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What is a Conformation Dog Show?

“Conformation” is the official name for “dog shows.” While they may seem glamorous, the true purpose of conformation showing is to evaluate breeding stock. The dog’s conformation—his overall appearance and structure—is an indication of the dog’s ability to produce quality purebred puppies, and that is what is being judged in the ring. That’s why mixed-breeds and spayed or neutered purebreds are not eligible to compete. Many times a new exhibitor will get started in dog shows by finding a mentor, usually the breeder they acquired their puppy from. BKC offers a handling class to teach owners how to present their purebred dog to a judge at a dog show.

For each breed the AKC registers, there is a breed standard, which is a word description of the perfect dog of that breed. Standards describe the mental and physical characteristics that allow each breed to perform the function for which they were originated. The standard describes the dog's looks, movement and temperament. Breeders involved with each breed are attempting to produce a dog that most closely conforms to the breed standard. In this respect, dog shows are not unlike cat shows, bird shows, cattle shows, horse shows, etc. In fact, for almost every species bred by man there are competitions among breeders. AKC approved judges examine the dogs and place them in accordance to how close each dog compares with their mental image of the "perfect" dog as described in the breed's official standard.

AKC Rally® is a companion sport to AKC Obedience. It too requires teamwork between dog and handler along with performance skills similar to obedience. Rally provides an excellent introduction to AKC events for new dogs and handlers, and can provide a challenging opportunity for competitors in other events to strengthen their skills. All dogs are eligible to compete in rally.

Rally is a sport in which the dog and handler complete a course that has been designed by the rally judge. The judge tells the handler to begin, and the dog and handler proceed at their own pace through a course of designated stations (10 - 20, depending on the level). Each of these stations has a sign providing instructions regarding the next skill that is to be performed. Scoring is not as rigorous as traditional obedience. The main objective of rally is to produce dogs that have been trained to behave in the home, in public places, and in the presence of other dogs, in a manner that will reflect positively on the sport of rally at all times and under all conditions.

The team of dog and handler moves continuously at a brisk, but normal, pace with the dog under control at the handler's left side. There should be a sense of teamwork between the dog and handler both during the numbered exercises and between the exercise signs; however, perfect "heel position" is not required. Any faults in traditional obedience that would be evaluated and scored as a one-point deduction or more should be scored the same in Rally, unless otherwise mentioned in the Rally Regulations. After the judge's "Forward" order, the team is on its own to complete the entire sequence of numbered signs correctly.

Unlimited communication from the handler to the dog is to be encouraged and not penalized. Unless otherwise specified in these Regulations, handlers are permitted to talk, praise, encourage, clap their hands, pat their legs, or use any verbal means of encouragement. Multiple commands and/or signals using one or both arms and hands are allowed; the handler's arms need not be maintained in any particular position at any time. The handler may not touch the dog or make physical corrections. At any time during the performance, loud or harsh commands or intimidating signals will be penalized.

Rally provides a link from the Canine Good Citizen® (CGC) program to obedience or agility competition, both for dogs and handlers. In addition, rally promotes fun and enjoyment for dogs at all levels of competition.

Obedience trials showcase dogs that have been trained and conditioned to behave well at home, in public places, and in the presence of other dogs. AKC Obedience trials allow exhibitors and their dogs to enjoy companionship and competition as they proudly earn AKC titles.

Obedience trials demonstrate the dog’s ability to follow specified routines in the obedience ring and emphasize the usefulness of the dog as a companion to humankind.  The objective of obedience trials is to recognize dogs that have been trained to behave in the home, in public places, and in the presence of other dogs in a manner that will reflect credit on the sport of obedience at all times and under all conditions.

Each level of obedience competition – Novice, Open, and Utility – requires mastering a specific skill set, which increase in difficulty, before advancing to the next level. For example, the Novice class demonstrates good canine companion skills such as heeling, both with and without a leash, coming when called, standing for a simple physical examination, and staying in both a sit and a down position with a group of dogs.

Even if you don't recognize it by name, you have probably seen an agility competition. Designed to demonstrate a dog's willingness to work with his handler in a variety of situations, agility is an athletic event that requires conditioning, concentration, training, and teamwork. Dogs and handlers must negotiate an obstacle course while racing against the clock. Agility is a great form of exercise for both dog and handler, and a fun way to bond. And you don't have to compete to enjoy agility. Taking an agility class offers many other benefits. But many people start the sport just for fun, only to get bitten by the agility bug and become lifelong competitors!

The Agility Course Test (ACT) is an entry level agility event designed to introduce and welcome beginning dogs and their handlers to the AKC sport of agility.

There are two levels of ACT events – ACT1 and ACT2. ACT1 is designed for the beginning level dog to show beginning sequencing and performance skills. ACT2 requires an increased skill level shown by the additional obstacles to be performed.

In addition to showing their dog’s entry level skills, exhibitors will learn to fill out an AKC entry form, check-in at the ring, taking their dog in and out of ring, handling their dog while being judged and other information that will help them when they move on to AKC agility trials with their dog.  Dogs must be 15 months old to enter these events.  They do not need to be AKC registered at the time of entry.

The Coursing Ability Test (CAT) is an introductory event fashioned after the sport of lure coursing. Lure coursing is a system of mechanized lures and pulleys that simulate the unpredictability of chasing live prey. The CAT tests a dog’s basic coursing instinct or hunting-by-sight ability. The dog chases an artificial lure, and the test is a non-competitive pass/fail event with dogs run one at a time. To pass the test, a dog running alone must pursue a lure, completing the course with enthusiasm and without interruption within a given time. Most dogs will happily go after the lure! The CAT provides a lively and healthy activity attractive to many dog owners.

The purpose of the AKC Fast CAT event is to provide all dogs and their owners an enjoyable, healthy activity in which they can participate. Dogs run singularly. The dog's time to complete the 100 yard dash is converted into MPH. Dogs earn points based on their handicapped speed. Titles are awarded when a dog has accumulated a given number of points.

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