Showing a dog often seems to the new dog owner like something only a dog breeder or someone seriously ‘into’ dogs would do, but in fact it can be quite fun and is a good way to meet others who own the same kind of dog that you have. Part of the mystique is all the jargon: ‘He just needs one ticket’, terms such as ‘I put her in Graduate’, and abbreviations like AVNSC that get bandied about. Once these are explained (or translated), the show scene is much more straightforward.


There are several kinds of dog show, some with quite different types of competition. All are under the Kennel Club’s Rules and Regulations. In the following explanation the term ‘dog’ is used to refer to animals of either sex, unless the context clearly relates to males, in which case ‘bitches’ are also separately mentioned.




This is a fun show, often advertised in the local press and is the only one for which you can just turn up to enter on the day. It may be to raise funds for a recognised cause or as part of the attraction for a county fair. These are open to all dogs with a range of classes from pedigree to novelty classes.


The pedigree dog classes often are divided into a group of dogs - spaniel or hound for instance. These may be subdivided according to age – e.g. puppy or Veteran. Or there may be separate competitions (or classes to use the correct term) for more common breeds - Labradors or Westies perhaps. Many people will enter their dog in a class or two - maybe puppy (if the dog is young enough) and, if appropriate, terrier. Usually the pedigree competitions take place first.


The judge will look over the dog as thoroughly as at any other show and the general procedure is exactly the same for all types of show. Dogs and bitches will usually compete against each other at these shows - there are rarely separate classes for the sexes.


The second group of classes for all dogs are the novelty classes, similar to what you would find at one of our Club Wheaten Days, where the emphasis is purely on fun. There may be classes for 'the dog with the biggest nose’, ‘the dog most like its owner’, ‘the dog with the waggiest tail’ or the perennial 'the dog the judge would most like to take home’!




Limited Shows are for pedigree dogs only, with entry confined to members of the organising society. (Membership fee is normally not expensive and you can readily join to participate.) They will have a small number of specified breed classes but the majority of classes are Any Variety Not Separately Classified (AVNSC) classes. The rules and entry are as for an Open Show.




These shows attract entries from a relatively small geographic area and again are for Kennel Club registered pedigree dogs only. Open Shows make an excellent starting point for anyone interested in dipping a toe and a paw into the show scene. They are normally advertised in the specialist dog press (Our Dogs, and Dog World) and entries have to be made some weeks in advance of the show date.


You could also contact your SCWT Club Area Rep (if they are show goers) or look on the dog papers’ web sites for their Diary of dog events


There are usually several different classes for each breed.  The breeds are separated in to the seven Groups as defined by the Kennel Club: Gundog, Hound, Terrier, Toy, Pastoral, Working and Utility.  If you have a Labrador or a Border Terrier you will probably find classes for your dog at all Open Shows.  If you have a Wheaten, then you may find breed classes at only some Open Shows.


If there aren’t any classes designated specifically for Wheatens, there are others in which you can enter your dog:  AV (Any Variety) or better still AVNSC.  The former class, AV, allows any dog within that Group classification (Terrier, Toy or Gundog for example) to enter the class, even if it had its own separate breed classification elsewhere in the show.  The second class, AVNSC, only allows dogs in that Group which do not have particular breed classes designated for them at the show.  In AV, a SCWT is likely to be up against West Highland Whites and Staffordshire Bull Terriers, etc. which have their own classification as well.  In the AVNSC class there will be a smaller entry with dogs which have not been shown elsewhere at the show - perhaps Glen of Imaals or Skyes.


The range of different classes are designed to ensure that newer, untried dogs do not have to compete against dogs which have won consistently or that a youngster has to compete against a mature dog. In the official entry form for each show (the schedule) there is a comprehensive classification and explanation of all the classes encountered.


The main classes which you'll need to know about are as follows:


  • Puppy           For dogs between 6 and 12 months of age
  • Junior            For dogs between 6 and 18 months of age
  • Novice           For dogs not having won more than 3 First prizes excluding puppy classes
  • Graduate       For dogs not having won more than 4 First prizes in Graduate or higher classes
  • Limit              For dogs not having won more than 7 First prizes in Limit and Open or 3 Challenge Certificates
  • Open             For all dogs, regardless of previous wins


There are other classifications such as Minor Puppy, Post Graduate, Mid Limit and Veteran etc.  You would rarely find all of these available for one breed, and certainly not for Wheatens, unless it is a breed club show.


