Showing your Border Collie

Showing dogs is a rewarding sport where the thrill of competition is combined with the joy of seeing beautiful dogs. It is a sport that the whole family can enjoy. Dog shows are one of many types of ANKC (Australian National Kennel Council) events in which ANKC Registered dogs are eligible compete, and there are shows held all over Australia on almost any given weekend in a calendar year. Dog shows originated as a means for breeders to evaluate breeding stock, and this is still the intent today. The dog's "conformation" refers to it's overall appearance, construction, unique breed features, health and temperament, all of which are considered by a qualified judge.

There are four types of conformation dog shows:

All Breeds shows offer competitions for over 150 breeds of dogs that have been recognised by the ANKC. An All Breeds show runs like a large format knock-out competition. All Breeds shows divide the competition into seven categories or Groups, which are comprised of dogs which were bred for similar reasons. Border Collies are in the Working Dog group, which is the group for all breeds who were originally bred for herding or livestock duties. Each breed will compete firstly in their own breed, with the winners within a breed going on to compete against other breeds in the group, and with Group level winners competing against other group winners for Best In Show honours. All Breeds shows are those that take place at Royal Shows such as the Sydney Royal Easter Show, or as seen on large telecast International shows such as Crufts (UK) or Westminster (USA).

Group Specialty shows are limited to dogs belonging to one of the seven groups. For example, the Working Dog Club of NSW show features only breeds belonging to the Working Dog group to which the Border Collie belongs. At a Group Specialty, Best In Show is awarded at the group level.

Semi-Specialty shows are restricted to dogs of a small group of specific breeds usually connected by function or origin. For example, the Australian Working Dog Club is a Semi-Specialty for the herding breeds originating from Australia - the Australian Cattle Dog, Australian Kelpie, Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog and the Border Collie.

Specialty shows are restricted to dogs of a specific breed. For us, that is the BCCNSW Championship show and others like it for Border Collies only. Here, Best In Show is awarded at a breed level and is a highly prestigeous win for the lucky dog and owner.


Is my dog able to compete?

To be eligible to compete, a dog must:

  • be individually registered on the Main Register with the ANKC
  • be 3 months of age or older to compete in Baby Puppy Classes, and over 6 months of age to compete for Challenge Certificates
  • be a breed which is recognised by the ANKC
  • meet any eligibility requirements in the written standard for its breed (check the ANKC website for breed standards)

Neutered (spayed) dogs are eligible to compete in conformation classes, however can only compete against other neutered exhibits. These classes are special Neutered classes, and may compete for Neuter Challenge Certificates and Group awards in their own division of the competition.


Who's the judge?

Judges examine the dogs and award according to how closely each dog compares to the judge's own opinion of the "perfect" dog described in the breed's official standard set down by the ANKC.

The standard describes the characteristics that allow the breed to perform the function for which it was bred. These standards include specifications for structure, temperament and movement.

The judges have undergone extensive training on the breeds they are judging. They examine ("go over") each dog with their hands to see if the teeth, muscles, bones and coat texture conform to what is considered 'ideal' for the breed. They view each dog in profile for overall balance, and watch each dog gait ("move") to see how all of those features fit together in action. The name of the judge is advertised in the show schedule for the show which you consult for entry details.


How does a dog show run?

Each dog is presented to a judge by a handler, which can be any person who is a financial member their own state controlling body, which is NSW is Dogs NSW. The role of a handler is similar to that of a jockey who rides a horse around the racetrack. They must not only guide the dog according to the judge's directions, but also make the dog look as best it can.

Most dogs in competition at conformation shows are competing for points toward their Australian Championship Title. To qualify, the dog must be awarded a minimum of 100 points at Championship Show level. To gain points the dog (or bitch) must be awarded a Challenge Certificate, which means they have been considered to be the best male or female exhibit on the day of competition. Other titles include Grand Champion and Supreme Champion, and represent the attainment of higher achievements, including gaining 1000 points and Best In Show wins respectively.

Males and females compete separately within their respective breeds, and are divided into classes according to their age. It is the owner's responsibility to check that they have entered the dog in the correct class.


What is the road to Best In Show?

Dog shows are a knock-out competition in which dogs are eliminated in stages, with one dog eventually named Best In Show at the end of the show. The Best In Show winner is unbeaten on the day of competition.

Only the Breed winners advance to compete in the Group competitions. The Best of Breed competes for Best In Group honours, which means they are considered the best representative of the Group in the eyes of the judge. The winner of Runner Up Best of Breed to the eventual Best In Group winner is allowed to return to compete against the other Breed winners for Runner Up Best In Group. The respective class winners in each breed also compete for Class In Group awards. The winners in the Group round continue on to compete for Best In Show, and the process is repeated in General Specials. The Dogs NSW website has an informative outline and 'Path to Best In Show' on their website which can explain this process in more detail.


