It is the goal of a responsible breeder to produce quality dogs; dogs that are healthy, physically sound, and with good temperaments. How does a breeder determines this quality? An experienced and ethical breeder knows the strengths and faults in each dog and is mindful of these when breeding. However, it is an unfortunate fact that there are many irresponsible breeders who either don't know enough about their dogs, or worse, choose to ignore the faults and breed carelessly. As a buyer, how do you get some peace of mind? One question for your breeder: Do you show your dogs?
The response will tell you plenty. If the answer is "No", even with a lengthy explanation about the negatives of showing, there is reason for you to reconsider. Equally, a breeder who says he doesn't show his dogs, but breeds 'show' dogs that others show, needs further research. You are looking for a "Yes"!
The original purpose of Conformation Shows was to evaluate dogs for breeding purposes, in the same way it is done for cattle and horses. There is also an element of being able to show off the dogs you have bred, with the possibility that other breeders will want to use your dog in their breeding.
Each breed has an internationally recognised 'Breed Standard' that details the acceptable features and characteristics for the breed. At a show, the judge will be looking for correct conformation (the physical formation and structure - length of nose, dimensions of head, position of croup etc) and movement. Dogs who do not meet the standard will be non-awarded or removed from the ring. The 'Breed Standard' is fairly broad with some traits being "acceptable, but not desirable", so judges then decide the best examples of the breed. If enough different judges choose your dog over a period of time, then it is awarded "Australian Champion" status. (There are further awards possible after this as well.)
Therefore, a conformation championship is generally considered a reasonably objective indication of merit, as it indicates that the dog has been found to be a superior example of its breed by some number of different judges on some number of separate occasions.
Now, it is not always rosy in the show ring. There are times when your dog will lose to an inferior dog due to poor judging or 'show politics'. You can also lose because your dog simply isn't showing well that day. Sometimes you win and deserve it, and sometimes you lose. This happens to all exhibitors. It is not a reason that justifies not to show your breeding lines. The reason that earning a Championship Title is decided over many shows by many judges is to overcome the inherit subjective aspects that surround the objectiveness of the Breed Standard. Showing should be seen as an opportunity for the breeder to put their type of dog (differences within the acceptable breed standard) in line with those from other breeders who have a different style and allow judges to evaluate the strengths of the individual dogs. Unless you do this as a breeder, your only point of reference is your own dogs and own opinion - so naturally your dogs are the best! Right?
So what does this mean for you as a prospective owner? As a puppy buyer looking for a pet, the benefit of purchasing from a breeder who shows, is the knowledge that the parents/grandparents/great grandparents of your puppy have been recognised as meeting the breed standard. This gives a good assurance that your pup also meets the breed standard. It means that your breeder values the integrity of the breed and produces dogs that not only meet this standard, but are judged excellent representations of the breed. Your breeder is confident enough in their breeding to put it out there to be critiqued and judged against others.