Judging dog shows

A Lagotto Romagnolo being shown at Crufts
Yulia Titovets © / The Kennel Club

The Kennel Club is responsible for the approval of championship show judges, of which there are in excess of 7,000 approved in the UK.

The judges' committee (JC) processes around 300 appointments for judges every six weeks to award challenge certificates (CCs) at championship shows.

Each judge who is approved can be found on our Find a Judge service. 

Becoming a dog showing judge

Before you become a breed show judge you must have sufficient knowledge and experience of your breed. The Kennel Club suggests a minimum of five years' involvement in pedigree dogs before stepping into the centre of the ring and officiating.

Breed standards
For all licensed breed shows, The Kennel Club breed standards must be used for the judging of pedigree dogs. Make sure you read and understand the standard that relates to the breed you are judging before entering the ring.
First appointments

All judging appointments at dog shows licensed by The Kennel Club must be underpinned by a contract between the society and the judge. Forming a contract requires three stages:

  1. The society must invite the judge in writing, including the wording required in the dog showing regulations, and request a written acceptance
  2. The judge should return a written acceptance of the judging appointment
  3. The society should then confirm the judging appointment, again in writing

Three-part contracts should always be in place, even for emergency replacement judges. In the event of a judge or society being in breach of their contract, and unable to provide a satisfactory explanation of the breach, the board of The Kennel Club may impose sanctions.

It is against The Kennel Club rules for judges to ask for an appointment.

Progressing as a breed show judge

After you have judged your first breed, you may wish to judge other breeds. You can do so by applying for the breed club's judging lists and working your way through each criteria. 

Becoming a first-time CC breed show judge

First-time Challenge Certificate judges

The Kennel Club requires the following mandatory requirements to have been achieved prior to a person being nominated to award with Challenge Certificates for the very first time. These aspiring judges are required to:

  • Have seven years' experience in their own breed
  • Have attended the requirements of a dog show judge seminar delivered by a Kennel Club accredited trainer, and passed the relevant examination on The Kennel Club regulations and judging procedures. The syllabus is based on the Show F Regulations, The Kennel Club Code of Best Practice for Judges (including Guide for Judges and Ring Stewards and Code of Best Practice for the Selection of Judges) and The Kennel Club Code of Conduct. Further pre-course learning, including a film and a mock examination, are available on The Kennel Club Academy
  • Have attended the points of the dog assessment conducted by a Kennel Club accredited trainer and passed. To assist with pre-course learning, you may also wish to take the drag and drop exercise on The Kennel Club Academy
  • Have attended a seminar delivered by a Kennel Club accredited trainer on conformation and movement. For pre-learning, subscribe to The Kennel Club Academy and watch the conformation and movement series 
  • Have attended at least one breed-specific seminar run in accordance with The Kennel Club Code of Best Practice for the running of a breed seminar and judging competence assessment and passed an examination and/or assessment where applicable. Please speak to your club or council about future dates
  • Have bred and/or owned a minimum of three dogs when they obtained their first entry in The Kennel Club stud book (save in exceptional circumstances)
  • Have stewarded over a minimum of 12 days at shows (open or championship shows only)
  • Have attended any field trial or an open gundog test (GWT) for a gundog breed in the relevant sub-group (for gundog breed councils/clubs/societies only)

Breed clubs, societies and councils will also have their own criteria that judges are expected to achieve should they wish to be recommended. Please contact them for more information.

A2 judges' list approval procedure

The Kennel Club believes that greater use of the A2 approval system will both improve procedures and be of long-term benefit in ensuring that new championship show judges have previously been deemed capable of undertaking an appointment to award Challenge Certificates. Equally importantly, it will enable judges to go through an approval procedure without first having to receive an invitation to award CCs, an aspect of the previous system that has frequently been criticised.

