Westminster Dog Show format, explained: How the rules, groups, judging work for 2022 competition

The Westminster Dog Show — the most famous dog show in the United States, is getting underway. That means a lot of examining, a lot of course running, and most importantly, a lot of dogs will be on TV throughout the weekend and into next week.

To those just flipping through and tuning in, the format can seem a bit opaque. What makes one dog “better” than another? How does the scoring work? How do the breeds work?

There’s a lot of information to take in, but the judging process isn’t as complicated as one might think at first blush. Rather, it takes the “ideal dog” and pits competitors against that. The cutest, most adorable dog generally doesn’t win (sorry to the golden retriever lovers).

Here’s what to know about the Westminster Dog Show format and judging rules for 2022.

What are the groups in the Westminster Dog Show?

The first thing to know about the Westminster Dog Show is how the groups are broken up. There are seven groups into which different breeds are separated.

They are:

  • Herding
  • Hound
  • Non-Sporting
  • Toy
  • Working
  • Sporting
  • Terrier

Different breeds are then entered into these groups. This year the Mudi will join the herding group and the Russian Toy will join… the Toy group.

What are the rules in the Westminster Dog Show?

The road to Best in Show is a long one for a dog. It begins by competing against its own breed, where it looks to win best in breed. After that, it’s competing with its group, where it will join other best in breed winners.

If a dog is fortunate enough to win best in group, it will move on to competing against the other best in group winners. The winner of that judging will win the coveted Best in Show.

How does the judging at the Westminster Dog Show work?

The judging at the Westminster Dog Show is, surprisingly, relatively simple — Or as simple as something inherently subjective can be.

The Westminster Dog Show — and other dog shows like it — is a Conformation event.

Conform is the base word there. Every dog breed is assigned what is called a “standard,” which is the ideal feature for that breed. This is a written document that is being regularly updated by each breed’s “parent club.”

What parts of a dog may be judged?

In a phrase: All of them.

Dogs are judged by physical traits like height, weight, coat, eyes, ears, and feet. they’re also, however, judged on temperament, movement, and general appearance.

In other words, every part of a dog is put under microscope against “the standard.”

Where does the judge come into play?

Judges are an interesting x-factor, as the Westminster Kennel Club’s official rules even note judges may have different standards or different points of emphasis. The level of subjectivity varies depending on the trait. Things like height and weight are consistent, but behavioral things could be up to the interpretation of the judge.

Subjectivity is part of the name of the game at the Westminster Dog Show, although the standards attempt to mitigate a bit of that subjectivity.

When will the breed, group, and Best in Show judgements occur?

Here is the TV schedule for when these judgements will unfold at the Westminster Dog Show in 2022.

Monday, June 20

Event Time TV/Streaming Channel
Breed Judging (Hounding & Herding) 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. ET westminsterkennelclub.org

Tuesday, June 21

Event Time TV/Streaming Channel
Breed Judging (Toy, Terrier, & Non-Sporting) 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. ET westminsterkennelclub.org
Group Judging (Hound, Toy, Non-Sporting, & Herding)     7:30 p.m. – 11 p.m. ET     FS1/Fox Sports Go
 

Wednesday, June 22

Event Time TV/Streaming Channel
Breed Judging (Sporting & Working) 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. ET westminsterkennelclub.org
Group Judging (Sporting, Working, & Terrier with Best In Show to end)     7:30 p.m. – 11 p.m. ET     FS1/Fox Sports Go
 
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