From all-breed dog shows to coonhound night events, a diverse range of competitions are held to test the ability of dogs to hunt, perform and serve. Here, we provide a brief profile of some of the competitions and titles. Registry and format vary according to the group that is sanctioning the event.
More than 1 million dogs participate in dog shows each year in the United States. At an All-Breed Dog Show sanctioned by the American Kennel Club, dogs compete in seven breed groups for the title "Best of Breed" (BOB). Best of Breed winners then compete for "Best in Show" (BIS). The seven breed groups are: Sporting, Working, Herding, Hound, Terrier, Toy and Non-Sporting.
In Specialty Shows, dogs of the same breed vie for "Best in Specialty Show" (BISS). Specialty shows are held on local, regional and national levels. At both All-Breed and Specialty shows, a "Best of Opposite Sex" (BOS) title is given to the top winner of the opposite sex of the Best of Breed winner.
Dogs are judged on conformation to breed standards as well as personality and condition. When a dog attains the required number of points and wins, it receives a "Champion" (CH) title. Points also help determine a dog's national ranking. The number of points a dog is eligible for is determined by the number of entries and dogs defeated.
Obedience trials test a dog's ability to follow specified routines. Dogs compete in a series of exercises, including heel on leash, recall, jumps, retrieving and long stay, while a judge assesses character, quality and intelligence. All registered breeds may participate in obedience trials. Obedience competitors progress from Novice to Open to Utility class levels. Obedience titles are: "Companion Dog Excellent" (CDX), "Utility Dog Excellent" (UDX) and "Obedience Trial Champion" (OTCH).
In Agility trials, dogs run an obstacle course of tunnels, hoop jumps, plank walks, teeter-totter walks, swinging bridges, hurdles and weave poles while being directed by their handler. Considered a form of obedience training, agility trials test a dog's speed and accuracy. Participation has increased more than 200 percent since 1995. The U.S. Dog Agility Association awards titles ranging from "Agility Dog" (AD) to "Agility Dog Champion" (ADCH). There also are titles for accomplished performance in individual games, such as Gamblers Master, Jumpers Master, Snooker Master and Relay Master.
Agility events also are sanctioned by the North American Dog Agility Council, United Kennel Club and AKC. NADAC awards titles based on skill. Among the highest awards are: "Superior Performance Elite Agility" (S-EAC), "Superior Performance Elite Gamblers" (S-EGC), "Superior Performance Elite Jumpers" (S-EJC) and "Superior North American Agility Trial Champion" (S-NATCH). The UKC awards titles such as "United Agility 1" (U-AGI), "United Agility 2" (U-AGII), "United Agility Champion" (U-ACH) and "United Agility Champion Excellent" (U-ACHX). Any purebred dog can compete in an AKC-sanctioned agility event. Agility dogs achieve titles such as "Novice Agility" (NA), "Open Agility" (OA), "Agility Excellence" (AE) and "Master Agility Excellent" (MX).
Schutzhund is a test to evaluate the tracking, obedience and protection skills of the German shepherd dog and other working breeds. Each dog starts the competition with 300 points, and points are deducted for mistakes. Dogs must be in control at all times, although handler control also is important. Competitions are held on international, national, regional and local levels. The top Schutzhund title is "National SchH 3 CH" through the United Schutzhund Clubs of America.
Lure coursing is a sighthound event that evaluates dogs' speed, agility, enthusiasm, endurance and ability to follow as they chase an imitation rabbit around a course at speeds of more than 40 mph. Through the American Field Sighthound Association, coursing dogs compete for titles such as "Field Champion" (F. Ch.), "Lure Courser of Merit" (LCM) and "Best in Field" (BIF). Coursing dogs earn the following AKC titles: "Junior Courser" (JC), "Senior Courser" (SC) and "Master Courser" (MC).
