What are the Regular Classes at AKC Conformation Shows?
By Chelsea Murray CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP, CTDI
When signing up for and attending a dog show as a newbie, class selection can be confusing! American Kennel Club conformation classes are designed to allow dogs to gain points towards their championship. Before you have finished a dog, you are entering classes to gain championship points (fifteen total points with 2 major wins required). There are a variety of classes you can choose from based on age, handler experience, and dog origin.
Puppy Classes are split into age ranges for puppies who are 6-9 months of age and 9-12 months of age. These classes are for any puppy between these ages for the breed. In puppy classes Judges can be a little more relaxed with their expectations and their handling. They generally do not expect a young puppy to be perfectly trained for the ring and therefore may be a little more understanding of some puppy antics. By signing up for a puppy class you also indicate the dog’s age, which can provide some grace for normal puppy growth phases as well.
There is also a 12-18 Month Class. These classes are no longer considered a puppy class but are generally for dogs who are less physically mature than those who are entered in the open classes.
The Novice Classes are for dogs who have not previously won 3 first places in novice class, a 1st place in amateur owner handler, bred by exhibitor, american bred or open classes. They are also for dogs who have not earned one or more points towards their AKC championship.
The Amateur Owner-Handler Class is for dogs handled by their registered owner or a co-owner. This owner/co-owner should not have at any point been a professional handler, an AKC approved conformation judge or been employed as an assistant to a professional handler. Generally this is a great denotation on your entry to make if you are more novice and can provide you with additional opportunities for awards and chances to enter a special owner-handled group ring.
The Bred-By Class is for dogs who are bred-by and handled by the breeder. This means the breeder has to be listed as both the breeder and the owner or a co-owner on the dog’s AKC registration. Entering this class is generally prestigious. It indicates that they are proud of their breeding and chose to keep and show the dog at the end of their lead.
American Bred classes are for dogs where the sire and dam were mated in America and the dog was born in America. This class is generally smaller in size and could be a great fit for a dog who might be a less common color than what is popular. It can also be great for dogs who are themselves less competitive than what is entered in the open class or where the handler may not be as experienced. Smaller classes give the dog and handler a greater chance at making it to the Best of Breed competition.
Open Classes are for any dog. If someone is not sure if their dog is finished and they want to make sure they get those points or keep a major for other entries, they can remain in the open class. Most commonly though the open class will be for dogs who are more physically mature and are working on gaining points towards their AKC Championship.
Not sure what class to enter? Dog shows can be confusing and it is okay to ask for help. Below are some additional resources that will help you gain more knowledge and confidence to show your dog.
Here is a great video description of the classes:
You might also find the Introduction to Dog Shows Online Course helpful! https://showdogprepschool.com/courses/introduction-to-dog-shows/
Need some more virtual support and group class options? Check out the mentor program!