Last updated on November 11, 2022
TL;DR Breed shows ALWAYS follow a standard order of operations, which this great chart from Onofrio Dog Shows, LLC visualizes for you:
In more detail, breed shows always follow a standard order of operations. The Dogs in Regular Classes (those in regular classes have not earned their Championship yet) are called in first. According to AKC.com, the seven regular classes at a conformation dog show, in order of how they enter the ring, are:
- Puppy Class: dogs at least 6 months and under 12 months of age. The club may also further divide this class into 6-9 months and 9-12 months.
- 12-18 Month Class: dogs at least 12 months and under 18 months old. This class may also be further divided into 12-15 months and 15-18 months by the club.
- Novice Class: dogs that have not previously won 3 first places in Novice Class, a 1st place in Amateur-Owner-Handler, Bred-by-Exhibitor, American-bred, or Open Classes or who have not earned one or more points toward their championship.
- Amateur-Owner-Handler Class: dogs handled by the registered owner who has not, at any point, been a professional dog handler, an AKC approved conformation judge or employed as an assistant to a professional handler.
- Bred-by-Exhibitor Class: dogs handled and owned by its breeder. The club may also further divide this class into Adult Bred-by-Exhibitor and Puppy Bred-by-Exhibitor.
- American-bred Class: dogs whose sire and dam were mated in America and the dog was born in America. This is a required class.
- Open Class: a required class that any dog may enter. This is the only regular class that Champions are eligible to complete in.
After the Dogs in these classes are judged, all the Dogs that won first place in their class return to the ring to compete to be named Winners Dog (first place of all the non-titled Dogs) and Reserve Winners Dog (second place). The all the Regular Classes are called again but for Bitches, and the first places re-enter the ring to determine Winners Bitch and Reserve Winners Bitch. If you did not win one of these two awards, you are done. Congratulate the winners and stick around for Best of Breed to watch and learn!
Next, any Specials (dogs that have already earned at least the Championship title) enter the ring WITH the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch. The judge will examine the Specials and then have everyone go around the ring at least once more before making her final decisions for:
- Best of Breed–BOB; first place over all entries in that breed
- Reserve Winners Dog and Bitch should stick around the ring, because if one of the Winners takes BOB, then the Reserve of that sex might be called in to compete for Best of Winners!
- Best of Winners–BOW; first place between the two regular class Winners
- Best of Opposite Sex–BOS; first place of the sex that DIDN’T take BOB. So a BOB Dog always means a Bitch BOS and vice versa.
- Select Dog and Select Bitch–of the remaining Specials that weren’t chosen for any other award, the judge can pick one of each sex to win this, which awards points toward the next title (i.e. a Champion can earn points towards their Grand Championship)
- Additional awards may be given depending on the show, and can sometimes go to any dog/handler whether they already won something above or not!
- Best Owner-Handled–BOH. This is only for handlers who own the dog they are showing and are not professional handlers. I’ve also seen a breeder-owner who took BOB with a special, who was technically eligible for the BOH, tell the judge to pass the award on to the next eligible (me!). Since the National Owner-Handled Show (NOHS) Groups and Best of Show competition is judged separately from the main Best of Show that may have professional handlers competing, that breeder essentially offered for a more amateur handler to get experience in a Group ring since he would be participating in the main competition anyways
- Best Puppy–Some shows may have a Puppy Show! Only the dogs of a certain age are considered eligible, and the steward and/or judge will figure out which dog gets this award based on regular class entries. Puppy Shows still have Groups and Best of Show, they are just all puppies. It’s the actual cutest thing!
If you win BOB or BOH, make sure to check when the Group rings start! All other breed judging has to be wrapping up by then, so it tends to be early- to mid-afternoon. Groups can also take awhile to get through as all the dogs are re-examined by the Group judge, so plan to crate, exercise, and run your dog as necessary to keep them on their best behavior while you wait for your group. If you are competing in the NOHS, this is usually in a nearby ring to the main Groups and BOS ring, and your Group will usually follow immediately after the same Group is done in the main show ring.
Let me know if you have additional questions about show ring order and awards!