In the world of conformation shows, breed standards are considered extremely important. They determine whether a purebred dog possesses the physical characteristics that define his breed and whether he would be one of the best at performing the job he was bred to do. The rules and regulations of conformation shows are meant to govern the fairness of the competitions and should be strictly adhered to by participants and spectators alike.
Conformation dog shows judge dogs according to the breed standard, which is a "written description...of the ideal specimen of the breed" according to the American Kennel Club. Depending on the characteristics of the sire and dam, the standard determines which coupling will have the biggest possible payout when producing puppies for the show ring. The standard determines such aspects as height, weight, color, temperament and even coat texture for both sexes.
Obviously, a dog that is being brought into a public place has achieved some degree of socialization if he or she has been shown before. However, never assume anything. Dogs, like people, all have their specific quirks. Even if etiquette at shows is not a rule that has been written in stone, owners and their dogs appreciate good manners and respectability of their chosen pastime and profession.
Before petting any dog, just like with service dogs, always ask the owner first. The underlying reasoning may be different, but maintaining concentration for the show ring is the key in both instances. The owners and handlers have spent vast amounts of time readying his or her dog for showing. So that their efforts are not unappreciated, ask to pet. Once given permission, proper procedure then is to allow the dog to sniff a clean hand first and then reach to stroke.
Similarly, do not approach a handler or owner as they are getting the dog ready to show in the ring. In fact, it is better to keep clear of ring entrances to allow easy access for those competing. Wait until they are finished showing and then always advance from in front of the handler and his or her dog.
Above all, leave personal pets at home. Dogs are not allowed in the arena if not registered as showing.
Judges at a conformation show have a big responsibility. Using the breed standard, they are required to choose the dog that best matches the requirements for that particular standard. The show starts off with the Best of Breed (BOB) competitions. This round contains all dogs that are of the same breed. There must be 3 or more entries to hold a round for BOB.
From there, the dog that has been chosen BOB advances to the Best in Group (BIG) competition. Groups contain all dogs that fall into a particular category of dog, for example the Working group or Toy group. Each group has different characteristics that define what the dogs in that group were bred to do, for example herding, guarding, companionship and so forth. This round generally has a different judge who is approved for that particular class. The judge picks the dog or bitch in each group that conforms best to the breed standard.
The dog that is named BIG for each group then advances to the final judging round, Best in Show (BIS), where one dog will then be chosen in this final championship round for the competition.