What is a Dog Show?

Artwork by Virginia Kolencere reprinted from Tally-Ho


What is the purpose of a dog show? A dog show is a competition to determine the best representatives of a pure breed as judged using a STANDARD written for each breed and approved by the American Kennel Club. Dog shows encourage breeders to maintain those qualities of a breed that make it unique from all others and thus readily recognizable - and also the qualities of a sound and healthy animal.

A "specialty show" is limited to one breed, as opposed to an "all-breed show" where most of the AKC recognized breeds will be entered. The largest specialty for bassets has been the National Specialty sponsored by the Basset Hound Club of America. Because of the large number of bassets in this show, there are five judges. Three judges preside over the "regular" classes - one for males, one for females and one for inter-sex classes and best of breed competition. There is also a judge for sweepstakes and one for the futurity. The Nationals requires three days for the judging. Local specialties and regionals are completed in an afternoon, evening or sometimes take a full day.

Prior to the regular show most specialties offer a Puppy Sweepstakes and this competition is limited to dogs between 6 month and 18 months of age. Some specialties offer a Veteran Sweepstakes. A Futurity is held only at the BHCA Nationals for puppies between the ages of 6 months and 18 months of age, and has further limitations concerning BHCA membership eligibility and nomination rules. No points toward a championship are awarded to winners in the Sweepstakes or Futurity, but cash prizes are awarded.

Junior Showmanship competition for boys and girls under 17 years of age is held to determine the youngsters who best present their bassets in the show ring.

A definite help in following the show is the catalog which lists all bassets entered in the show with sires, dams, professional handlers (if any), breeders and owners. It also has a listing of prizes and trophies, an index to exhibitors, advertisements etc.

Judges at specialties are usually "breeder judges". These are individuals who bred, owned and exhibited Basset Hounds. Wins awarded by "breeder judges" are held in high esteem. The judges for the regular classes are licensed by AKC. The judges for Sweepstakes and Futurity are usually breeders selected by their peers in the breed to preside at these events. Sometimes the judge will be "an all rounder" which means his experience in dogs was a breed or breeds other than Bassets but has extensive study and expertise in dogs to be qualified to judge Bassets.

Before the show begins, the dogs must be entered on a entry form enclosed with the "Premium List" and received by the Show Secretary or Superintendent prior to the advertised closing date. All entered dogs must be at least 6 months of age at the time of the show. Dogs and bitches who have not yet earned their AKC championships are entered in one of the following classes:

Puppy class 6 to 9 months;

Puppy class 9 to 12 months;

12 to 18 month class;

(in these first three classes the dog or bitch must be within the age parameters to be eligible for the class);

Novice class; ( is for dogs or bitches that have not won 3 first places in the this
class nor a first place in any of the other regular classes except
puppy classes and can only be entered by dogs or bitches whelped
in the US or Canada)

Bred by Exhibitor Class; (for dogs and bitches which are owned by he breeder and are
shown by the breeder or a member of the breeders immediate family)

American Bred Class; (for dogs and bitches whelped in the US by reason of a mating
that took place in the US)

Open Class; (for any dog or bitch 6 months of age or older)

Amateur/Owner Handler Class; (for any dog or bitch 6 months of age or older shown by the owner.  The owner may not be a professional handler.)

It is wise to obtain a copy of the AKC Rules with regard to Dog Shows, and familiarize yourself with all of the details before entering your Basset in its first show.

In addition to the classes above which compete for championship points for each of the sexes, you may enter other classes for which your Basset qualifies and is offered by the specialty show. These classes include: Veteran Dog and Bitch; Field Trial Dog and Bitch and Best of Breed. Inter-sex classes that may be offered include: Brood Bitch, Stud Dog and Brace classes. Many specialty events hold a parade of veterans, parade of title holders or parade of rescue dogs. All of the classes above, if offered will be listed in the premium list with eligibility rules which can vary from show to show.