Writing a critique

A critique is a written report completed by the judge, where he/she will outline the relative virtues and weaknesses of the dogs they have judged at a show, and explain why they have chosen one dog above another. Exhibitors really want to see critiques as they want to know what a judge thought about their dog. They are published in Our Dogs and on The Kennel Club judges' critiques website.

Further training on how to write a critique can be found on The Kennel Club Academy.

Breed Watch
We believe that providing information on breed-specific visible health concerns allows judges, breeders and exhibitors to discourage the breeding of dogs with exaggerated conformational issues that are detrimental to health and welfare. Breed Watch provides an opportunity for all involved to monitor and protect the future of pedigree dogs.
Vet checks

Veterinary health checks confirm best of breed awards at dog shows, by assessing dogs to ensure that no visible health conditions, which may cause pain or discomfort, are rewarded. Read more information about these vet checks.

Category 3 breeds

This section provides answers to common questions about category 3 breeds, including which breeds are identified as category 3 on Breed Watch, why they have been added, and what is being done to address the issues.

Judges resident outside the UK

The suitability of overseas judges to officiate at events licensed by The Kennel Club will be assessed in the same way as for a British National. Overseas judges who have judged a particular breed at championship show level in their own country, or are endorsed by the relevant kennel club in their country, will normally be approved to judge that breed with Challenge Certificates in the UK.

All judges officiating at UK events licensed by The Kennel Club must judge to The Kennel Club breed standards and rules and regulations and not those of any kennel club other than our own. The judge's duties in this country cannot be delegated, and they should be aware that double handling, commentaries and grading are not permitted.

Those overseas judges who have previously been approved by The Kennel Club to award Challenge Certificates in the UK can be found using Find a Judge.

FCI judges' agreement

The Kennel Club and the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) have reached an agreement on the mutual recognition of judges.

Please see the terms of the agreement, a revised code of practice for the selection of overseas judges, as well as a contract that must be completed by all FCI judges who are resident in an FCI country and meet the agreed criteria. This only applies to those nominated to award Challenge Certificates, judge groups and best in show for the first time. Those judges who do not meet the criteria set out under the FCI agreement should complete an overseas judges' questionnaire.

Seminar diary

The Kennel Club seminars are held by accredited trainers throughout the year. Learn more about the upcoming seminars.

Current system judges - frequently asked questions

We hope these frequently asked questions will help to resolve some of the common queries that are asked by judges about dog showing.

1. I had an appointment which stated no judging in a 70-mile radius. I unknowingly accepted another appointment within 67 miles. The club withdrew the contract and replaced me without asking if I would withdraw from the other appointment. Is this correct?

The club was within its rights to withdraw you from the appointment; however it should have informed you in writing of its intention to do so.

2. My breed was stud book band E but has now moved to D. I accepted a judging appointment for the breed prior to this announcement. Can I still judge them even though I am not on the relevant list to do more than three classes?

Yes, you are still permitted to judge the classes as you were eligible for the appointment at the time of signing the contract.

3. I award CCs to one breed. Is it permissible to judge the group and AVNSC classes at open show?

Provided that you have previously awarded CCs to at least one breed and are currently eligible to do so, then you are eligible to judge the above classes.

4. I am due to judge Boxers in the morning at a forthcoming show, however I also own Bullmastiffs which are being judged in the afternoon. Can I exhibit my Bullmastiff at the show?

No, it is not permissible to judge and exhibit at the same show, regardless of the breed.

5. Where can I find details of judging seminars?

These are advertised in The Kennel Club Journal, Dog Press and also on our training seminars page. You may also wish to contact a member of the education and training team by calling 01296 318540 (ext: 225). If a judge cannot find anything going on in their area, they can contact the trainer to ask about one-to-one training sessions.

Judges' Education Programme (Breed Shows)

A new system has been developed for the education, approval and listing of every level of judge, from those who aspire to judge, right through to open show judges, plus those who go on to award Challenge Certificates, judge championship show groups and best in show.

The system has been designed taking into account the feedback received from exhibitors, show societies and judges. 

