We have all seen those superbly groomed and manicured canines strut around on the show floor, but what makes a dog truly show quality? Each kennel club, has its own list of approved breeds, and specific breed standards by which each breed is judged. So, at the most basic level, a dog must meet the breed standards set out by the sponsoring kennel club in order to qualify to compete. There are both physical and temperamental requirements which are specific to each breed, and all minimum requirements must be met. There are certain deviations that are allowed in order to allow for a fair competition. For example, if a working or sporting dog breed is being shown and the coat shows signs of imperfection due to activities in the field, no deductions are made as the clubs generally encourage that dog breeds be active in the area of specialty for which they were bred (e.g. hunting or herding).
The biggest misconception when it comes to show vs pet quality dogs is that pet quality dogs are in (at least) in some ways inferior to show quality dogs. This is not the case the majority of the time—a pet quality dog can get disqualified from entering a show by merely missing the breed standards by a ‘hair’. For example, breed standards usually have eye color as part of the standard against which show entries are judged, and any variation from the standard is grounds for disqualification; a dog might be perfectly show-worthy, but have the incorrect eye coloration for the breed.
Selecting Show Quality Puppies
Experienced breeders which have show quality breeding stock will select those puppies which they assess as being the best chance to be show quality for show homes, and the rest would be selected for placement in homes that do not wish to show the dog. It is worth nothing that there are a lot of dogs which are show quality, but end up in pet homes since there simply aren’t enough homes that wish to show dogs, so consequently, many show quality dogs will end up as pets, and reputable breeders work hard to make sure that each puppy ends up in a loving home.
If your goal is to enter the world of dog shows and own show quality dogs, then the ideal way to start is to being attending local dog shows. This way you can not only learn about it first hand, but to also meet other dog lovers, and find a mentor who can help guide you through the process. You can also meet and get to know breeders, and improve your chances of getting a show quality dog, since breeders of show quality dogs are not likely to just sell puppies to anyone with a checkbook.
The one disqualifying factor that is true across the board is if a dog is not intact (i.e. has been spayed or neutered). Every show dog must remain intact in order to be eligible to compete in a kennel sponsored show.