Dogs and bitches often compete against one another in the same class at this level.


Premier Open


These are the same as above but winning Best of Breed in certain designated breeds will qualify your dog for Crufts




These are the prestigious events of the dog world drawing entries from all over the UK and occasionally from overseas. Again advertisements are in the specialist dog press and entries need to be in several weeks before the show.


These shows are generally held over several days, Thursday or Friday to Sunday, each day being given over to one or two specific Groups of dogs.  In addition to the actual dog judging, there will be an assortment of trade stands selling an array of dog foods, grooming equipment, bedding and clothing. 


Regardless of the type of show, they are all held under a Kennel Club Licence and adhere to their latest regulations.  A listing of all forthcoming dog shows is in the two main weekly dog papers, Our Dogs and Dog World along with the closing date for entries, the name of the secretary and sometimes the name of the judges.  The web sites for these papers also list the shows.


With the exception of the Companion show where you can enter on the day with the dog, all entries need to be sent in several weeks before the event.  This is done via an official entry form in the show’s schedule. These can be obtained from the show secretary or, often now, downloaded from the Internet.


Each breed scheduled will have a choice of classes to enter.  Eligibility is normally either by age or number of wins as explained in the schedule.  The schedule lists the breeds, classes, rules and eligibility for the classes.


Choose a class that your dog is eligible to enter - the right age, not too many First prizes, etc.  If you are uncertain, check with your breeder or the show secretary.  You'll need the details of your dog's parentage and date of birth.  Entering one or two classes is usually sufficient for any dog -  beginner or experienced.  Don’t be tempted to enter all the bitch classes for instance.


If you have only just become the owner of the dog, or have applied to change its registered name, you can still enter your dog.  In these cases, as appropriate, you will need to endorse the entry form with TAF (Transfer of ownership Applied For) or NAF (Name Applied For).


It is not now permissible by Kennel Club rules to enter a dog when the judge is his breeder nor is it generally accepted practice to enter a dog that is closely associated with the judge in some way.  If you win, there will always be the view that the judge was biased, and if you don't win, that the judge was especially harsh on the dog


Double check that you have completed your form and correctly added up the amount to be paid, signed your cheque, etc.  Incorrect details could mean a returned entry or worse, a long journey to discover that your dog is ineligible for the class for which you entered him!  Show secretaries usually do an excellent job of trying to interpret the form correctly, but they are not psychic...


The show process (or what to expect and what to do)


If you have entered a Championship Show you should receive an admittance pass, removal pass and order of judging in the post beforehand. Open shows often list a provisional order of judging in the schedule to give you an idea of when your dog might be judged.  You will not receive a pass in the post, but you can send a SAE postcard to the Show Secretary along with your entry so you know it has been received.


It is your responsibility to arrive in plenty of time.  Note that many Championship Shows require you to arrive before a stated time (usually 12:00) and, occasionally, you are not able to remove your dog (the exhibit, in the jargon) before a certain time. Be aware also, that as a security measure you often need an exit pass (properly termed a removal pass) posted with the entry information in advance. Don't lose it, or you may have problems persuading security that you are the rightful owner of your dog!


It is also advisable to know when your class is being held - in which ring and in which tent or hall!   At Open shows you may need to report to the secretary's desk to collect or buy your catalogue and receive your exhibit's ring number card.  Or you may get the number card from the steward when you enter the ring.  Catalogues at Championship Shows are sold from strategically placed kiosks.  You can prepay for this, usually at a discount, and you will have received a voucher to exchange.  Your exhibit's number card may be handed to you as you enter the ring, or at a benched show, found on your allotted bench. - but do check. 


At most Championship shows there will be special areas set aside where your dog will sit until and after its class. These areas consist of lines of special open 'kennels' and are known as benches.  You will find that all dogs of the same breed are benched in the same area.  Not surprisingly, shows with these facilities are termed ‘benched’.  


Be prepared to go into the ring at least one class before yours.  While waiting at the sidelines, don’t allow your dog to stand too close to the ring and distract the dogs being shown. When the steward calls the name of the class (e.g. “Soft-Coated Wheaten, Novice Dog”), it's your turn to enter the ring.  Don’t enter the ring by climbing over or under the rope but walk through the entrance provided at the corners of the ring.


