madison Square Garden and the National Dog Show presented by Purina, which is held in mid-November in Philadelphia and tape-delayed into a Thanksgiving tradition.

Because of their purebred status, show dogs are often prone to being more sickly, and are tremendously expensive.

A line of champion Collies are featured in many of Albert Payson Terhune’s novels, as he was also a prominent breeder as well as an author.

Jim Kjelgaard’s “Big Red” trilogy is about several generations of prize-winning Irish Setters, and show dogs are gently lampooned in Spencer Quinn’s mystery Thereby Hangs a Tail, part of his Chet and Bernie series.

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