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The American Kennel Club or the United Kennel Club: Is There an Alternative?

I don’t often write show reports, but the American Kennel Club shows in California on July 19-22, hosted by the Kennel Club of Salinas and Sierra-Tuolumne Kennel Club Inc., are worth highlighting for two reasons: the atmosphere and their proximity to four all-breed United Kennel Club shows.

The AKC shows were pleasant, in spite of the hot weather. Entries were just under 1,000 dogs at the Saturday and Sunday shows, 778 on Friday and 675 on Monday, pretty good in view of the inland location in Stockton and the fact that there were bigger shows in Oregon and Texas the same weekend, but certainly not record figures.

One of the features that was unusual was the clubs’ recommendation that exhibitors wear casual clothing, defined as “business casual” in the premium list and catalog. This was interpreted by most of the male handlers and judges (women can wear light summer dresses, regardless of dress code) as open-necked dress shirts or short-sleeved golf shirts, with no ties and, of course, no jackets. The few who showed in full professional handler regalia looked, if anything, out of place in the very casual atmosphere that prevailed. This is something that ought to be copied by more clubs at summer shows, and more informal, lighter clothing should be encouraged by AKC if we want people to regard showing and judging as a pleasure, not a potential health hazard.

The most interesting aspect of the Saturday and Sunday shows, however, was something else. Has it ever happened before that United Kennel Club shows are held adjacent to AKC events, on the same fairgrounds and on the same days? That, to my knowledge, was unprecedented, and provided the most important reason that we hightailed it up the supremely ugly Interstate 5 for six hours to Stockton, through parts of California that don’t really fit the general perception of how glamorous the state is supposed to be.

The UKC email flyer announcing four all-breed conformation shows that shared the weekend in Stockton with two AKC shows. All images courtesy of Bo Bengtson.

Never mind. It was worth the drive. I had received a flyer via email that announced there would be “4 UKC All Breed Conformation Shows … sharing weekend/show grounds with two AKC Club All Breed Conformation Shows.” There was a list of the UKC judges who would officiate, there would be supported entries from American Pit Bull Terriers South Bay Dog Fanciers, the West Coast Boxer Club and the Society in America for Cane Corso Italiano. There were special handling classes for children, teens and young adults with special needs, CGC testing, etc. Pre-entry cost $20 and closed six days before the show, but you could also enter on the day of show for $25, with lower fees for Junior Showmanship and Grand Champions.

What I was interested in finding was how this compared with the AKC shows next door. I was also wondering what the organizers of the AKC shows thought, and if the UKC people were riding piggy-back on the AKC shows, perhaps having hired the space on the fairgrounds behind AKC’s back. Communications between AKC and UKC used to be pretty civil in the distant past; if I remember correctly they even cooperated in some efforts, but in recent years there has been a chill in the air. AKC doesn’t prohibit (or perhaps isn’t able to prohibit) their own judges and exhibitors from participating in UKC events, but there’s a distinct feeling that AKC would rather see UKC go away. Perhaps I’m mistaken in that, but I was curious to see how the clubs would manage to coexist side-by-side over two days on the weekend.

A “business casual” professional handler Bill McFadden in the ring with AKC Group-winning Puli GCh. Mt Hood’s Leapin’ Linni of Tordor.

United Kennel Club Founded 1898

A little history needs to be interjected. The United Kennel Club, headquartered in Kalamazoo, Mich., was founded in 1898 (14 years after AKC) and long advertised itself as the second-largest purebred dog registry in the world. They used to register about 250,000 dogs per year, but UKC doesn’t appear to have benefited from AKC’s drastic drop in registrations. Both clubs seem to be hurting, and quite possibly some of the bigger foreign clubs are now ahead of UKC in total registrations. On its website, UKC claims to be the largest all-breed performance-dog registry in the world, but carefully refrains from listing total figures (as does AKC). UKC hosts 16,000 annually licensed events, mostly in the Midwest and more than half of them for performance – hunting, training and instinct. One of UKC’s claims to fame is the focus on the “Total Dog,” meaning a dog that performs as well as it looks. The claim that this is a departure from “registries that place emphasis on a dog’s looks” sounds very much like a dig at AKC. In general, though, UKC proclaims that it would prefer cooperation to competition.

UKC’s Westminster, or perhaps more appropriately its version of the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship, is the UKC Premier, held in Michigan in June. This year it attracted about 1,600 exhibits in the conformation event, but over 8,000 entries over four days of activities ranging from rally obedience and agility to lure coursing, dock jumping, weight pulls, terrier racing, barn hunt and even “nosework demonstration.” The Total Dog winner, qualifying in both conformation and performance events, was the Whippet UKC Ch. Wildwood’s All Four On The Floor.

The president of UKC for many years was the late Fred Miller, whose wife, Connie Gerstner Miller, is now an AKC Sporting Group and BIS judge, and breeder of the well-known Malagold Golden Retrievers. The current UKC president, Wayne Cavanaugh, will be remembered by longtime fanciers as a past Pointer breeder at AKC shows and was, in fact, a vice president of AKC prior to defecting to the rival organization.

The best-known UKC rule among AKC exhibitors seems to be that UKC allows no professional handlers to show other dogs than their own. That, not surprisingly, has been a major draw among exhibitors who for one reason or another don’t feel they can compete with the pros. It is also much easier to become a judge for UKC events than for AKC shows. A dog can be registered in the UKC if its parents are registered in either UKC or by “another approved entity,” which includes AKC. (AKC, however, does not accept UKC registrations.) Mixed breeds and non-pedigree dogs can get Limited Privilege registrations, and compete in obedience and agility. The top five breeds in UKC registrations are reportedly the Treeing Walker Coonhound, the American Pit Bull Terrier, the Bluetick Coonhound, the English Coonhound, and the Black and Tan Coonhound. Most of these are now AKC-recognized breeds. The American Pit Bull Terrier, which is not recognized by AKC, descends, I’m told, at least partly from AKC-registered American Staffordshire Terriers that are accepted by UKC for breeding to APBTs.

