Conformation shows are a kind of dog show in which a judge familiar with a specific dog breed evaluates individual purebred dogs for how well the dogs conform to the established breed type for their breed, as which is described in their breed standard. The shows are run relatively basically, with a point system which is calculated based on the amount of dogs being entered of that breed, and a dog can earn a “championship” by gaining a total 15 points, including “majors”, which is any show that has 3-5 points availible to win.
The dogs are divided into classes per breed in American Kennel Club dog shows, according to age and sex: 6-9 month, 9-12 month, 12-18 Months, Novice, Bred By Exhibitor (where the person handling the dog is a breeder of record), American-Bred, Ameteur-Owner Handler and Open. In some cases one or more of these classes may be divided by color, height, or coat type.
First through fourth place are awarded in each class. The winners of all classes in each sex compete for Winners (best) Dog and Winners Bitch. These wins are awarded points toward a Championship, based on the number of dogs in each sex competing in the classes. The remaining class winners are joined by the runner-up from the class from which the Winner was selected and there are competitions for second place in each sex, called Reserve Winners Dog and Reserve Winners Bitch. If for any reason the Winner is determined to be ineligible for the points on that day, they would instead be awarded to the Reserve Winner (a bit like the First Runner-Up in the Miss America pageant).
Once the Winners and Reserves are chosen, the Best of Breed competition begins. This group consists of any dog or bitch that has finished its Championship, plus the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch. The dog or bitch that the judge feels best represents the breed standard on that day is awarded Best of Breed; the best animal of the opposite gender is awarded Best of Opposite Sex; and the better of the Winners Dog or Winners Bitch is awarded Best of Winners. (The Winners Dog or Bitch can be awarded Best of Breed or Best of Opposite Sex, as well.) In a Specialty show, the Best of Breed is also called Best in Specialty.
In multi-breed and all-breed shows, the winners of all breeds within the kennel club’s breed Groups then compete for Group placements. So, for example, all the Terrier Group Best of Breed winners compete for Group First, Group Second, Group Third, and Group Fourth. Finally, the seven Group First winners compete for Best in Show.