Quick Guide to the UK Dog Show system

This page is written as assistance to overseas exhibitors visiting the UK to compete, or even just spectate, at our shows and is mostly aimed at those familiar with the FCI system.

The good news is that show entry fees in the UK are generally much less than those in Europe although we do not have multiple closing dates with cheaper entry fees for earlier entries. There is only one closing date for online entries although this is sometimes be extended (usually at the last moment before the original closing time) but the fee will stay the same.

Like many countries welfare and health have come to have more and more influence on the show scene and some breeds are subject to health and welfare checks at shows.  So far this has not affected Bernese but everyone should be aware shows can be subject to increased scrutiny and sick or lame dogs should not be brought to any show..

 

The Breed Standard

Firstly it is worth pointing out that UK shows have to be judged to the British KC breed standard and all judges have to judge to this, whatever their country of origin. This is a condition of their judging contract.

Although there are some small differences between this standard and that of the FCI which applies in most of the rest of the world, they are broadly very similar and will reward the same features, a good dog under the FCI standard will still be a good dog under UK and a poor example under the UK standard will also be similarly assessed buy the FCI standard. In fact the standards of the UK, FCI, America and Australia are so similar that, with a few slight adjustments in how they are applied, judges from each area can easily take on appointments under other regimes.

This link takes you to the UK BMD Breed Standard on the Kennel Club’s web site.

Perhaps the biggest practical difference for judges is that there are no disqualifications listed in the UK standard and the judge has more freedom to give their own emphasis to the different faults they find. In place of outright disqualifying it is possible in the UK system for a judge to withhold places and not award dogs to all the placings available if the quality in a class is too poor for the judge to be comfortable. For example a judge may award 1st and 2nd places in a class but decide that the rest of the exhibits in the class are too lacking in quality to be worthy of a place. This does not happen very often though and most judges are content to place the dogs in order, normally 1st to 5th, and therefore simply be stating that these are the best five dogs, in this order, in this class. Nothing more, nothing less.

It is also possible for a judge to ask a dog to leave the ring if it is lame or aggressive or has a serious fault. These can only be faults specified in the UK standard though, and NOT, for example, missing pre molars or a kink in the tail which are mentioned in the FCI BMD standard and considered important in some countries but not even mentioned in the UK standard.

Types of Show

There are several levels of shows but the one most overseas visitors will travel for is the Championship Show level where Challenge Certificates (CCs but usually referred to as ‘tickets’) are on offer. Generally these can be considered as equivalent to a CAC in FCI terms. Championship Shows can be all breeds over 2, 3 or 4 days or just single breed club shows held on one day. Each year in the UK there are currently around 30 General Champ Shows each year with CCs for Bernese Mountain Dogs , for example Crufts, and 4 Championship Club shows, for example our own club show in September.

Probably the best place to find a list of these shows in advance is in our club handbook.

Show Classes and Structure

Overall the basis of the show structure is very similar, all entered dogs go into a class and the class ends up with a line up of a winner and runners up. The winners come back for Best Dog (or Best Bitch) and at the end of breed judging we end up with a Best of Breed who goes forward to a group and then maybe Best in Show. The exact detail is different to FCI though as explained below.

The UK show classification is not the same as FCI with some different class names but perhaps the biggest difference is that there are no gradings given in the ring, (excellent, very good etc), and only the winning dogs in each class, 1st and 2nd or sometimes 3rd as well, are given a critique and this appears in the press some time after the show, it is not given out at the show. It is a part of the judge’s contract that they will produce this report, usually within a month after the show. The judge will simply make notes on the winning dogs at the end of each class to be able to produce this write up. Some judges write these notes, others dictate them into a recorder, nowadays many take quick photos on their phones as well. This is why in the UK system judges are able to judge more dogs in a day’s judging than under FCI when a grade and critique is required for every dog.

The higher structure of the shows is parallel to the FCI with each Best of Breed going through to a group final and then each group winner going through to Best In Show on the last day of the show. The UK system has 7 groups and Bernese are in the Working Group.

The classes can be confusing for overseas exhibitors used to the simpler FCI breakdown. Put simply the earlier classes, Minor Puppy, Puppy, Junior, Yearling are based on age and are easy to understand and relate to age on the first day of the show for shows spread over several days. It then gets more complicated as the next classes are defined by how much the dog has won, Graduate, Post Graduate and Mid-Limit and Limit can only be entered if the dog has not won more than the prescribed number of such classes. Open is, as the name suggests, open to all dogs and Veteran is for 7 years of age upwards. Very rarely, there will be a Champions class but Champions can still enter the Open or Veteran class instead or as well.

