Conformation compares each dog to the Breed Standard, a written description of perfection for the breed. The dog and bitch that "conform" best to the Standard are awarded Championship Points, the number of which are based upon the number of other dogs entered of the same sex. Conformation events (commonly referred to as Dog Shows) allow breeders to compare their breeding programs with others and have their progeny evaluated by a non-biased judge.

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 the type often shown on television
  • Specialty shows are restricted to dogs of a specific breed or to varieties of one breed. For example, the Newfoundland Club of America Specialty is for Newfoundlands only.
  • Group shows are limited to dogs belonging to one of the seven groups. For example, the Texas Working Dog Association of Great Houston show features only breeds belonging to the Working group. 

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

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.

Recommended reading:

Raising A Champion: A beginners Guide to Showing Dogs by A. Meredith John & Carole L. Richards

The Winning Edge: Show Ring Secrets by George G. Alston

New Secrets of Successful Show Dog handling by Peter Green & Mario Migliorini

The Absolute Beginers Guide to Showing Your Dog by Cheryl S. Smith

Show Me! A Dog-Showing Primer by D. Caroline Coile