For some dog owners’ part of the enjoyment of ownership comes from taking part in dog shows and competing for prizes and titles. We all know our own dog is the best and most beautiful or handsome dog in the world and some of us like to have ribbons and trophies to prove it.
Doodles and other mixed-breed dogs cannot compete in the conformation ring as they are not a recognized breed and do not have a breed standard. However, there are alternative physical and intellectual events they can participate in such as agility, flyball, and obedience competitions.
Dog shows can be huge and some of the most famous ones are even televised, like Crufts in the UK for example. If your beloved canine companion is a Doodle however, can you still take part in dog shows?
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Why Doodles Can’t Compete in the Conformation Ring
When we talk about dog shows we are usually thinking of ‘proper’ shows, shows that are affiliated to the AKC, the KC, the ANKC, and the CKC where owners of registered pedigree dogs can compete against each other for challenge certificates, Best of Breed, Best in Group, and the coveted Best in Show titles.
Titled show winning dogs are valuable as breeding, for stud fees and puppy prices from dogs who have enjoyed show ring success or even whose ancestors have been victorious in the ring can run into many thousands of dollars.
When dogs compete in the conformation ring, they are judged against the breed standard for their particular breed. There are no activities involved, it is quite simply a canine beauty contest. The judges have studied and passed exams that qualify them to judge one or several breeds. They must be able to demonstrate in-depth knowledge of the breed standard for their chosen breed or breeds and many judges are breeders themselves.
The winner is the dog who most closely matches the breed standard although a bit of showmanship goes a long way too especially at higher levels where all the dogs entered should be outstanding examples of their breed.
Only when it comes to Best in Group and Best in Show will the dogs compete against different breeds and even then, they are still judged against their breed standard. For example, if Best in Show was to be decided between a Chihuahua and a Great Dane (very different breeds!) the winner would be the one who most closely resembled his own breed standard description.
However, since the dogs don’t have to display any talents there is still an element of personal preference on the judges’ part and, dare I say it, politics! As it is the judge’s opinion as to which dog is the best at the end of the day.
So where does this leave our Doodles? Doodles are not accepted for registration as a breed by any of the major organizations (AKC, KC, ANKC, and CKC) and there is no breed standard so they can’t be entered into affiliated shows or judged in the conformation ring.
This isn’t a case of simple prejudice (although many Doodle owners and lovers have experienced this). Rather there is no breed standard to judge them against. Part of the appeal of a Doodle for many people is that they come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and coat types and while this is a plus point in some ways it makes it impossible to set a standard.
Who can say whether a wavy coat is better than a curly coat or a straight coat, it’s all down to individual preference! It is also still early days in terms of Doodle breeding and Doodles don’t all look a certain way like Labradors for example and this makes a conformation competition impossible.
Perhaps in the future when we have been breeding Doodles for many generations this will be possible, but I am not even sure that this would be a good thing. After all, Doodles are like a box of chocolates and if we only wanted the Hershey’s Kisses, we would buy Hershey’s Kisses, not Reece’s Pieces!
All is not lost though if dog shows are your thing. Confirmation classes and breed classes are not the only types of dog shows around so rather than looking at what we can’t do with our Doodles let’s look at what we CAN do!
What Shows Can Doodles Compete In?
Some of the major breed organizations hold companion dog shows. In the UK, the biggest of these is called Scrufts and takes place at the same time and in the same venue as Crufts. Qualifying shows are held all over the country and the winners qualify for the televised final. There is no breed standard, and any mixed breed dog can enter however they must be neutered in order to compete.
Companion dog shows are broken down into categories and for the most part, the winners are chosen purely because the judge likes them best. There are categories that do take into account the dogs’ personalities and achievements.
The typical classes are Most Handsome Crossbreed Dog – this is for neutered male crossbreeds and every dog has a chance as all judges have different taste and as they say ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. Prettiest Crossbreed is the same but for female dogs, many of which will sport a girly bow or feminine accessory.
Golden Oldie is for dogs over a ‘certain’ age so extra points may even be scored for a few grey hairs in this class! The best rescue dog is open to any dog who has been rescued or rehomed, this one can be a tearjerker and the judge will often ask you to tell him your dog’s story. Then there is Childs Best Friend – this class is for children to show off their furry friends and again the judge may ask the child why his or her dog is the best.