You should have your dog’s exhibit number prominently displayed on you. There are small inexpensive metal number holders for this purpose which pin to your jacket.  Or of course, there are more expensive ones featuring your breed.  Make sure your number can be readily seen - it is the way that the winning dog is identified!  The steward will check your number as you enter the ring. 


If this is your first time in the ring, do let the steward know.  He or she will make sure that you know exactly what you should be doing and where you should be standing.  Don't go into the ring with handbags, hats or long, flowing scarves.  When you move around these will be a distraction not only to other dogs but also to your own!  Try to wear clothing which complements your dog's colour - not something which will act as a camouflage such that the dog cannot be seen against your skirt or trousers.  As you'll need to move quite quickly, don't have clothing that is too tight - or when bending down, too revealing...


Wear comfortable shoes.  You can’t move a dog at an appropriate pace in high heels!  Also you'll be on your feet most of the day, walking around the various stands and looking at the other breeds being judged.


The judging procedure (or what happens next!)


If you think you might like to show your dog, you should attend ring craft classes available in your local area.  It will help you and your dog to know what to expect and help you learn to get the best out of your dog in the ring.


At every class at a dog show, all exhibitors line up with their dogs and then on a command from the judge walk them briskly around the ring once or even twice.  The line then stops and the judge calls exhibitors forward, one at a time, to examine the dogs individually.  The judge will look at the proportions of the dog’s head, eye colour, teeth and ear placement before running his hands over the rest of the dog to feel its structure and muscles.


You are then asked to move the dog in a triangle.  The judge will indicate where you should go.  This allows the judge to see all sides of the dog on the move.  Then you will usually be asked to walk the dog straight to the opposite side of the ring and back again, allowing the judge to evaluate the dog’s movement from the rear and the front.  Try not to get between the dog and the judge such that the judge’s view of your dog is blocked.


After your dog has been seen, you join the far end of the line up, and the next exhibitor moves forward.  You should keep your dog standing and looking alert.  Do not allow your dog to interfere with any other exhibitor or exhibit, keeping a reasonable amount of space between yourself and those ahead of and behind you in the line-up. 


For your first few times in the ring, try to get yourself midway in the group of exhibitors - i.e. don't be the first to go in or the last.  This gives you a chance to see what others do who are ahead of you and, by not being last, keeps your dog from becoming bored if it is a big class - or a slow judge!


Once the judging is complete, the judge (using his knowledge of the particular Breed Standard) will either select the five best dogs or, in a very large class, may select a short list of around eight dogs for further consideration.  Either way, if you are not selected, exit through the ring entrance -  again not under or over the ropes.  Do keep any comments on the unfairness of the process or the need for better judges until you are well clear of the ring - and ideally not even then!!  No one respects a poor loser.


The judge (or the steward) will point to the winners, usually in the order of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. These winners will be directed to line up in the centre of the ring, usually left to right, 1st to 5th. Don't get too thrilled about being first or second at this stage - this is still provisional and the judge is entitled to make a last minute adjustment between, for example, 1st and 2nd, or 3rd & 4th. So keep showing. The judge will now formally indicate satisfaction with the placing and the steward will hand out prize cards (and sometimes rosettes too).


It is customary for the first and second placed dogs and owners to remain in the line up while the others leave once the 5th place owner receives their prize card. Again leave through the proper exit. The judge will make notes on paper or into a tape recorder about the two best-placed dogs for his report on his judging.


If you are entering a second class with the same dog, the steward will normally ask you to stand to one side with any other dogs which have already been judged.  The judge may not go over your dog again, but do no more than have a quick look at him (teeth, shoulders, etc.) when he has finished looking at the new exhibits in the class.  It is likely that you will be asked to move your dog straight across the ring and back one more time.


Steps to becoming a top dog! 


The process of judging and the path to the coveted Best in Show is, to the beginner, apparently unattainable.  The steps, which in general apply to Championship and Open Shows, follow here in a highly simplified format! 


Your dog is entered in a particular class based on its age, experience and possibly sex and is judged against all other dogs in that class. After looking carefully at all the exhibits, the judge will choose the line up of the five best dogs: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, Reserve (4th) and the runner-up (5th), known more euphemistically as VHC (Very Highly Commended). In the case of very large classes you may come across a sixth placing, known as Highly Commended. 


