For each breed the American Kennel Club (AKC) registers, there is a breed standard which is a word description of the perfect dog of that breed. Standards describe the mental and physical characteristics that allow each breed to perform the function for which they were originated. The standard describes the dog's looks, movement and temperament. Breeders involved with each breed are attempting to produce a dog that most closely conforms to the breed standard. In this respect, dog shows are not unlike cat shows, bird shows, cattle shows, horse shows, etc. In fact, for almost every species bred by man there are competitions among breeders. AKC approved judges examine the dogs and place them in accordance to how close each dog compares with their mental image of the "perfect" dog as described in the breed's official standard.
This competition is known as "Conformation" and the most popular event at dog shows. Participating with your dog at conformation dog shows can be rewarding, educational and fun for both the dog and handler. It helps new people in the breed learn what attributes bring the dog closer to the breed standard and what faults may need to be improved upon should they desire to have their dog become a part of the future generations through breeding. Camaraderie at dog shows and breed clubs help potential breeders purchase a well bred dog which will hopefully be their foundation for their future breeding program; learn about the health issues in their breed so that the appropriate breed testing can be done before breeding; evaluate if their dog comes close enough to the standard to be bred; learn how to study pedigrees to select a potential mate; and how to physically breed, whelp, rear and responsibly place the puppies in their forever home. Dog shows also offer education by and participation in rescue organizations. Seminar of all types and health clinics for certifications needed to responsibly breed are often available on the show grounds at discounted prices.
If you would like to attend a dog show, Info Dog is a good place to find them in your area. Shows offer the opportunity to talk to experienced breeders, see numerous popular and rare breeds and observe the ring procedure first hand. AKC offers a "Beginner's Guide to Dog Shows" on their website which will help you to better understand the day's events. Conformation classes are available at many kennel clubs and private organizations throughout our club's area.
Experienced breeders often participate in other types of competitions such as obedience, agility, draft, rally, tracking, etc. Many of this club's events have experienced breeders in attendance who are happy to help you learn more about conformation dog shows. There are New Breeder Mentor & Breed Ambassador programs within the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America and many of our local breeders participate in these programs.
For more information, see
Trainers and classes recommended by our members
Written by: Dawn Gabig, Classique Bernese Mountain Dogs (46 years experience showing and breeding)
First Paragraph from the AKC website