Breed education co-ordinators

The Kennel Club breed education co-ordinators (known as the BEC) are administrative roles which co-ordinate all points of breed-specific education and support for judges. These co-ordinating roles are held on behalf of the breed clubs in order to support the breed club obligations under the Judges' Education Programme (Breed Shows) for the education and training of judges.

Read more about being a breed education co-ordinator.

Mentoring forms an important part of a judge’s learning to be competent to judge a breed.

Observation forms an important part in the learning and development experience of a judge. The observation takes part where a judge is observed while in the act of judging. The observer is there to ensure the judge is able to demonstrate sufficient ability in terms of knowledge of the breed being judged and also ring manner.

Eye for a dog assessment

This assessment can only be undertaken by judges who have awarded at least one set of Challenge Certificates. Judges progressing to award Challenge Certificates in a second or subsequent breed under the Judges' Education Programme (Breed Shows) are required to have passed this assessment.

The following judges have passed The Kennel Club's eye for a dog assessment under the Judges' Education Programme (Breed Shows) since April 2018.

Complaints procedure

Judges Education Programme (Breed Shows) levels

Level 1

Requirements to meet this level:

  • Minimum of five years proven interest in pedigree dogs
  • Attend a requirements of a dog show judge seminar (but not mandatory to take and pass examination)
  • Attend a conformation and movement seminar
  • Complete a minimum of two full-day stewarding appointments

Eligibility to judge

Up to three classes (four if one is a puppy class) or five (six if one is a puppy class) for stud book band E breeds for any breed at limited or open shows.

Level 2

Requirements to meet this level

First breed:

  • Take and pass requirements of a dog show judge examination
  • Pass points of a dog assessment
  • Attend a breed appreciation day (BAD) and pass a multiple-choice examination (MCE) for the respective breed
  • View ring stewarding seminar and take online quiz
  • Complete critique writing seminar and take online quiz

Subsequent breeds

  • Attend a breed appreciation day (BAD) and pass a multiple-choice examination (MCE) for each breed. Note: Not mandatory for group judge for breeds in the group that they are not approved at level 4, but attendance strongly recommended

Eligibility to judge

  • Unlimited number of classes for the respective breed at limited, open or championship shows (no CCs)
  • Any variety classes, groups and best in show at limited shows 
Level 3

Requirements to meet this level

  • Undergo minimum of three mentoring sessions with a minimum of 12 months between first and third session
  • Be observed judging a breed club show, breed supported entry show or championship show without CCs
  • Complete remaining 10 full-day stewarding appointments (onetime qualification)
  • Have owned/bred a minimum of three dogs when they obtained their first entry in The Kennel Club Stud Book – save for exceptional circumstances (one-time qualification for first breed in which a judge awards CCs)
  • Attended the appropriate sub-group field trial/open gundog working test for first gundog breed or ring procedure at licensed shows (German Shepherd Dog education programme) online exam (one-time qualification)
  • Have achieved the relevant hands-on experience in line with the stated requirements for the relevant stud book band:
    • Band A minus1 – 15 dogs
    • Band A – 20 dogs
    • Band B – 35 dogs
    • Band C – 60 dogs
    • Band D – 90 dogs
    • Band E – 125 dogs
    • For those breeds with varieties:
      • Dachshund: 250 Dachshunds of any combination of the six varieties
      • Poodle: 150 Poodles of any combination of Poodle (Miniature), Poodle (Standard) and Poodle (Toy), which must include a minimum of 30 of each variety
      • German Spitz: 70 German Spitz of any combination of German Spitz (Klein) and German Spitz (Mittel)
      • Fox Terrier: 70 Fox Terriers of any combination of Fox Terrier (Smooth) and Fox Terrier (Wire)
      • Bull Terrier: 80 Bull Terriers of any combination of Bull Terrier and Bull Terrier (Miniature)
      • Belgian Shepherd Dog: 70 Belgian Shepherd Dogs, any combination of Groenendael, Tervueren, Malinois and Laekenois
      • Chihuahua: 200 Chihuahuas, any combination of Long Coat or Smooth Coat
      • Schnauzer: Following extensive discussion with the breed clubs it has been decided to treat these as three separate breeds for CC approval purposes and questionnaires will be required to be submitted by a judge to award CCs in each size. Therefore, the required number of dogs for each size will be based on the respective stud book band. This arrangement will continue under JEP
The following types of event may be used to claim hands-on experience numbers:
  • Breed classes at championship shows without CCs
  • Breed classes at open shows
  • Breed classes at limited shows
  • Mock/training classes at breed club shows (practical judging days) – only one occasion can be claimed and a maximum of five dogs
  • Dogs judged at Kennel Club approved assessments, maximum of five dogs – only one occasion and a maximum of five dogs. Cannot be used in addition to mock classes
  • Dogs judged at inter or intra-club single-breed matches
  • Special award classes at breed club shows
  • Supported entry shows
  • Dogs judged at single breed dog of the year competitions
  • Overseas appointments
Dogs judged at the following types of event may not be included in a judge’s hands-on experience:
  • AVNSC and variety classes
  • At fun days
  • Conjointly with other judges at events where the candidate judge is not required to give independent judgment on the dogs
  • Any JEP mentoring sessions

