Which Class Should I Enter My Dog In?

July 13, 2012

Competition Events

Showing your own dog in conformation classes can be intimidating, especially to new exhibitors. Hiring a handler is an easy way out of this predicament, but it takes away a lot of the dog show experience. If you have decided to show your dog, here’s a primer on picking the class entry that’s right for you.

Make sure you have your dog’s AKC registration number handy. It’s a good idea to get out your dog’s papers, so that you have all the information needed to enter your dog.

Assuming that your dog is not already a Champion, these are your standard options of classes to enter: 6-9 Puppy, 9-12 Puppy, 12-18 Month, Novice, Amateur Owner-Handler, Bred-by-Exhibitor, American-bred, and Open. (Descriptions/Explanations below)

Choose ONE class. This seems straight-forward, but it isn’t necessarily. Your dog will likely be eligible for 2 or more classes, so which one do you choose?

If your dog is under a year old you should probably enter the puppy class for your dog’s age. (6-9 month, 9-12 month)

If your dog is older than a year, a lot of choices open up, and your choice may help or hurt you. Here’s a rough guide to help you weigh your options. This assumes that you are allowed to enter ANY one of the remaining classes. This is highly unlikely. (See class descriptions)



12-18 Month

The judge will know how old your dog is. This is a good thing if he is in a “lanky” phase, or weird teenage proportions. The judge will know how old your dog is. If your dog looks full-grown and mature, you may not want the judge thinking he’s so young. Many judges steer clear of placing puppies.

Novice (rarely used)

The judge will know your dog is new at this, and (theoretically) give you a bit more slack with his ring manners. By entering in Novice, you are admitting that other judges have not chosen your dog as a winner. A judge that likes your dog could wonder why that is..

Amateur Owner-Handler

The judge will know YOU are new at this, and (theoretically) give you a bit more slack. Also, fellow exhibitors will know, and be more inclined to help out. Some older judges are really cranky with newbies in their ring. By saying that you are NOT a professional you are highlighting this fact.


You get to show off a dog that YOU created! This is a great way to strut your stuff, and finishing a dog from this class is one of the ways to qualify for the Eukanuba National If your dog is less than ideal, or has one large fault, many people will judge you critically for having bred him.


Made in America! Mostly, this class is unused. In (very) rare breeds, this may help to show that you haven’t just imported a nice dog. There is usually very little competition in this class, so winning it may be a let-down.


The judge doesn’t know the age of the dog, and ALL dogs can enter this class. If your dog (or you) are immature or learning, you will be in the ring with older dogs and more experienced handlers.


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About BredByBitch

Hello! My name is Dani, and I've been in the "dog world" since I was 8 years old. My mother raises and breeds Irish Wolfhounds, which was my introduction to the show ring. I showed in Junior Showmanship for many years before aging out and getting my first German Wirehaired Pointer. I live in Tucson, AZ with my German Wirehaired Pointer, Luke. Luke is my man, from my first home-bred litter of wires.

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4 Responses to “Which Class Should I Enter My Dog In?”

  1. Tricia Says:

    I have to respectfully disagree with your assessment of the Amateur Owner Handler Class. It doesn’t mean Amateur as in new, it means Amateur as in not a professional. There could be owners with decades of experience that show in this class. All it is supposed to tell the judge is that the handler owns the dog being shown, and that the handler is not a professional. It does not tell the judge that the handler is a new exhibitor or that the handler is inexperienced. Thanks!!


    • Dani Says:

      You’re very right that this isn’t what the class “means”, but as a non-professional handler, I don’t want to be labeled an ‘amateur’ unless I am new/inexperienced… Which is why I reccomend this class only for newbies. (Or for occasions when you need to separate your dogs so that you can show in many classes)

  2. Lindsey Says:

    Thank you! This was extremely helpful to me as a newbie. 🙂


  3. Debbie Says:

    I was wondering if AM Bred meant in “America” or in the USA?


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