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Understanding Canadian Conformation Dog Shows

By Sherry Borgia of Sherakan Reg’d Siberians

Understanding dog shows can be a huge challenge if you are new to the show world.

The following is about Canadian Kennel Club conformation shows.

The judge is not just comparing dogs to each other — the judge is comparing each dog to the standard of excellence for the breed and evaluating which dog comes closest to meeting the standard. However, no dog is perfect, and it is in the relative weights given to the strengths and imperfections that make for different judgments!

Breed Level — The Classes

The very first thing to understand is that the male and female dogs are judged entirely separately until the very last class, the “general specials,” or Best of Breed competition.

There are “five classes” in each sex: Junior Puppy, Senior Puppy, Canadian-bred, Bred-by-Exhibitor, and Open. They are judged in this order. The catalogue, however, lists them by class, so if you can, buy a catalogue to help you keep track.

Junior Puppy class : Is for dogs aged between 6 months (the youngest you may show a dog in Canada) to 9 months.

Senior Puppy : Is for pups aged 9 to 12 months. If you are at a Siberian Specialty, there may be an additional class for 12 to 18 month olds, especially in the Puppy Sweepstakes. All-breed shows are not permitted to hold this class, but specialties can and do, mostly so that worthy youngsters are not required to compete against mature dogs.

The Canadian-bred : Class was developed in response to an old prejudice that the American dogs were better than Canadian ones. This may have been true at one time, but I’m not sure it is any more. However, any dog entered in this class must have been born in Canada. There is no age limitation.

Bred-by-Exhibitor : Often called the “bred-by” class, is one for breeders to show off the stock they have produced. The person on the other end of the lead must be one of the registered breeders of the dog, so you rarely find professional handlers in this class. Again, there is no age limit on the dogs entered in this class.

Open : Class is for any dog not yet a Canadian champion of any age. Puppies may be entered in this class, and often are if they’re particularly mature. This is also where dogs who are already champions in another country must start their Canadian competition. Imagine yourself at ringside, and the Siberians are starting. The ring steward will call in the Junior Puppy Males, and they will be lined up for the judge to look at. Sometimes the judge will start them off moving, which means that they won’t be made to stand perfectly, but will start off trotting around. The judge must look at the whole class, and must also examine each dog individually and watch it moving individually.

Sometimes a judge’s choices in the ring are a mystery. Remember that during the individual exams, they get to look at the dog’s bite (the way the upper and lower jaws meet), the teeth themselves, the texture of the coat, the testicles on males and the actual bone structure under the coat.

Back to ringside … today’s judge has looked at them all, moved them all, and now is moving them around the ring, and he points to one, two, three and four! The dogs and handlers go and line up at the number standards that are in each ring. The steward gives the judge the ribbons, the judge and steward both record the numbers of the winners, and the judge hands out ribbons to the handlers. If the steward is good, the next class is busy getting set up in the ring while the judge hands out ribbons and goes to check the paperwork on the next class. This routine of examination and awards keeps on until all of the classes with entries are judged.

Winners Competition

The judge’s next task is to pick out the Winners Male dog. Basically, the winner of each class is called back in to the ring, so the judge can compare the best of each class and determine the best of the class males that he looked at. The steward will call in the first-place winner from each class, and they will be arranged in reverse class order: Open Dog first, down to Junior Puppy last.

It is at this point that dogs can earn championship points, and not before. The number of points won depends on the number of dogs in competition. The schedule of points is published in every catalogue. This is one item where US and Canadian shows differ. In Canadian shows, the point schedule is the same all across the country. The Americans have divided up their country into regions, and the points-earned count is different in different regions and differs between the sexes, too.

Once the judge picks his Winners Male, there are two possibilities. The first is that there was only one dog entered per class, in which case, the judge will immediately pick out the Reserve Winners Male. If there is a second-place dog in the class that the Winners Dog came from, the steward will call that dog into the ring to compete with the first-place winners for the Reserve ribbon.

If you’re exhibiting dogs, beware! If your entry is cancelled or invalidated in any way (from dishonored cheque to incomplete or incorrect entry forms) then the points won by the Winners Dog will be taken away and given to the Reserve Winners Dog! For American exhibitors, it is important to note that if your dog does not compete at every level it earns, then any points won are taken away. So if a dog takes the points at the Winners level and doesn’t show up for Best of Breed competition, then the points will be given to the Reserve Winners dog!

Now the whole process is repeated for the Siberian girlies. Meanwhile, the Winners Male dog usually hangs around, while the “Specials” or dogs who’ve already earned Canadian championships gather for the Best of Breed competition, called the “Specials class”. Also, puppies who were unbeaten in their classes will also be nearby for the Best Puppy in Breed competition.

