Understanding AKC Conformation Competition: Basics
Earlier in this website I suggested attending shows to see the breed of dog that interested you in person. If you have followed the web site this far I'm going to assume that you have decided that the Min Pin is for you or you already own one.
Attending a dog show for the first time can be quite an experience with so many things going on at the same time. Dogs of all sizes and types are being led around in a hurried rush by their owners or handlers while some are resting peacefully in their crates. You will find many rings that will have activity in them nearly all the time. One thing I have learned quickly about a dog show, it is full of Hurry and Wait. Then, so quickly, it's all over until the next time. The first thing you want to do when you enter the grounds is to purchase a Show Catalog. This will tell you what ring each breed will be shown in and what time. Rather you are a spectator or a participant, the catalog is a handy item to keep at your side.
We're at this show to watch the Miniature Pinschers in the ring today. Find the toy breeds in your catalog, then the Miniature Pinschers. The ring number, time and name of the judge can be found at the top of the listing. At each ring entrance, the ring number is clearly displayed. Don't hesitate to ask for directions to the ring when you purchase your catalog. When you reach the correct ring you will see Miniature Pinscher owners and handlers standing ring side while another breed is finishing their turn with the judge if you have arrived early enough. This is not a real good time to talk to the owners and handlers, wait until the judging is done and you will find someone more than willing to share advice and information with you. Prior to ring time the owners and handlers are busy checking last minute grooming or walking their dogs and preparing themselves for the precious few minutes they are allowed in the ring. While doing all of this a very careful ear is tuned into the ring steward, listening for their number to be called into the ring. Distractions right now are often not appreciated.
The Miniature Pinschers will be brought into the ring in a very specific order (Class), the same order as listed in your catalog. Ring time will begin with the Dogs (males) and starts with the youngsters, the 6-9 month class. Each entry in that class will enter the ring and line up following the judges orders. This is when the judge gets his or her first look. Although it may seem quick, that judge knows what he or she needs to see and after what appears to be a quick glance at the line up the handlers will be asked to move their dogs around the ring. A table is used in the ring for all toy breeds, this allows the Miniature Pinscher to be easily viewed at eye level for the judge and makes it easier for the judge to go over the dog with his or her hands. The head is examined, including the teeth to insure the dogs bite is correct. The judge will then move his or hands down the body of the dog. Once the table portion is complete the handler will remove the dog from the table and move to the corner of the ring to the right of the table. The judge now wants to see how the dog moves or gaits by paying close attention to the dog as he moves both away from and back to the judge. This is completed when the dog is once again standing in front of the judge. Often times the judge will use a small item to make a noise, gaining the dogs attention, checking for expression.
Stryder giving the judge his full attention at a show in KY.
Stryder: Owned by Terri S. Photo by: Renae B.
Once again the judge wishes to see the dog gait, the handler is instructed to take the dog around the ring. The judge is paying close attention now to the side movement of the dog as the handler and dog take their place at the end of the line of those waiting their turn with the judge. While this is going on, the next dog in the class is already set up on the table. The same steps are followed until all dogs in this class have been examined individually.
Once all the dogs in the 6-9 month class has been judge they will be standing in line with their handlers, looking their best. At this time the judge will chose the dog that is the Winner of that class, followed by the judges second, third and fourth placement. Ribbons are given accordingly.
This same procedure is then repeated for every class. The classes enter the ring as follows:
6-9 months, 9-12 months, 12-18 months, Novice, Bred by Exhibitor, American Bred, Open. The winner of each class is then brought in to compete for Winners Dog. The judge chooses the best dog as the Winners Dog (WD) and a Reserve Winners Dog (RWD).
After all dogs have been shown the bitches (females) will be brought into the ring following the same class order. All the winning bitches from each class are then brought in to compete for Winners Bitch (WB) and a Reserve Winners Bitch (RWB).
The final step is to chose Best of Breed. All Miniature Pinschers that have earned their Champion Title enter the rings as well as the Winners Dog and the Winners Bitch from the previous activities. Only the Champions will be asked to be put on the table, the Winners Dog and the Winners Bitch have already done this, but they will be asked to go around the ring as well as the Champions. The judge will then make three decisions. The judge picks the best Miniature Pinscher in the ring that day as Best of Breed (BOB) winner, next the judge will chose the best Miniature Pinscher in the ring that is the opposite sex of the Miniature Pinscher chosen as BOB. This is called Best of Opposite Sex (BOS) winner. The last choice the judge makes more often than not comes down to the Winners Dog and the Winners Bitch, the better of the two is awarded Best of Winners (BOW)
The Miniature Pinscher that was awarded Best of Breed will go on to the group ring and compete against all the toy breeds which were also awarded Best of Breed that day. The one toy dog given a Group 1 placement that day will then make the final move up to Best in Show. The Best in Show ring will have One dog from each of the seven groups, representing: Sporting, Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Herding and Non-Sporting. Of these seven dogs One will be awarded Best In Show.
