Introduction

All puppies like to play. As you will see from you first match and show experiences, puppies in the ring will lick the judge's face, lie down when the judge comes to examine them, and show other creative attitudes towards life. This is part of learning to be a show dog and with training, patience and a good sense of humor, they will outgrow it. Among the books you may find helpful in getting started are How To Show Your Own Dog by Virginia Nichols (T.F.H. Publications, 1976) and The Forsyth Guide to Successful Dog Showing by Robert and Jane Forsyth (Howell Book House, 1975).

For your dog to compete in conformation, a dog must be registered with the AKC and not have been altered, surgically or otherwise, to change its appearance. To succeed in obtaining a Championship of Record (Ch.) title, he should be as close to the Standard Bulldog as possible. Since no dog is perfect and each has different strengths and weaknesses, there is opportunity for many dogs to compete successfully in the ring.

The following is what your dogs should learn to show in conformation. The rest depends on your dog (how well he matches the Bulldog Standard and how he looks that day), on you (how well you handle him in the ring), on the judge (how he interprets the Bulldog Standard), and on the other dogs and exhibitors in the ring competing against you that day (how they compare to you and your dog). Two dogs can compete against each other and one will win one day and the other the next. That's what keeps people coming back.

Stand for Examination

He must learn to stand still in place on command, exactly as you place him. This is referred to as stacking the dog. His front legs and the mid portion of his hind legs should be perpendicular to the ground. The front legs are set to maximize the width between them, while staying straight down from the shoulder. Set the front legs by grasping them just below the shoulder and setting them with the front feet pointed ahead or slightly outward.

Set the hind legs by grasping the leg at the hock (the joint at the middle of the leg). Do not grab them near the feet - this makes it more difficult to set them correctly. The hind legs should not be spread apart; they should be parallel to each other.

Practice stacking him on a table with a mat or towel under him at first. As he grows, he will be big enough to use the floor. If he fidgets, set him so his feet are at the edge of the table - he will quickly learn to stand still and rely on you to set his feet. Of course, you must hold him at all times while he is on the table - don't ever leave him alone.

Examination

He should be accustomed to being touched by anyone while he is standing; he should let them look in his mouth, run their hands over his body or touch his genitals. The judge will run his or her hands over the entire dog to evaluate his conformation. You can practice stacking the dog and having someone else run his or her hands over him to get him used to this. It's not very difficult.

Move on Lead

Your dog should be able to walk on a leash next to you without you having to tug or pull him and should be able to do this with distractions around. In a show ring, he usually will have to walk around, in a large right triangle or up and back. With practice, none of these is particularly difficult.

Finally, he must learn to stop walking when you do and stand waiting for your next movement. This is needed so that when he comes to the judge, he can be stopped for the judge to look him over.

Types of Shows

The types of AKC point shows you may encounter are: All-Breed Shows, Group Shows, and Specialty Shows.

All-Breed shows may have dogs exhibiting from over 140 breeds recognized by the AKC. The exact number of breeds shown depends on the club giving the show and the entries received for that show. Clubs holding the shows may be either members clubs of the AKC or licensed by the AKC to hold shows.

Not every breed has to be exhibited at any one show. The breeds are divided by the AKC into Groups for judging purposes. The Groups are: Group 1 -- Sporting Dogs; Group 2 -- Hounds; Group 3 -- Working Dogs; Group 4 -- Terriers; Group 5 -- Toys; Group 6 -- Non-Sporting Dogs; Group 7 -- Herding Dogs. Bulldogs are in the Non-Sporting Group, which contains dogs which no longer serve the original purpose for which they were bred.  After competition within each breed, the Best of Breed or Variety for each Breed or Variety competes within its group. The first place winners in each group then compete for Best in Show. Judges at All-breed shows must be licensed AKC judges, but need not be bulldog breeders.

Group shows are a fairly new phenomenon. The AKC permits clubs to form consisting of exhibitors from a single group. In this area, there is one club for our group, The Non-Sporting Group Club of the Garden State. This is a new club which expects to hold its first show in about a year. At the present time, it is holding matches to qualify for AKC membership.