Dogs are free to enter more than one class and are not restricted to the lowest one they are eligible for. Dogs qualifying for the younger age group classes can also enter higher ones and dogs can enter as many classes as they like if they are eligible for them. Most people only enter their dogs in one higher class but sometimes younger dogs particularly will be entered in several classes as they may be chasing points for wider awards. The definitions of the classes will be found in the schedule but the commonest ones are given at the end of this article.

UK Champion

In the UK system a dog simply requires 3 CCs from 3 different judges to become a UK champion. At least one of these CCs has to be after the dog is a year old. In established breeds, most of them, these are always offered in pairs, one for dogs and one for bitches. At the end of the judging of each sex all unbeaten dogs from ALL classes, including Puppy classes, Champion and Veteran, return to the ring and compete for the CC.

All class winners, unless they have entered more than one class and been beaten in another, will come back in to challenge for the CC. The winner of this will also always be the best dog or the best bitch. You will usually hear the steward call for  “All unbeaten Dogs back in the ring please”. At the end of breed judging the CC winning Best Dog and Best Bitch will compete head to head for Best Of Breed.

ATC Number

In order to enter at UK shows an overseas registered dog needs an Authority To Compete registration number from the KC . This only has to be applied for the first time the dog is shown in the UK but then lasts for the life of the dog although the number has to be given on each entry. The one time cost for each dog (in 2022) is £30. More details from the Kennel Club

Other Links

The Kennel Club also has general information for overseas exhibitors on this link. This is given in English, French, German and Italian.

There is also a guide to the UK Show Regulations published by the Kennel Club

The BMDC of GB will always be happy to assist overseas exhibitors where possible, email our Secretary or, for our special 2022 events, our Golden Jubilee committee

KC Definition of Classes

Minor PuppyFor dogs of 6 and not exceeding 9 calendar months of age on the first day of the show.
PuppyFor dogs of 6 and not exceeding 12 calendar months of age on the first day of the show.
JuniorFor dogs of 6 and not exceeding 18 calendar months of age on the first day of the show.
YearlingFor dogs of twelve and not exceeding twenty-four calendar months of age on the first day of the show.
BeginnersFor owner, handler or exhibit not having won a first prize at any show.
NoviceFor dogs which have not won a Challenge Certificate/CACIB/CAC/Green Star or 3 or more first prizes at open and championship shows (Minor Puppy, Special Minor Puppy, Puppy and Special Puppy Classes excepted, whether restricted or not).
GraduateFor dogs which have not won a Challenge Certificate/ CACIB/CAC/Green Star or 4 or more first prizes at championship shows in Graduate, Post Graduate, Minor Limit, Mid Limit, Limit and Open Classes, whether restricted or not where Challenge Certificates were offered for the breed.
Post GraduateFor dogs which have not won a Challenge Certificate/CACIB/CAC/Green Star or 5 or more first prizes at championship shows in Post Graduate, Minor Limit, Mid Limit, Limit and Open Classes, whether restricted or not where Challenge Certificates were offered for the breed.
Mid LimitFor dogs which have not become Show Champions under Kennel Club Regulations or under the rules of any governing body recognised by the Kennel Club or won 3 or more CC/CACIB/CAC/Green Stars or won five or more first prizes in all at championship shows in Mid Limit, Limit or Open Classes, confined to the breed, whether restricted or not, at shows where Challenge Certificates were offered for the breed.
LimitFor dogs which have not become Show Champions under Kennel Club Regulations or under the rules of any governing body recognised by the Kennel Club or won 3 or more CC/CACIB/CAC/Green Stars or won 7 or more first prizes in all, at championship shows in Limit or Open Classes, confined to the breed, whether restricted or not at shows where Challenge Certificates were offered for the breed.
OpenFor all dogs of the breed for which the class is provided and eligible for entry at the show.
VeteranFor dogs of not less than 7 years of age on the first day of the show.
ChampionFor dogs which have been confirmed a Champion or Show Champion under Kennel Club regulations or under the rules of any governing body recognised by the Kennel Club.
Good CitizensFor dogs that have achieved their GCDS Bronze Award Certificate or above.