In preparation for the show, the exhibitors will groom their dogs and have them trained to stand for examination and to gait on leash. The judges will carefully examine each individual dog at close range and also watch it gaiting. The judge will also look at the whole class posed and gaiting at once for comparisons.

After the "non-regular" (sweepstakes etc.) classes the judging of the regular classes begins. The judge begins with the males starting with the youngest puppy class. The judge selects a first thru fourth (if four or more are entered in the class) for each class thru the Open class. The first place winners of each class are brought back into the ring and from these, one is selected as "Winners Dog". The Winners dog wins the "points" toward his championship, based on the current years AKC point schedule for the region or state the show occurs in. The schedule of points is based on the number of dogs in competition. Winners Dog may earn one or two "single" points or a three, four or five point "major". To become a champion a dog must earn 15 total points of which two wins are "major" point wins.

A "Reserve Winners Dog" is then selected from those who competed for winners dog plus the second place winner from the class from which the winners dog was awarded first. If there was not a second place winner to the winners dog, then only the remaining first place class winners compete for reserve. Reserve is an important award because if for some reason the Winners dog is determined to be ineligible to have received his win, the reserve winner is then awarded the points for that show.

After the regular dog classes are judged, the regular bitch classes are judged in the same manner. The points earned by the winners dog and winners bitch may not be the same depending on the entry for each sex.

The non-regular classes of single dog entries are usually judged next. The Veterans and Field Trial classes. The judge is now ready to judge Best of Breed.

The Winners Dog and Winners Bitch, the Veteran Dog and Bitch first place winners and the Field Trial Dog and Bitch first place winners join the dogs and bitches who have been entered for Best of Breed competition. Those entered in Best of Breed are "champions of record" or who according to their owners records have completed the requirements for a championship. The judge will then judge the class in the same manner as was done for the regular dog and bitch classes.

After examination and gaiting, the judge will then award Best of Breed, Best of Winners (either the Winners Dog or the Winners Bitch) and Best of Opposite Sex to Best of Breed. One can become confused at this point. Sometimes a judge will award Best of Breed to the Winners Dog or Winners Bitch and if so that dog is automatically Best of Winners. If a male is Best of Breed a female is awarded Best of Opposite and vise versa. The Winners Dog or Bitch could also be Best of Opposite. Best of Winners can be important, especially if one of the sexes has a lower point award for the show than the other sex. If the dog or bitch with lower points defeats the sex with more, those additional points are then also earned. A dog or bitch may also increase points earned, and I would advise reading the AKC rules regarding this.

AKC now offere the Grand Champion title at AKC Conformation events. This new title will be available to AKC Champions of Record, giving the opportunity for Champion dog owners to return to the show ring with their dogs and further showcase the quality of their breeding stock.  Competition for this new title will be judged during the Best of Breed/Variety competition at all-breed, group and specialty shows. All Champions of Record entered in the Best of Breed/Variety competition will be eligible to compete for Grand Championship points. There is no additional entry fee. Grand Championship points are awarded, at the judge’s discretion, to the following placements: Best of Breed/Variety, Best of Opposite Sex, Select Dog and Select Bitch. Select Dog and Select Bitch are Champions that were recognized as the top quality of their sex after BOB and BOS have been awarded.  Grand Championship points are calculated using the same AKC Point Schedule as is used for Championship points.

If all the excitement and enthusiasm you see at the show is rubbing off on you - if you've tried comparing your opinion with that of the judge (ringside judging) - if you think BASSETS ARE BEAUTIFUL - you may be a candidate for exhibiting your basset in the next show. If you did not purchase your Basset as a show dog, please do not be disappointed if it does not quite "pass muster". Most of us started our show careers with Bassets with inferior specimens. We quickly learned that to be competitive that there is much more than has been described here that goes into the making of a show dog. The foundation of course is good breeding. Get acquainted with some of the many breeders and exhibitors, who will love talking to you. Read as much as you can about Bassets especially the Standard, attend all breed and specialty shows, and get involved with a local club as your beginning steps.