Specialty shows are held by Clubs which are devoted to a single breed. There are a number of clubs for Bulldogs. The parent club in the United States is the Bulldog Club of America (BCA). The local clubs usually are members of BCA. A specialty show may be held independently or in conjunction with an all-breed show. Usually specialty shows have judges who are experienced bulldog breeders in addition to being licensed AKC judges. Many clubs hold sweepstakes along with their specialty shows. Entries are usually higher at specialty shows, whether independent or part of an all breed show, than at all-breed shows without specialties. The largest entries are found at cluster shows, where you have 2 or three days of specialties held by different clubs at the same location. In the New York area, there are several weekends with entries of about 120 bulldogs at specialty shows. Best of Breed is the highest level of competition at independent specialties; at specialties held as part of all-breed shows, the Bulldog Best of Breed competes in the Group.

There is one specialty show which is the premier specialty each year -- the National Show. Once each year in the Fall, the Bulldog Club of America holds its specialty show, usually supported by two other specialties. The entries at the national show run between 300 and 700, depending on the location and date. Each year, on a set schedule, the show moves to a different part of the country. In 2011, the show will be in Virginia and in 2012-- in California

Entering a Show

In order to be entered in a show, the dogs must be eligible to show under the AKC Regulations. Dogs entered in these shows must be AKC registered and at least 6 months old.

Spayed bitches and neutered dogs may not be shown in regular classes in conformation (thus, they cannot become Champions), however, they may be shown in obedience. Neutered dogs and spayed bitches may be shown in the Stud Dog and Brood Bitch class and they may be shown in the Veterans Class at a specialty show held independently, but not in conjunction with an all breed show. This is to prevent competition between altered and intact dogs of different breeds, harkening back to the origin of dog shows as proving grounds for breeding stock.

Each show is held by one club and a superintendent or show secretary handles receipt of entires and setting up the show. All upcoming shows can be found on the Event and Awards page on the AKC web site.


Competition for a Championship

Each dog entered in the show must be entered in a class for which he is eligible. The regular classes in shows are as follows, divided by sex:

The Puppy Class is for dogs that are six months old, but under twelve months, that are not champions. The age of a dog is calculated up to and including the first day of a show. For example, a dog whelped on January 1st is eligible to compete in a puppy class at a show the first day of which is July 1st of the same year and may continue to compete in puppy classes at shows up to and including a show the first day of which is the 31st day of December of the same year, but is not eligible to compete in a puppy class at a show the first day of which is January 1st of the following year. The first day of a show is considered to be the first day on which there is regular conformation judging. For example, this means that if your dog turns nine months old the day the classes start at the Nationals and the sweepstakes are held the day before, the dog should be entered in the 9-12 month old class in the sweepstakes. Even though he is eight months old at the time the sweepstakes take place, the show starts and the age is measured as of the date regular classes are held.

Puppy classes may be divided into two separate classes (6-9 months and 9-12 months) at the option of the club holding the show. This is usually done at Specialty shows.

The Twelve-to-Eighteen Month Class is for dogs that are twelve months of age, but under eighteen months, that are not champions. The age of a dog is calculated up to and including the first day of a show, as described above.

The Novice Class is for dogs six months of age and over, which have not, prior to the date of closing of entries, won three first prizes in the Novice Class, a first prize in Bred-by-Exhibitor, American-bred or Open Classes, nor one or more points toward their championships.

The Bred-by-Exhibitor Class is for dogs whelped in the United States of America (or if individually registered in The American Kennel Club 'Stud Book', for dogs whelped outside of the United States) that are six months of age and over, are not champions, and are owned wholly or in part by the person who is the breeder or one of the breeders of record. Dogs entered in this class must be handled in the class by the breeder/owner of the dog.

The American-bred Class is for all dogs (except champions) six months of age and over, whelped in the United States of America, by reason of a mating which took place in the United States of America.

The Amateur Owner/Handler Class is for dogs handled by their registered owners, provided that they have never been AKC approved conformation judges, professional handlers, employed as an assistant to a professional handler. In addition, members of the immediate family or household of a current professional handler are also ineligible for this class. .

The Open Class is for any dog six months of age or over, except in a member specialty club show held only for American-bred dogs, in which case the Open Class shall be only for American-bred dogs.

The Winners Class is divided by sex and is open only to undefeated dogs of the same sex which have won first prizes in the above classes. There is no entry fee for competition in the Winners Class. Winners Dog and Winners Bitch are the only dogs to earn points towards their championships. After the Winners prize has been awarded in one of the sex divisions, the second prize winning dog, if undefeated except by the dog awarded Winners, shall compete with the other eligible dogs for Reserve Winners. No eligible dog may be withheld from competition. Winners Class shall be allowed only at shows where American-bred and Open Classes shall be given.

