Dog Shows A Numbers Game?

woman handler with her dog at a dog show

Dog shows were developed to evaluate breeding stock. In the last 10 years, as I have discussed dog shows with fellow breeders/exhibitors, one of the topics that has been raised by many exhibitors is the focus on rankings. Instead of cherishing a single win under a judge you deem is an authority on your breed, exhibitors want to collect as many wins as possible as they chase the highest ranking.

Let’s first talk about shows and entries. When exhibitors are focused on rankings, they don’t consider whether a show has a quality entry that may provide them with a new stud dog to use or a breeding program to consider. They are entering shows to garner wins and points, regardless of the quality of the competition. If your priority is to be #1 Dog, you may choose to skip your National Specialty if you do not believe your dog has chance to win, and elect to attend a different show instead. In doing so, not only do you not have the opportunity to see the various entries, but those who are at the National do not get to see your dog. In many cases, Nationals are the only time these dogs come together at a single event. If, however, you are focused on rankings, a breed win elsewhere is worth more than even Select at the National.

Since rankings are such a priority for many people, does the ranking of the dog equate to the quality of the dog? This depends on whom you ask. There may be a beautiful dog that is only shown a few times in a year, and that dog may be an exceptional specimen of its breed. But since it hasn’t been shown extensively it likely won’t be a top-ranked dog. Rankings inherently favor dogs that are shown every weekend. This doesn’t mean a top-ranked dog isn’t of exceptional quality. But no matter the quality of the dog, a top ranking cannot be achieved without many wins.

Finally, there are two different sets of rankings for conformation dogs: Breed and All-Breed. The Breed rankings are primarily what I’ve discussed here, but All-Breed rankings take into consideration competing above the Breed level. This system can allow a dog shown only a few times to be highly ranked because it includes all of the breeds. For instance, if your dog is awarded Best in Show, in many cases this is worth dozens of Group or Breed awards. Said dog may be ranked #1 in the All-Breed system, but #4 in the Breed system. Is the #1 Breed dog better than the #1 All-Breed dog?

As a judge, I am there to evaluate breeding stock, and can only judge what is entered. As an exhibitor, I can choose to enter a show or not, and this decision may be affected by a pursuit of a ranking, my view of the judge, the importance of a show, or a multitude of other factors. So, are dog shows a numbers game? For judges, probably not. For exhibitors? Of course, we all start wanting those 15 points for that new champion!