The Road To A Championship
Working your way to a Championship title is often times Long, Heartbreaking, Frustrating and Expensive. If your expecting to purchase a show quality puppy, hit a few shows here and there then proudly claim your dog is a Champion, it's NOT going to happen. The road is paved with weekend after weekend of disappointment and trying again. It takes many weekends of hitting the shows for a year or longer, putting your dog under many judges and defeating a lot of other dogs along the way and more often than not you are sent home with nothing more than happy memories of a weekend spent with wonderful friends that share your love for the breed, all working towards the same goal you are. If you are thinking entering the sport is something you would enjoy doing, do it because you love the sport. Do this because you are wanting a bonding experience with your dog that in my opinion surpasses all others. Do this because you enjoy the friendship you will find ring-side, do this because you love the breed. If your going into this because you enjoy winning, this is not a sport you will find very enjoyable for very long!
A dog or a bitch is old enough to enter the show ring at 6-months of age. For the first several months this is a learning experience for both you and the dog. Your goal at this point should be to make each show better than the last as far as your dog's performance. Is he comfortable with the table, is he walking well on the lead, is he self stacking as he should? Take these first few shows as an evaluation on your training and go home knowing what areas you and your dog needs to improve on. Some improvements will only come as your dog matures so be patient.
With each show your working towards earning points on your dog. How many points you earn depends entirely on the number of dogs entered in that show that day. The United States is broken down into divisions so know which division you are in. The points schedule can be found at www.akc.org . I live in IL so I will refer to the points schedule for my area. It is as follows
This means in order to earn one point on your dog, two dogs must be shown. To earn a point on your bitch, two bitches must be shown. That is the number of dogs or bitches your Miniature Pinscher beat by winning Winners Dog or Winners Bitch to earn those points. The more dogs or bitches entered, the higher the available points. Remember, the entry numbers are only a guide to how many dogs or bitches entered that show. If for someone reason a dog or bitch doesn't show up that will effect how many points will be available.
If the show has enough entries to allow three points or more this show is considered as a Major. If your showing a dog with an entry of eight dogs and you win Winners Dog, you not only earned 3 Points on your dog, but you have also earned a MAJOR. A major for a bitch the entries must have 10 bitches. You will be required to accumulate 15 points along with TWO Majors on your dog or bitch. Both of your majors must be earned under TWO different judges before a Championship is awarded. You can have 20 or more points on your dog or bitch, but without those two Majors under two different judges you have not finished your Miniature Pinscher.
To put this in perspective, the next time you are at a show watching the Miniature Pinschers look at all the dogs and bitches that have shown up. Only one dog and one bitch will take home points that day. The rest go home to try again next time.
The Bottom Dollar
One thing I will express strongly, showing a dog to his or her Championship is not cheap. Your entry fees for each show will range from $18.00 (puppy or bred-by class) - $25.00 per dog/bitch per show. A three day weekend show, entry fees alone can run you up to $75.00. Double or triple that if your showing more than one dog. Some kennel clubs will offer a price break if your showing a dog/bitch in a puppy class or if you are showing in the Bred-By class. Pay close attention to your entry fees.
More often than not, the show is not being held in your home town so you need to consider traveling expenses such as Fuel, Food, Hotel. One weekend in the rings can cost you as much as $300.00. Remember I said earlier that more often than not you walk away with nothing. There are 48 weekends a year, if you only enter shows for half of those weekends you can easily spend $7,200.00 in one year, showing ONE dog or bitch and you may or may not finish your Championship in that time. This does not include veterinary expenses, feed, crates, show leads, grooming tools, supplies, bedding, ex-pens, merchandise purchased at shows, and the many other items we find along the way we just can't live without.
Of course there are ways to bring this expense down. You can share a hotel room with other exhibitors, enter shows that you can drive to and from each each day. Perhaps you have a motor home or a camper, most show sites do offer hook-ups which will costs you less than a hotel room. Some die-hard show folks will even live out of a van during a show weekend. Entering a show every weekend or even every other weekend is not a requirement, maybe you wish to show only one weekend a month. Take a cooler and pack all the food you will need while you are away. If it is a three day show only enter one or two days. Car-pool with other exhibitors. The more you participate in dog shows the more you will learn from others on how to keep your expenses as low as possible. Even cutting down on some of the expenses, showing a dog to his or her Championship is not going to come cheap and it's not going to come easy.
If all of this sounds like something you would like to do, the best place to start is at the shows as a spectator. If you have already obtained a pet Miniature Pinscher and you worked with a Reputable who also shows their Miniature Pinschers your breeder will be more than willing to discuss with you how to get started and help you get your first Show Quality Miniature Pinscher.
We will now move on to the next section of this site.
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