Monday, June 17, 2013

Understanding Dog Show Terms

By Suzanne Alicie

Many dog lovers enjoy watching dog shows. We get to see the “top dogs” of each breed, but a lot of us may find ourselves wondering exactly how the judges choose the winners. There are many terms and standards that “show dog” owners are aware of and work to achieve. Let’s take a look at a few of these and what they mean, so the next time you watch a dog show you’ll understand more about the process and have more insight into the final results.

Breed Standard

The breed standard includes several areas of the dog’s appearance which are dictated by the AKC for show dogs. This means that dogs of a specific breed which are the wrong color, have any irregularities or are too large or small for the breed standard won’t be competing. The dogs which have shown that they fit the breed standard will be further evaluated to find the best example of the breed in the show.


Stacking is how the dog stands naturally and when placed in position. This is something that the handler or trainer will teach the dog. Stacking helps the judges see all areas of the dog’s structure to evaluate against the breed standard and to allow the judges to feel the dogs bone structure and muscles. The breed standard stacking position differs from breed to breed. While evaluating the stack, you may hear judges and announcers talk about angulations, soundness and pedigree.

Showing the Bite

The bite is the alignment of the top and bottom teeth. Judges check this to compare to the breed standard and in the examination of bone structure. Some dog breeds have a slight under bite, but the best guide is that the teeth should fit together like scissors. Dogs with a bad bite don’t fit the breed standard and are typically not bred for show.

Movement Down and Back

Watching the dog move down and back in front of the judges allows them to evaluate the fit and function of the dog. Stacking is an up close examination, while movement down and back is a chance to see all the parts of the dog working together. Movement down and back is judged on the gait of the dog, heeling, and relation to the location of the handler while proceeding.

While many of us just enjoy watching beautifully groomed and well behaved dogs in dog shows, there is a great deal of time, training and preparation put into each appearance. Trainers work with show dogs daily to teach them proper comportment, improve their gait, their stance and of course their willingness to stand perfectly still while being examined by strangers.

As the owner of a dog who absolutely would not go for that, I am always amazed at the wonderful behavior show dogs exhibit. They are truly the top of their breeds, with excellent training, grace and athleticism.

There are other types of shows and competitions for dogs, including agility competitions, puppy competitions, specialty shows and obedience shows. Here on the Responsible Pet Ownership blog we have interviewed and explored many aspects of working and show dogs, their owners and the competitions and shows they participate in. CANIDAE Natural Pet Foods is proud to sponsor several exemplary show dogs and talented canine athletes.

If you’d like to learn more, check out these posts:

What Westminster Dog Show Champions Do After the Big Win 

What is a Conformation Dog Show? 

How to Train Your Dog for Agility Competitions 

CANIDAE Sponsored Dogs Make a Splash at “Paws in the Pool” 

Top photo by mjk23
Bottom photo by Natalie Maynor

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie

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