Aside from these affiliated companion dog shows you can find many fun dog shows held at country fayres, family days, and by dog clubs everywhere. These fun dog shows are open to any dog of any mix and usually don’t insist that the competitors are neutered although obviously, owners must behave responsibly with entire dogs and bitches in public places.
The classes usually include all of those seen at companion dog shows and more! Often there will be novelty classes such as Dog with the Waggiest Tail or Dog the Judge would most like to Take Home’ sometimes there are even classes for Best Trick, so if your Doodle is great at playing dead or has some other unique skill this is your chance to show it off.
There really is something for everyone and although you can’t win titles or qualify for championships you can still win pretty rosettes, trophies, and dog-related goodies.
Companion dog shows and fun dog shows are not the only competitions available to Doodles and other mixed-breed dogs though and some of the other events do result in titles and qualifications. Let’s discover what’s available.
The Activity Register
We have already talked about the AKC, the KC, the ANKC, and the CKC NOT accepting mixed breeds on their breed registries however this doesn’t mean that they can’t be registered at all. You can register your dog, no matter what his parentage, on the Activity Register with all the national registries.
This enables you to enter and compete in several different activities and gain titles and qualifications just as a pedigree dog could. In fact, as these require skill, talent, and training, rather than just good looks, you could argue that these titles are even more prestigious. Let’s look at some of the activities available.
Agility competitions are great fun for dogs, handlers, and spectators. In agility, the handler guides their dog around an obstacle course made up of jumps, tunnels, weave poles, and even A-frames and seesaws.
The winner is the dog that negotiates the course in the fastest time without incurring any faults for knocking jumps down or not displaying great control, for example not putting a paw on certain parts of an obstacle. The A-frame has different colored sections, and the dog must run up and over touching these areas rather than jumping on and off them.
There are even team agility classes where four dogs and handlers take turns to complete the course and the team with the best combined overall score wins.
Some classes are run as part of a league, with championships being held at some major national dog shows and give you the chance to win titles such as Agility Dog of the Year. Events are split into size categories (small, medium, and large), and are open to dogs of all breeds and many cross breeds excel at this sport. Agility is a great exercise for both dog and handler and is a fantastic way to strengthen the bond between you and your dog.
If your dog is ball obsessed flyball is a sport that he might enjoy. Flyball is very exciting and fast-paced. Teams of four dogs compete in a relay-type race against other teams over a line of hurdles to a box that fires balls out when the dog puts his paw on a lever.
The dog must then catch the ball and run back over the hurdles before the next dog goes. Flyball requires a high level of skill and training and like agility, there are leagues across the country giving you the opportunity to qualify for championships.
At the Crufts Dog Show in the UK the flyball final, which is televised, is a huge favorite attracting large crowds. It is also the noisiest event as spectators are encouraged to cheer for their favorites.
Wherever you live you will probably be able to find a flyball club to join and like agility, dogs of all breeds, shapes, and sizes can take part. Flyball has been around for many years. It was developed in the 1960s in Southern California and has expanded almost worldwide with the European Championships now being one of the biggest flyball competitions in the world.
Obedience competitions offer you the opportunity to show off how well trained your dog is and to pit your training skills against other handlers and their dogs. There are obedience classes held all over the world so no matter where you live there will be a class local to you.
Obedience clubs are also very popular, and all the major affiliated dog clubs hold obedience leagues giving you the opportunity to qualify for championships and titles.
The classes are:
- Class A
- Class B
- Class C (championship level)
In an obedience competition, the dogs and handlers must complete a series of set tasks or exercises and are judged on their accuracy. These range from basic exercises such as coming when called (we all know how important recall is for any dog, not just one that is going to compete in obedience classes), sitting and lying down on command, staying for a short period, and walking to heel both on and off the leash while in a group of other dogs.
More advanced tasks are staying in a set position while the handler leaves the ring and returns. Or, fetching specific objects such as colored clothes and bringing them to the handler. Heelwork can range from basic walking by the handlers’ side to the incredible ‘dancing’ dogs-style routines that you may have seen on TV.
