Why Are Dog Shows are Only for Pure Bred Dogs?

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Why Are Dog Shows are Only for Pure Bred Dogs?

By Don Bullock

I get asked this question often. The people who ask are genuinely wondering why they don’t see shows for rescue dogs or mixed breeds. They don’t understand the reason for dog shows and think they are like beauty contests and that the dogs have to be trained to perform. Dog shows are judges on the conformation of the dogs in relation to the ideal dog of their specific breed.

Dog shows came from agricultural shows where farmers showed their animals. The animals were judged by a panel of judges who selected those that they thought would produce the best offspring. At these shows dogs were shown alongside of cattle, hogs, chicken and any other farm animals that were included at the shows.

Eventually most dog shows were separated out from the other animals. The judges of these dog shows came from the ranks of respected breeders and people who used the dogs for task for which they were bred. While hounds and some other breeds were bred for hunting or assisting somehow in a hunt others were bred for herding or doing some different forms of work while some, like toy dogs, were just bred for companionship.

As time went on some of those who were highly respected in their breeds wrote down what they expected in an exceptional example of their breed. While these descriptions were often written for  magazines, as newspaper articles or just included in letters to a friend or another breeder some became well known and were used as a written description of the breed.

Eventually organizations like the American Kennel Club in the United States, the Kennel Club in the United Kingdom and some in other countries started registering pure bred dogs and keeping track of their breeding. These organizations established stud books in which all the breedings of each registered breed were recorded. Since these registries had records for pure bred dogs in their respective countries they started getting involved in dog shows which eventually led to them being used as the sanctioning body for the shows.

Today’s dog shows are sanctioned by one of the registries that is well respected in individual countries. In the United States for example while there are several registries for dogs but only shows sanctioned by the American Kennel Club (AKC) are recognized internationally by the registries in most other countries. In the United Kingdom The Kennel Club is the registry that sanctions dog shows and in the rest of Europe and elsewhere the most recognized dog registry and organization sanctioning dog shows if the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) - (cynology is the branch of zoology that studies the dog).

Since these organizations sanction the dog shows the tradition of judging dogs on their potential to produce examples of their breed has continued. Today each breed has its own written standard that judges use to judge the dogs presented to them at dog shows. As happened in the past these standards describe what the ideal dog should be in each breed. While dogs need to be presented to judges so that they can be properly evaluated there is no special training or tricks that are required. Exhibitors do however spend time with their dogs to make sure that they can stand or “stack” properly for a judge. Exhibitors also work on moving or “gating” their dogs so that judges can evaluate their movement.

Including non purebred dogs such as mixed breed dogs and dogs that are not registered with the organizations that sanction in dog shows would defeat their purpose. Unless a breeder knows the pedigree or history of a dog’s ancestors the show results would be meaningless. Responsible breeders use dog show results and the pedigree of particular dogs to determine if they have a good match. It is only through the registration records that we can track a dog’s pedigree.

There are, however, some other dog competitions that people with non-registered dogs and mixed breed dogs can get involved in. These competitions have become much more prevalent in recent years and can be a lot of fun for the dog and dog owners. In fact the only AKC event that these dogs can’t be involved in is conformation dog shows.


On June 28, 1859 -- a bright summer day in the United Kingdom -- a committee of local hunters held the world's first official dog show in the town of Newcastle upon Tyne. (Webmaster's NOTE: While this is the actual caption for this picture the fact that this was then world's first official dog show can't be verified)