One of the attractions of UKC dog shows is, in fact, the large variety of breeds you may come across. UKC currently recognizes more than 350 breeds, compared to 175 at AKC, according to the UKC website. Some of the UKC breeds I had never heard of before – how about the Teddy Roosevelt Terrier? – but some are known from FCI events in Europe, Asia or Latin America, and some may also be on their way to full AKC recognition. Here’s a partial list of some lesser-known breeds recognized by the UKC: White Shepherd, Volpino, Multi-Colored Poodle, Russian Toy, Porcelaine, Patterdale Terrier, Mudi, Catahoula Leopard Dog, Kooikerhondje, Jindo, Kangal Dog, Hungarian Greyhound (also called the Magyar Agar), Hamiltonstövare, Dutch Shepherd, Dogo Argentino, Chinook, Central Asian Shepherd, Bergamasco, Berger Picard, Akbash and Alaskan Klee Kai.

Professional handler Bruce Schultz “casually” won the Hound Group with Bloodhound GCh. Quiet Creek Kiss And Tell.

Just A Few Steps Away…

Before going over to check out the UKC event, I talked to the show chairman of one of the AKC clubs. It was a pleasant surprise to find that she was totally positive toward the UKC event. Apparently the two organizations had agreed on the common show dates in advance, and it obviously helped AKC that the UKC could help pay the rent for the fairgrounds. So far, so good; no rivalry, but sensible cooperation instead.

So what were the UKC shows in Stockton like? To begin with, I was surprised that not more exhibitors and handlers at the AKC show took the trouble to check them out. It was literally only a few steps that separated the AKC and the UKC events on Saturday and Sunday, and although quite a few of the AKC fanciers had heard about the UKC shows and seemed to be curious about them, in the end I don’t think more than just a few bothered to walk across to the building where UKC judging was in process.

Frankly, I think most of them – even those who complain the most about various aspects of AKC – would have been pretty satisfied with “our own” shows if they had bothered to check out “the competition.” Yes, it was certainly interesting to see some of the rare breeds being judged: we saw at least 10 Silken Windhounds, which were very attractive and looked just like you would expect from a descendant of a Borzoi-Whippet cross. There was at least one Russian Ovtcharka, which I suppose must be the Central Asian Shepherd listed above, and there were quite a few American Pit Bull Terriers, all of which seemed very friendly. I did not find a catalog, if indeed one existed. (There was supposed to be one, but how informative could it be with entries accepted the same day?) For that reason I don’t know exactly how many dogs were entered at the UKC show, but my guess would be fewer than 200 dogs. There were a morning show and an afternoon show on both Saturday and Sunday.

Perhaps this was not a typical UKC event. They are much more popular in the Midwest than in the West, and no doubt much larger as well. Certainly the atmosphere was very relaxed, more so than at even this rather laid-back, summery AKC event, but that also had the effect of making the UKC competition pretty boring to watch. One of the participants, who also attends AKC shows, in fact said that UKC judging is “just about as exciting as watching paint dry…” – and that, frankly, sums it up pretty well.

A Valid Alternative to AKC?

If I had expected UKC to provide a valid alternative to AKC, I didn’t find it. Sure, this could be a fun and undemanding way to start out for a novice exhibitor or a new puppy, the way match shows used to be a training ground for the “real thing,” but an ambitious exhibitor who wants to fine-tune his or her skills and who relishes competition will no doubt move on to AKC competition.

Professional handlers often get a bad rap. Those of us who are owner-handlers are very quick to cry wolf whenever we’re defeated by a professional handler. Sure, under some judges it seems the pros can’t lose regardless of what they are showing, but the fact is that the skill, strong work ethics and amazing energy of professional handlers give the rest of us something to aspire to. They are what makes the AKC shows the best in the world when it comes to handling and presentation.

It was interesting to see how “the other half” (well, a lot less than half, actually) lives, but I was quite happy to return into the American Kennel Club’s fold at the end of the day.

Written by

Bo Bengtson has been involved in dogs since the late 1950s and judged since the mid-1970s in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria, Holland, Italy, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Japan, China and Russia. He has judged twice at Westminster, twice at Crufts and four times at the FCI World Show, as well as the U.S. national specialties for Scottish Deerhounds, Whippets, Greyhounds and Borzoi.
  • Larkin Vonalt July 31, 2013 at 7:03 AM

    The Chinook is a recognized AKC breed and is a member of the working group.

  • Juanita Irvin July 31, 2013 at 8:35 AM


    I’ve found that the UKC shows tend to be friendlier to new exhibitors. At the ones I’ve attended here on the east cost juniors are always judged before the begining of regular classes and the judges ask the handlers questions about the breed they’re handling. With there being two shows in one day people tend to gather and talk dogs like they use to at AKC shows yeras ago. The shows are a great place for novice handlers and dogs to advance their skills while getting a title which makes them fill like they’ve accomplished something which cannot be obtained in match shows. It’s also great to be able to enter the day of the show. As for catalogs I don’t believe that many people buy them anymore. Some clubs in my area offer a discount for seniors which is great with the economy. I will always continue to show at AKC shows as that is the title we all strive for but I think there is room for both organizations. Just my two cents for what it’s worth.

