In the United States, the AKC sponsors 14,000 competitive dog shows and performance events each year. Dog show judges evaluate a dog’s conformation to its breed standard—an official physical description of the ideal specimen for a particular breed—and compare the dog with other dogs at the show. Most show dogs are competing for points toward their championship. At a large dog show, such as the Westminster Kennel Club show held over two days in New York City each February, a field of thousands of dogs is progressively thinned to a single Best in Show winner.
A poodle submits to having its fur trimmed. The clipping of poodles originated as a method of reducing drag while the dog was swimming. Trimming is often a requirement for dogs that are entered in shows.
A variety of performance events are held that seek to provide dogs with an opportunity to perform the function for which they were originally bred. For instance, a saluki, a hound dog, may enter a lure coursing event to demonstrate its skill at pursuing swift prey. Small terriers may vocalize and lunge into a tunnel after “quarry” at an earth dog trial. Bloodhounds may follow a scent laid down by handlers at a tracking test. The puli, a herding dog, may gather a flock of sheep at a herding trial. Many performance events offer increasing levels of difficulty that are reflected in a range of titles. Once earned, these titles are entered into a dog’s permanent AKC record. Whether people choose to enter their dogs in formal competition, work with them, or simply enjoy their companionship, all dogs thrive on the bond that is fostered by a caring owner.