The Show Classes
How many of you have
witnessed a dog show and have been confused with all the different classes
that dogs compete in? If there were to be a show of hands, then the majority
of those reading this essay would be raising collective high fives!
Of course confusing
subjects such as this creates an opportunity for me to sit at my computer
and peck away at the keyboard in an attempt to share my 40 year’s worth of
experiences in the dog world and in particular the last 25 year’s of
exhibiting and handling dogs.
somewhere; first the sexes are split up at an AKC dog show. That means that
male “dogs” compete against each other and female (bitches) compete against
Backing up a bit, for
those new to the dog world vernacular, the word “dog” refers to a male and
“bitch” refers to the female of the species.
Now to explain the
different classes for dogs to be entered in; those classes are designed to
provide a stepping stone of development for dogs to compete from as they
start out as puppies in the 6 Month Puppy Class to the full-fledged, mature
and experienced competitors in the Open Classes*.
In between the 6
Month Puppy Class and Open Class there are 5 more classes for dogs to be
entered in. Some of these classes are according to age, some according to
nationality and a couple according to the owner/breeder and amateur vs.
professional status of the owner.
In each breed there
are totally different protocols for class entries that are followed by the
truly knowledgeable and experienced exhibitor/handlers of those breeds.
Another factor that determines the strategies for class entries is the
actual numbers of dogs that an area of the country will field. Some parts of
the country may only have 10 to 15 Labradors entered at any given show,
while other areas may very well have 80 or more Labradors entered.
For this essay we
will only consider
- The Florida area
- Those managed
and handled by the Herzons.
Since we manage and
handle quite a few Labrador at any given Florida show, we have come up with
a game plan that has had much success in the last 20 year’s of competition.
As with most game
plans, change is readily at hand with the varying circumstances that present
themselves along the way, so nothing is etched in stone. In fact, there have
been situations that have come along that warranted spur of the moment
So, the following is
a general outline of the procedures that are in place, where applicable
alternate schemes are also covered.
Since most dog show
exhibitors start out with puppies, we will also start there and proceed in
the exact order as followed at the regular AKC dog shows.
- 6 to 9 Month
Puppy Classes – This class is dictated by the age of the puppy. They
must be at least 6 months old and not yet 9 months old. With very few
exceptions, all puppies 6 to 9 months old will be entered in this
class. One exception could be a real exceptional puppy that would be
chosen for the Bred By Exhibitor Class. Of course, most dogs in the Bred
By Exhibitor Class are usually over a year old, so such a young puppy
may be at a distinct disadvantage by being placed in this class. In the
6 to 9 Puppy Class, Judges will usually overlook the fact that dogs of
this age may not be totally show trained and will at times misbehave in
the ring. With the new AKC rules governing a dog finishing as a Bred By
Champion, wins from the 6 to 9 and 9 to 12 class will be permitted as
long as the breeder/owner handles the dog in the puppy classes and then
the rest of the points needed for the champion’s title are won from the
Bred By Exhibitor Class (further explanation of the Bred By Exhibitor
Class will follow). Since The Herzons have 4 handlers, there may be up
to 4 different puppies of each sex entered in this puppy class competing
against each other.
- 9 to 12 Month
Puppy Class – Once again this class is dictated by age with puppies
reaching their 9 month old birthday and not yet a year old. As with the
class above, an exceptional pup of this age group may be placed into the
Bred By Exhibitor Class. As with the 6 to 9 class, judges are not as
demanding with this age group as they will be with older dogs. Up to 4
puppies may be considered for this class.
- 12 to 15 Month
Old Class - This is a new class designation by the AKC that may be put
into play at any dog show at the discretion of the hosting club. The
same age requirements as the 2 preceding classes are under consideration
here. Once a dog is over a year old, the judges are a bit more demanding
with their show presentation even though these dogs are not yet full
adults mentally. Dogs that age out of the puppy classes are placed here
unless they are to be handled in the Bred By Exhibitor Class. As with
the above classes, up to 4 dogs this age may be handled by the Herzons
and competing against each other here.
- 15 to 18 Month
Old Class – Same as above, however there is usually a huge physical and
mental difference between a dog at 12 months than one at 17 months of
age, so more is expected of this class by the judges.
Owner/Handler Class – This is another recent AKC addition to the dog
shows. Here any dog may be entered that is 6 months and older, however
the main stipulation is that the owner must be the handler and they may
not be professional dog handlers, with “amateur” being defined as any
person that doesn’t not charge for handling dogs at any dog show. The
Herzons do not qualify for this class, since all 4 of us are considered
- Bred By
Exhibitor Class – For show breeders, this has become the “showcase
class”, for only the breeder/owner of the dog may handle dogs in this
class. So there is a bit of ego and prestige in competing in this class.
Since there are stipulations as to who can handle in this class, certain
dogs are chosen in advance, usually as puppies and arrangements are made
to cover the requirements of being breeder/owner. We usually limit the
number of dogs competing in this class to 2 of each sex. Normally a
mature dog will be featured here with an up and coming younger dog. A
dog that finishes with all points won from this class receives an
automatic invitation to the Eukanuba National Championships 2 years in a
row. New rules have been enacted by the AKC where a dog may have won
points in the 6 to 9 and also the 9 to 12 puppy classes; however the dog
must have been handled by the breeder/owner in those classes for those
points. SPECIAL NOTE: Hogan was our 1st dog finished entirely
out of the Bred By Exhibitor Class, enabling him to qualify for the 2006
& 2007 Eukanuba Championships. Hogan’s daughter Charm was our first
female to finish out her championship title from the Bred By Exhibitor
- American Bred
Class – This class was set up for dogs born in the USA, to exclude all
dogs born in other countries. Today the class is used to enter dogs that
have aged out of the 15 to 18 Class and may be too immature and
inexperienced to compete out of the very tough Open Classes. Any age can
be entered here as long as the dog was born in the USA. For most of our
young dogs, we will move a dog into this class to gather more experience
before moving them up into the Open Classes.
- Open Classes –
At most all-breed dog shows Labradors will be split up by color in the
Open Class, so there will be 3 classes, Open Black, Open Chocolate and
Open Yellow. At these classes the most experienced dogs are entered.
Many of the dogs competing here already are champion-pointed. Some may
only need a win or two to finish their championship. In the class you
will find most of the professional dog handlers.
are determined in advanced according to multiple factors. Priorities come
into play when a certain handler has several dogs as their handling
assignments. If they were to win a first place with each dog they handled,
they will go back into the ring with their “priority handling assignment”
and the rest of their dogs will be handled by a “designated backup handler”.
Usually* the Open
Classes take priority over all the other classes, with the Open Yellow dog
having the main priority since they were the last class in the ring and the
handler will usually “stay” on this dog in the ring rather than walkout of
the ring and “hand off” that dog to a substitute and go back in with another
There are exceptions
to this if the handler has other handling assignments:
- Bred By
Exhibitor – if the handler also won the Bred By Exhibitor Class and that
dog was predetermined to have the “Main Priority”, the handler will
switch and take the Bred By dog in for Winners Dog or Winners Bitch,
handing the Open Dog to a “backup handler”.
- Open Chocolate
or Open Black – either of these may have had predetermined priority if
they had more points accumulated than the Open Yellow dog.
Since we manage and
handle quite a few dogs at most dog shows, predetermination of priorities is
part of the strategies used in the placement of each dog in the respective
classes. We do our best to cover most scenarios that could present
themselves, with back-up handlers ready to take a dog back in for the
points. In some case, other professional handlers are procured in advance to
cover the eventualities that may become apparent as the judging unfolds.