A Sweepstakes is usually a competition for young dogs (between 6 months and 18 months old), judged by someone who has experience in the breed, but is not a licensed AKC judge.
Sweepstakes are usually held in conjunction with AKC specialty shows, but may be held at other times. The dogs and bitches who win their classes compete for Best in Sweepstakes. Depending on the club holding the Sweepstakes, they may award a Best of Opposite in Sweepstakes as well. There are no championship points earned in a Sweepstakes, but winning is prestigious. Sometimes, clubs will host Sweepstakes for another group.
Veteran Sweepstakes is a more common variant, usually held for dog over either six or seven years old.
The judge for the sweepstakes is usually an experienced breeder or someone working towards applying for a license to judge the breed.
The types of AKC point shows you may encounter are:
- All-Breed Shows
- Group Shows
- Specialty Shows.
Click the link to download The AKC Rules Applying to Dog Shows (PDF).
All-Breed shows may have dogs exhibiting from over 140 breeds recognized by the AKC. The exact number of breeds shown depends on the club giving the show and the entries received for that show. Clubs holding the shows may be either members clubs of the AKC or licensed by the AKC to hold shows.
Not every breed has to be exhibited at any one show. The breeds are divided by the AKC into Groups for judging purposes.
The Groups are:
- Group 1 -- Sporting Dogs
- Group 2 -- Hounds
- Group 3 -- Working Dogs
- Group 4 -- Terriers
- Group 5 -- Toys
- Group 6 -- Non-Sporting Dogs
- Group 7 -- Herding Dogs.
Bulldogs are in the Non-Sporting Group, which contains dogs which no longer serve the original purpose for which they were bred.
After competition within each breed, the Best of Breed or Variety for each Breed or Variety competes within its group. The first place winners in each group then compete for Best in Show. Judges at All-breed shows must be licensed AKC judges, but need not be bulldog breeders.
Group shows are a fairly new phenomenon. The AKC permits clubs to form consisting of exhibitors from a single group. As an example there is one new club in the Garden State, The Non-Sporting Group Club of the Garden State. This is a new club which expects to hold its first show in about a year. At the present time, it is holding matches to qualify for AKC membership.
Specialty shows are held by Clubs which are devoted to a single breed. There are a number of clubs for Bulldogs. The parent club in the United States is the Bulldog Club of America (BCA). The local clubs usually are members of BCA.
A specialty show may be held independently or in conjunction with an all-breed show. Usually specialty shows have judges who are experienced bulldog breeders in addition to being licensed AKC judges. Many clubs hold sweepstakes along with their specialty shows. Entries are usually higher at specialty shows, whether independent or part of an all breed show, than at all-breed shows without specialties. The largest entries are found at cluster shows, where you have 2, 3 or more days of specialties held by different clubs at the same location. In the New York area, there are several weekends with entries of about 120 bulldogs at specialty shows.
Best of Breed is the highest level of competition at independent specialties; at specialties held as part of all-breed shows, the Bulldog Best of Breed competes in the Group.
There is one specialty show which is the premier specialty each year -- the National Show. Once each year in the Fall, the Bulldog Club of America holds its specialty show, usually supported by two other specialties. The entries at the national show run between 300 and 700, depending on the location and date. Each year, on a set schedule, the show moves to a different part of the country. In 2017 the show will be in Illinois, and in 2019 in California.
In order to be entered in a show, the dogs must be eligible to show under the AKC Regulations. Dogs entered in these shows must be AKC registered and at least 6 months old.
Spayed bitches and neutered dogs may not be shown in regular classes in conformation (thus, they cannot become Champions), however, they may be shown in performance events. Neutered dogs and spayed bitches may be shown in the Stud Dog and Brood Bitch class and they may be shown in the Veterans Class at a specialty show held independently, but not in conjunction with an all breed show. This is to prevent competition between altered and intact dogs of different breeds, hearkening back to the origin of dog shows as proving grounds for breeding stock.
Each show is held by one club and a superintendent or show secretary handles receipt of entries and setting up the show. All upcoming shows can be found on the Event page on the AKC web site.
Each dog entered in the show must be entered in a class for which he is eligible. The regular classes in shows are as follows, divided by sex:
The Puppy Class is for dogs that are six months old, but under twelve months, that are not champions. The age of a dog is calculated up to and including the first day of a show. For example, a dog whelped on January 1st is eligible to compete in a puppy class at a show the first day of which is July 1st of the same year and may continue to compete in puppy classes at shows up to and including a show the first day of which is the 31st day of December of the same year, but is not eligible to compete in a puppy class at a show the first day of which is January 1st of the following year. The first day of a show is considered to be the first day on which there is regular conformation judging. For example, this means that if your dog turns nine months old the day the classes start at the Nationals and the sweepstakes are held the day before, the dog should be entered in the 9-12 month old class in the sweepstakes. Even though he is eight months old at the time the sweepstakes take place, the show starts and the age is measured as of the date regular classes are held.
Puppy classes may be divided into two separate classes (6-9 months and 9-12 months) at the option of the club holding the show. This is usually done at Specialty shows.
The Twelve-to-Eighteen Month Class is for dogs that are twelve months of age, but under eighteen months, that are not champions. The age of a dog is calculated up to and including the first day of a show, as described above.
The Novice Class is 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 championships.
The Bred-by-Exhibitor Class is for dogs whelped in the United States of America (or if individually registered in The American Kennel Club 'Stud Book', for dogs whelped outside of the United States) that are six months of age and over, are not champions, and are owned wholly or in part by the person who is the breeder or one of the breeders of record. Dogs entered in this class must be handled in the class by the breeder/owner of the dog.
The American-Bred Class is for all dogs (except champions) six months of age and over, whelped in the United States of America, by reason of a mating which took place in the United States of America.
The Amateur Owner/Handler Class is for dogs handled by their registered owners, provided that they have never been AKC approved conformation judges, professional handlers, employed as an assistant to a professional handler. In addition, members of the immediate family or household of a current professional handler are also ineligible for this class. .
The Open Class is for any dog six months of age or over, except in a member specialty club show held only for American-bred dogs, in which case the Open Class shall be only for American-bred dogs.
The Winners Class is divided by sex and is open only to undefeated dogs of the same sex which have won first prizes in the above classes. There is no entry fee for competition in the Winners Class.
Winners Dog and Winners Bitch are the only dogs to earn points towards their championships. After the Winners prize has been awarded in one of the sex divisions, the second prize winning dog, if undefeated except by the dog awarded Winners, shall compete with the other eligible dogs for Reserve Winners. No eligible dog may be withheld from competition. Winners Class shall be allowed only at shows where American-bred and Open Classes shall be given.
The dog and bitch who get Reserve Winners will be awarded the points for the show only if the Winners Dog or Bitch, respectively, is subsequently declared to have been ineligible to have been entered or to have been awarded points. For example, if Winner's dog was entered in the wrong age class or was handled by someone who was not the breeder/owner in bred-by, the Reserve Winner would get the points.
A Club that provides Winners Classes shall also provide Competition for Best of Breed or Variety in those breeds for which varieties are provided. The awards in this competition shall be Best of Breed or Best of Variety of Breed.