What are the Most Popular Dog Shows in the USA?

Have you ever encountered a show or TV series where dogs are the main stars? If you don’t hang around the dog show circle, you’re probably as confused as I am watching the events on screen – why are those dogs and their handlers running around in circles? Why are the pups being handled by judgey-type hoomans, their tiniest imperfections examined and compared to the next doggy contestant?

Well, you may have witnessed a dog show. There are three dogs shows in the USA that have dominated the field for many years, and every competitive pedigree dog owners wants to join: the American Kennel Club, the National Dog Show, and the grandest (and oldest) in the bunch, the Westminster Kennel Club Annual Dog Show. 

How are dogs judged on these shows? Can you compare different dog breeds to each other when in fact, these different breeds posses varying unique characteristics of their own?

In this article, we will try to enlighten your mind about these topics and also discuss the biggest dogs shows in the USA.

This article will also provide further information on how these dogs are being judged and what are the awards that these prestigious shows bestow. If you are an enthusiast or just a curious one and wished to understand further, keep on scrolling down. 

Dog Show

Dog shows or commonly known as conformation shows. These are types of events wherein dogs with pure breed genetics strives to compete with other similar breeds in terms of many promising innate breeding traits and appearance standards. 

Dogs are being judged by expert evaluators according to their conformation to the criteria of their breed. Some would argue that dogs shows are simply just beauty pageants intended for dogs, but many recognized dog shows as their room to improve the breed of their dogs by taking fundamental steps in achieving it, especially among a group of handlers that are an enthusiast of promoting pure breed dogs. 

Nonetheless, most dogs shows do not offer high cash prizes for their winners. It can even cost more money for the handlers given that care and improvement of their breed requires a pricey expense. Yet, dogs show still remain on the limelight regardless of the fact that they do not give much money. Also, there are still millions of people; watchdogs show competition up to this date.

Significance of Dog Shows 

Dogs shows are organized to showcase pure breed dogs with outstanding breed traits and significantly allows owners to further promote the line of breed their dogs have while strengthening its highest characteristics. 

The majority of the dog breeders choose to breed dogs that have gained awards or placed in a dog show, to guarantee that the puppies possess largely desirable characteristics of the breed. Often, this kind of dog maintains incredibly healthy and attractive traits, which cost an additional fortune. 

How the Show Runs

Dog shows run by presenting dogs in the stage together with a handler. These people, called handlers, are not limited to dog owners. They could hire professional exhibitor or the breeders themselves. 

Mostly, hired professional exhibitors are often sought because they are more experienced and knowledgeable as to how dogs to appear their best on the stage. 

In the stage, these dogs are judges by experts according to the standards formulated by the Nationa Breed Club. They are evaluated according to physical attributes like appearance, height, color, ear shape, and many more. It may also include movements and temperaments, which truly represent their breed. 


The dogs are grouped according to their original breed traits. These groups are classified according to the identical traits they shared.  

Sporting Group, wherein dogs with hunting traits, highly active, and with temperament stability are sorted into.

Hound Group, are a group of dogs that are categorized as natural hunters that track a target by sight or scent. 

Working Group, are formed according to their general characteristics of being highly intelligent and performs numerous different tasks, like acting as guards, serving as police assistants, or as service dogs. 

Terrier Group is a category of dogs that possess courageous qualities with small size sufficiently able to drop to the ground to chase the victim. 

Toy Group is characterized by dogs that are usually bred to serve as companions of humans. Dogs in this group have a fun personality and full of spirit. 

Herding Group is a fraction of dogs that similar to working dogs but specifically serve in farming or livestock. These are dogs that aid growers or ranchers to transport stocks from an area to another. 

Non-Sporting Group is a dog that possesses distinct and diverse characteristics and does not exactly fit any groups mentioned above.

Awards Given

Best of Breed award is given to a dog that represents its standard breed as evaluated by the judges. 

Best in Variety is given to a dog that possesses a variety of nature and characteristics. 

Best of Opposite Sex is an award given to a dog of the opposite sex of the Best of Breed or Variety, evaluated by a similar judge. This recognition determines that the winning pair is incredibly excellent for breeding. 

Best in Show implies that the dog win this award is declared to the overall champion of the show and considered as the greatest recognition award. 

Award of Merit is given according to the judges’ discretion and whose dog has not received any award from the above-mentioned. 

Top Dog Shows In the USA 

American Kennel Club

American Kennel Club was founded in the year 1884. This club is a non-profit organization that manages the world’s biggest registry of dogs with pure breed characteristics. They are the main overseers of every pure breed dog competitions and sports events in the United States of America. They stand firmly in strengthening their integrity in nurturing pure breed dogs and organizing events to showcase the high quality of characteristics from these breeds. They also firmly advocate to protect the security of pure breed dogs as family companions, promote healthy well being of dogs, and strengthen the awareness and to fight for the rights of dogs to have a comfortable and safe living away from the harm of irresponsible ownership. 

Annually, thousands and thousands of dog competitions and dog shows are under the guidelines and supervision of the American Kennel Club. Some competitions may involve conformation, herding, rally, and many others. One of these shows, occupying the largest dog competitors, is the Eukanuba National Championship. Award-winning dogs joining from the different dogs shows registered by American Kennel Club are qualified to join this competition. 

Established in the year 2001, the American Kennel Club (now also known as the Eukanuba National Championship to highlight their main sponsor) is one of the latest organized dog shows in the United States. It is considered to be one of the largest dog shows, which caters more than 3,400 dogs joining the competition every year. 

Westminster Kennel Club Annual Dog Show

Being the oldest dog shows in the United States, the Westminster Kennel Club Annual Dog Show was organized and founded back in the year 1877. On that year, a group of gentlemen brought an idea to host an event for dogs that showcase their best attributes. The popularity of the dog show did not take much time to attain and has rapidly gaining popularity, leading to what it has achieved at the present time. Nothing is impossible with their firm objective of celebrating the dogs’ companionship and responsibly promoting the proper and adequate provision of health care, preservation of characteristics of pure breed dogs while maintaining ownership responsibly.

The main location of the competition is held at Madison Square Garden, located in New York City, USA. Most typically, an estimated of over 2500 dogs joiners are qualifying for this show. For your dog to be considered authorized to compete, he or she must have been invited to enter, or has won major awards like champion titleholder, or for the least, has gained points from winning some major dog awards. This dog show is aired on television nationally, and replay is released the week after the event commenced. 

The National Dog Show

The Kennel Club of Philadelphia Dog Show has been in operation since the year 1879. By the start of the year 2002, the name was rebranded to The National Dog Show and is currently functioning up to this date. Usually, this benched dog show is held at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center located at the Oaks, Pennsylvania. Annually, thousands of dogs enter this competition. On average, around 2000 dogs join the event. Broadcasted on the national television at the National Broadcasting Company channel, this dog show is happening annually on the day of Thanksgiving. 


Mentioned above are only a few dog show competitions held in the United States. All of these dogs show aim on a similar mission, and that is to promote pure breed dogs and raising awareness for all human beings of the right and privileges of animals, not limited to dogs, to have a safe living world, optimal health care service and proper handling of the owners. That includes fighting against abuses and abandonment. 

Photo of author

Lovelia Horn

I’m a certified crazy dog mom, a physical therapist (for hoomans), writer, animal rescuer, and foster home provider. Together with my hubby Ryan, I’ve fostered and helped look for forever homes for over a hundred shelter dogs in the Southern Illinois area. I mostly work with Puppy Rescue 911, Inc., a certified animal rescue organization based out of Chester, IL (home of Popeye!)

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