Excerpts from Comprehensive Owner’s Guide: Golden Retrievers
When you purchase your Golden Retriever, you will make it clear to the breeder whether you want one just as a lovable companion and pet, or if you hope to be buying a Golden Retriever with show prospects. No reputable breeder will sell you a young puppy and tell you that it is definitely of show quality, for so much can go wrong during the early months of a puppy’s development. If you plan to show, what you will hopefully have acquired is a puppy with “show potential.”
To the novice, exhibiting a Golden Retriever in the show ring may look easy, but it takes a lot of hard work and devotion to do top winning at a show such as the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club dog show, not to mention a little luck too!
The first concept that the canine novice learns when watching a dog show is that each dog first competes against members of his own breed. Once the judge has selected the best member of each breed (Best of Breed), that chosen dog will compete with other dogs in his group. Finally, the dogs chosen first in each group will compete for Best in Show.
The second concept that you must understand is that the dogs are not actually compared against one another. The judge compares each dog against his breed standard, the American Kennel Club (AKC)- approved written description of the ideal breed specimen. While some early breed standards were indeed based on specific dogs that were famous or popular, many dedicated enthusiasts say that a perfect specimen, as described in the standard, has never walked into a show ring, has never been bred and, to the woe of dog breeders around the globe, does not exist. Breeders attempt to get as close to this ideal as possible with every litter, but theoretically the “perfect” dog is so elusive that it is impossible.
If you are interested in exploring the world of dog showing, your best bet is to join your local breed club or the national parent club, which is the Golden Retriever Club of America. These clubs often host both regional and national specialties, shows only for Golden Retrievers, which can include conformation as well as obedience and field trials. Even if you have no intention of competing with your Golden, a specialty is like a festival for lovers of the breed who congregate to share their favorite topic: Goldens! Clubs also send out newsletters, and some organize training days and seminars in order that people may learn more about their chosen breed. To locate the breed club closest to you, contact the AKC, which furnishes the rules and regulations for all of these events plus general dog registration and other basic requirements of dog ownership.
The AKC offers three kinds of conformation shows: an all-breed show (for all AKC-recognized breeds), a specialty show (for one breed only, usually sponsored by the parent club) and a Group show (for all breeds in the Group).
For a dog to become an AKC champion of record, the dog must accumulate 15 points at the shows from at least three different judges,including two “majors.” A “major” is defined as a three-, four- or fivepoint win. The number of points per win is determined by the number of dogs entered in the show on that day. Depending on the breed, the number of points that are awarded varies. In a breed as popular as the Golden Retriever, more dogs are needed to rack up the points. At any dog show, only one dog and one bitch of each breed can win points.
Dog showing does not offer “coed” classes. Dogs and bitches never compete against each other in the classes. Non-champion dogs are called “class dogs” because they compete in one of five classes. Dogs are entered in a particular class depending on their ages and is the Puppy Class (for 6- to 9- month-olds and for 9- to 12-montholds); this class is followed by the Novice Class (for dogs that have not won any first prizes except in the Puppy Class or three first prizes in the Novice Class and have not accumulated any points toward their champion title); the Bred-by- Exhibitor Class (for dogs handled by their breeders or handled by one of the breeder’s immediate family); the American-bred Class (for dogs bred in the USA!); and the Open Class (for any dog that is not a champion).
The judge at the show begins judging the Puppy Class, first dogs and then bitches, and proceeds through the classes. The judge places his winners first through fourth in each class. In the nextlevel class, the Winners Class, the first-place winners of each class compete with one another to determine Winners Dog and Winners Bitch. The judge also places a Reserve Winners Dog and Reserve Winners Bitch, which case of a disqualification. The Winners Dog and Winners Bitch are the two that are awarded the points for the breed, then compete with any champions of record entered in the show. The judge reviews the Winners Dog, Winners Bitch and all of the champions to select his Best of Breed. The Best of Winners is selected between the could be awarded the points in the previous show wins. To begin, there Winners Dog and Winners Bitch. Were one of these two to be selected Best of Breed, it would automatically be named Best of Winners as well. Finally the judge selects his Best of Opposite Sex to the Best of Breed winner.
At a Group show or all-breed show, the Best of Breed winners from each breed then compete against one another in their respective groups for Group One through Group Four. The judge compares each Best of Breed to his breed standard, and the dog that most closely lives up to the ideal for his breed is selected as Group One. Finally, all seven group winners Group, Hound Group, etc.) compete for Best in Show.
To find out about dog shows in your area, you can subscribe to the American Kennel Club’s monthly magazine, the American Kennel Gazette and the accompanying Events Calendar. You can also look in your local newspaper for advertisements for dog shows in your area or go on the Internet to the AKC’s website, www.akc.org.
If your Golden Retriever is six months of age or older and registered with the AKC, you can enter him in a dog show where the breed is offered classes. Provided that your Golden Retriever does not have a disqualifying fault, he can have spayed or neutered your Golden Retriever, you cannot compete in conformation shows. The reason for this is simple. Dog shows are the main forum to prove which representatives of a breed are worthy of being bred. Only dogs that have achieved championships—the AKC “seal of approval” for quality in pure-bred dogs—should be bred. Altered dogs, however, can participate in other AKC events such as obedience trials and the Canine Good Citizen program.
Excerpts from Comprehensive Owner’s Guide: Golden Retrievers