Dog shows (conformation events) are intended to evaluate breeding stock. The size of these events ranges from large shows, with hundreds of dogs entered, to small specialty club shows, with only German Shepherd Dogs. The dog's conformation (overall appearance and structure), an indication of the dog's ability to produce quality puppies, is judged. The dogs closest to the Breed Standard (written word picture of the German Shepherd Dog) on that day should be rewarded with wins and placements.
Each dog presented to a judge is exhibited ("handled") by its owner, breeder or a hired professional.
Most dogs in competition at conformation shows are competing for points toward their AKC championships. It takes fifteen points, including two majors (wins of three, four or five points) awarded by at least three different judges, to become a Champion. The number of championship points awarded at a show depends on the number of German Shepherd Dogs in competition. The larger the entry, the greater the number of points a male or a female can win. The maximum number of points awarded to a dog at any show is 5 points.
Males and females compete separately within their respective breeds, in seven regular classes. The following classes are offered, and are divided by sex:
Puppy - For dogs between six and twelve months of age, that are not yet champions (optional class).
Twelve-To-Eighteen Months - For dogs twelve to eighteen months of age, that are not yet champions (optional class).
Novice - For dogs six months of age and over, which have not, prior to the date of closing of entries, won three first prizes in the Novice Class, a first prize in Bred-by-Exhibitor, American-bred, or Open Classes, nor one or more points toward their championship (optional class).
Amateur-Owner-Handler – For dogs that are at least six months of age that are not champions. Dogs must be handled in the class by the registered owner of the dog and is limited to exhibitors who have not, at any point in time, been a professional dog handler, AKC approved conformation judge, or employed as an assistant to a professional handler (effective January 1, 2009) (optional class).
Bred By Exhibitor - For dogs that are exhibited by their owner and breeder, that are not yet champions (optional class).
American-Bred - For dogs born in the United States from a mating which took place in the United States, that are not yet champions (mandatory class).
Open - For any dog of the breed, at least 6 months of age (mandatory class).
After these classes are judged, all the dogs that won first place in a class compete again to see who is the best of the winning dogs. Males and females are judged separately. Only the best male (Winners Dog) and the best female (Winners Bitch) receive championship points. The Winners Dog and Winners Bitch then compete with the champions for the Best of Breed award. At the end of the Best of Breed Competition, three awards are usually given:
Best of Breed - the dog judged as the best in its breed category.
Best of Winners - the dog judged as the better of the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch.
Best of Opposite Sex - the best dog that is the opposite sex to the Best of Breed winner.