0 points 1 point 2 points 3 points 4 points 5 points
Dogs Competing 1 2 3 – 5 6 – 9 10 – 12 13 or more

Breed Level — General Specials

Now the steward calls in the “Specials class”. Male champions are usually in front, followed by female champions, then the Winners Dog and Winners Female. In this class, the judge may give three awards: Best of Breed (BOB), Best of Opposite Sex (BOS) and Best of Winners (BOW). Any of the dogs in the ring qualifies for Best of Breed. Once the judge has decided on his Breed winner, he must select a dog of the opposite sex for Best of Opposite. Again, any dog of the other gender may be selected for BOS. If all the dogs are of the same gender, there will be no Best of Opposite prize given. The final decision the judge must make is which of the Winners dogs will be awarded Best of Winners. The BOW gets more points for having beaten the entire opposite sex, so this is an important win. If the judge chose a Winner for his BOB winner, then the BOW goes automatically to that dog.

What you will see as you watch is three dog/handler teams line up — the first one is the Best of Breed, the one second in line is Best of Opposite and the last one is Best of Winners.

Now, assuming that none of those prizes was won by a puppy, the steward will call in the Best Puppy in Breed (BPIB) class. This class is the problematic one, for the Best Puppy ribbon is often earned during the class competition, even though the ribbon cannot be awarded until after the Best of Breed.

If BOB is given to a pup, it automatically earns the puppy win. If BOW goes to a pup, the steward has to make sure that none of the specials is a pup before giving the puppy ribbon to the judge. If there are puppies only in one sex and the Winners or Reserve Winners ribbon is given to a puppy, then that pup has beaten all the other pups, and has earned the BPIB ribbon — unless one of the specials is a puppy!

Often, there will be no Puppy Breed competition. If you’re an exhibitor, it is worthwhile to keep close track as I have seen experienced judges and stewards make mistakes about when and to whom to give a BPIB ribbon, especially when there are puppies entered in the not-just-for-puppy classes.

All of this, and we’ve only gone through the breed competition! There is still the group to go, and as Siberians are nearly the last breed to be judged, they usually hang around and the group begins fairly quickly. In “the group” all of the Best of Breed winners will compete. They can win championship points, but if they’re already champions, the real goal is to amass as many dogs-defeated points as possible in order to compete for Top Siberian during the year. The number of championship points is determined by the number of breeds in competition.

Working Competition

The steward calls in the BOB dogs. Often the judge will direct them to be in alphabetical or catalogue order, but many judges will ask that larger faster breeds line up in front of the shorter, slower-moving breeds. The judge will move them all together, and will examine each one individually. Judges who are seeing a dog for the first time must give it a close going-over, as though the dog was in Breed competition.

After looking at the dogs together and individually, the judge will often “make a cut”. That means he will select the best five to eight dogs and excuse the rest. Then the judge will look at the remaining dogs, perhaps gaiting them again, and he will select first, second, third and fourth from that line-up.

Normally there are rosettes for all four placements and a prize for first place as well. Some shows offer prizes for all four placements, and some offer prize money.

After the Group competition, there is Puppy Group … unless a puppy won the Group! If a pup took Group, it wins Best Puppy in Group (BPIG) automatically. If a puppy takes the group second, third or fourth placement, then only puppies from breeds that beat the group-placing pup will be called. (The group-placing pup beat all the pups in lower-placing breeds, by beating the dog that won (BOB).

Puppy Group has only one placement — Best Puppy in Group. There is no second place. Also, it tends to be a much smaller competition than Group, as breeds often do not have a puppy entered. Many times a puppy will be the only puppy entered in the entire group, and will be the only entry in the BPIG ring. Nonetheless, the judge will go through the same ring procedure as with the Group until the decision is made. Puppy Group winners earn no points toward a championship – this win is more prestige than anything else. The big rosette looks lovely on a wall, and some clubs have terrific prizes!

Group First Group Second Group Third Group Fourth
13 or more breeds in Group 5 4 3 2
10 to 12 breeds 4 3 2 1
6 to 9 breeds 3 2 1 1
5 breeds 2 1 1 1
4 breeds 2 1 1 0
3 breeds 2 1 0 0
2 breeds 1 0 0 0
1 breed 0 0 0 0

Best In Show

The last stage is the Best In Show (BIS) competition. Assume that the Siberian BOB winner also took First in Group; now he or she must be at the BIS competition at the end of the day.

Often, show-giving clubs will enlarge a ring for the BIS competition. A certain amount of ceremony goes along with this win, for it is the culmination of the day’s work. The truth is that some BIS wins are more meaningful than others. To be even more truthful, I wouldn’t turn one down from anywhere! To win BIS at a tiny show may or may not be meaningful, depending on the quality of the competing dogs and the judgment of the judge. Nonetheless, winning a big red-white-and-blue rosette anywhere is a thrill for most exhibitors, even those who don’t own the dog they’re showing.