  • Charlene Stone
    Charlene Stone July 31, 2013 at 9:56 AM

    I began showing at AKC events in the mid 60’s, yep, that long ago. At that time the atmosphere was much more relaxed and the participants both, owner/breeder/handlers & professional handlers most helpful to the novice. As time moved on the tension increased among the entrants to be less of a mentoring atmosphere & more of a fierce competition at times. I had a child that participated in Junior Handling & didn’t at all like the competition or the unsportsmanlike conduct of both the other participants or the coaching parents. This child preferred to handle in the regular classes & also trained & handled in obedience. We both survived these experiences. Now in my old age I have grandchildren & wanted to introduce them to the dog show world. The mother of these children was the one who had previously participated in the AKC events & did not want to expose her children to the same frustrating experiences she had. SO now comes the UKC, where they strive to be a family oriented organization. I found it very refreshing the first couple shows I attended & requested the children participate in the Jr Handling arena. It was a whole different program…there is a lot more involved in UKC Jr Handling than AKC. Through the judging process there are multiple questions asked by the judge regarding the origin, history & purpose of the breed. The points of the standard of the breed along with physiological questions of the canine in general. Its not just the case of a child running around the ring with a well trained & well groomed dog at the end of the lead. Knowledge is required. Ring procedure is also a part of the process, of course & expertise in presentation. The AKC is really failing in the Juniors Department.
    All my dogs are cross registered with the AKC & UKC. I have been lucky enough to finish dogs in both conformation venues along with obedience, rally, lure coursing & now dock diving.
    Come AKC, remember that your future is in the rest of the family…get with it.

  • Linda Pincheck July 31, 2013 at 10:27 AM

    I show in both venues, and both have their merits. My Black and Tan Coonhounds are dual registered with both AKC and UKC. I have encouraged my puppy people to start in UKC events. The laid back nature and the more, novice friendly, atmosphere is much more conducive to someone new in the sport. Because of the feeling of the excitement of “watching paint drying” in the UKC venue, it allows other exhibitors to take the time to chat with the newbies. At our shows here in Florida, the Juniors tend to set up in their own corner and hang out with each other through out the day. There is plenty of time to just sit around and socialize with everyone else. Maybe because I am from the south, the idea of a laid back atmosphere is not a problem. Almost like sitting on the front porch and talking to your neighbors on a Sunday afternoon. There is something to be said for that. The AKC will always be my first venue, but I will never turn my back on the UKC side of my dogs either.

  • Kristi kenny July 31, 2013 at 10:49 AM

    UKC shows are much more family oriented. Also less about who is holding the lead
    I think this article was not very accurate though. Many AKC exhibitors as well as AKC professional handlers were seen in the UKC building and almost all of the listing numbers (allowing non UKC registered dog to compete) were sold to AKC exhibitors who joined the fun. I know one AKC GCH dog, shown by her owner who happens to be an AKC professional handler won BIS at one of the UKC shows.
    I know in the 2 breeds I am associated with there were 12 entries, 11 of them are exhibited AKC and UKC. They included 2 AKC GCH, an AKC CH as well as several AKC pointed (and majored) dogs.
    While I show both venues UKC is like going to a family gathering. AKC (at times) is more like going to Family Court. I personally would like to thank all the AKC people who came to check out UKC. They left attitude and politics at the door and showed their dogs for the joy of showing….which is what it’s suppose to be about.

  • Melissa July 31, 2013 at 11:36 AM

    I attended both the AKC and UKC shows in Stockton. It was my first UKC show. I do like the more relaxed atmosphere, but wished they were more organized. I finished my AKC Champion in UKC in 3 shows! I will do UKC again, I had fun. Plus having shelties, and UKC’s policy with no product in coats, it’s a breeze getting them ready!!

  • Beth Lloyd July 31, 2013 at 12:08 PM

    I like your article and love that you took the time to go to the UKC part of this show. I had originally planned to go to both shows myself but could not make the 8 hr drive in the end.

    I have shown in both UKC and AKC for about 17yrs. I do enjoy both and will continue to show in both as long as I am showing.

    I do find the UKC much more relaxed and love the no pro handler part a lot.
    I also find the UKC shows friendlier and more social. But we are there ALL day most shows. Day of show entries are a plus with UKC for sure.

  • hobarra@yahoo.com
    Shawny July 31, 2013 at 3:53 PM

    I love the UKC Shows. They are very relaxing and fun.
    There is no pressure of dealing with the handlers.

  • Bo Bengtson July 31, 2013 at 5:01 PM

    Response to Larry Vonalt: You’re right: the Chinook was recognized by AKC for inclusion in the Working group on Jan. 1, 2013. Even AKC itself still lists it as a “Miscellaneous” breed on its website, however (“If you are considering purchasing a Chinook puppy, learn more here. Miscellaneous class…” etc.), and so far I haven’t seen a single Chinook in Group competition: not at Westminster, not at Palm Springs, not during the Mission Circuit…Still, I apologize for this error and hope to see more Chinooks in regular competition at AKC shows in the future.

    Response to Kristi Kenny: I’m glad you saw many AKC exhibitors at the UKC show. I didn’t and was surprised that not more well-known professional handlers managed to check it out. I talked to several who planned to walk over to the UKC show, but in the end they didn’t have time. Of course the top handlers are so busy all day it’s not really surprising, but it was still a pity.

    Thanks for all the comments. It’s obvious that the UKC shows fill a different need than the AKC shows do, and there’s space for both.