After all of the classes have been judged, the winners of each class compete against each other to find, at an Open Show, the Best of Breed (BOB).  In the case of Championship shows and larger Open Shows, there will be separate classes for dogs and bitches.  Therefore there is a Best of Sex competition between the winners of each of the dog classes, and, after the judging of all the bitch classes, the same for the females.  There is then a playoff between the Best Dog and Best Bitch for the ultimate BOB.   (This Best Of Sex is an important win as it ties in with the Challenge Certificates below.)


Each of the Best of Breed Winners then vies with the others from that Group to find, for example, the Best Terrier or the Best Utility. This is known, not surprisingly, as Best in Group (BIG).  Finally, all Best in Group winners compete to find the Best in Show (BIS).  Not all Open Shows are run on the Group system, in which case each Best of Breed will compete for the title of Best in Show.  


In breed shows with separate classes for dogs and bitches, there could be a Best Opposite Sex award - i.e., the best opposite sex to the animal winning Best in Show.  In most cases there are Reserves nominated to the Best of Sex winners and also a Reserve (RBIS) in the unlikely event of a disqualification of the winner.  This RBIS winner does not have to be the other Best of Sex winner but may be the runner up to the animal winning BOB and therefore of the same sex.


Some shows offer Best Puppy awards, decided from the Puppy Dog and Puppy Bitch class winners and these may go on, through a similar process, to compete for Best Puppy in Show (BPIS). 


Keep track of the number of First prizes that your dog has had because the number of Firsts dictates which classes the dog may enter. (Five firsts for example make your dog ineligible for Graduate, depending on which particular classes your dog has won.)   It also means that your dog will not spend its life competing against a dog which continually wins first prize.




The most coveted award your dog can receive is a Challenge Certificate or CC (often referred to as a ticket).  This is only given at Championship Shows where CCs are on offer for the breed and is awarded to the Best Dog and to the Best Bitch in each breed.  When, over a period of time, a dog has received three Challenge Certificates, it then becomes formally known as a Champion and is entitled to have the letters Ch as a prefix to its name.


There are a couple of basic caveats associated with CCs:  they must have been awarded by three different judges and at least one of them must have been awarded after the dog attains twelve months of age.  There is only a limited number of CCs available to each breed in a year.   This is determined annually by the ruling authority, The Kennel Club.  Not every Championship Show with classes for your breed will necessarily be awarding CCs for the breed.


Other awards are the Junior Warrant (JW) and Show Certificate of Merit (ShCM).  The qualifications and regulations for these are updated from time to time.


At present, to claim a Junior Warrant:


  • You must have 25 points in total.
  • 3 points are awarded from each championship show win (where CCs are on offer).
  • 1 point is awarded for every Open Show win, or a Championship Show where CC's were not on offer for the breed.
  • You can only claim points if you are placed 1st in a Breed Class, such as Puppy, Graduate, Limit, Open etc.  Please note that Best Puppy, Any Variety and Any Variety Not Separately Classified classes do not count.
  • The dog must be between 6 and 18 months of age when claiming points.
  • A minimum of 3 points must be from Championship Shows (where CCs are on offer).
  • A minimum of 3 points must be from Open Shows
  • JW points cannot be claimed if there are less then 3 dogs present in the class.
  • You can claim one point for Best of Breed at an Open Show, but only if you were not able to claim a point for a 1st prize in a breed class and only where there are three or more dogs present in the breed
  • You can claim points for 'Special' Breed Classes i.e. Special Beginners, Special Yearling provided these classes are listed under the breed classification and the relevant number of dogs are present
  • You can claim points for 'Stakes' classes at a Single Breed show provided the relevant number of dogs are present.


To claim a Show Certificate of Merit:


  • 25 points in total can be claimed from placings at General Open Shows or Group Open Shows.
  • 5 Points must be won in Group Competition.
  • 9 points for Best in Show at a General Open Show or Group Open Show not judged on the Group System effective date 1st January 2011 (five points for Best in Show at a General Open Show or Group Open Show not judged on the Group System if gained prior to 1st January 2011)
  • 5 Points for Best In Show
  • 4 Points for Single Group Best In Show
  • 7 points for Reserve Best in Show at a General Open Show or Group Open Show not judged on the Group System effective date 1st January 2011 (three points for Reserve Best in Show at a General Open Show or Group Open Show not judged on the Group System if gained prior to 1st January 2011)
  • Multi Group Placings (Please note: Puppy Group placings do not count) - 1st = 4 points, 2nd = 3 points, 3rd = 2 points and 4th = 1 point.
  • 1 Point for Best AVNSC (i.e. AVNSC Hound, AVNSC Gundog, winner of overall Best AVNSC)
  • 1 Point for Best Of Breed


You can down load the forms to claim these awards from the Kennel Club web site (  When achieved these titles are used at the end of your dog's Kennel Club registered name.


