Top Dog Shows in the United States

By Laura Payne

Whether you're a dog lover who likes to watch dog shows or would like to enter your dog in a show, there are three national dog shows in the United States each year: the American Kennel Club/Eukanuba National Championship, the Westminster Kennel Club Annual Dog Show and The National Dog Show. Each of these shows is a conformation show where dogs are judged by how closely they conform to the breed standard.

What Are Breed Standards?

Breed standards describe the physical and mental attributes of the ideal dog in each particular breed. They are based on a dog's appearance, movement and temperament, all of which contribute to a dog's ability to perform the function for which he was originally bred. When dogs closely conform to the breed standard, it indicates their ability to produce quality puppies. The actual purpose of conformation shows is to appraise breeding stock. For this reason, only purebred, nonspayed or non-neutered dogs are allowed to compete.

AKC/Eukanuba National Championship

The American Kennel Club/Eukanuba National Championship is the newest of the three dog shows, having first been held in 2001. It is also the largest of the dog shows with upwards of 3,400 dogs entered annually. The AKC/Eukanuba National Championship is held in mid-December each year. The location of the show has varied, though it frequently has been in Orlando, Florida. The top 25 dogs in each breed, based on points earned during the year at AKC sanctioned shows, qualify for the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship.

Westminster Kennel Club Annual Dog Show

The Westminster Kennel Club Annual Dog Show is the oldest, dating back to 1877. It is held annually at Madison Square Garden in New York City in mid-February. There are generally around 2,500 entrants in the Westminster show. Dogs must be either invited to enter or have Championship status or have won at least one 3-, 4-, or 5-point major award. The show is broadcast live on national television, and rebroadcast during the week after the show.

The National Dog Show

The Kennel Club of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania began holding dog shows in 1879. This was the beginning of what is now called The National Dog Show. The National Dog Show is currently held at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, Pennsylvania and has an average of 2,000 entrants. It takes place in mid-November and is broadcast nationwide each year on Thanksgiving Day after the Macy's Parade. It also is sanctioned by the American Kennel Club.

Breed Groups

All three of the shows organize dog breeds into seven different groups for the competitions. The groups are as follows: sporting group, hound group, working group, terrier group, toy group, non-sporting group and herding group.

Benched Dog Shows

Both the Westminster Kennel Club Annual Dog Show and the National Dog Show are benched dog shows. Benched dog shows offer a broader experience because when the dogs are not being shown, they are at their assigned benches so that breeders, handlers and spectators can meet the dogs and talk to their owners.