It’s been my goal since beginning my blog, Dog Show Poop, to get out around the country to see the country’s best dogs, and meet and learn from the country’s most knowledgeable dog folk. I have been focusing on the “marquee shows.” I define marquee shows as those which historically draw the nation’s top dogs year after year. Sometimes the draw is based on sheer numbers, and sometimes the draw is based on prestige. Today I want to focus on the two most prestigious events in the U.S.
Earlier this month, AKC announced that the 2012 December’s AKC/Eukanuba National Championship show will include class dogs. This came a couple of months after the Westminster Kennel Club announced that its 2013 show would take entries from class dogs that had already been awarded a major toward their championship. I have to admit that my first reactions to these announcements were negative. I am not a big fan of change. After all, I have served the same menu at Thanksgiving for over 30 years, have the complete set of “The Thin Man” on DVD, and won’t drink a cocktail that didn’t exist in 1965.
My objection to the Westminster changes was not because of the proposed admission of class dogs. That was not a departure from tradition, but a return to it. Westminster used to allow class dogs. I showed one of my Maltese, Bar-None the Pooh Bear, in the Open Dog class at the 100th anniversary show in 1976. My initial objection was the split venue with all the benching and breed judging to be done at Piers 92/94 on the Hudson at 52nd Street and the group and Best In Show judging at the original Madison Square Garden site.
As I have written before, any inconvenience experienced moving from the piers to the Garden will be more than offset by the roomier and far more pleasant spaces at the piers. Both exhibitors and spectators will benefit immensely. The big payoff comes in the increased entry with a new limit of 3,200 dogs. More exhibitors will get to experience the thrill of showing at Westminster, and there will be more dogs for the public to drool over. I am now a convert.
For the past couple of years, I have been beating the drum for the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship. At just a decade old, the AENC can’t boast the tradition of Westminster’s 137 years of glamour, but it has some distinct advantages over its older sister. First, the return to Orlando, FL, was a stroke of genius. Orlando is far easier to get to for most exhibitors and, as America’s number one tourist destination, much more spectator-friendly. The venue, the Orange County Convention Center, is as good as it gets in the dog world, easily accommodating multiple competitions and exhibits. No other location in the U.S. offers as many options in lodging, dining & entertainment. Then there’s the prize money. No other dog show comes close. The prize money, three huge all-breed warmups & the addition of class competition should make this the largest dog show weekend in the U.S.
The question I initially had was what happens to the exclusivity of the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship? As it was elegantly explained to me, the focus is on inclusiveness. The AENC offers the public and fanciers the chance to see multiple AKC disciplines under one roof. In addition to the country’s largest conformation show, there are the AKC Agility Invitational and National Obedience Invitational, the Bred-By Exhibitor competition, the Eukanuba World Challenge, AKC Meet the Breeds and the Eukanuba Breeders Stakes. The addition of class dogs simply allows more people to participate. I like that. I will be in Orlando in December. I hope you will be too. And that’s today’s Back Story.