1 Those breeds designated band A minus are: Australian Cattle Dog; Australian Terrier; Basset Griffon Vendeen (Grand); Bloodhound; Bouvier Des Flandres; Brittany; Finnish Spitz; Glen of Imaal Terrier; Ibizan Hound; Kerry Blue Terrier; Lakeland Terrier; Mastiff; Norwegian Buhund; Norwich Terrier; Otterhound; Pharaoh Hound; Polish Lowland Sheepdog; Retriever (Chesapeake Bay); Sealyham Terrier; Skye Terrier; Spaniel (Irish Water); Swedish Vallhund; Welsh Terrier.

Eligibility to judge

  • Unlimited number of classes for the respective breed at limited, open or championship shows (no CCs)
  • Any variety classes groups and best in show at limited shows
Level 4 CC judge

Requirements to meet this level 

  • Attend and passed a breed-specific assessment for the specific breed run by The Kennel Club

Eligibility to judge

  • Award Challenge Certificates in the respective breed
  • Any variety classes, groups and best in show at open and limited shows

Judges Education Programme (Breed Shows) levels - frequently asked questions

Questions for breed clubs/councils

1. Will our breed club need to continue holding breed-specific assessments during the transition period?

Breed clubs should consider those that have nearly fulfilled the A3 criteria and those who wish to progress to CC status during the transition period. Breed clubs should hold hands-on assessments for those judges progressing down the ‘grandfathering’ or A2 routes to meet the demand within their breed. Judges Education Programme (Breed Shows) assessments will all be run by The Kennel Club, to ensure that there is a standard approach.

2. We understand that breed clubs will be obliged to offer ‘supported entry’ classes at open shows. Please could you advise how this will be arranged? What made The Kennel Club decide to reintroduce this?

This is a move designed to enhance the open show scene and assist breed specialists especially to gain judging experience. Each breed club will be required to support classes for its breed at a minimum of two general or group open shows per year from 1 January 2021. It is hoped that the quality and quantity of exhibits at open shows will increase, especially as the breed club will have suggested the judges and promoted the classes to their membership. It is important that clubs do all they can to promote these shows and encourage members to enter. Breed clubs will have more influence over who judges their breed at general open shows through this. Breed clubs should be aware that sponsoring classes is not the same as having a supported entry show.

3. Judges who give CCs in three or more breeds may have only attended a breed seminar (no exam or hands-on under current requirements). Is the attendance certificate given still acceptable?