Getting to the show  (or the time has come!)


Leave plenty of time for your journey - to get lost, to get stuck in a traffic jam and to pacify your dog.  Aim to have at least an hour after arrival for you and the dog to settle down, find your bearings and carry out last minute grooming. The schedule may have given some indication of the time when your breed is likely to be judged.  The dog press usually gives an order of judging and the numbers of dogs in each breed.  This gives you a rough idea of the time your class might be held.


Bring water, a bowl and a mat or blanket for the dog.  Although there are always 'exercise areas' outside, or, if inside, some sawdust laid on the floor and rubbish bins for the disposal of dirty bags, poop scoops or bags are essential too, just in case...


If the show is benched, you'll need a benching chain to secure your dog to the bench.  More and more people now use a suitably sized crate.   A bum-bag is great to store your last minute odds and ends - brush, comb, badge clip, dog treats, etc. - ready to hand when you are about to go into the ring.  Other items - lunch, extra jumper, rain gear, etc. - should be in a carrier that can be stowed underneath the bench.


Don't bring too much with you - your car will probably be quite a distance from the actual show area, and if you are on your own, it's no fun leading an excited dog and carrying three bags through the wind and rain of a muddy car park


Finally, do remember where you park your car - especially if you get there early and there aren't yet many cars around.  And don't leave any dogs in the car. Every show seems to have continual tannoy announcements, especially in warm or humid weather, asking people to return to their locked cars as their dogs are in a distressed condition.


Good showing and good luck! 




  • Grooming kit
  • Ring card clip
  • Water & bowl for dog
  • ‘Poo' bags
  • Show lead
  • Money / Passes etc.
  • Titbits for dog
  • Towel
  • Benching chain / or Crate
  • Blanket
  • Drink & food for owners


And don’t forget the DOG!!!   (It has happened…)


Want to give it a try? (or Ringcraft - the science, or maybe art, of walking your dog around and getting the best out of it) 


If you decide you would like to begin showing your dog then you do need to attend a local Ringcraft Class, normally organised by a local Canine Club.   Details may be available from your vet, pet shops in your area, the Kennel Club or from your Area Representative if he or she is involved in the show scene.  Like any sort of class, there are good ones and not-so-good ones. It is worth asking around to find a well-run class that will teach you how to get the best out of your dog, while the dog learns how he is expected to behave.   These classes are often quite social and you can make friends with like-minded people as well as learn more about other breeds.


These classes allow both you and your dog to become accustomed to showing etiquette.  You could also attend a few dog shows if there are some close to hand  as a spectator to get a ”feel for it” and to talk to the exhibitors.  Only dogs entered are allowed in the confines of a dog show. Should you wish to take a dog but not compete, you can make an advance Not For Competition entry via the show’s schedule.  


One tip:  if you do think you might want to show your dog at some point, do not, at your dog’s obedience training class, teach him to sit every time you stop and stand still.  Explain to the trainer that you prefer your dog to stand quietly beside you.  If your dog is trained to sit, you will have difficulty keeping him standing in the Show ring.


The SCWT Club of GB holds two open shows each year: Open Show South in April and Open Show North in September/October. These are an excellent starting point for the novice dog and handler. They offer a friendly relaxed environment with plenty of help on hand, so why not come along!   It’s a great way to meet others in the breed and something to boast about if you go home with a rosette of whatever colour.  Some Club members only enter one of the Club Shows each year, while others have gone on to show their dog more widely.  


The Club also has its own Championship Show in the autumn.  Dates and locations can be found on the Club web site and in the Club Bulletins or by contacting the secretary.  


And a Warning:  if you and your Wheaten start doing well – dog showing can easily become an addiction!!




In addition to the  ‘beauty contest’ type of showing, there are other competitive and fun activities to undertake with your dog, such as:




Heelwork to Music






Good Citizen Dog Scheme


Working Field Trials


Details are on the Kennel Club Web site: .

Helpful links:

Fosse Data:

Higham Press:

Championship and Club Open Show dates: