National Organizations and Dog Shows

In many countries there are national organizations that recognize and publish standards for purebred dogs, maintain records, and sponsor dog shows. The Canadian Kennel Club, the Société Centrale Canine in France, and the Kennel Club in Great Britain, for example, all perform these functions. In some countries, such as Germany, these functions are performed by individual breed registries.

In the United States there are more than 140 national associations for various breeds and groups of breeds. Some are independent, maintaining their own registries and running their own dog shows. Most, however, are affiliated with either the American Kennel Club or the United Kennel Club.

The American Kennel Club (AKC)

is the larger of the two organizations. It is a nonprofit organization founded in 1884 for the protection and advancement of purebred dogs, and to adopt and enforce uniform rules regulating dog shows. It maintains a library and a museum. Headquarters are in New York City.

The United Kennel Club (UKC)

is a privately owned corporation. It has functions and goals similar to those of the AKC but places a stronger emphasis on the working or hunting qualities of breeds. The UKC was founded in 1898 and has headquarters in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Each purebred dog has a pedigree, a record of its lineage, maintained by the AKC, the UKC, or one of the individual associations. The registry certificate issued for each dog contains such information as the name of the dog's sire (father) and dam (mother), the dog's date of birth, and its sex. It also lists the dog's registry number.

Purebred dogs are eligible to compete in dog shows, field trials, and obedience trials. Only those breeds recognized by the sponsoring organizations are eligible to compete, although some non-recognized breeds can compete in a miscellaneous class. Dogs are judged on standards established by the breed organizations. The material that follows describes dog shows and related events as conducted by the AKC.

A dog show is an elimination contest in which dogs are judged on conformation, a term used to describe how closely dogs conform to established standards for the breed. Such standards include eye color; size, shape, and position of the ears; carriage of the tail; and coat color. Dogs are judged against individuals of the same breed and sex.

There are two main types of dog shows: specialty shows, which are limited to dogs of a particular breed; and all-breed shows. The winner of a specialty show is called Best of Breed; the winner of an all-breed show is called Best in Show.

To become a champion, a dog must win a total of 15 championship points in shows judged by at least three different persons. Up to 5 points may be won at any one show, depending on the number of dogs competing in the show. Two of the wins must be "majors” (3, 4, or 5 points) won under different judges.

Field trials, for sporting dogs and hounds, are contests in which the dogs' hunting skills are tested and judged. The tests are made under realistic conditions in which the dogs demonstrate their hunting abilities. The winner of a licensed field trial lasting four days is recognized as a Field Champion by the AKC.

Obedience trials measure the dog's ability to follow verbal commands and hand signals, retrieve objects, follow scents over a designated course, and jump over small fences. Obedience trials are open to all breeds of dogs. They may be held separately or as part of a larger show. Three titles are given, each with more demanding requirements than the one preceding it: Companion Dog, C.D.; Companion Dog Excellent, C.D.X.; and Utility Dog, U.D. In tracking tests for dogs that hunt by scent, such as bloodhounds, two titles are given: Tracking Dog, T.D.; and Tracking Dog Excellent, T.D.X.