Dogs compete at dog shows to earn points or certification towards championship titles.
The Kennel Club (UK) system, which is also used by the Australian National Kennel Council and in other countries, is considered the most difficult to earn a title under. At certain shows designated as Championship shows, the top bitch and dog in each breed will be awarded a Challenge Certificate, with three CCs needed to become a champion. The amount of CCs on offer for each breed is decided by the Kennel Club in advance, so opportunities to gain a title are very limited.
In the US and Canada, each time a dog wins at some level of a show, it earns points towards the championship. The number of points varies depending on what level within a show the win occurs, how many dogs are competing, and whether the show is a major (larger shows) or minor (smaller shows). The exact number of points needed to gain a championship varies depending on the kennel club offering the title.
Fédération Cynologique Internationale sponsors international shows that differ from other shows in that dogs first receive individual written descriptions of positive and negative qualities from the judge, and only dogs with high ratings go on to compete against other dogs in the class. A dog must receive four international Certificat d'Aptitude au Championnat International de Beauté to qualify for a Championship; one must be won in the dog's own country, and at least two in other countries under at least three different judges.
Dogs compete in a hierarchical fashion at each show, where winners at lower levels are gradually combined to narrow the winners until the final round, where Best in Show is chosen, usually from among specials, dogs that have already completed their championships and are competing for group and best in show wins. At the lowest level, dogs are divided by breed. Each breed is divided into classes based on sex and, sometimes, age. Males (dogs) are judged first, then females (bitches). At the next level they are divided by group. At the final level, all dogs compete together under a specially trained all breed judge.