    • Phyllis Hamilton / Benchmark Alaskan Malamutes June 15, 2015 at 12:40 PM

      Bo, thank you very much for your insightful and detailed account of UKC shows. As a breeder and exhibitor in breed and obedience for 47 years, I had always been a “traditionalist” and solidly aligned with AKC and its culture — indeed, having enjoyed many successes with my fabulous handlers and homebreds over the years. However, I must admit, especially with many close friends also enjoying UKC events, especially with giving young dogs confidence in the ring, that UKC seems to have taken the place of all those wonderful fun matches, and “super-matches” we all enjoyed years ago. Good breeder-friends, too, have become judges, and can actually count on opportunities to officiate and pass on valuable feedback in the ring — in contrast to AKC, where although I met all my requirements years ago, the process, and the expenditure simply to get those first few assignments, has become daunting to those of us who have to watch our pennies a bit as the years pass. Again, many thanks for your excellent article!

  • flywire
    Michele Fitzgerald July 31, 2013 at 6:11 PM

    Bo, I also show in both UKC and AKC. I found your comments both very interesting and very common amongst AKC-only competitors.
    Some advantagages can be found in each registry though. In AKC, having pre-entry and a catalog makes it easy to come in and out for local shows and get on with your day. Rarely do I travel for AKC shows. It is a handy way to put points on my dogs and save gas and time. Most UKC shows are too far and few between to be able to accomplish that.

    In UKC, you are attending an all-day event, and you understand that from the outset. I have no problems packing up the camper, all the dogs, and attending regional meet-ups where competitors talk dogs and look at up-and-comings in our breeds of choice all day. This pumps momey into local economies, and events like the Hickory Classic, Premier and Gateway are times to get off work and travel. AKC’s only comparison might be breed Nationals.
    Goals in venues other then conformation are cherished. Nothing is better then the accomplishment of your dog taking breed and Q’ing in an event, on the same day. Even the effort of soing this is promoted by UKC with Total Dog Parades.
    And you may not have a catalog, but you certainly get more then a flat for your efforts! Have you seen some of the ribbons and prizes offered by UKC clubs?

  • Lynn McClure July 31, 2013 at 6:52 PM

    I have been showing dogs for 40 plus years… My original breed was the American Cocker Spaniel. I have been breeding and exhibiting the American Eskimo Dog for the past 16 years.

    I show AKC, UKC, CKC & IABCA and find fulfillment of my hobby in all of them. However, UKC is still my choice of venue for the all around family atmosphere, the builder of not only the family members who might show with me but the all around canine family that I have acquired in those years. The ability to have 2 shows offered per day, day of show entries in case you haven’t figured out your show weekend schedule and the friendly and outgoing atmosphere in general is the reason I keep coming back. I’ve always compared AKC to a rousing Football game and UKC as a laid back good old fashioned Baseball game. With football it’s fast, hard and done.. With baseball it’s laid back, have a hot dog, chat with your seat partner and extra innings. With CKC it’s similar to AKC but some clubs they offer two shows per day like UKC and with IABCA it’s a combination of both and a chance to finish an International CH in one weekend. There is something for everyone in all these venues and to say that one is better than the other is something I for one couldn’t do. Each one offers fun and achievements for my breed at different times. I am happy to have the opportunity to be able to choose from multiple venues. Now, I just need to figure out what to do with all the ribbons from each venue… :-)

    • Phyllis Hamilton / Benchmark Alaskan Malamutes June 15, 2015 at 12:55 PM

      Thank you for your excellent post! I have used many, many ribbons to make quilts and pillows over the years, and they make great gifts as well!

  • Serena Galloway August 1, 2013 at 3:59 AM

    We have been doing both for years. UKC is definitely WORTH your time. Whether you are new to showing or have been at it for years. We have met many of our closest friends at UKC shows. Folks who show AKC and UKC. The very social and laid back atmosphere of UKC makes socializing easier. We never experienced that at an AKC event until we made a lot of social contacts at UKC events. While this is the first event to share a show ground, it is not the first event to share a weekend within an easy driving distance. We participated in such an event in 2009 in MN. A UKC show was 40 miles away from an AKC event. We let the UKC show chair know what we were planning to attempt and they adjusted the UKC show schedule to allow us time to get from the AKC event to the UKC event. This enabled us to earn BOB at both AKC shows and BOB at all 4 UKC shows. Unfortunately we were not able to get back to the AKC show in time for our Group times, but it was a blast and we were not the only participants racing from the AKC event to the UKC one. I would have LOVED this opportunity, and it is great that the 2 clubs have worked together on this event!

  • Penny Jessup August 1, 2013 at 4:37 AM

    AKC does accept some UKC pedigrees for registration. I know most all the recently accepted coonhound breeds can still be registered AKC using their 3 generation pedigree from UKC. UKC has been registering and recording coonhound ancestry since at least 1940’s and would be the main coonhound registry at this point. I don’t think that’s in any dispute. There is room for both venues. I have enjoyed crossing over from UKC to AKC the last couple of years. I’m far from a professional but i like to try. It is a very serious, competitive environment at AKC shows.

  • Martha August 1, 2013 at 7:35 AM

    Bo, I have shown, successfully, in AKC since approximately 1980. In the past 30+ years I’ve seen showing change immensely in AKC shows. When I started, it was friendly, and dogs not only won on their merits, the judges seemed to be far more educated on the standards in various breeds. I’ve seen it change to being a professional handler’s job, with judges (who are quite often former professional handlers themselve) giving wins based on who showed, not on which dog most accurately represents the conformation standard.

    I started showing in UKC approximately 15 years ago, with friends from various other breeds who also show in AKC. We all have the same comments. UKC shows are very much like the AKC shows of 30 years ago. They are friendlier. People help each other. And with the absence of professional handlers, dogs win based on how accurately they represent the standard! WOW! What a concept.

