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When entering a dog show you have several basic classes to choose from at what is called "the breed level". You will only be competing with other dogs/bitches of your breed. These classes are for dogs that have not attained the title of "Champion". All classes are divided by sex: Dog (male) or Bitch (female) except Best of Breed. All the class dogs (males) will show first then the classes will be repeated for the bitch (female) entries.
The classes are as follows



1) 6-9 puppy: the puppy must be at least 6 months old and under nine months old on the day of the show (not the day you fill out the entry)
2) 9-12 puppy: the puppy must be at least 9 months old and under 12 months old on the day of the show.
3) 12-18 puppy: the puppy must be at least 12 months old and under 18 months old on the day of the show.
4) Novice: for dogs that have not won 3 blue ribbons. No age requirement.
5) American Bred: for dogs that are bred in the USA. No age requirement.

6) Bred by Exhibitor: for dogs that are being shown by the breeder who also owns or co-owns the dog. No age requirement.
7) Open: any dog may be shown in this class. No age requirement.



Four placements will be chosen from each of these classes. The first place winner of each class will compete in a class called "Winners" (the second place dogs from all the classes need to stay by the ring: explanation in a moment). In the winners class one dog will be chosen "Winners Dog" and receives the "points" toward the Champion title. That dog will then leave the ring.
Now here is where it gets confusing. The dog that got 2nd place in the regular class to the dog that just received "winners" goes into the ring with all the other first place winners (yes, this dog got a second place not a first but still gets to compete again) and the judge picks a "Reserve Winners Dog".



Here is an example if you are still confused: Lets say you are showing a dog in the American Bred class and you placed second in that class. The dog that beat you and got first in American Bred competes in the "Winners" class with the other first place class winners and is chosen as "Winners Dog". You will enter the ring and be judged against all the remaining dogs for the "Reserve Winners Dog" award. I don’t know why AKC has it set up this way instead of choosing a reserve from the remaining first place winners only but that is how it goes.


Reserve Winners is made in case the dog chosen "Winners" is deemed ineligible for the win in which case the points are taken away and given to the "Reserve" winner. It does happen.
These classes (from 6-9 puppy through winners) will be repeated in the same order for Bitches (females).


After all the regular classes and the two winners classes (dogs and bitches) have been judged we move on to "Best of Breed" competition. Dogs and Bitches compete together in this class. All dogs entered in this class are Champions with the exception of the "Winners Dog" and "Winners Bitch" which also get to compete. There are three awards given: Best of Breed, Best Opposite Sex and Best of Winners.


The "Best of Breed" (BoB) designation is given to the best dog competing in the breed that day. This dog will move on to compete in the groups later in the day (more on that in a minute).


"Best Opposite Sex" (BoS) is given to a dog/bitch that is the opposite sex of the Best of Breed winner. So if a male wins BoB then a female must win BoS.


"Best of Winners" (BoW) is chosen from winners dog and winners bitch, these are the only two dogs competing for this award.


We are not done with competition yet. All of the "Best of Breed" winners in each breed competing at the show will return to the ring to show against others in the same group. There are 7 groups as follows:
Terriers
Sporting
Hounds
Toys
Non-Sporting
Working
Herding



All of the breeds within a group are judged together. These dogs are not judged against each other but against the written "standard" (a description of what the breed should look like) for their breed. Four placements are made in each group with the first place winner moving on to further competition.


When all 7 group winners have been chosen, they will then come back into the ring to compete for "Best in Show". Only one dog gets this designation each day. Best in Show (BIS) is the dog, which in several judges’ opinions from the breed level through the BIS competition, is better than any other dog in the show that day. This is what we all dream of when showing our dogs!

I hope this helps you to understand how the judging of a dog show progresses.
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