The Breed Standard
In a conformation competition, the judge assesses your dog according to how closely he fits the breed standard. The breed standard describes the ideal Golden Retriever in terms of his physical appearance and characteristics, temperament, head and body type, eye colour, dentition, gait, coat and colour.
Types of Shows
There are different types of dog shows in Australia; Championship Shows, Open Shows or Parades and Member’s Competitions. To be eligible to compete in these shows, a dog must be registered with the state controlling body on the Main Register and the owner must also be a financial member of that body. De-sexed dogs are only eligible to compete in conformation shows where a class is offered for neuter dogs. Challenge points towards the title of Champion are only awarded at Championship Shows. Show schedules can be found in the DOGS Victoria magazine and on the DOGS Victoria website. Schedules list the judges, entry fees, judging times and sequence and catering arrangements. Entry forms are available from DOGS Victoria or the DOGS Victoria website.
The best way to ensure your dog has an equal opportunity in competition is to present him in the best possible condition by following a regular grooming and training program.
In the show ring, the judge will look in your dog's mouth to check his teeth and bite and he will examine your dog to check muscle and bone structure. The judge will also check for two testicles in male dogs, so it is a good idea to practise at home. Stand the dog so that his four feet are squarely under his body. He needs to learn to stand still while being examined. You should teach your dog to trot smoothly on a lead so that the judge can assess his movement. A brisk walk is the correct speed for a young puppy.
Practise trotting your dog along the three sides of an imaginary triangle. With the lead in your left hand, move to the right hand top side of the ring. Now move across to the other top side and then return directly to the judge. When you come to a halt, your dog should stand and look alert. You are allowed to use food or a squeaky toy to hold his attention.
Practise trotting your dog up and back in a straight line. With the dog's lead in your left hand, move up to the ring edge directly in front of you, turn so the dog turns to the left on the inside and return to the judge. Practise an O pattern (around the ring). With the lead in your left hand move anti-clockwise around the ring and finish where you started.
At the Show
Before you bring your dog to the ring, watch how the judge is going about the task. Almost every judge employs a different technique, how the dogs are paraded, where they stop, which pattern of movement is required, how different handling methods are viewed and so on. An astute exhibitor can learn a lot by carefully observing the judge's methods and requirements.
Judging usually begins with the dog classes first, followed by the bitch classes in age order. It is your responsibility to be at ringside when the steward calls your number or you will be marked absent. Pay attention to the judge's and steward's instructions. Exhibitors will be required to move the dog from and back to the judge as requested and to control and exhibit the dog to best advantage during the judging. When you have been judged remain within the precincts of the judging ring until your breed judging is completed.
The judge will select the winner and placegetters in each class. When all the dog classes have been judged, the judge selects the Best Dog from the winners of each class (except baby puppy). When the Best Dog is chosen the second placegetter gets a chance to be selected as Reserve Dog. The bitch classes are then judged and the Best Bitch and Reserve Bitch are selected from the class winners. The Best Dog and the Best Bitch then compete for Best of Breed. The Reserve Dog and Bitch may get the opportunity to compete for Runner-up Best of Breed. The winner of each class then competes against the dog of the opposite sex. The dog or bitch selected as the best in class is eligible to compete for the Best in Group of that class.
Group Judging (also called Group Specials)
After all the breeds in Group 3 (gundogs) have been judged, the Best of Breed from each Group 3 breed compete for Best Exhibit in Group. Once the Best in Group has been chosen, the Runner-up Best of Breed re-enters the ring to compete for Runner-up in Group. The Best in Group and Runner-up Best in Group are automatically awarded the class in group for their respective class. The other class winners then compete for Best Baby Puppy in Group, Best Minor Puppy in Group, etc. The Best in Group winners then compete for the Best in Show awards.
In Show Judging (also called General Specials)
The judging of general specials commences with judging of the seven dogs that have won Best in Group. When the Best in Show has been awarded, the Runner-up Best in Group returns to the ring to compete against the other Best in Group winners for Runner-up in Show. The Best in Show and Runner-up Best in Show winners automatically win their class in show. Judging of each class in show then commences with Best Baby Puppy in Show.
At a Championship Show challenge points are given to the Best Dog (Challenge Dog) and Best Bitch (Challenge Bitch) for each breed. The title of Australian Champion is awarded when you have gained the required number of challenge points. Additional challenge points are awarded to the Best of Breed winner and Best in Group and Best in Show depending on the number of entries. When awarding challenges the judge is required to certify that “the exhibit is of such outstanding merit as to qualify for the title ‘Champion’". It is up to the discretion of the judge whether a Challenge Certificate is issued or refused. A Neutered Champion is a championship title for neutered dogs. The ultimate conformation titles are the titles of Grand Champion and Supreme Champion.
In any competition, participants should display good sportsmanship. In conformation competition you entered the show seeking the opinion of the judge, so you should accept whatever opinion is given. Even if you are not the winner, you should accept the judge’s decision gracefully.