ABC logo
An American Brittany
Regional Club


NM Flag




Central New Mexico Brittany Club

Specialty Shows

CNMBC logo
Providing more events for members and their Brittanys
than any ABC Club in the Southwest
Rio Grande High Desert Cluster - Ocotber 14,15,16,17,18, 2021

NM State Fairground at 300 San Pedro Dr. NE
Albuquerque, NM

An Introduction to Dog and Specialty Shows

by Tom Mauter, CNMBC, NVBC

When someone talks about going to a "dog show," he or she is usually referring to a conformation show. An AKC conformation show is one at which purebred dogs are evaluated to determine their degree of compliance or conformity to the breed standard as determined by the American Kennel Club.

AKC breed standards for the Brittany  

AKC - A Beginner's Guide to Dog Shows

Types of Conformation Dog Shows

There are three types of conformation dog shows:

All-breed shows offer competitions for over 150 breeds and varieties of dogs recognized by the AKC. All-breed shows are often shown on television on such networks as ESPN, Animal Planet, USA Network, and NBC. Watch Brittanys being judged in the 2011 Westminster Kennel Club Show.

Specialty shows are restricted to dogs of a specific breed or to varieties of one breed. For example, the Central New Mexico Brittany Club Specialty is for Brittanys only. Our specialty show is held in conjunction with an all-breed show November 2, 2012 in Rio Rancho at the Rio Rancho Sports Complex.

Group shows are limited to dogs belonging to one of the seven groups. For example, the Sporting Dog Fanciers of New Mexico show features only breeds belonging to the Sporting group. This show will be held November 3, 2012 in Rio Rancho at the Rio Rancho Sports Complex at
3501 High Resort Blvd.
Specialty Show - Best of Breed Competition
Speciality Show Judging

Which Dogs May Participate

To be eligible to compete, a dog must:

  • be individually registered with the American Kennel Club
  • be 6 months of age or older
  • be a breed for which classes are offered at a show
  • meet any eligibility requirements in the written standard for its breed
Unlike Field Trials, Hunt Tests, Obedience and Rally competition, spayed or neutered dogs are not eligible to compete in conformation classes at a dog show, because the purpose of a dog show is to evaluate breeding stock.

The Role of the Judge

Judges examine the dogs, then give awards according to how closely each dog compares to the judge's mental image of the "perfect" dog described in the breed's AKC official standard.

The AKC standard describes the characteristics that allow the breed to perform the function for which it was bred. These standards include specifications for structure, temperament and movement.

The judges are experts on the breeds they are judging. They examine each dog with their hands to see if the teeth, muscles, bones and coat texture conform to the breed's standard. They view each dog in profile for overall balance, and watch each dog's gait or movement to see how all of those features fit together in action.

In the classes, dogs are judged individually. The judge will typically have the entire class go around the ring, then stop and have the handlers set up their dogs in a "stacked" position - front feet square, back feet extended behind, balance forward, head and ears up, neck arched. The judge then examines dogs one at a time with his/her hands, checking the bite, the eye color, shoulder angles, depth of chest, slope of topline. In males the judge also checks for two normal testicles. Then the judge has the handler move the dog, typically "down and back" which is in a straight line away from the judge to one corner of the ring, then in a straight line back to the judge. This allows the judge to see the movement of the dog coming and going. There are several patterns a judge can use, including the diagonal (which is a down and back to the diagonal corner), the triangle, the L, and the T (which is rarely used). The handler then has the dog "free stack" where it sets itself up in the proper pose in front of the judge, and then the judge sends them on a "go around" or moving around the ring to the end of the line. The judge then moves on to the next dog and repeats the process, until all the dogs have been judged individually. 

From here, the judge must make a decision on which dog he/she feels most closely meets the breed standard. The judge may move the dogs, switch their position and then move them. If a judge is trying to decide between two, it's often helpful to see them together/ Thus the judge may have them stand with fronts or rears facing him/her. At last, the judge makes the final decision and choose first, second, third, and fourth place in the class. 

How a Dog Show Works

Each dog presented to a judge is exhibited or handled by its owner, breeder or a hired professional. The role of a handler is similar to that of a jockey who rides a horse around the track and, hopefully, into the winner's circle.