The dog and bitch who get Reserve Winners will be awarded the points for the show only if the Winners Dog or Bitch, respectively, is subsequently declared to have been ineligible to have been entered or to have been awarded points. For example, if Winner's dog was entered in the wrong age class or was handled by someone who was not the breeder/owner in bred-by, the Reserve Winner would get the points.

A Club that provides Winners Classes shall also provide Competition for Best of Breed or Variety in those breeds for which varieties are provided. The awards in this competition shall be Best of Breed or Best of Variety of Breed.

Best of Breed Competition

The following categories of dogs may be entered for Best of Breed competition:
Dogs which are already Champions of Record.

Dogs which according to their owners' records have completed the requirements for a championship, but whose championships are unconfirmed may show in Best of Breed . The showing of dogs whose championships are unconfirmed is limited to a period of 90 days from the date of show where a dog completed the requirements for a championship according to the owners' records.

In addition, the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch together with any undefeated dogs that have competed at the show only in additional non-regular classes shall compete for Best of Breed or Best of Variety of Breed.

In this competition, the judge selects for Best of Breed the dog or bitch who, in his or her opinion, comes closest to meeting the standard of the breed. The dog of the other sex who the judge evaluates as the best example of the standard is awarded Best of Opposite Sex to Best of Breed. Finally, the class dog or bitch which the judge believes best exemplifies the standard is awarded Best of Winners.

In addition, dogs that have already achieved their championships may be awarded Grand Champion points. At the discretion of the judge, the Best of Breed, Best of Opposite Sex and one additional champion of each sex may be awarded points towards the Grand Champion title.

Becoming a Champion

To become a Champion, dogs must win points at an AKC approved point show. Dogs are evaluated by judges who are licensed by the AKC to judge dogs in that breed. The judge evaluates the dog against the Standard of Excellence for that breed. The dog and bitch which, based on that judge's evaluation, come closest to the standard are awarded the points on that day. Since judges' evaluations are not exactly alike, different dogs may get the points on different days under different judges. 

Points are usually earned in competition with other dogs of the same sex and dogs must be at least six months old to enter. Points at each show are scaled in different regions of the country based on the number of dogs of the same sex competing, with from zero to 5 points awarded for a win. If there is one other dog of the same sex defeated, the show is worth one point. A win of three or more points is called a major. A total of 15 points must be earned under three different judges to become a champion and at least two of the shows at which points are earned must majors won under different judges.

Thus a dog can finish his Championship in as few as three shows (five points each) or in 11 shows (two three-point majors and nine one-point shows) or may never finish if he can't win two majors or can only win under two judges. Once a dog is a Champion of Record, he no longer competes for points, but may be entered in the Best of Breed competition.

Most of the confusion occurs when a class dog goes on to another major award. The AKC specifies that points are further computed as follows:

If WD or WB also wins Best of Breed (BOB), you add to the number of class dogs of the same sex competing, all specials of either sex entered in BOB who were defeated. Dogs competing in BOB because they were entered in non regular classes (e.g., Veteran) and the other Winner are not counted in determining points since they were not entered in BOB.

If WD or WB wins Best of Opposite Sex to Best of Breed (BOS), in addition to the class dogs of the same sex competing, only the dogs of its own sex which were entered in BOB and were defeated are added to determine points.

After applying the rules above, the dog awarded Best of Winners gets the larger of number the points awarded as computed above or the points awarded to WD or WB.
Thus, in NY, in a competition of 4 class dogs, 22 class bitches, 2 special dogs, 5 special bitches and a veteran dog, Winners Dog would have 4 dogs in competition (the 4 class dogs [including WD]) and get 1 point, while Winners Bitch would have 22 bitches in competition and get 4 points.

If WD went BOB, he gets three points for Breed since he would have been in competition with 4 class dogs plus 7 specials (the Veteran and class bitches don't count). If the same class dog went BOS instead, there would be 6 dogs (4 class dogs and 2 special dogs) in competition and it would be worth 2 points as BOS.

As BOB from the classes, he is automatically BOW, since he is the best animal in the show in that breed. As BOS, he may or may not get BOW, since the bitch may be a better example of the breed than the dog. If he takes Best of Winners, he earns 4 points as BOW since that is what the bitch points are worth with 22 in competition. If WB went BOS over the 5 special bitches, she would earn the 5th point, having had 27 bitches in competition; therefore the BOB class dog would also get the 5 points awarded to WB. Under this scenario, if the bitch gets BOW she does not earn any extra points, since she gets more points as WB than WD earned.