    I’ve talked to judges who judge in both AKC and UKC. I remember one judge who commented that while it pays better to judge in AKC shows, she actually prefers judging in UKC shows because it is so much more relaxed and she feels she can talk to the exhibitors , or ask them questions. And (thankfully for me one day) they can laugh at some crazy things that happen.

    When, in our midwest area, there is a conflict, it really is tough to decide between UKC and AKC shows, but I have been known to skip AKC in favor of UKC. Takes very good, knowledgable, judges who actually judge dogs, for me to pick AKC.

  • Donna August 1, 2013 at 1:12 PM

    The part of this article that states AKC doesn’t accept UKC papers isn’t entirely true. You can use UKC papers to submit a dog into the AKC Foundation Stock Service which is the first step of getting a breed recognized by AKC

    UKC is way more accommodating to those of us who own rare breeds.

  • Vickie Johnson August 1, 2013 at 3:43 PM

    A breed that is also included is the Bracco Italiano. It has been in FSS since 2001 and has also won the Eukanuba World Series. I have Bracco and Pointers and with the AKC being so much about numbers it does not give me a place to show my Bracco. You would be stunned by the amount of AKC champions and GRCH’s that show in UKC, not to mention Top Ten AKC dogs. The GWP “Truman” Just took a BIS last weekend handled by the owner. It would be nice to see this same article written by an UKC person. I am very happy they were able to work together. Who do you think accommodated who as far as ring times and such. UKC is always working with the people.

  • Heather M August 1, 2013 at 4:42 PM

    I think your dismissive attitude towards the UKC is interesting, considering just how eagerly the AKC is co-opting successful ideas from the UKC. Allowing mixed breeds in non-conformation events, RBIS, the outreach to owner-handlers, the open show…these are all examples of the AKC admitting that the UKC’s model has a lot to teach them.

    Frankly, as a dog show novice, I can tell you that without my excellent local AKC all-breed KC, I would have run, not walked away from my first AKC show. The very first AKC judge I showed under was downright nasty to me. My huge mistake? I didn’t have my rambunctious puppy lined up straight on the mat when she rushed over to do the exam. As I left the ring, this judge (who I’ve since learned, was a former pro-handler) pointed to the pro handling the special and spat at me, “Follow her and learn how to handle your dog!” Talk about taking all the joy out of my first dog show!

    I’ve never had that kind of experience at a UKC show–except from judges that also judge AKC.

    AKC, you have a problem. I am relatively young, an upcoming successful professional. I love dogs and have money to spend. Over the next 50 years, I could be an enormous source of revenue. But when the emphasis is on the handler instead of the dog, the grooming instead of the conformation, the presentation instead of the substance, you begin to lose all credibility. When spectators come to a show to learn about a breed (as I have done) and encounter not a proud owner/breeder/handler who is excited to discuss their dogs, but a busy, nasty pro-handler who has 20 other dogs and can’t give you the time of day (as has happened to me), then you may have lost the chance to sell that spectator on the joy of purebred dogs and the fun of the sport.

    I’m still here, and I still occasionally show AKC, but I prefer UKC, where the judges excuse poodles with hair spray, much less fake hairpieces (sorry folks, that’s CHEATING!), and I’ve always been welcomed with a smile. I like to talk to people all day while we wait for the show volunteers to sort out the entries, because they love dogs, and I love dogs, and we have that in common. If the person sitting next to me is more focused on winning than having a good time, I get up and go meet someone who’s not completely insane. I’ve never once been bored.

    When the AKC can convince me they’re more about rewarding good breeding than rewarding good handling, I’ll be happy to be a tireless advocate for their cause. Until then, I’ll give them my occasional entry and take anyone interested in showing their first dog straight to the nearest UKC show.

    • Bonnie August 14, 2013 at 6:16 AM

      I also like to show in UKC, my Toy Poodles normally all finish in AKC with a pro handler, due to the extensive coat care. Then, I show them in UKC in a very easy sporting clip on my own. I have to show against the minis so it isn’t that easy, but have finished every one I took in the ring, and won BIMBS with one of them. ( Best In Multi Breed Show ). I also show Toy Fox Terriers myself in both venues. My only problem is that the UKC shows in my area have disappeared so it’s very difficult to go now.

  • PK Lichtenberger August 2, 2013 at 2:08 PM

    Thank you for taking the time to check out the UKC show. I’m sorry you were bored with the speed of the judging. Please consider the advantage of the UKC format – fewer entries gives judges the flexibility to ask questions, or take the time to re-gait a dog. The last time I showed in AKC, I had the only entry in Owner/handler, and spent a whole 68 seconds in the ring. The judge said nothing to me except “down and back” and “take her around and stop here.” In the winners class, we weren’t given a 2nd look. I did not expect to do well, but I did expect at least the courtesy of a 2nd gaiting or a comment. After all, I paid the same entry as everyone else. Conversely, in UKC shows, I usually receive some kind of constructive comment form the judge…and it has always been delivered in a helpful manner…”she could use a bit more coat” or “try gaiting her a bit faster…” I have seen judges look up things in breed standards before determining their final placements, and I appreciate it. I have learned more about handling AND my breed at the UKC shows than I ever would at an AKC show. The other thing to remember is that the AKC and UKC breed standards are different. Because UKC is more about performance, faults are not black and white, but are weighted by each judge on how that fault might affect the dog’s ability to do the original job for which it was bred. In a breed that seems to be splitting into performance vs conformation “styles” UKC rewards dogs that are in condition to do the job. ie: I don’t have to add 15 pounds to my dog to be competitive in UKC. I shouldn’t in AKC either, but every “pro handler” will say that my dog I should. how is that good for the dogs?

