Dog shows can be confusing for the newcomer. Dogs are brought in and out of the ring, sometimes with their own breed, sometimes with others, and throughout the day the judges hand out a rainbow of ribbons. Figuring things out is fairly easy once you have the basics down.
Dog Shows 101
At an American Kennel Club conformation dog show, dogs are judged against a written standard that describes the ideal example of that breed. Breed competition is first, with all the dogs of a breed competing against each other. In the regular classes, which are for non-champion dogs, prizes are awarded for first through fourth place in each class. The dogs that placed first in each class go on to compete for Winners Dog (or Winners Bitch, for females). Then the champion dogs, Winners Dog and Winners Bitch, compete against each other for Best of Breed. The Best of Breed winners go on to compete in their respective group competitions, where first through fourth place is awarded, and the seven group winners compete for Best in Show.
Solid red is the color of second place in the AKC dog show world. Both class and group placements award a red ribbon to the dog placed second. Typically the second place class dog will get a red flat ribbon, about the size of a bookmark. The dog that places second in the group will often receive a red rosette, which is a little fancier and may have multiple streamers.
Red is the second place color for AKC obedience, agility, rally and other performance events as well. Unlike conformation shows, at performance events dogs are scored based on how well they perform certain exercises. In agility, this includes running through tunnels, jumping and navigating weave poles. Obedience includes the basics, such as sit, down and heel, and at upper levels includes scent discrimination and retrieving over jumps. Rally is a more informal obedience event, where dogs move through stations with signs depicting the exercise to be performed. The scores for each exercise are totaled, and the dogs are placed according to their total scores.
Red and White
In the breed competition, the judge awards Best of Breed to the dog he feels is closest to the standard on that day. The dog of the other sex that the judge feels is closest to the standard among that gender is awarded Best of Opposite Sex to Best of Breed, more commonly called Best of Opposite Sex. The BOS winner receives a red and white ribbon or rosette that is red on the edges and white in the middle.
Red, White and Blue
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The highest award at a dog show is Best in Show. Most of the time the dog that wins this award receives a red, white and blue rosette. Best in Show rosettes are often very elegant, with numerous, long streamers and special folds or points on the rosette. Some shows use their club colors for the Best in Show award. The Westminster Kennel Club, for example, awards an elaborate purple and gold rosette to their Best in Show winner.