Finally, if the class dog goes on to a Group 1, it earns the highest number of points earned by any class dog in that group and if it goes on to Best In Show from the classes, it gets the maximum number of points awarded to any breed at the show.

How the AKC Determines Points

The AKC annually revises the point count (usually effective in mid-May) to reflect the prior years' experience in awarding points - the more Bulldogs exhibited in the previous three years, the greater will be then number required to earn the same number of points the following year. Similarly, the smaller the number of dogs shown, the fewer dogs will be needed subsequently to earn the same number of points. The point count varies by breed and by AKC division within the U.S. To confuse matters more the AKC Divisions and the BCA Divisions are not contiguous.

Each show catalogue prints the relevant rules in the front of the catalogue; the schedule of points for all breeds in the division in which the show is held are printed either in the front of the catalogue or under the class entries. Even so, figuring out the points is an area which many, especially novices, find confusing.

Winners Dog (WD) and Winners Bitch (WB) are awarded points based on the actual number of dogs/bitches competing in the classes, not the number entered. Each competitor of the same sex in the classes, including the winner, counts towards points earned according to the listed schedule. Dogs which are absent, disqualified, excused, etc. do not count towards points earned.

Sweepstakes

A Sweepstakes is usually a competition for young dogs (between 6 months and 18 months old), judged by someone who has experience in the breed, but is not a licensed AKC judge.

Sweepstakes are usually held in conjunction with AKC specialty shows, but may beheld at other times. The dogs and bitches who win their classes compete for Best in Sweepstakes. Depending on the club holding the Sweepstakes, they may award a Best of Opposite in Sweepstakes as well. There are no championship points earned in a Sweepstakes, but winning is prestigious. Sometimes, clubs will host Sweepstakes for another group. Veteran Sweepstakes is a more common variant, usually held for dog over either six or seven years old.

Futurities

A Futurity, sometimes called a Breeder’s Stakes, is a non-profit activity to encourage breeding better quality Bulldogs.

The Futurity get its name from the fact that breeders are betting on the future, since you enter puppies before they are whelped. Any breeder who is a member of the club holding the Futurity may enter in the Futurity any AKC registered litter produced by their dam or sired by their stud. Eligible puppies sold may compete in the Futurity provided all eligibility requirements are fulfilled by the person nominating the litter or by the new owners with the nominator’s consent.

Each entry requires a fee for the litter prior to whelping, a second fee per puppy kept eligible when the puppies are two months old, and a final fee per eligible puppy one month before the Futurity. These fees are pooled into prizes which are awarded to each of the top four placements for dogs and bitches. After 10% is deducted for administrative expenses, and any monies the Club adds, the pot is divided in half for each sex. Within each sex, first place gets 40%, second place get 30%, third place gets 20% and fourth place gets 10% of the total available. 

Match Shows

Matches are informal shows, usually for puppies, at which points towards an AKC championship may not be earned. Judges at matches are usually not licensed by the AKC and may be anyone that the club believes has the appropriate understanding of the breed. Judging at matches may be viewed as training for becoming a licensed AKC judge.

Most Bulldogs are owner/handled. In other breeds professional handlers are used more frequently. A match is a chance to give a potential show dog experience in ring procedure in a real life setting. It also provides training for those new to handling dogs and helps relieve anxiety of new handlers about bring in the show ring. It should be a fun experience for both the dog and the handler.

The classes in matches, divided by sex, are usually: 2-3 months, 3-4 months, 4-6 months, 6-9 months, 9-12 months in the puppy competition and Open in the Adult competition. Each of the puppy class winners competes for Best Puppy Dog or Best Puppy Bitch. These two then compete for Best Puppy in Match. The best Adult Dog and Best Adult Bitch compete for Best Adult in match.

Specialty Matches, conducted by the local Bulldog Clubs, are especially fun to attend. Everyone has a laugh watching the owners try to get the 2-3 month olds to walk around the ring and you can see how your puppy stacks up against the ones the breeders kept. Matches start for puppies at two or three months, the announcements usually tell which. Just be sure your puppy's shots are current and he's not sick when you go. You don't want to bring or come home with any disease.