There are three main types of shows, Limit, Open, and Championship.

Limit shows are smaller, less competitive shows, which are good to attend to gain experience and knowledge before competing in the larger shows.

Open shows are usually inexpensive and local, probably the next best place to go after gaining confidence at the smaller Limit shows. 

Championship shows are large, expensive and usually situated in large cities; can be a bit daunting for the beginner to dog showing.

Each breed of dog falls into a certain category, working, utility, terrier, gundog, hound, toy, pastoral, rare breeds and imported register.  

To enter a show an entry form has to be filled in giving details of the dog being entered and for which class, the forms can be obtained from your local ringcraft classes, dog shows or directly from the show secretary. The forms have to be filled in and sent off with the entry fee some time before the actual show date. The form will have a closing date on it and any entries received after the closing date will not be allowed. Once the secretary has received the entries, a catalogue of all the dogs entered is compiled. This is made available to everyone on the show day.


picture of dog shows entry form

Puppies must be Kennel Club registered and be at least six months of age before they can be entered into their first show, so when you get your new puppy remember to send off the registration forms given to you by the breeder transferring the puppy over to you. In the run up to your first show a lot of preparation must take place in the form of general socialisation and ringcraft classes, so the earlier you start the better.

The shows are based on classes and the winner of each class goes through to a final to become "best in show". The usual classes offered are minor puppy, puppy, junior, maiden, novice, undergraduate, graduate, post graduate, limit, open and veteran.

The dog has to meet certain conditions before it can be entered into a class. More than one class can be entered at one show. The number of placings per class is decided by the show committee and will therefore vary from show to show. 

Showing a dog is a very time consuming and expensive hobby. There is the travelling to and from shows, accommodation and entry fees. Most shows take place on a weekend, however some championship shows start on a Thursday or Friday and continue over the weekend. The open shows are a lot less expensive to enter than the other types of shows, and probably nearer to home too.

At the end of the day it is just a fun day out so enjoy it whether you win or lose!

There is a long process of hard work before entering a dog show. You and the puppy must both be well prepared. Ringcraft classes are the ideal place to start. Most classes will let you attend once the puppy has been vaccinated, usually about 12 weeks of age.

Experienced breeders will have started their training long before this time. The ringcraft classes will allow your puppy to socialise with a wide range of other breeds, and you can both practice the showing stances. These classes are only a small part of the preparation you must continue to train your puppy at home every day. You must get your puppy used to having his teeth examined and set up in the show stance. At the classes, and at home, your puppy will be approached by strangers, this all helps in getting the puppy prepared for the show ring when the judges approach to assess your puppy.

Most shows are usually split into dogs and bitches, with the dogs being shown first, however in the less popular breeds dogs and bitches will be shown together.

Before you enter your first show it is always best to attend a few shows without your puppy, you will be able to see what will be expected of you and your puppy when you do attend your first show. You can watch and pick up lots of hints and as most people love to talk especially about their own dogs you can gain a lot of information as well. The Kennel Club or your breeder will be able to give you details or point you in the right direction of how to find out about any forthcoming shows that are relevant and local to you.

Limit Shows, Open shows and Championships shows are all held under Kennel Club rules and regulations that are always printed on the entry schedule, or can be obtained directly from the Kennel Club. When completing the entry schedule form take your time, as many mistakes made at this point cannot be rectified on the day of the show when the catalogue has already been printed. These entry forms have a closing date for entries, usually 6 or 8 weeks before the show date, if your entry is late it will be returned to you.

Schedules for shows are usually available at your local ringcraft classes.

Most shows will present the first few placings (sometimes from 1st to 5th) with a prize card indicating place, at some shows you may also receive a rosette. Some shows even have rosettes, cups and trophies, which have been sponsored or donated, to award to the winning exhibit of certain classes. The cups and trophies can be engraved with the winner’s details and kept for one year, or until the show secretary requires the award back for the next show.

