Dog Shows 101

Who may participate?

Open to all AKC Registered Basset Hounds

(We are speaking about the Basset; any AKC Registered dog may show at an AKC All Breed Show)

Dogs must be six months of age or older  (Except for the 4-6 month puppy competition)

Spayed or neutered hounds are not allowed except for some veteran classes

I might be interested in showing.  What should I do?

Showing your own dog can be great fun.  It is a very competitive sport and it is important that you learn quite a bit while beginning the endeavor, or you will likely find it very frustrating.  It is one of the few sports in which an owner handler can compete on equal footing with a professional.

You need to have a quality Basset Hound and very good understanding regarding the correct conformation of the Basset.

How do you learn?

Start by visiting Basset Hound University School for Breeders or Judges.  Pay special attention to and learn the Official Breed Standard, The Illustrated Standard and watch the Judges Education Presentation.  Learn the Terminology.  Knowledge is power, and you have a great opportunity to be fully informed about what the Basset Hound should be.

Finding a reputable, experienced mentor in the breed is undoubtedly one of the most important things that you can do. Remember, we all started at the beginning and have all made mistakes along the way. A good mentor can assist you in many ways, both in evaluating your dog as well as helping you learn to show.

If you live in an area where you can go to a Basset Hound Specialty show, go watch. If you can go to the Basset Hound Club of America National Specialty and watch, do so. Most breeders try to bring their best Bassets to the Nationals. If you can’t go in person, order the video from a recent BHCA National Specialty.

Use the BHCA Breeder’s Directory to find breeders in your area, or look for a local Basset Hound Club.  Take time to evaluate the quality of information you are receiving.  If you need additional assistance finding someone to assist you, contact Susan Smyth, Public Education Chairperson by email at

Is my dog eligible?  How do dog shows work?

A dog must be AKC registered to be eligible to enter an AKC show or if imported from another country, be shown under most foreign registries for 30 days until they receive their AKC registration.

In addition to the regular requirements for a dog to be entered at an AKC show in the classes defined below, the following rules also apply:

Dogs which are blind, deaf, castrated, spayed, or have been changed in appearance by artificial means except as specified in their breed Honorable scars are allowed.

Males who do not have two normal testicles located in the scrotum, may not compete except that a castrated male may be entered as Stud Dog in the Stud Dog Class and a spayed bitch may be entered as Brood Bitch in the Brood Bitch

Neutered dogs and spayed bitches are allowed to compete in Veterans Classes only at independent specialties and/or those all-breed shows which do not offer any competitive classes beyond Best of Breed.

The official Breed Standard for the Basset Hound lists three disqualifications:

  1. Knuckling Over
  2. Distinctly Long Coat
  3. Height over 15” (Judges at their discretion may choose to measure a dog with an official AKC approved wicket – if the dog is deemed too tall, he will be disqualified).

While dogs with these disqualifying features may be entered, it would be foolish as they will or should be disqualified from competition.

Knuckling Over
Distinctly Long Coat
Over 15 inches
Measuring with Wicket

How do the classes work?

Classes that may be entered and the eligibility requirements for each are:

Best of Breed:  Champions of record or dogs who the owners believe have completed their championship requirements may be entered and are eligible for any award they receive.  Dogs and Bitches compete together in Best of Breed.

The regular classes below are divided by sex. Dogs compete against dogs, Bitches compete against bitches:

Puppy Class - for dogs six months and under twelve months.  Puppy classes may be divided, 6-9 and 9-12.

12 months and under 18 months (12-18) – for dogs at least 12 months old the day of the show, and under 18 months the day of the show.  (Occasionally, specialty clubs offer 12-15 or 15-18 month classes).

Novice - for dogs over six months old who have not won the following at the time of entry:  3 first places in the Novice Class; 1 first place in any regular class except Puppy; 1 first place in Amateur-Owner Handler, Bred-By-Exhibitor, American-Bred, or Open; One or more championship points. (Eligibility for the Novice Class is not related to the handler, but to the dog).

Amateur-Owner Handler:  for dogs at least six months of age and must be handled by their registered owner and; Dogs must not be champions. Exhibitors are not eligible if they have at any time been a Professional Handler, AKC Conformation Judge, or employed as an assistant to a professional. Members of the immediate family or household of a current professional handler are also ineligible for this class.

Bred By Exhibitor: dogs who are at least six months of age or older and the person handling the dog in this class must be a breeder of record and an owner. Dogs may not be champions of record on the closing date of entries; Dogs must be individually registered by the AKC; Dogs must be owned or co-owned by any of the breeders of record as of the date of the show.  (Note: in any subsequent class {Winners or Best of Breed}, there are no restrictions on the handler).

American Bred: Dogs must be six months of age and over and have been whelped in the United States by reason of a mating which took place in the United States. Dogs must not be champions of record on the date of entries closing;

Open:  Dogs must be six months of age or over; Dogs can be champions of record.

Winners Class:  This is not a class you can enter, you win your way into it by winning your individual class.

The Winners Class is divided by sex – Only undefeated dogs of the same sex which have won first prize in their class are eligible for the Winners Class for their sex.