  • Lindsay Dugan August 2, 2013 at 2:15 PM

    My breed is the American Pit Bull Terrier, the forefather of the AKC AmStaff, not the other way around. 😉 I have nothing against the AKC, and have been participating in the CGC program for years. That said, I am grateful we have the UKC. When I think about what the AKC could offer my breed, the only thing I can see is more conformation, and frankly, that’s the least interesting portion of any kennel club event. I’d much rather do weight pull, dock diving, lure coursing, rally, etc. I know the AKC offers some of these events, and I’m glad to see it. I’m also glad to see the two biggest American registries having at least a friendly association. But don’t count the UKC out. There’s something to be said for day-of-show entries, smaller events, and more emphasis on the Total dog. :)

  • Kimberly Seegmiller August 3, 2013 at 2:43 PM

    I have been a UKC exhibitor for many years now. I find that UKC is much friendlier and that the shows are a lot less political. We are also very proud that we have real working dogs (Standard Rat Terriers) and they are not penalized by having honor scars from hunting “working” in the conformation ring at UKC. I was raised basically cut my teeth on AKC as a child/young adult but migrated to the UKC 14 years ago. I see unity in the UKC that is very rarely if ever felt in the AKC venue. I believe in my dogs as working partners! As dogs that are not just for “pretty”. LONG LIVE UKC!

  • C. Paul August 3, 2013 at 2:51 PM

    One of the many things I find refreshing about UKC is the fact that their judges do enforce the rules against calking, hairspray, wiggies, and other alterations of the canines. This especially in light of the breed I show, which is the standard poodle. The manner in which the coats are in AKC make it something that the average person would not be able to or would not want to maintain that hair in their beloved dog. I love my breed of choice, but I also love allowing them to frolic in water, lay in the yard, and allow people to run their hands through their beautiful hair. And I cannot see how that would be easily doable in the coats that must be grown and maintained in order to show in AKC. I was at this dual show. I watched the standards show in the outside AKC ring (which by the way was shaded by trees), and I watched the handlers spraying their poodles hair with cans of hairspray ringside in view of the judges. After they showed I went back to my side of the venue and showed my girl in the UKC outside ring (with out a shade tree one) and was so glad the UKC judges know that spray, wiggies, and artificial color are against the rules and they have the guts to up hold those rules. I would possibly consider showing AKC if not for the above, but as long as AKC looks the other way on this subject I will show in UKC and IABCA only.

  • Steve August 3, 2013 at 3:04 PM

    I will never forget my first time in the group ring at an AKC show… I brought my dog in and did my best to line up with everyone else and all the sudden two thirds of the exhibitors fell back to the fence and start chatting with each other, spraying down and combing their dogs and generally not appearing to pay any attention to the proceedings. I felt completely lost. As the line moves forward and the judge asks for the next dog, by all appearances my dog, a handler quickly cuts in front of me from off on the side, narrowly avoiding running both me and my dog over, and scolds me for not paying attention to the order of breeds that entered the ring. I am a strong enough person to speak up and reply that I was waiting in line and the judge waved me on, to which the judge told me that if I couldn’t keep track of the other dogs, I didn’t belong in the ring. AKC is a business for the professional handlers, which rewards the handler-judge dynamic over the dog.

    • Christi August 5, 2013 at 12:24 PM


      I’ve been going to do shows since I was 6 years old, and I have to tell you (and the others who have had bad experiences at AKC shows) that I’m sad and embarrassed that some of our fellow fanciers have behaved badly, causing unpleasant experiences for some. But I really believe that is the exception rather than the rule. I know LOTS of dog show people, and I just don’t believe that very many of them would be hostile to a newcomer, or say that someone “didn’t belong in the ring.” For those of you who have had those bad experiences, I would ask that you give us another chance. Don’t judge us all by the bad behavior of one or two. Many of us really do want newcomers to enjoy, and become dedicated to, the sport we love.

      • Steve August 5, 2013 at 4:56 PM

        Oh I still showed in AKC… I was fortunate to be in a breed where owner-handlers could be competitive under most judges, so I ended up in group rings quite a few times while finishing my dog’s AKC championship… but after titling my dog, I only showed again when enough people I liked were showing, I didn’t want or need the stress in my life of worrying about being out-handled by professionals instead of having fun with my dog and other dog lovers…

        Now I have a breed that I started with in UKC and have enjoyed it each and every time… I’m not all that interested in bringing that dog to an AKC show…

  • Diane B August 3, 2013 at 3:28 PM

    Interesting article, thank you!
    One observation about the comments on your article. I see a trend towards people feeling that the “atmosphere” at the UKC shows is more pleasing. There were comments implying that it is attractive because it was easier. I think this reflects a trend in our culture; it seems people view hearty competition in a negative way nowadays. When I started out I felt a sense of pride having just placed in big classes and difficult competition. The presence of “pros” and established breeder handlers pushed me to polish my grooming and handling skills. In the beginning I was happy to get any ribbon in a class. Now it seems that if exhibitors aren’t big winners immediately they look for an easier way or they walk away.

    • Beth Lloyd August 3, 2013 at 5:37 PM

      Just because we like the friendlier atmosphere of UKC doesn’t mean we do not win in AKC. Many of us do show in both and do have success as owner handlers in both.

  • C. Paul August 3, 2013 at 3:53 PM

    From all the above replies I see a common thread.
    Most people will agree that the big difference between AKC and UKC is this….

    *AKC is Business (pro handlers having to win to make money)
    *UKC is pleasure (owner handlers enjoying showing their beloved canines)

    Those of us showing UKC “want” to be there, those showing in AKC “have” to be there to earn a paycheck or are competing against some one who has to be there.