Limit Shows

Limit shows are run by individual dog clubs, and are restricted to the members of that club. These shows are probably the best place to start your showing career as you will be given a lot of help and advice without the pressures of the larger, more competitive shows. The classes at these shows are quite small making it an ideal place to start.

Open  Shows

These shows have a broader range of classes and tend to be more competitive. In some classes you will be up against dogs of other breeds. Open Shows can also be purely for one specific breed. The top prize at this is The Best in Show, which is judged from the Best of Breed. The Best in Breed is the best dog and bitch of that one breed.

Championship Shows

These shows can be breed specific, group specific, for example gundogs, working etc, or for all breeds. These shows offer the widest range of classes and winning at these can gain the ultimate award of qualifying for Crufts, the most prestigious dog show in Britain.

The dogs that win each class compete for Challenge Certificates (C.C.’s), dogs and bitches separately. Once you have three C.C.’s from three separate judges your dog is made up to a Champion. After the C.C’s have been awarded the Best of Breed winners from each group (gundogs, working, hounds etc) are judged to find Best of Group. These are then judged for Best in Show. The dog declared the Best in Show has competed and is unbeaten by any other dog exhibited at the same show.

The results of all these shows are usually available on the day from the show secretary, they are also published in the dog papers such as Dog World and Our Dogs. Some judges will write a critique of the first 2 or 3 placings, this can help you to know what they saw as the good and bad points of the dogs judged on the day. The only drawback on the critique is that sometimes you have to wait quite a few weeks before it is published, if at all. 

The other award that can be obtained is a Junior Warrant, which is based on a points system. These points can only be obtained by placings at Open and Championship shows. The points have to add up to 25 and must be collected in the dogs first year of showing, the dog will then be 18 months old.

The larger Open and Championship shows can be benched or unbenched. Benched means that on entering the show the dogs are allocated an open cage where it has to be left when not being shown. Unbenched shows have no facilities for leaving your dog unattended so they can stay with their owner or handler at all times.

The classes that can be entered at dog shows are dependant upon age, number of first places and C.C.’s won.  



















Minor PuppyFor dogs of six and not exceeding nine calendar months of age on the first day of the show.
 Puppy   For dogs of six and not exceeding twelve calendar months of age on the first day of the show. 
 Junior   For dogs of six and not exceeding eighteen calendar months of age on the first day of the show.    
  Special Yearling For dogs of six and not exceeding twenty four months of age on the first day of the show. 
 Maiden   For dogs which have not won a Challenge Certificate or a first prize at an Open or Championship Show (Minor puppy, Special Minor Puppy, Puppy and Special Puppy classes excepted, whether restricted or not).    
 Mid Limit   For dogs which have not won three Challenge Certificates or five or more first prizes in all at Championship Shows in Mid Limit, Limit and open classes, confined to the breed, whether restricted or not, at shows where Challenge Certificates were offered for the breed.    
 Limit   For dogs which have not won three Challenge Certificates under three different judges or seven or more first prizes in all, at Championship Shows in Limit and Open classes, confined to the breed, whether restricted or not, at shows where Challenge Certificates were offered for the breed.    
 Open   For all dogs of the breed for which the class is provided and eligible for entry at the show.    
 Veteran   For dogs of seven years of age and over on the first day of the show.    
 Any Variety Not Separately Classified (AVNSC) For breeds of dogs for which no separate classes are scheduled 
Imported Register   Where an Interim Breed Standard has been approved by the Kennel Club, breeds whose registration is confined to the Imported Register may be exhibited in this class only and are ineligible for any other competition whatsoever.
  As can be seen there is a variety of shows and classes on offer. The range of classes on offer varies from show to show; some may even have more than have been listed here.

One other show to mention is the Companion Dog Show; these shows are mainly run as charity events, local fundraisers or alongside agricultural shows. Run under Kennel Club Rules the Companion Show is open to all registered and unregistered dogs, including show dogs and crossbreeds. It's worth noting that many of todays exhibiters and champion dogs started their career at these shows!



Glossary of frequently used terms:-

Applies to Championship Shows unless stated otherwise.

