There are three main types of shows, Limit, Open, and Championship.
Limit shows are smaller, less competitive shows, which are good to attend to gain experience and knowledge before competing in the larger shows.
Open shows are usually inexpensive and local, probably the next best place to go after gaining confidence at the smaller Limit shows.
Championship shows are large, expensive and usually situated in large cities; can be a bit daunting for the beginner to dog showing.
Each breed of dog falls into a certain category, working, utility, terrier, gundog, hound, toy, pastoral, rare breeds and imported register.
To enter a show an entry form has to be filled in giving details of the dog being entered and for which class, the forms can be obtained from your local ringcraft classes, dog shows or directly from the show secretary. The forms have to be filled in and sent off with the entry fee some time before the actual show date. The form will have a closing date on it and any entries received after the closing date will not be allowed. Once the secretary has received the entries, a catalogue of all the dogs entered is compiled. This is made available to everyone on the show day.
Puppies must be Kennel Club registered and be at least six months of age before they can be entered into their first show, so when you get your new puppy remember to send off the registration forms given to you by the breeder transferring the puppy over to you. In the run up to your first show a lot of preparation must take place in the form of general socialisation and ringcraft classes, so the earlier you start the better.
The shows are based on classes and the winner of each class goes through to a final to become "best in show". The usual classes offered are minor puppy, puppy, junior, maiden, novice, undergraduate, graduate, post graduate, limit, open and veteran.
The dog has to meet certain conditions before it can be entered into a class. More than one class can be entered at one show. The number of placings per class is decided by the show committee and will therefore vary from show to show.
Showing a dog is a very time consuming and expensive hobby. There is the travelling to and from shows, accommodation and entry fees. Most shows take place on a weekend, however some championship shows start on a Thursday or Friday and continue over the weekend. The open shows are a lot less expensive to enter than the other types of shows, and probably nearer to home too.
At the end of the day it is just a fun day out so enjoy it whether you win or lose!
There is a long process of hard work before entering a dog show. You and the puppy must both be well prepared. Ringcraft classes are the ideal place to start. Most classes will let you attend once the puppy has been vaccinated, usually about 12 weeks of age.
Experienced breeders will have started their training long before this time. The ringcraft classes will allow your puppy to socialise with a wide range of other breeds, and you can both practice the showing stances. These classes are only a small part of the preparation you must continue to train your puppy at home every day. You must get your puppy used to having his teeth examined and set up in the show stance. At the classes, and at home, your puppy will be approached by strangers, this all helps in getting the puppy prepared for the show ring when the judges approach to assess your puppy.
Most shows are usually split into dogs and bitches, with the dogs being shown first, however in the less popular breeds dogs and bitches will be shown together.
Before you enter your first show it is always best to attend a few shows without your puppy, you will be able to see what will be expected of you and your puppy when you do attend your first show. You can watch and pick up lots of hints and as most people love to talk especially about their own dogs you can gain a lot of information as well. The Kennel Club or your breeder will be able to give you details or point you in the right direction of how to find out about any forthcoming shows that are relevant and local to you.
Limit Shows, Open shows and Championships shows are all held under Kennel Club rules and regulations that are always printed on the entry schedule, or can be obtained directly from the Kennel Club. When completing the entry schedule form take your time, as many mistakes made at this point cannot be rectified on the day of the show when the catalogue has already been printed. These entry forms have a closing date for entries, usually 6 or 8 weeks before the show date, if your entry is late it will be returned to you.
Schedules for shows are usually available at your local ringcraft classes.
Most shows will present the first few placings (sometimes from 1st to 5th) with a prize card indicating place, at some shows you may also receive a rosette. Some shows even have rosettes, cups and trophies, which have been sponsored or donated, to award to the winning exhibit of certain classes. The cups and trophies can be engraved with the winner’s details and kept for one year, or until the show secretary requires the award back for the next show.
Limit Shows are run by individual dog clubs, and are restricted to the members of that club. These shows are probably the best place to start your showing career as you will be given a lot of help and advice without the pressures of the larger, more competitive shows. The classes at these shows are quite small making it an ideal place to start.
Open Shows have a broader range of classes and tend to be more competitive. In some classes you will be up against dogs of other breeds. Open Shows can also be purely for one specific breed. The top prize at this is The Best in Show, which is judged from the Best of Breed. The Best in Breed is the best dog and bitch of that one breed.
Championship Shows can be breed specific, group specific, for example gundogs, working etc, or for all breeds. These shows offer the widest range of classes and winning at these can gain the ultimate award of qualifying for Crufts, the most prestigious dog show in Britain.
The dogs that win each class compete for Challenge Certificates (CCs), dogs and bitches separately. Once you have three CCs from three separate judges your dog is made up to a Champion. After the CCs have been awarded the Best of Breed winners from each group (gundogs, working, hounds etc) are judged to find Best of Group. These are then judged for Best in Show. The dog declared the Best in Show has competed and is unbeaten by any other dog exhibited at the same show.
The results of all these shows are usually available on the day from the show secretary, they are also published in the dog papers such as Dog World and Our Dogs. Some judges will write a critique of the first 2 or 3 placings, this can help you to know what they saw as the good and bad points of the dogs judged on the day. The only drawback on the critique is that sometimes you have to wait quite a few weeks before it is published, if at all.
The other award that can be obtained is a Junior Warrant, which is based on a points system. These points can only be obtained by placings at Open and Championship shows. The points have to add up to 25 and must be collected in the dogs first year of showing, the dog will then be 18 months old.
The larger Open and Championship shows can be benched or unbenched. Benched means that on entering the show the dogs are allocated an open cage where it has to be left when not being shown. Unbenched shows have no facilities for leaving your dog unattended so they can stay with their owner or handler at all times.
The classes that can be entered at dog shows are dependant upon age, number of first places and CCs won.
As can be seen there is a variety of shows and classes on offer. The range of classes on offer varies from show to show; some may even have more than have been listed here. One other show to mention is the Exemption Show; these shows are mainly run as charity events, local fundraisers or alongside agricultural shows. The Exemption Show is for family pets and is not run under any Kennel Club rules or regulations.