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The Australian Terrier Club of America, Inc.

Dedicated to the Advancement of Quality, Purebred Australian Terriers

AKC Parent Club Member 1977
Founded 1958



Introduction To Dog Shows

NOTE:  If you want to know more about dog shows, or will be visiting a dog show, send your name and state and what show you are interested in to the webmaster at:, and we will try and match you with someone in your area.

The official term for dog shows is conformation — as in, the act of conforming or producing conformity. While a dog show may look like a beauty pageant, it’s not! Dogs are not being compared to each other; they’re being measured by how closely they conform to the standard of their particular breed. Why? Because the closer a dog’s appearance is to the breed’s standard, the better that dog’s ability will be to produce puppies that meet the standard.

To find out more, visit the AKC website:  Get Started – American Kennel Club (

How Does a Dog Show Work?

Dog shows are a process of elimination, where one dog remains undefeated at the end of the competition and is named Best in Show. Each dog is judged by how closely they compare to their specific breed’s official standard and not against the other dogs in the ring.

All conformation events begin with competition at the breed level. Each breed is divided into sexes, and the sexes are further divided into classes. Males are judged first, then females. Owners or “handlers” enter their dog in a regular class, which can include: Puppy, Twelve-to-Eighteen Months, Novice, Amateur-Owner-Handler, Bred-by Exhibitor, American-Bred and Open.

At the end of every regular class, judges award placements and ribbons. Blue ribbons are awarded for first place, red ribbons for second, yellow for third place, and white for fourth.

After these regular classes are judged, all the male dogs that won first place in a class compete again to be named best male (Winners Dog), who receives Championship points and a purple ribbon. After Winners Dog is selected, the dog that went second in its original class to the Winners Dog and returns to compete with the remaining first-place class winners for Reserve Winners Dog and a purple and white ribbon. The regular class competition is then repeated for females to award Winners Bitch and Reserve Winners Bitch.

The Winners Dog and Winners Bitch move on to compete in Winners Class with dogs who have already earned their championship (Champions of Record), and any first-place winners of non-regular classes, such as Veterans class, for the Best of Breed award.

At the end of the Best of Breed competition, five awards are usually given:

  • Best of Breed is awarded to the dog judged as the best in its breed and given a purple and gold ribbon.
  • Best of Winners is the dog judged as the better of the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch and given a blue and white ribbon.
  • Best of Opposite, acknowledged with a red and white ribbon, is the best dog that is the opposite sex to the Best of Breed winner.
  • Select Dog is awarded to the Champion dog recognized as the next best of their sex after Best of Breed and Best of Opposite and receive a light blue and white ribbon.
  • Select Bitch is awarded to the Champion bitch recognized as the next best of their sex after Best of Breed and Best of Opposite and receive a light blue and white ribbon.

This concludes competition at a specialty show.

At all-breed and group shows, the Best of Breed winners advance to compete in the group competition. Each AKC-recognized breed falls into one of seven group classifications.

  • Sporting — These dogs were bred to hunt game birds both on land and in the water. The breeds in this group include Pointers, Retrievers, Setters and Spaniels.
  • Hound — These breeds were bred for hunting other game by sight or scent. These breeds include such dogs as Beagles, Basset Hounds, Dachshunds and Greyhounds.
  • Working — These dogs were bred to pull carts, guard property, and perform search and rescue services. Among the breeds in this group are the Akita, Boxer, Doberman Pinscher, and St. Bernard.
  • Terrier —Terriers were bred to rid property of vermin such as rats. This group includes breeds such as the Airedale, Australian Terrier, Cairn Terrier and Scottish Terrier.
  • Toy — These dogs were bred to be household companions. This group includes little dogs such as the Chihuahua, Maltese, Pomeranian and Pug.
  • Non-Sporting — These dogs vary in size and function, and many are considered companion dogs. This diverse group includes the Chow Chow, Bulldog, Dalmatian and Poodle.  
  • Herding — These dogs were bred to help shepherds and ranchers herd their livestock. The Briard, Collie, German Shepherd Dog and Old English Sheepdog are some of the breeds in this group.

A judge awards four placements in each group competition. First place group winners receive a blue ribbon or rosette, second is awarded a red, third is given yellow, and fourth receives white.

At all-breed shows, the first-place winner from each group advance to the Best in Show competition.  From the seven group winners, the judge selects Reserve Best in Show and Best in Show, the highest award at a dog show. The dog named Best in Show traditionally receives a red, white and blue ribbon and is the lone, undefeated dog at the end of the conformation event. 

See videos of conformation shows, the 2020 (Best of Breed),  2021  and 2022 Australian Terrier National Specialties on the ATCA YouTube channel:

More Resources

Where Have All The Mentors Gone by Jane Meyers,  Canine Chronicle Jan/Feb 2022.

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