North American Kennel Club

North American Kennel Club

Contact Info

Recognized Breeds


WORKING - Pincher & Schnauzer, Molossoid Breeds, Swiss Mountain, Cattle Dogs & other breeds

SPORTING - Sporting, Retrievers, Flushing Dogs &  Water Dogs

HERDING - Sheepdogs & Cattle Dogs (except Swiss Cattle Dogs)

HOUND - Scenthounds, Dachshunds, Sighthounds & related breeds

COMPANION & EXOTIC - Companion & Exotic breeds

TERRIER - Terrier breeds

SPITZ & PRIMITIVE - Spitz & Primitive type breeds

An AKC Judges Perspective on
Judging Rare Breeds:
Borrowed from the AKC Judges Chat List

This is a post that has come across the AKC judges list in response to several judges being bitten. Since it is sound advice, I thought I would pass it on to you for your use.

   I have been reading with interest the discussion on bites and attacks by dogs in the ring on judges.
    I read the advice on getting back in the saddle to get past the scare. That is sound advice. Nowhere did I read advice on how to protect yourself when judging. You would think that comes with the territory but I have seem some scary body language and judging. It makes me think of seeing a car stalled on tracks and a train is coming.
I will discuss the larger and stronger breeds.
    I think that with the introduction of many more breeds in the US and Canadian show ring we have greater potential for incidents.
    While it is studied as to whether or not some breeds should be accepted by AKC, the CKC did not have that luxury. If the CKC had not taken many breeds in when they did, they may have lost them forever.
    Many of the longer accepted breeds in conformation have had their behavior and training selected to be more accepting and definitely sweeter than they were originally.
    A lot of judges have no experience judging a lot of matches or rare breed shows. Why is this important? You are mostly dealing with untrained dogs. You learn to read dogs quickly and learn to respect dogs and their actions or reactions. You learn to find out in advance which breeds are hands on, hands on at judge's or handler's discretion, or strictly hands off.
    All AKC and CKC breeds must have hands on regardless of the breed's history.
    A judge's institute with "X" number of enriching components in numerous breed comparisons will not prepare you. Instead of checking boxes we should be checking our fingers.
    A lot of judges have no experience with muscle or tougher breeds of dogs. They approach with trepidation. I hear them complain about such and such breed. I do not believe that a judge should "finish" a group just to do so. These judges are ripe for an incident.
    What can you do? Study basic original purpose of a breed. Don't sugar coat it. Learn the difference between guarding, protection and attack breeds. Go to events that feature what the dogs do for work.
    Some breeds think and react. Some breeds react. Some hold.
    Some attack. Some simply guard but will defend. Learn the difference and know what the telling signs are. Do not be afraid. Be knowledgeable and respectful.
    My husband Ed and I stayed an extra day after judging Cane Corso specialties to watch the breed work. We knew what to expect and still were impressed. It was not for the faint of heart. It gave us a stronger respect for the breed and its handlers.
    Understand that though we expect a certain acceptable behavior in the show ring that sometimes the dog's inherited instincts kick in. Know what the behavior might be. The handler might be a novice and does not really know what to expect. They may not have been to match shows or rare breed shows. The handler might be nervous and that travels down the lead. It puts a dog's instincts up.
    Make sure the dog sees you approaching. Some dogs need to be approached obliquely. Some need to be approached straight on.
    Find out which is best for that breed. Generally dogs with facial hair need to be approached obliquely as their eyes may be partially covered.  Please do not stare at him for some time before approaching or stare into his eyes. That is a direct challenge and will almost always get you into trouble. Do not approach with your hands out. A hand and arm are extensions of your body. Some dogs are trained to hold extensions of a body.
    Walk up calmly with deliberation and no hesitation. Ask the handler if he is ready. You want to elicit a positive response from the handler. That puts the dog at ease. Then put the back of your hand out for the dog. It is non threatening and gives the dog your scent. If the dog's body language is not good, turn around and walk away about eight feet, and approach again. Eight feet is a comfort zone. Most leads are four to six feet long.
    Ask the handler to show the mouth. Keep your head out of the dog's mouth. It is not a side show at the circus.
    Once you have your hands on the dog, NEVER lost contact. Don't crouch or hover. Bend at your back. Keep an elbow or your butt ready to push a dog out of the way. That can save your face or hands. Get in and get out. It is not a full body massage. It is a brief examination.
    It drives me nuts that some judges feel they need to talk their way through it. That does not put a dog at ease. He is hearing a voice he is not familiar with and is on alert.
    At the end of the examination, please do not pat or slap the side/rear of the dog and tell him he is a good dog. The dogs that have a higher degree of drive or training will take that as a release from the Stand Stay. They may jump around and bump you. You may react badly by getting knocked off balance. That more often than not will create a situation.
    So to sum up. Do your homework. Approach calmly and deliberately. Get an initial positive response from the hander.   
    After asking the handler to show the bite, keep your mouth closed. Don't pat and chat. Never lose contact. Bend. Don't crouch. Get in and get out quickly. Then calmly walk away and respect the dog's space and he will respect yours.
    Finally and this is most important. If you are not comfortable judging the breed, don't judge it. It serves no purpose and it is a huge disservice to the breed. If you need to "finish" a group and can't live without it, then do your provisionals and never judge the breed level again. You are "not available" to judge the breed. You will only be faced with one specimen at the group level.

Breeds & Standards





Companion & Exotic


Spitz & Primitive

NAKC Recognized Breeds
  • FCI Groups will be followed as much as possible. Some groups will be joined together until numbers are large enough to warrant splitting groups.

  • AKC standards will be used for AKC recognized breeds unless clubs request different standard to be used.

  • FCI standards will be used on other breeds.