Show Schedule – a printed booklet which includes a classification for each breed and also shows details of venue etc. The schedule will also contain an entry form. It is published approximately 3 months in advance of the show date. These are automatically sent to potential exhibitors by post or if you exhibited your dogs the previous year; or, they can be picked up at other shows; or, by contacting the appropriate Show Secretary; or, on-line at

Making an entry – filling in an entry form with details of the dog to be entered, date of birth, owners/breeders, and classes entered. The fee must accompany the entry form and it is sent to the Secretary. Dogs have to be a minimum of 6 months of age on the first day of the show; there are certain classes which depend upon the age of the dog (e.g. Minor Puppy – 6 to 9 months, Puppy – 6 to 12 months & Junior 6 to 18 months of age) Dogs normally compete within their own age group but once they are older than 18 months then the class they are entered in depends upon their previous wins. Entries are normally made by post and the closing date has to be adhered to and is normally referred to by the date of postmark, not the date the entry reaches the Secretary. Entries can also be made for some shows on line. e.g Please note than only dogs entered for competition can be admitted within the precincts of the show and this includes the car park. Dogs should not, in any circumstances, be left in cars. If they are it can have fatal results for the dog and may result in some form of disciplinary action. Dogs can, however, be entered “Not For Competition” or “NFC”. This means that you include them on the entry form, paying a reduced fee but they are not eligible for competition at the show. You can then take the dog into the show.

Exhibitors Pass – This is sent to your home address usually 2 weeks prior to the show. Printed upon it are all the details relating to you; your dogs; and relevant show documentation. You must show the Exhibitors Pass to gain entry into the Showground. If it is mislaid you need to contact the Secretary at the Showground. The exhibitors pass will also show your………

Bench number – at Championship shows all dogs are benched. This means that a steel/wooden type structure is provided by the show. Your dog should be put in this (apart from when he/she is being exercised). Most small breeds will be put in a cage or travelling box before being placed in the bench. All dogs of the same breed are normally benched in the same area. Large dogs do not have boxes or cages; they are secured in the bench by means of a benching chain.

Show Catalogue – this is available only on the day of the show and provides a complete listing of Exhibitors, dogs and classes. A map of the showground; start times etc. and all relevant information for the show is included in the catalogue. It is quite normal for catalogues to be ordered (and paid for) in advance at the time the entry is made. Your exhibitor’s pass will include a slip which enables you to collect your catalogue on arrival at the show. You should always check that your details are shown correctly in the catalogue and if they are not you should speak to someone in the Show Secretary’s office.

Day of the Show – you should always make sure you know which day of the show your breed is being judged. Different groups of dogs, e.g. Terriers or Hounds can be judged on different days. Take a water bowl and food (the latter for both dog and human!)

Start time – you should always allow plenty of time for your journey, there are very often queues of traffic going into the show. You do not register when you get there but the first thing you should do is to find your bench and settle your dog. Judging usually begins at 10 am but for larger breeds it can start at 9 am. See your schedule for more information.

Order of Judging – this is printed in the catalogue and sometimes enclosed on a leaflet with your ‘Exhibitors Pass’. This will show when and where your breed is to be judged. Judging takes place in a...

Ring – this is an area of ground cordoned off which contains a table on which the judge will examine each dog. At outdoor shows there will always be a separate ring under cover where judging can take place if the weather is unkind. You should make sure you know where to find this. This ring is often called the “wet weather accommodation”. Before you go to the ring you should make sure that you have your…….

Ring Number – you will find this at the top of your bench. It will be the same as your bench number. This is to be displayed on your person so that spectators can identify your dog and look it up in the catalogue. (The judge does not have access to the catalogue until after the show!!)

Judge – a person who is qualified to judge your breed and, for Championship Shows, is approved by the Kennel Club to judge at that level.

Ring Stewards – are present in every show ring and will instruct you where to stand. They will also make sure that you are displaying the correct ring number.