The Kennel Club's current policy for the approval of CC judges is that they need to attend a breed seminar and pass an assessment for their first three CC breeds only. The Kennel Club will take this into account when considering nominations to award CCs at a show. All certificates previously awarded are valid. Breed clubs will make their own decisions regarding their lists.

Level 5 judges can register at level 2 for all breeds in that group, however they will then need to meet the level 3 requirements for each individual breed. All other judges will need to attend a breed appreciation day and pass a multiple-choice breed standard exam if they have not previously passed an exam/assessment.

4. Can two different breed appreciation days take place on the same day at the same venue, with a morning and afternoon session, at which candidates could attend both?

If clubs wish to share a venue they can do so, however the events need to be separate and the timetable must allow sufficient time to cover both breeds fully and in-depth and provide for the multiple-choice breed standard exam. It is recommended that breed clubs consider including a group mentoring session as part of the event, which might impact upon the practicality of combined events.

5. Going forward, what will the purpose of a breed club’s judges sub-committee be once Judges Education Programme (Breed Shows) is fully implemented?

Breed clubs should continue to have a judges sub-committee through the transition period as they will still need to produce judging lists etc. It may be that breeds feel they need a sub-committee to assist with the organisation of the breed appreciation day or assist the breed education co-ordinator with the pairing up of mentors and observers under Judges Education Programme (Breed Shows).
Questions for breed education co-ordinators

1. How many breed education co-ordinators (BECs) will each breed have?

One. This person will be chosen by the breed club/council or, in the case of breeds with more than one club, through a consensus of breed clubs. They will remain in the post until the breed club(s) appoints someone else. If a breed cannot agree, The Kennel Club may become involved in the selection.

‘Assistants’ may be appointed if required.

2. What does a BEC role cover?

Full details about the role are available above. 

3. Will the BEC be reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses?

It is reasonable for BECs to have their expenses paid. This is the responsibility of the breed club(s). We suggest breed clubs/councils put in place a system where all clubs contribute towards expenses/honorarium.

Questions for judges

1. What will it cost me to be a listed judge under the new system?

Access to the online system to be free of charge for all judges of all levels for the first three years. Judges will not be ‘licensed’, as previously announced.

2. I award CCs in a breed and understand that once the Judges Education Programme (Breed Shows) system is live, I will be registered as a level 4 judge. I also understand that when this happens I will be able to be registered as a level 1 Judge for all breeds if I wish. However I have never completed any of the requirements for judges at level 1, as these were put into place after I was approved to award CCs. If I want to progress for another breed at level 2 onwards, do I have to complete all of the other level 1/level 2 requirements to do so?

As an existing CC judge, once registered at level 4 for the relevant breed(s) you will be able to register at level 1 for all other breeds you are interested in judging. You are not required to undertake any of the more generic level 1/level 2 requirements, existing CC judges are exempt from these, however you will need to meet the breed-specific requirements (attend a breed appreciation day and take a multiple-choice breed standard exam). 

3. Is it possible to be listed on the Find a Judge website as a judge at different levels all at the same time?

Yes. It is quite possible that you will be a CC judge (level 4), say, in Afghan Hounds while at the same time you are a championship show gundog group judge (level 5) and open show judge of Papillons (level 2 or 3). Your account will show your status for each breed and this information will be reflected on Find a Judge.

4. I am a CC judge but also on the B list for another breed, which level should I be on for each breed?

Level 4 for the CC breed and you may be able to register as level 2 for the other breed, provided you meet the new requirements. You will be able to judge the B list breed during the transition stage, although it is advisable to register as a level 2 as soon as the online facility is available, as this information will be available to show secretaries.

5. I attended a judging seminar a few years ago but cannot find my certificate to prove that I took the exam and passed. What should I do?

It is absolutely essential that proof of seminar attendance and exams undertaken is provided as these will need to be uploaded into the new system, and would be worth contacting the host club. If you cannot provide this, you will need to go to another seminar and take the relevant exam again.