Most dogs in competition at conformation shows are competing for points toward their AKC championships. It takes fifteen points, including two majors (wins of three, four or five points) awarded by at least three different judges, to become an American Kennel Club "Champion of Record."

The number of championship points awarded at a show depends on the number of males ("dogs") and females ("bitches") of the breed actually in competition. The larger the entry, the greater the number of points a male or a female can win. The maximum number of points awarded to a dog at any show is 5 points.

Males and females compete separately within their respective breeds, in seven regular classes. The following classes are offered, and are divided by sex:

Sweepstakes - Many specialty shows begin with this confirmation competition competitng by age and gender for ribbons, prizes and cash from the Sweepstakes separate entry fees.

orange ballPuppy Dogs 9-12 months which are entered in a Regular Class in this show.
orange ballJunior Dogs 12 but under 18 months which are entered in a Regular Class in this show.
orange ballVeteran Sweepstakes for Brittanys 8 years and over for dogs and bitches which are entered in a
Regular or Non-regular Class in this Show.

Puppy - For dogs between six and nine months of age and nine to twelve months, that are not yet champions (optional class).

Twelve-To-Eighteen Months Junior Dogs - For dogs twelve to eighteen months of age, that are not yet champions (optional class).

Amateur-Owner-Handler – For dogs that are at least six months of age that are not champions.  Dogs must be handled in the class by the AKC registered owner of the dog and is limited to exhibitors who have not ever been a professional dog handler, an AKC approved conformation judge, or anemployed as an assistant to a professional handler (effective January 1, 2009) (optional class).

Bred By Exhibitor - For dogs that are exhibited by their owner and breeder, that are not yet champions (optional class).

American-Bred - For dogs born in the United States from a mating which took place in the United States, that are not yet champions (optional class).

Open - For any dog of the breed, at least 6 months of age (mandatory class).

Hunt Test Classes - for dogs with a Hunt Test Title

Field Trial Classes - for dogs that have FC or AFC titles or have placed the an AKC-licensed or AKC-member field trail within the last year.

Veteran Classes - A class for dogs and a class for bitches 8 years and older.

After these classes are judged, all the dogs that won first place in a class compete again to see who is the best of the winning dogs. Males and females are judged separately. Only the best male (Winners Dog) and the best female (Winners Bitch) receive championship points. The Winners Dog and Winners Bitch then compete with the champions for the Best of Breed award. At the end of the Best of Breed Competition, three awards are usually given:

Best of Breed - the dog judged as the best in its breed category.

Best of Winners - the dog judged as the better of the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch.

Best of Opposite Sex - the best dog that is the opposite sex to the Best of Breed winner.


The Best of Breed winner then goes on to compete in the Group ring. Brittanys are in the Sporting Group, so our BOB dog would compete against all of the other BOB winners of the breeds in the Sporting Group: American Water Spaniel, Brittany, Chesapeake Bay, Retriever, Clumber Spaniel, Cocker Spaniel (American & English), Curly-coated Retriever. English Setter, English Springer Spaniel, Field Spaniel,
Flat-coated Retriever. German Shorthair Pointer, German Wirehaired Pointer, Golden Retriever, Gordon Setter, Irish Setter, Irish Red & White Setter Irish Water Spaniel, Labrador Retriever, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Pointer, Spinone Italiano, Sussex Spaniel, Vizsla, Weimaraner, Welsh Springer Spaniel, and Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Dogs are again judged individually, and the judge picks the dog that he thinks is closest to its own breed standard as the Group winner. The winners from each of the seven Groups go on to compete in Best In Show.

Boobie Sigmond and Cage
Best of Breed Winner in 2013 NVBC Specialty Show (Bobbie Sigmnd and Cage)

Now that you've read about the classes and judging of a dog show, watch the final judging of the Brittanys in the2012 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and watch how the judge interacts with the Brittanys and selects the winners.

CNMBC conducts a specialty show in the fall. This year two specialty shows will be held November 3rd and November 4th at the Rio Rancho Sports Complex in Rio Rancho, NM. Only dogs entered in the show are allowed on show grounds.

Return to the top of page