The steward calls in the First-In-Group winners and lines them up in group order. There are seven groups in Canada, and in order, they are the Sporting Dog group, then the Hound group, the Working dog, Terrier Group, and a Toy group, a Non-Sporting group and a Herding group. The judge looks at them all, again both together and individually. He will move them, and sometimes move them over and over again. If the judge is a showman, he can make quite a production of choosing his BIS winner, and the very best judges keep the audience guessing right up until the end. Finally, he or she will point at, or often carry the rosette to the BIS dog and the day is mostly over. The only thing left is Best Puppy in Show.

For Best Puppy in Show, the steward calls in the seven pups who have won their respective Puppy Groups. The judge will go through the same procedure that he did with the adults. Again, there is no point-win for the Best Puppy In Show, but the rosette, prize and bragging rights make it worthwhile.

Specialties Can Be Different!

Specialty shows often hold a number of additional classes, called ‘unofficial classes.’ These include classes where veteran dogs may compete, and neutered/spayed dogs may also compete. Other specialty classes will often include brace class as well as stud-and-get (a male and his offspring) or dam-and-offspring (a female and her offspring). National breed clubs will go all-out to get prestigious judges and offer terrific prizes and opportunities for Siberian lovers to socialize. In Canada, the national breed club is The Siberian Husky Club Of Canada (SHCC), and it can be contacted through there website www.siberianhuskyclubofcanada.weebly.com. The SHCC that holds a national specialty every year in various locations around the country.

Boosters, or ‘supported entry shows,’ fall somewhere between specialties and all-breed shows. Boosters are held as part of a regular all-breed show, but prizes are given for BOB, BOS, BOW and BPIB at least. Often there are prizes for every class winner, as well as for the Winners Male and Female and on up. Boosters also often include a trophy for the breed member who places highest at an associated obedience trial. The prizes given will be determined by the folks who actually put the booster on. These hard-working Siberian lovers will often decorate the judge’s table, provide fancy flowerpots and decorations for the ring and otherwise dress up the ordinary breed competition.

Boosters are very easy to hold. All one needs is permission from the national or some other breed or dog-oriented club, some prizes and a little enthusiasm. The all-breed show club sometimes gives a premium back to the sponsor-organization of several dollars per dog entered. Some booster holders hold raffles and fund-raising events to pay for prizes; others donate prizes or make them themselves.

Prizes can be simple or quite expensive. They range from fridge magnets and coffee mugs to commissioned stained-glass artwork and hand-sewn crate mats. The quality of the prizes is entirely up to the group of people who are organizing the booster.

I hope you have a better understanding on how a Conformation dog show works.

Above article reproduced with permission from Sherry Borgia of Sherakan Reg’d Siberians

CKC Conformation Class Divisions


JUNIOR PUPPY CLASS — For any dog 6 months of age and under 9 months of age on the day of the show.

SENIOR PUPPY CLASS — For any dog 9 months of age and under 12 months of age on the day of the show.

12 TO 18 MONTHS CLASS — (A Specialty option only) For dogs 12 months of age and under 18 months of age on the day of the Specialty.

CANADIAN BRED CLASS — For any dog born in Canada. Champions of any country excluded.

BRED BY EXHIBITOR CLASS — For any dog owned and handled in the ring by owner/breeder. The handler MUST be the owner/co-owner AND breeder/co-breeder of the dog. The owner/breeder must handle the dog at the class level, but need not handle the dog for further awards.

OPEN CLASS — For all dogs.

VETERANS CLASS — (A Specialty option only) For all dogs 7 years of age and over on the day of the Specialty. The winners of the Veteran Male and Female classes do NOT compete for Championship points but go directly onto the Best of Breed competition. NOTE: Spayed or Neutered dogs ARE eligible for competition in this class.

SPECIALS ONLY CLASS — For any dog which has a recorded CKC Registration or Event Registration Number and has attained the required points for Championship status.

EXHIBITION ONLY — All dogs entered in this class shall be listed in the catalogue with the same particulars as dogs entered in regular competition. Dogs entered in this class may not compete in any Regular class but may enter and compete in Non-Regular classes and/or Parades only.

CH — Champion (Conformation Title) — A dog attains the rank of Champion when he is declared a winner by at least three different judges and accumulates a minimum of 10 points. Dogs are shown in Classes — Males are judged first and a winner is declared (Winner Male). Females are then judged and a Winner Female is named.

BIS — Best in Show (Conformation Title) — The first place winner from each of the seven groups compete for Best in Show . This dog is awarded a large red, white and blue rosette, and usually nice trophies as well.

BPIS — Best Puppy in Show (Conformation Title) — The seven group winning puppies compete for the BPIS award. This winning puppy receives a large pale blue rosette.

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