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Dog Conformation events were created to evaluate breeding stock and thereby help enthusiasts breed the "perfect" dog (at least in terms of that breed).

Breed-specific as well as all-breed clubs and registries (the American Kennel Club and United Kennel Club, for instance) publish written standards by which all dogs of a particular breed are to be judged in events sanctioned by the club registry. Overall appearance as well as specific features-allowable height range, coat texture and color, eye shape, set, even expression, tail set and gait, for instance-might be commented upon.

When you watch The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, AKC/Eukanuba National Championship, or Crufts Dog Show on television and see the dogs posing, then being trotted around the arena, you're watching a conformation dog show. These show dogs are being judged on their conformation as it relates to their published breed standard. A dog can be quite beautiful but not representative of its breed standard and thus not successful in the show ring.

Specialty shows focus on a single breed. Some shows have only a few entrants per class, while others are quite large. Specialty shows are usually hosted by a national and/or local breed club.

All-breed shows can have upwards of 3,000 entrants or as few as 400 to 500. Initial rounds of competition resemble classes at specialty shows, with dogs evaluated in groups organized by breed. The all-breed shows then take each dog named best in Breed and group them In terms of class (Herding, Hound, Sporting. Toy, or Working: see the AKC website for lists of which breeds fall into each). Such groupings are a little misleading: Each dog is still judged against its breed standard, not against the other dogs in the group, per se. The dog most representative of its standard becomes 1st in group and moves on to the final round of competition. Here each group winner again competes against its breed standard. The winner of that round is named Best in Show.

Showing dogs can be very exciting. The thrill of competition combines with the joy of being around beautiful dogs, each groomed to the T and revved up for the event. A number of SLODOG members compete in conformation events. Ask and someone can direct you to a member who shows their dog in conformation.

SLODOG does not hold Conformation show practices, per se. but any dog aimed for the show ring will need a good background in Obedience, and we do hold Obedience practices nearly every other Saturday (see calendar). Show dogs need not only to learn cues for stand, stay, and trot under control (to strut their stuff) but they also need to become accustomed to strangers approaching them and putting their hands all over them to examine teeth/bite, coat texture, etc. The dogs need to learn how to "turn it on" then halt on a dime in a beautiful stance when cued.

If you're interested in showing your purebred dog in the conformation ring, contact us (see venue contacts) and we'll try to help you get started. You might also do an Internet search for your state or local breed club, or go to the AKC website, which lists many of the clubs for the 150 breeds recognized by the Club. A schedule of upcoming shows can be found at dogpatch.org.

If you're considering getting a purebred dog, whether a pup or adult from a breeder or rescue, consider spending a linie time at a specialty show or two, or at the Meet the Breed table at an all-breed show. You'll likely find owners, handlers and others very helpful in explaining the breed's pros and cons, its demands and rewards. Just because a dog appeals to your aesthetic tastes does not mean it's the right dog for your lifestyle. Do a little research. Meet a LOT of dogs. It'll be well worth the effort.

SLODOG Conformation Contact: Gillian McCallum