Each dog starts with a perfect score of 200. Rather than gaining points for each exercise, points are lost for less than perfectly executed tasks. The winner is the dog and handler team that have managed to keep hold of the most points.
There aren’t many things more satisfying than a perfectly obedient dog who is focused on his handler in all situations and is literally waiting to be given his next command. We all want a dog that we can rely on to behave well in any situation so it’s easy to see why dog obedience is such a popular sport amongst dog enthusiasts across the globe.
Heelwork to Music
If obedience is your thing you might want to take it a step further (pun intended) and have a go at heelwork to music or dancing with your dog. Heelwork to music is a freestyle, advanced obedience competition in which handlers choreograph their own routine to their favorite piece of music.
These classes are one of my own personal favorites to watch and there are some incredible videos to be found online of some of the amazing routines from many of the top dog shows. The time and skill that goes into perfecting these routines are awe-inspiring.
Some people even go a step further and work with more than one dog! Now that really is impressive. I’m sure many of you will have seen dogs appearing on shows such as ‘Americas got Talent’ showing off their moves to music. They are always a crowd-pleaser and who can fail to be moved by an adorable dog dancing with his owner.
A slightly more unusual competition that you might not have heard so much about is nosework. This is less physical than some of the previously mentioned sports but requires great communication between handler and dog.
In a nosework competition, scented clothes are placed in various locations in an arena and the handler must send his dog off to find a cloth scented with a particular essential oil such as clove or anise.
There will be several decoy cloths that are unscented or scented with the wrong scent to try to catch him out. Whilst the job of sniffing out the appropriate cloth is in the paws of the dog, the handler must also be skilled in reading his dog’s signals and call him back when he has found the correct cloth.
Dock diving is another unusual sport gaining popularity in the US and one that I hope catches on in the UK as I have a perfect candidate here in Arthur, one of my Goldendoodles.
This is a simple sport that relies more on physical prowess than training as the dogs quite simply jump off a dock or platform into the water usually chasing a toy or lure that has been thrown or is suspended on a string. The winner is the dog that jumps the furthest. Simple and great fun for water-loving Doodles.
Is your Doodle great at learning tricks? If so, this could be the class for you. In trick dog competitions the dogs perform specified tricks in front of a judge and whoever performs the trick the best wins!
Sounds simple but the AKC does have official trick dog titles so your dog could be crowned AKC Trick Dog of the Year!
If you are a runner and you have a Doodle that never tires, take a look at Cani Cross. Cani Cross is the sport of cross country running with your dog. Originally part of early training for sled dogs, in Cani Cross the handler wears a belt with is attached to a special harness and lead worn by the dog.
The dog runs in front, so training is needed for him to respond to handlers’ commands such as forward, go left, go right, speed up, steady, ignore, hike on (pull me along) and stand.
Just as in dog-less running competitions the winner is the person (and dog) who completes the course in the fastest time. What a great way to get fit and exercise your dog. I only wish I’d had a suitable canine running partner in my marathon days!
So, you see although Doodles are not a registered breed and can’t enter breed or conformation classes there are many other types of shows and competitions that they can take part in. There is a dog sport to suit every dog and every owner.
As a Doodle owner, you might, unfortunately, encounter Doodle hate or dog snobbery at some point and bump into someone who tells you that your dog can’t be shown as he is not a pedigree. You now know he can indeed be shown and can win titles and awards just as any pedigree dog can.
I don’t know about you, but I would far rather own a champion obedience or agility dog or even an award-winning dock jumper than a dog that is, in a certain judge’s opinion, the best-looking dog in the class.
An added advantage of many of these alternative types of competition is that you win by completing the course in the fastest time, jumping the furthest, or completing exercises with the most accuracy so there is never a feeling of being judged unfairly.
You won or you lost, simple and if you lost you can just go home, train harder, practice more and next time you might just win whereas you can’t go home and change your dog’s appearance to better suit the conformation judge.
Most important of all, win or lose enjoy competing with your dog and remember regardless of the result on the day you ALWAYS take the best dog home.