    Those of us showing in UKC enjoy talking to and being in the company of the other exhibitors.
    Those in AKC are paid to do a job, not to talk with people at the show.

    The choice is yours
    Business or Pleasure

  • Karla S. August 3, 2013 at 4:07 PM

    As an AKC conformation participant since 1989, I have to say I have only recently participated in UKC conformation shows – and I enjoy it a great deal. It is not at all about seeking out something that is “easier.” My dogs can, and do, compete in AKC conformation shows and finish titles there. I will continue to compete in AKC conformation shows because yes – those Ch. and GCh. titles are tough to get, and I like that. However, the UKC shows are FUN, relaxing, a great place to train new pups, and just an all-round good place to “recharge your batteries” as opposed to AKC shows. Any owner-handler stands a chance in the Groups, and in BIS. Is the win “the same” as winning a Group or BIS in an AKC all-breed show? Of course not. I LOVE to beat the handlers – that’s the challenge at an AKC event. But it is also a pleasure a) not to have to walk through clouds of chalk, hair-spray, and other grooming products to get to the ring (far less “over the top” grooming at UKC shows in my experience); b) to compete with other owner-handlers, whatever their degree of experience; and c) to compete in smaller shows with a less chaotic and more personal atmosphere. I just finished my first UKC Ch. (who is also an AKC Ch., fwiw) and plan to continue competing in BOTH venues – they are both of value to me, and both offer something to me and to my dogs that the other does not.

  • Kristi August 3, 2013 at 6:30 PM

    Diane B – At an AKC show I overheard a judge tell his steward that even though in our breed there were 2 owner handlers and 1 pro handler, that the Pro would win all the classes. He said she was the professional and deserved the wins because she did it for a living. THAT is only one of the reasons people prefer UKC. It isn’t “easier”. There are still great dogs. But in UKC our dogs are judged. Not the handler. We don’t have to fake a coat or chalk a dog so badly its a walking cloud. UKC is a much more even playing field and provides the hearty competition you claim we are running from. It’s the political bias and backstabbing nature AKC has that UKC does not. And yes, I show AKC and UKC. I have AKC GRCH and UKC GRCH. In AKC I hire professionals AND I owner handle. Bring on the competition. UKC or AKC.

  • Lynn August 3, 2013 at 10:28 PM

    Sorry but I found your article typical of someone approaching UKC with a pre-conception. Someone familiar with both AKC and UKC might have been a better choice to review this wonderful event with AKC and UKC shows together. Just for the record, I’ve been actively involved with AKC showing and dog clubs for 40 years and I’ve done rather well, if I do say so myself. About 15 years ago I fell into UKC by helping a friend with a breed that was ‘not-yet-recognized’ by AKC but was fully recognized by UKC. I found the UKC shows to be such a breath of fresh air that I UKC registered my dogs and began showing at the numerous UKC shows in California. For years now I, along with many others have been showing both AKC and UKC. Is one venue better than the other? Not really, they are different. Someone commented that UKC was easier for exhibitors who can’t win in the AKC ring. Sadly there are those who look down their nose at anything other than AKC. That’s their right and their loss. IMO they are missing the point. UKC offers things AKC does not and to breeds AKC doesn’t recognize. Or should I said, NOT YET. In recent years AKC has been following in UKC footsteps by adding things that UKC has long been doing. And adding breeds UKC has long recognized. Why? Well, anyone involved with AKC show-giving clubs knows that AKC is having ‘issues’ in today’s economy. Their entries are dropping as the cost of holding big AKC shows has risen. Entry and parking fees have gone up because the clubs are forced to pass it along to exhibitors. Then add to it the fact that with some breeds, you NEED a pro-handler to show your dog in the AKC ring. Deny it all you want but it’s a fact that AKC is ripe with ring politics. Are there politics in the UKC ring? Sadly you’ll find some degree of politics in every competitive venue or sport. But ring politics are not normal with UKC and that could be because the point system and venue itself is different. While I am very capable of ‘playing with the big boys’ in the AKC ring, like many others I’ve also become a supporter of UKC. AKC is a very business and pro-handler oriented venue. UKC is a family and owner/handler oriented venue. Yes, UKC shows are smaller, friendlier and more relaxed. Making UKC is an excellent place for a novice/beginner handler to start and hopefully move on to the AKC ring. UKC is also an excellent place to start a young dog/puppy before moving into the AKC ring. In the end, if you find no joy in showing your dog then why are you doing it? There is a place for both AKC and UKC. Neither is perfect. But both venues can help this sport and dog ownership in general. Anyone who will only look at one and insist theirs is the best or only way is missing the big picture. I hope the cooperation between the AKC and UKC clubs involved in this joint event continues. If one venue isn’t your cup or tea, then stay with the one that is. But as the old saying goes, “don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it”.

  • Dr. Kate Fulkerson August 4, 2013 at 5:50 PM

    Having just returned from a spree of 7 AKC conformation shows in two states, I am ready to return to the comfortable and fun UKC showing.

    The AKC shows I attended were crawling with professional handlers from distant states showing multiple dogs in multiple breeds. Though everyone paid for professional handlers, the overflow was managed by using assistants. Some of the handling was great. Some of it was terrible. Some of it was even abusive to the dog. Ruthless competition for money does not bring out the best in people.

    I like the sport of showing my own dogs. I show in performance sports as well as conformation. UKC supports the owner who wants to present a dog who is talented as well as beautiful.

  • Bo Bengtson August 5, 2013 at 6:39 PM

    I really appreciate all the comments, and can only hope that AKC is reading them as well. It’s truly sad that so many exhibitors obviously have had bad experiences at AKC show. I can only agree with Christi’s remarks above and hope you’ll give AKC shows another chance. Sure, there are rude people everywhere, including at AKC shows, but I honestly think most of us try to be welcoming and inclusive. It’s too bad that’s not always the case, even of the judges.