Beagle field trial events evaluate the performance of beagles as they track the scent of a rabbit or hare. Field trials are based on a dog's size, speed and accuracy. Categories include brace, which is slower-paced, deliberate tracking; large pack, faster-paced tracking in one big pack; small pack option, fast-paced tracking in packs of three-to-seven dogs; and gun dog brace, fastest-paced trial in packs of two-to-three dogs. Beagles work toward AKC "Field Champion" (FD CH) and "National Field Champion" (Nat'l FD CH) titles.
In UKC competitions, beagles compete for titles such as "Hunting Beagle Champion" (HB CH) and "Grand Hunting Beagle Champion: (GR HB CH). There also are American Rabbit Hound Association little pack, big pack, progressive pack, gun dog brace and gun dog pack events, plus benched shows. Beagles achieve titles such as "Rabbit Champion" (R. CH.) and "Grand Rabbit Champion" (G. R. Ch).
Bird dog field trials and hunt tests are competitions for pointing and flushing breeds, working game such as quail, pheasant, woodcock, grouse and partridge. In field trials, dogs compete against other dogs for field champion titles, while hunt tests are simulated hunting events in which individual dogs are judged against a standard.
In AKC field trials, bird dogs compete for "Field Champion" (FC) and "Amateur Field Champion" (AFC) titles. Dogs also can compete for "Champion" (CH) titles. Qualification in a hunt test earns a dog points toward titles like "Master Hunter" (MH), the highest attainable field trial title in the AKC, "Senior Hunter" (SH) and "Junior Hunter" (JH). Bird dogs competing in American Field-sanctioned events earn a "Field Champion" (FC) title.
Herding events test the ability of a dog to control and herd livestock. In both trials and tests, livestock, usually sheep, are released into a designated area. A dog then groups the livestock together and drives them through a predesignated course into an enclosure. The dog is judged on how well it controls the animals and its efficiency. Border collies competing in U.S. Border Collie Handler Association events receive titles such as "National Champion" and "National Nursery Champion," which is awarded to dogs under 3 years old. The National Stock Dog Registry sanctions herding dog competitions involving various herding breeds, such as Australian shepherds, cattle dogs and border collies. The Registry awards the National Supreme Stock Dog Championship to its top herding winner.
Retriever field trials and hunt tests judge retrievers on their ability to perform in the water and on land in pursuit of waterfowl or upland game. Like other dog competitions, a field trial involves dogs competing against other dogs, and a hunt test is a simulated hunting event where an individual dog is judged against a standard.
In AKC field trials, dogs compete for titles such as: "Field Champion" (FC) and "Amateur Field Champion" (AFC). Qualification in hunt tests earns a dog points toward "Master Hunter" (MH), "Senior Hunter" (SH) and "Junior Hunter" (JH) titles. In UKC Hunting Retriever Club events, dogs progress based on their skill and trainability in levels including "Seasoned," "Started" and "Finished." UKC titles include "Grand Hunting Retriever Champion" (GR HR CH).
North American Versatile Hunting Dog tests measure a dog's overall hunting performance in the water and on land. Dogs are judged on their ability to point, track and retrieve. Versatile dogs can be worked to hunt ducks, geese, pheasants, quail or grouse. Dogs compete to attain titles in four levels: Natural Ability, Utility Preparatory, Utility and International Invitational.
Coonhound night events test the ability of a coonhound to track raccoons while being scored on performance and endurance. Dogs are released in a cast of four from the same spot. Events sometimes last several hours, with the dogs running many miles. Coonhounds can earn AKC and UKC titles such as "Nite Champion" (NT CH), "Grand Champion" (GR CH) and "Grand Nite Champion" (GR NT CH). There also are Professional Kennel Club events in which dogs compete for "Champion" (CH), "Silver Champion" (Silver CH) and "Gold Champion" (Gold CH) titles.
For more information about these events, contact the following associations:
American Border Collie Association
American Kennel Club
American Rabbit Hound Association
American Sighthound Field Association
National Shoot-to-Retrieve Association
National Stock Dog Registry
National Versatile Hunting Dog Association
North American Dog Agility Council
Professional Kennel Club
United Kennel Club Inc.
United Schutzhund Clubs of America
U.S. Border Collie Handlers Association
U.S. Dog Agility Association