6. Regarding the requirement for aspiring judges to undertake stewarding, how does that work?

As long as you have stewarded for 2 full days at shows, you will be meeting the level 1 requirement. It is not enough to steward for part of a day – you must steward for the full day and provide proof that you have done this. A full day is from the start to the conclusion of all judging in that ring.

To meet level 3 requirements you will need to have stewarded for 12 days. There is a film on stewarding available on The Kennel Club Academy and stewards are required to view this.

7. Can I take the multiple-choice exam at a breed appreciation day if I have not yet attended The Kennel Club basic seminars or stewarded?

You must have completed all the level 1 requirements before being able to attempt a multiple-choice breed standard exam held with a breed appreciation day.

8. As my breed does not have CC status, what is the highest level I can be registered at for Judges Education Programme (Breed Shows)?

Level 4. You need to ensure you follow the same requirements as CC breeds for each stage of Judges Education Programme (Breed Shows). There will be no distinction.

9. Will variety breeds (i.e. Dachshunds and Poodles) count as one breed when counting the 30% of breeds required to judge the group?

Yes, they will.

10. What evidence will be acceptable for proof of five years' involvement before judging is permitted?

Evidence can include, but is not restricted to: catalogues, club membership receipts, receipt of dogs purchased, club minutes, stewarding records.

11. I am a judge who is registered at level 4 for a non-CC breed. Can I judge not separately classified, AV classes, groups and best in show at open shows?

Yes you can, it may also allow you to judge that breed abroad, subject to the rules of the local kennel club.

12. I am currently on a breed club A3 judging list. When can I make use of the Judges Education Programme (Breed Shows) 'grandfather' rights?

Judges will only be able to self-submit a questionnaire after 1 January 2021.

13. Will there be any change in criteria for judging BIS, Groups or AV classes at open shows?

No, the requirement stays the same. Under Judges Education Programme (Breed Shows) judges must be level 4 for at least one breed.

Questions for show organisers

1. The Kennel Club F regulations for the two systems will eventually be run alongside each other. Does this mean judges can be invited on either system?

Yes, the two systems will run alongside each other and judges can decide which system to judge under. Shows can invite using either.

2. What wording does The Kennel Club advise including in judging contracts for shows?

The Kennel Club advises using the wording as follows: “In accepting this appointment I confirm that I comply with the requirements of the Judges Education Programme (Breed Shows) or The Kennel Club Regulation F(1)20b”.

3. Do we need to consult the breed clubs about judges appointed for ‘supported entry classes’ at our show or is it solely up to the general society?

The Kennel Club very much wishes to encourage general societies and breed clubs to work together. It will be to your mutual benefit to encourage a larger entry for the judge to go over, thus contributing to their education while at the same time increasing competition which will enhance the overall experience for the exhibitor. The supporting breed club will submit two names as possible judges, if neither is available you will need to go back to the breed club for two more names.

4. Who can judge classes of a breed prior to the Judges Education Programme (Breed Shows) online system being available?

From 1 January 2021, no one can judge unless they meet the new level 1 requirements.

The exception to this is where a valid contract is in place prior to 24 February 2020, when this announcement was made, providing the appointment complies with The Kennel Club Regulation F(1)20.b

To be able to judge more than three classes of a breed, (four if one is a puppy) or five (six) for band E breeds at any show or any number of classes at a championship show without CCs, a judge must be listed on a breed club/council B list or above.

Judging contracts signed before 21 May 2019 (the date Judges Education Programme (Breed Shows) was placed on hold) stating that a judge has met level 2 requirements will be honoured. For contracts signed after this date, judges must be listed on the relevant breed club/council B list or above.

It is strongly recommended that breed clubs/councils list those judges who have met level 2 criteria on their B list.

A full list of judge eligibility can be found above.

Additional resources

There are a number of resources which you can download or purchase to assist you with your judging. 

Free breed show judges' resources
Items to purchase for breed show judging