Boston Terrier Club of America

Official National Breed Club of "The American Gentleman"

Conformation Events

Showing dogs is a great sport where the thrill of competition is combined with the joy of seeing beautiful dogs.

 Dog shows are one of many types of AKC dog events in which AKC-registered dogs can compete. These events, which include conformation events, draw more than three million entries annually.

Conformation events are intended to evaluate breeding stock. The size of these events ranges from large all-breed shows, with over 3,000 dogs entered, to small local specialty club shows, featuring a specific breed. The dog’s conformation (overall appearance and structure) is an indication of the dog’s ability to produce quality puppies.

Like any sport, knowing the rules makes it more enjoyable to watch. Below are some tips to get you started:
  • A conformation show allows breeders to evaluate the success of their breeding program as well as the dogs for use as future breeding stock
  • Entrants are whittled down through the process of elimination, with one dog being named “Best in Show”
  • Judging of the dogs is based on the official written breed standard as specified by the breed’s parent club
  • The standard outlines a breed’s overall appearance, structure form, movement and temperament. In competition, the judge evaluates each dog against the written standard — not other dogs
  • First, all dogs of the same breed are judged. To the untrained eye they may all look similar but to judges and breeders who spend their lives trying to attain a perfect example of their breed, there are subtle nuances which can mean the difference between first and second place
beautiful Boston Terrier
  • Only the “Best of Breed” winners advance to the group competition. Each AKC-registered breed falls into one of seven Group classifications:
    • Sporting: Sporting dogs were bred to hunt game birds both on land and in the water
    • Hounds: The hound group dogs were bred for hunting by sight or scent
    • Working: Working dogs were bred to pull carts, guard property, and for search and rescue work
    • Terriers: Terriers were bred to hunt and rid property of vermin
    • Toy: Bred to be household companions, toy breed dogs are characterized by their small size
    • Non-Sporting: Non-sporting is a diverse group of multi-functional dogs, and many are considered companion dogs
    • Herding: Herding breeds were bred to drive and herd livestock from one place to another
  • In group competition, all breeds of a particular group are judged together. In the Hound Group, for example, which includes dogs such as Beagles and Greyhounds, the winning dogs of each breed compete against one another for the “Group First” award.
  • Finally, the group winner from each of the seven groups advances to the Best in Show competition, the highest award at a dog show.

The official term for dog shows is conformation — as in, the act of conforming or producing conformity. While a dog show may look like a beauty pageant, it’s not. Dogs are not being compared to each other; they’re being measured by how closely they conform to the standard of their particular breed. Why? Because the closer a dog’s appearance is to the breed’s standard, the better that dog’s ability will be to produce puppies that meet the standard. It’s also the reason why mixed breeds and spayed or neutered purebreds are ineligible to compete in conformation.

To find out more about dog shows and breed standards, visit the AKC website:

Get Started in Conformation Dog Shows []

A Beginner’s Guide to Dog Shows []

Boston Terrier being judged for conformity to breed standard