Conformation shows provide owners and breeders with a forum for exhibiting their dogs in front of a judge who has been hired to evaluate how well each dog conforms to its breed standard. Judging is largely subjective since judges must usually decide how well a dog meets the standard for its breed. Some breed standards include clear disqualifications, such as for height, weight, color, and dentition.
There are both all-breed shows and specialty shows. All-breed shows include judging for all AKC recognized breeds. Specialty shows that are stand-alone events are for a specific breed. Specialty shows may also be part of an all-breed show. There are also some shows that are limited to Sporting breeds only. The CVC hosts at least one Vizsla Specialty and Supported Entry show every year!
For the observer, there doesn't appear to be a difference between a "Specialty" show and a "Supported Entry" show. Both types of shows may include a Sweepstakes competition with its own judge for puppies (6-18 months old) and Veteran dogs (over 7 years of age) and lovely trophies. The choice of trophies is up to the sponsoring club. Typically the Sweepstakes judge is someone who may want to judge the breed officially in the future, or it may be a breeder or exhibitor who has been asked to judged because he or she is respected in the field. Some of the differences between the two kinds of shows are that a Specialty show win is a win of prestige, and you may see a dog with "Best in Specialty Show" before its name, indicating that it has won Best of Breed at an official specialty show for the breed. The AKC allows a club to hold only two specialty shows per year, but a club can support the entry at another club's show as many times as it chooses. A specialty show can be a stand-alone event, or part of another show-giving club's show, as has been the case for the CVC's specialty shows in recent years.