What are the seven groups?

Toy (Group 1) - These dogs were bred to be household companions and lap dogs. This group includes small breeds such as the Chihuahua, Maltese, Pomeranian and Pug.

Terrier (Group 2) - Terriers were bred to rid property of vermin such as rats. This group includes breeds such as the Airedale, Cairn Terrier and Scottish Terrier.

Gundog (Group 3) - These dogs were bred to hunt and retrieve game birds both on land and in the water. The breeds in this group include Pointers, Retrievers, Setters and Spaniels.

Hounds (Group 4) - These breeds were bred for hunting other game by sight or scent. These breeds include such dogs as Beagles, Bassets, Dachshunds and Greyhounds.

Working (Group 5) - These dogs were bred to help shepherds and ranchers herd their livestock. The Border Collie, Australian Kelpie, German Shepherd Dog and Old English Sheepdog are some of the breeds in this group.

Utility (Group 6) - These dogs were bred to pull carts, guard property and perform search and rescue services. Among the breeds in this group are the Akita, Boxer, Doberman and St. Bernard.

Non-Sporting (Group 7) - These dogs vary in size and function, and many are considered companion or specific purpose dogs. This diverse group includes the Chow Chow, British Bulldog, Dalmatian and the three varieties of Poodle.


What ribbons could my dog win?

Blue - awarded for first place in any regular class.
Dark Purple - awarded to the winners of Challenge Dog and Challenge Bitch. Since this is how Championship points are earned, these ribbons are highly coveted. The winners will also receive a certificate signed by the judge. The two Challenge winners in each breed will return to compete for Best of Breed to conclude breed judging.
Lilac - awarded to the Reserve Challenge Dog and Reserve Challenge Bitch; that is, the runners-up to the winner of the Challenges. One of these two will be required to come back in to compete for Runner Up Best of Breed.
Best In Group - awarded to the dog that is considered to be the best of its Group on the day of competition in the opinion of the judge officiating. A Runner Up Best In Group is also awarded.
Class In Group - awarded to one dog in each of the age classes which is the best of its age class in the Group on the day.
Best In Show - awarded to the overall winner of the show. A Runner Up Best In Show is also awarded.
Class In Show - awarded to one dog from the best of the Group class winners, meaning that this winner is the best of its age class on the day.


How do I get started?

The best place to start is by joining a local breed club (that's us if you own a Border Collie in NSW!), and going along to a show to talk to exhibitors and to see what it's all about! The Border Collie Club of NSW conducts two Championship Shows each year.  Visit the Dogs NSW website or contact the office if you require more information!


Junior Handlers

The ANKC offers children 7 to under 18 years of age the opportunity to compete with others their own age at various shows during the year. Juniors competing in conformation events are judged on how they present their dogs. Juniors compete in three separate age classes, 7 to Under 10, 10 to Under 13, or 13 to Under 18. Junior Handler events are advertised in the show schedule, and are usually held in the luncheon break of the show, or at the beginning of the show if held during the summer months. Check the show schedules for each show as these may vary.


Tips for the First-Time Exhibitor

  • Talk to your dog's breeder to ensure the dog is eligible and suitable to show
  • Be sure your dog is up-to-date on all it's vaccinations
  • Learn the proper techniques for grooming and for presenting your dog in the ring (your breeder or an experienced exhibitor can act as a mentor here)
  • Join your breed's specialty and/or an All Breed club in your area
  • Become familiar with the Rules & Regulations of dog shows
  • Attend some dog shows to observe your breed being judged and how others present your breed
  • Use the knowledge of your breeder
  • Ask questions
  • Attend handling classes with your dog and practice before the big day


Dog Show Terms

Angulation - Angles created by bones meeting at their joints.

Baiting - Using liver or some treat to get the dog's attention and have him look alert.

Exhibitor - A person who brings a dog to a dog show and shows it in the appropriate class.

Fancier - A person who is especially interested, and usually active, in some phase of the sport of purebred dogs.

Gait - The way a dog moves, movement is a good indicator of structure and condition.

Groom - To brush, comb, trim or otherwise make a dog's coat neat.

Handler - A person who takes a dog into the show ring or who works the dog at a field trial or other performance event.

Heel - A command to a dog to keep close beside its handler.

Pedigree - The written record of a dog's family tree of three or more generations.

Points - Credits earned toward a championship.

Soundness - Mental and physical well-being.

Stacking - Posing the dog's legs and body to create a pleasing picture.

*Article adapted from the AKC website, a valuable resource adapted with our thanks.