Showing your dog

Dog shows are held all around Australia, where dogs are judged by specialist judges against their breed standard. Here’s our step-by-step guide to mastering the show circuit.

Entering a show

Dog shows conducted under DNSW regulations are organised by Affiliated Clubs and held throughout the year all over the State. Have a look at the DOGS NSW Shows & Trials calendar and put the entry deadlines in your diary.

How to enter

When you have read a Show Advertisement you will note a number of important features of the show are quoted:

  • Date of the fixture
  • Type of fixture, Championship Show, Open Show, Parade
  • Judge or Judges officiating
  • Name and address of the Club secretary to whom the entries should be sent
  • Closing date of entry
  • Classes offered for the breeds and many other matters pertinent to the show

If you are lodging an entry for your first show we recommend you seek advice and assistance from the person from whom you purchased your puppy. Once you decide on the fixture:

1. Purchase from DOGS NSW a booklet of entry forms. Entry forms are printed in easy "cheque book" style with a butt to provide a record of your entry for future reference.

2. Complete the entry form in ink in block letters or in type ensuring all the information entered in the appropriate places is correct. We strongly recommend you transfer the information, where applicable, direct from the registration certificate.

When you have completed the entry form, signed the form and are satisfied all the details entered therein are correct, place the following in an envelope addressed to the Club Secretary as shown in the schedule:

  • The completed entry form
  • A remittance (cheque or money order) covering the entry fee and purchase of the Show catalogue which comprises a programme of all dogs entered in the Show under their respective breeds and classes
  • A stamped, self addressed envelope for return of exhibit number or acknowledgment of receipt of entries and payment for the Show catalogue.
Within 7-14 days prior to the date of the fixture you should receive in the mail, return of your stamped self addressed envelope with your exhibit number.

What happens in the ring?

Ensure that you check the catalogue to see when your breed is being judged, unless your pup belongs to a breed which is at the beginning of the group, you will have some time to wait. 

Make sure you can hear the steward calling breeds and classes from where you choose to sit, or go over to the ring now and then to check which breed/class the judge is up to. When the class before your pups is being judged, take your pup over to the ringside (but not in the way of dogs and handlers going in to or coming out of the ring) and listen for your class to be announced and your number called. Note that a roll call may be made while the previous class is still being judged. 

While you are waiting at ringside:

  • Watch carefully the procedure in the ring
  • Where the steward is lining up the dogs ready for the judge
  • What the judge does when he examines each dog
  • The pattern he is asking handlers to follow when they are parading their dogs.

When you hear your number called by the steward, answer clearly "Here" and enter the ring, going to where the steward directs if your pup is first into the ring or following the other pups if he is further down the line. 

When the steward assembles your class, the numbers are called in order and a line is formed to enter the ring. Any person who fails to answer the steward's call will be marked as absent after 3 calls, so don't get involved in conversations or other activities which will mean you missing your call. If called absent, an exhibit can not enter that ring. 

Always follow the judge's instructions and be courteous and considerate at all times to the judge, steward and other exhibitors. The judge will probably ask you and the other exhibitors in your class to gait your puppies once around the ring before standing your puppy back in front of them, (allow approximately two metres between dogs when gaiting dogs with other exhibitors).

The judge will then examine your dog from nose to tail, either on the ground or a table for small breeds, to check for correct conformation (the outward appearance and physical formation of a canine. The overall quality of a dog's structure, form and arrangement of parts), coat and condition. You will again be asked to gait your dog individually to assess movement.

If it is the first time that you are showing, it is wise to tell the steward, as he or she will relay this information to the judge who should give you consideration in understanding the ring requirements.

This information was compiled from various works supplied by Pat Davis, Fiona Holtkamp, Bettie Miller and Ms J Rossiter.

What are the different types of competition?

Dogs and bitches are judged separately, with a maximum of seven different age classes with available placings of first, second or third, except at larger specialty shows where numbers of entries may go up to fourth and fifth, depending on the total entry.

Some shows also conduct ‘sweepstakes’ competitions for two age groups – Babies (three to six months) and Puppies (six to 12 months).

All dogs and bitches of every breed in the show are eligible to enter and compete against each other at the same time, usually as the first competition of the day.

1. Challenge points

Challenge points are only awarded at Championship Shows and are given to the Best Dog (called Challenge Dog) and Best Bitch (Challenge Bitch) for each breed. One hundred Challenge points are required before a dog can be awarded the title of Australian Champion. This title is retained for life and the initials Ch. become part of the dog’s registered name.

Judging usually begins in all rings at the same time with the various breeds, followed by group judging, and then General Specials. In All Breed shows, dogs are judged alphabetically by breed according to Group classification.

2. Best in Breed

For each breed, dog classes are judged before bitch classes. The winners of each class, excluding Baby Puppy, compete for the Challenge if it is a Championship Show, or Best Dog of Breed if it is not.

The dog selected as Challenge will then leave the ring and the dog that came second in the same class as the Challenge winner returns to the ring to compete for Reserve Challenge. Then the bitches are judged similarly.

When the judging for Challenge and Reserve Challenge Bitch is completed the Challenge Dog re-enters the ring to compete with the Challenge Bitch for Best of Breed.

Whoever wins this leaves the ring and is replaced by the Reserve Challenge of the same sex as the Best of Breed who then competes with the opposite sex Challenge winner for Reserve or Runner-up Best of Breed. The Best and Reserve Best of Breed automatically win their respective Class in Breed.

The winners of each class then compete with the opposite sex winner of the same class for Class in Breed and the winners for each class then progress to compete for Class in Group.

3. Best in Group

When all the breeds in the group have been judged, then all Best of Breeds enter in alphabetical order to compete for the Best in Group. The Runner-up Best of Breed then comes in to compete against all other Best of Breed winners for the Runner-up Best in Group.

Best in Group and Runner-up Best in Group winners are automatically the Best exhibit in whatever classes they were entered into. All other classes are then judged by having all winners for each particular age group compete for that Class in Group.

4. General Specials (Best in Show)

When all groups have been judged, the seven Best in Group winners enter the General Specials ring for Best in Show and the judging sequence of Best in Group is repeated.

The Runner-up Best in Group to the Best in Group-winning dog or bitch that wins Best in Show comes in for Runner-up Best in Show. These two dog/bitches are automatically Best in Class in Show, and all other Class in Shows are judged in the same manner as the Class in Groups.

Path to Best in Show


Don’t forget…

  • A tent or umbrella for shade
  • A water bowl
  • A ‘stake’ or ‘crate’ to hold or contain your dog
  • Leads
  • Brushes and product for grooming
  • A ground cover tarp or rug so that the elements do not interfere or detract from the dog’s appearance
  • A ‘holder’ for the exhibit number card that must be worn on the left side (usually the arm) so that the judge can see it when in the ring
  • Chairs for the humans to sit on while waiting throughout the day to be judged at the various levels of competition

You may also want to buy (usually prepaid with entries) a catalogue so that you can determine how many dogs are before yours and the number of exhibits in your breed/class.