Showing your dog – the normal procedure is for all dogs to enter the ring, not in any particular order, but they all stand in a line. Dogs are normally shown on a slip lead, this is a nylon lead used specifically for showing and can be bought at the shows. The judge will sometimes ask the first exhibitor to lead all the exhibitors around the ring, once or sometimes twice. By doing this, the judge makes his or her first assessment of the dogs in the class. Always make sure that you walk with the dog nearest the judge, i.e. do not position yourself between the dog and the judge (or the judge will not be able to see your dog properly).
The judge will then examine each dog on the table. You will hold the dog in position to make it easier for the judge. The judge will then ask you to move your dog, usually by walking it in a triangle shape so that he/she can get a view of the dog’s back, front and side movement (gait). You will then return to the line of exhibitors. When the last dog has been walked you should have your dog ready to look its best before the final decision is made. Sometimes a tit bit will help your dog look more alert. Some breeds are shown on a loose lead, some are “stacked” (held by the exhibitor with the dogs head and tail placed to show off the dog’s outline).
In classes where there are a lot of entries the judge may select several dogs from the class for a closer look. This is known as “being pulled out” or “making the cut”. The judge will then place normally 5 dogs, 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc. When the judge is satisfied with the placings, he or she will tell the steward who will hand out the prize cards. If you are not placed you may leave the ring, but you should wait until you are satisfied that the judging is finished.
If you win 1st, 2nd (sometimes 3rd) place the judge will ask you to stand and continue to show your dog for a little while whilst the critique is done. He or she will make brief notes and will enlarge upon this after the show. These critiques are sent to Dog World and Our Dogs for publication.

When all the classes of one sex have been judged the unbeaten winning dogs will be called back into the ring to challenge for the……….

Challenge Certificate (C.C. or sometimes known as the ‘ticket’). This is a certificate which the judge signs stating that in his or her opinion the dog is worthy of becoming a Show Champion. These certificates are awarded by The Kennel Club (the dog world’s governing body who licence all shows) and a special certificate is posted to the exhibitor by The Kennel Club at a later date. Your dog will need three of these awards, given by different judges before he/she becomes a Champion. This status is also awarded by The Kennel Club. The judge has the right to withhold the CC (and RCC) if he does not think any dog entered in any class is worthy of being a Champion.

The Reserve Challenge Certificate - All unbeaten winning dogs then challenge for this award. This certificate states that the dog given this award is worthy of being awarded the CC should the certificate winner be disqualified. This doesn’t happen very often! It is at the judge’s discretion to call into the ring the dog place second to the CC winner.

Best of Breed – the Dog CC winner and the bitch CC winner then compete for Best of Breed. This exhibit then enters the group for his breed. This is judged towards the end of the show and is very often judged by a different judge to the breed classes. Normally it is an experienced judge who judges more than one breed at Championship show level. The winner of the group then challenges the other winners of the other groups and eventually the Best in Show award is made.

Secretary (office) – the Show Secretary has an office on the showground to deal with any queries.

Show Manager – deals with the organisation of the showground.

Veterinary Surgeon – is present on every showground.

Results – see your results displayed on the showground and on-line at

Crufts Qualifications – you have to qualify your dog at General Championship shows before you can show at Crufts Dog Show. For a list of qualification criteria click here

Not for competition (NFC) – dogs may be entered ‘not for competition’. This means a bench will be provided for your dog but it cannot compete in the show.

Other Awards – There are two other significant awards that can be added as a suffix after the dog name……..
JW – for Junior Warrant qualification click on the following link
Sh.CM – Show Certificate of Merit is gained at Open Shows only.

Different types of Dog Shows

Championship Shows - Challenge Certificates are on offer for most breeds. They are normally large shows, lasting a few days. Your dog does not, however, have to have done any previous winning to attend these shows.
Open Shows – a smaller type of show, open to all. Champions can be entered but not many are. Quite often dogs and bitches of one breed are judged together.
Limited Shows – these are limited to 75 classes and any dog that has won either a CC or any win that counts towards the status of Champion is ineligible for entry.
Match meetings – locally run training classes for the show ring. CC winners cannot enter.

Download schedules



















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