After the Winners prize is awarded, the remaining dogs, and the second place dog in the class from which the “winner” was chosen compete for Reserve. (Eligible dogs must return for Winners and/or Reserve).

Dog classes are judged first, starting with puppy and working the way up through open, followed by Winners (Dog) and reserve. Bitch classes are judged in the same order followed by Winners (Bitch) and reserve. Best of Breed judging then begins.

Best of Breed Competition:

In addition to dogs or bitches that are entered in Best of Breed Class, the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch together with any undefeated dogs in non- regular classes shall compete for Best of Breed. (Non-Regular Classes are often offered at Specialties, and occasionally at all breed shows, they would be for example, Veteran and Field Trial).

If Winners Dog or Winners Bitch is awarded Best of Breed, it is automatically awarded Best of Winners.

After BOB and Best of Winners have been awarded, Best of Opposite Sex is awarded to a dog of the Opposite Sex to the Best of Breed Winner. After Best of Opposite Sex is awarded, a judge may choose to award Select Dog and/or Select Bitch which are eligible for Grand Champion points.

AKC Championship Requirements

To become a champion of record, a dog must have won fifteen points, two of the wins must be “majors” where three or more points were available. Two majors are required, each from different judges.

(At Specialty Shows, Awards of Merit may be given.  All awards of merit do not have to be given.)

AKC Grand Champion

Grand Champion points may be awarded to Best of Breed, Best of Opposite Sex, Select Dog and Select Bitch. Winners Dog and Bitch, and non-regular class winners that are not conformation champions are not eligible for Grand Champion Points.

To become a Grand Champion a dog must have attained 25 points.  Nine of these points must have come from three or more shows with at least 3 points (majors) are available.  Major points must be under three different judges.  At least one Champion must be defeated at three shows.

Grand Champion Levels:  After a dog reaches his Grand Champion Title, they may go on to seek further levels of success.  Grand Champion Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum.

Specialty Shows

There are Breed Specific Specialty shows, or Group Specific Specialties that often offer additional classes.  Some of those classes may include:  Veteran Dog/Bitch, Field Trial Dog/Bitch, Stud Dog, Brood Bitch, and Brace.  They may also hold a “Sweepstakes” which is are non-regular classes open to puppies (and sometimes, veterans).

This a brief overview of how classes work and points are awarded.  As with all AKC Events, it is important to understand all the rules and regulations.  You can download the rules from the AKC Website.

National Owner Handler Series & other Special Events

 More and more special events are being held at a variety of AKC Shows.  They include National  Owner Handler series, Bred-By Groups, Puppy Groups and Veteran Groups. Be sure to consult the premium list for each show. Many exhibitors enjoy the Owner Handler series events. Mark your entry blank accordingly if you wish to participate in the Owner Handler series.

4 – 6 Month Puppy competition

One of the most fun events at dog shows is the 4 – 6 Month Puppy competition is now offered at many of the shows.

  • Classes are offered for each breed and variety and divided into
  • Either an AKC registration or AKC litter registration number is
  • Foreign born dogs may compete if they are registered in their home
  • Dogs that are owned or co-owned by a professional handler may compete in this class, but must be handled by a non-professional (Dogs may not be exhibited by current assistants or household members of a professional handler). No championship points are awarded from 4-6 month puppy competition.

How do I enter my dog in an AKC Show?

For AKC shows, you may enter several ways.

  • You can download and print an official AKC Entry form and fill out all of the information, or fill in the entry form you have received in the mail with the premium list that is for the show you intend to exhibit your dog.
  • You can enter online on many of the dog show superintendents’ websites.
  • You can use a dog show entry service. (Many of those are available online).

AKC Entry forms must be filled out correctly, and sent in prior to the “Closing Date.” This information is available on the “Premium List”.

A sample of an AKC Entry Form follows. Be sure to fill out your entry forms correctly, and mail or fax unless you do them online. All entries must be in the superintendent’s office usually by noon on the “closing” date.

A Sample Entry Form is included here:

How do I train, groom and condition my dog?

Consult with your mentor, or find a handling class through your local club.  Watch and learn at the shows, even if it is not your own breed showing, there is plenty to learn about procedures.  Find people whose dogs you admire, and ask them for help.  We all started at the beginning, and if you are willing to put in the effort, you will be rewarded.  Visit Basset Hound University often and watch Voices of Experience videos to learn about grooming and conditioning your dog.  There are many tools available.  You just need to use them.  These are large files, and may be slow to download.

Understand the Rules

As with all events, it is imperative that you understand the rules and regulations which apply to Conformation Shows.

A Beginners Guide to Dog Shows

The AKC has prepared a brochure which helps explain dog shows.

Official AKC Entry Form

You must completely fill out an official entry form for each show in which you wish to participate.  This is an official downloadable form.  Ask a friend to help you with this.

Events Calendar

To find events in your area, visit the Events Calendar here on the BHCA Website.  You can also access the AKC Event Calendar.

Welcome to the world of Conformation Dog Shows.  It may be challenging with lots to learn, but it can be very rewarding.