Conformation, as defined by the American Kennel Club, is the official name for a “dog show”. According to their website, the purpose of Conformation is to evaluate breeding stock by evaluating how well the dog conforms to the breed standard as written by the governing organization.


What: Conformation
Description: Evaluation of dogs and comparing them to a standard
Training: Can be taught completely at home. But much knowledge can be gained from others.
Time until ready: As little as 2 weeks
Age to start: Pretty much any age can start. The dog’s skills are pretty easy and once learned, the dog remembers for life.

Conformation dog shows started over 150 years ago. The first recorded dog show that resembles the shows we have today was held in Newcastle-upon-Tyne on June 28 & 29, 1859. It was an add-on to a cattle show and only showcased sporting breeds. From there, these type of shows expanded to include all breeds and moved to London, England. The American Kennel Club was founded in 1884 and began holding national shows in America.

Conformation is one of the easiest sports to get started in. At it’s core are some basic principles.

  • Own a purebred dog of good quality, that meets the breed standard
  • Groom the dog so it looks like
  • Take the dog into a show ring and present it to the judge for inspection

Conformation is also one of the hardest sports to compete in. There are many fine details and much knowledge that is required. Here are some examples:

  • Breed knowledge goes way beyond the written standard. Many breeders and handlers spend their entire lives learning about the breed(s) they raise and show.
  • Grooming is not as simple as bathing and brushing the dog. Many breeds need to be trimmed or shaved.
  • Showing the dog requires a certain skill set and some experience. There is a correct way to show the dog to the judge and skilled handlers can make their dog look more appealing to a judge simply by the way they are presented.
  • There is no feedback from the judge. In most dog sports, results are clear. You did or did not perform as required. And typically you will get a piece of paper that indicates where mistakes were made. This is not true in conformation. The judge makes their selection and the crowd gets to make guesses as to why. Sometimes you can speak with a judge about it but this is the exception rather than the rule as judges are usually quite busy judging the next round of dogs.

In order to get started showing in Conformation, you simply need a purebred dog that meets the breed standard and a desire to maintain or improve the breed. To increase your chances of success, you should maintain contact with the dog’s breeder and get their help when you can. You can speak with others that have been showing dogs for a while. They will have tips on grooming and showing. There are classes you can take which will show you how to best present your dog to a judge. If you are really determined to succeed, then you should associate with handlers that are doing quite well and learn techniques from them.

There are several organizations in North America that host national Conformation Shows. Typically they don’t recognize information from competing organizations and each has their own set of Conformation standards. Some breeds can be shown in some organizations and not others. For specific breeds, you will need to refer to the organization’s website.

AKC American Kennel Club See website
IABCA International All Breed Canine Association See website
UKC United Kennel Club See website
CKC (USA) Continental Kennel Club See website
CKC (Canada) Canadian Kennel Club See website

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