Although most people associate dog shows with purebred dogs, dog shows come in many forms and can showcase mixed breeds as well. Depending on the particular dog show, judging can be a serious business: while some prizes merely consist of a ribbon and title, others determine the breeding patterns of pure breeds.

Pure Breeds and Conformation Dog Shows

Conformation dog shows are the best-known type of dog competitions. During conformation dog shows, pure breeds are judged based on their conformity to the breed standard (the ideal characteristics of the breed). Judging examines physical anatomy, gait (the dog’s walking style) and temperament.

Prizes at conformation dog shows are divided among the following categories: Winner’s Dog, Winner’s Bitch, Best of Breed and, that most cherished of dog show prizes, Best of Show. Judging is important, as prize-winning purebreds earn points towards achieving championship status. A dog needs fifteen points from at least three different judges before he can get the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) “Champion of Record” title.

Purebreds of championship status are particularly prestigious and highly sought out. Champion dogs can collect top rate stud fees because they, as the AKC’s title indicates, are models of the breed standard.

Obedience Trials and Dog Competitions

While conformation dog shows are restricted to pure breeds that meet show quality standards, obedience dog competitions are open to purebreds that are not of show quality. Rather than competing for breed standards, dogs at obedience shows demonstrate the quality of a dog’s training.

Obedience dog competition judging is based on a 200-point system. All competing dogs start with 200 points and have points deducted for errors. To qualify for prizes, dogs must score at least 50 percent of possible points in each exercise and attain a total of at least 170 points by the end of judging. Prizes at this type of dog show are generally cash and trophies.

Agility Competitions

One of the most exciting, fast-paced dog competitions is the agility dog show. During agility trials, unleashed dogs run a timed obstacle course and respond to their owners’ commands. Judging and prizes are determined by the fastest time with the lowest number of errors.

Other Dog Competitions for Pure Breeds

Pure breeds are not limited to dog shows that simply judge against breed standards. There are a variety of competitions available to pure breeds. Because many pure breeds are working dogs, dog competitions that test the specific skills of these working dogs are another facet in the world of dog shows. Such dog competitions for working and sporting pure breeds include hunting trials, tracking competitions, herding trials, mushing, and schutzhund (protection) competitions.

Prestigious Dog Shows

Prestigious dog shows worldwide are serious events with winning prizes akin to an Olympic gold medal. In the United States, the Westminster Kennel Club is one of the most renowned dog shows. Only world-class pure breeds are permitted to compete in the Westminster Kennel Club dog show.

Held annually at Madison Square Gardens, the Westminster Kennel Club dog show is a televised event viewed by millions. Held since 1877, Westminster Kennel Club Competitions are the second longest continuously run sporting event in America. The Kentucky Derby beats out the Westminster Kennel Club Competition by only one year.

Owners of pure breeds also follow less established dog shows. Although only established in 2001, the American Kennel Club/Eukanuba National Championship attracts international pure breeds. Dogs must be invited to enter the contest, ensuring only the best pure breeds compete.

Mixed Breed Dog Competitions

While traditional dog shows focus on pure breed dogs, some dog competitions allow mixed breeds to compete for prizes. Generally, mixed breed dog competitions focus on fun as much as competition. However, judging is still taken very seriously.

Canine disc dog competitions that judge a dog’s ability to catch a thrown disc are one type of dog show open to mixed and pure breeds alike. Prizes are awarded for distance, accuracy and freestyle catches.

Flyball competitions are another variety of dog show that are similar to dog relay races. Each flyball team consists of four dogs. The dogs race over hurdles to a spring loaded box that catapults a tennis ball into the air. The dog catches the ball and races back over the hurdles, and then the next dog in the team runs the course. Judging and prizes are based on the fastest times and lowest number of course errors by the team.