    There’s no question that UKC shows fill a need. If people enjoy them they will flourish, and it’s possible for them to coexist peacefully with AKC events. Personally I really enjoy the competition at AKC shows, and the million-dollar question is how to maintain a pleasant atmosphere in a very competitive endeavor.

    If you see a handler abusing a dog it’s your responsibility to report it to the superintendent at an AKC show. If you don’t it makes you a silent accessory to the abuse. Such behavior must not be tolerated anywhere, least of all at a dog show!

  • Bo Bengtson August 6, 2013 at 2:51 PM

    P.S. I should have added to my comments above that of course you CAN win big at AKC shows if you’re a really dedicated and talented owner-handler. This has been demonstrated many times in the past and will no doubt happen again. It’s not easy, the odds are stacked against you, and you have to be not just very good at what you do but also more motivated, competitive and energetic than most of us are… but it definitely can be done.

  • C. Paul August 7, 2013 at 5:11 PM

    Thank you Bo for your last comment. “you CAN win big at AKC shows if you’re a really dedicated and talented owner-handler……. the odds are stacked against you, and you have to be not just very good at what you do but also more motivated, competitive and energetic than most of us are…”
    I agree, and you pointed out what i have been saying all along…..
    But you forgot to add the following,
    You must be very thick skinned, have deep pockets, lots of time to spend training and grooming your canine as well as people to teach you the “tricks” of deception (applying wiggies and spray to poodles etc) to be able to compete in AKC.
    The above shows why after I showed my bitch in a few AKC shows, having one handler thank me for the points they were about to earn (before we even went into the ring), then having one judge indicate who his winner was BEFORE my bitch even did her go round, I choose to show UKC. At least in UKC I am respected by judge and competitor alike.

  • Dennis Blickenstaff
    Dennis Blickenstaff August 8, 2013 at 4:32 AM

    Mr. Bengtson,
    Thank you for your time and energy writing your review and much thanks to all the exhibitors who read, shared and reposted on multiple websites and Breed message boards.
    Hope to see you July 2014, same show site, same weekend and hosted by the same Clubs.
    Again … Thank You all
    Dennis Blickenstaff
    Gold Country Hounds & Hunters

  • Marguerite August 9, 2013 at 2:47 PM

    Mr. Bengtson,

    Thank you for the article and especially for your reasoned and courteous responses to the flood of comments.

    I had been doing performance events with a rescued rat terrier, and then came to conformation after I acquired a standard poodle puppy. My membership in a nearby UKC club led me to also be a chairman at several of our club’s UKC conformation shows. I’ll be the first to admit that good handling makes a difference, especially after a more experienced friend handled my dog to finish his championship and a Group 1 last month.

    But one thing that was only touched on in passing was the difference in standards between the two clubs, the importance of the dog’s ability to do his job, and the amount of time each judge spends assessing each dog. At one of our previous shows, one of the judges did not award a first place to any dog in the German Shepherd Dog class, because none measured up to UKC standards. I have also heard of “fat” Labradors losing to field-fit dogs because of the field dog’s better ability to do the job for which it was bred.

    As soon as my poodle finished, I cut off his modified (no hip pom-poms) Historically Correct Continental and I look forward to showing him in the Champion class in a shorter, easy-to-keep, and fully approved Sporting Clip. I expect the only time we’ll enter AKC events will be for obedience and rally–if I can get used to the idea that day-of-show entry is not available. :)

    With thanks,

  • Ashley Hammock August 23, 2013 at 1:44 AM

    I started out showing in AKC in the late 90’s as a Junior. I enjoyed the competition and prestige but hated the “life or death” mentality of some of the exhibitors have. In 2010, I imported my first Hamiltonstovare and quickly became frustrated with the process that the AKC requires what they call “new breeds” have to go through. The AKC is the ONLY registry that does not recognize the Hamiltonstovare. I spent countless man-hours and money to get the breed FSS recognized and keep it that way. When you are FSS, from my experience, you are treated like second class citizens and that you have to literally fight for just a piece of publicity let alone being able to compete fully at the same level as other breeds less popular in the world compared to my breed. I have attended the Meet the Breeds in New York since 2011, traveling hours, taking vacation time from work, and spending loads of money for travel expenses but the breed still isn’t listed on the AKC Meet the Breeds website nor have we ever seen one ounce of publicity (which is the only reason I go) by the AKC in support of my breed.
    However, in the UKC it is a totally different story, both of my Hamiltonstovare are competing regularly in the BIS rings with usually other AKC titled dogs. Plus the judges at UKC regularly consult with the breed standard and myself to further educate themselves on the breed. The judges that I know are both AKC and UKC judges are a mixed bag being that some are amazing but others judged my breed incorrectly and refused to take criticism when I pointed it out (mainly the tail, yes they are a scent hound and their tail should never be carried above the topline). When it comes to rare breeds, I show Hamiltonstovare and a Teddy Roosevelt Terrier, the UKC is miles ahead of the AKC. Some of the rare breed owners in UKC that I have talked said that even if they are eventually fully recognized by the AKC, they would still spend the majority of their time and money at UKC events. Take a look at the majority of the breeds newly recognized by the AKC and you’d be hard pressed to find them regularly competing at AKC events but they are still heavily active in UKC Events. I used to prefer the AKC above all others but after being treated like a second class citizen for years and fighting for an ounce of a piece of AKC world, the UKC wipes the floor with the AKC in terms of welcoming true All-breed competition at all level of competition.

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