Why Titles Matter

Dog shows may seem like a trivial beauty contest but they are an important way to demonstrate the quality of a dog and a breeder. Responsible breeders invest thousands of dollars to prepare their dogs to show and use the results and the information they learn to improve their breeding programs.

Dog shows are meant to evaluate breeding stock, to recognize superior examples of the breed as the breed was meant to be. Every breed has a breed standard, which is a document describing what the breed should look like and how they should generally behave. At a dog show, the judges are evaluating each dog against how closely they compare to the breed standard and the reason why one dog wins over another could be something as small or nuanced as how long their ears are, or the angle of their feet.


Each exhibitor is required to “stack” their dog, which is when the dog is standing as squarely as possible, with their legs perpendicular to the ground. This way, the judge can see the outline of the dog and can more easily compare them while in a group. The judge will also do an individual exam on each, feeling the shape of their head, the depth of the chest, the thickness of bone, etc. as well as checking to ensure the dog has the proper dental structure. Not only is this exam important to check the physical characteristics of the dog, but the judge can also assess the temperament of the dog, ensuring that they are not aggressive to strangers and behave in a manner appropriate for their breed.


It’s also important to ensure that the dog can move the way they were intended to. A Samoyed was meant to be a sled dog, so an efficient gait is valued so that they can work over long distances while a Pekingese, a lap dog for royalty, should have a “dignified, rolling gait”. In order to evaluate movement, the judge will generally ask for an out and back, so that they can see what the dog looks like from the front and the back while moving. They will also ask the exhibitor to take the dog around so that they can see what’s the dog looks like from the side while moving.

When a dog wins over another, they earn points; the points they earn are based on how many dogs they beat up to a maximum of five points per show. In Canada, your dog earn its Championship when they get 10 points (with at least one two-point win) under a minimum of three different judges. As a champion, the dog can now have the letters CH in front of their registered name.

Getting a dog whose parents are champions indicate that the parents have at least been examined by a judge, that their structure and movement has been deemed better than other dogs (usually of the same breed), and has an even enough temperament to allow handling by a stranger. It is not a guarantee of perfection but it demonstrates that their breeder is invested in breeding towards the breed standard.

The ideal to aim for are titles on both sides of the dog’s name. Typically, conformation titles appear in front of the dog’s name and performance titles (agility, nosework, obedience, etc.) appear behind the dog’s name. Titles at both ends of the dog’s name indicates that they have both beauty AND brains.

Given that dogs come in such a huge variety of breeds, shapes, and sizes, performance titles provide a standard metric for dogs to be judged against. Think of them as the dog version of your Grade 9 gym class beep test or SAT academic testing.