The Rise and Fall of the AKC Grand Champion Program

Is the American Kennel Club's Grand Champion program affecting the purebred dog fancy? From Dogs in Review, July 2011

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Is it the animals who competed strongly for the top awards and just lost out? Is it animals who, in my opinion, are in the top 5, 10 or 20 percent of quality for the breed? Is it just the next best champion even if he or she is in no way competitive with the winners? You decide, because I don’t think anyone at AKC is telling.  

Of course, the skeptical side of me senses this was quickly implemented to increase entries at dog shows, which means money. But I am choosing to ignore that justification, because that would be a wholly inappropriate reason to ever institute advanced competition. So we have this title but no one seems terribly clear about what it’s for or what it represents.

In my observations, the Grand Champion title is what I call the “I showed up” title. Just as many completely undeserving and mediocre dogs are gaining “Grand” points as those whom it was meant to serve. It’s generating money.

What are the problems with the current execution? First of all, unless the specials class is fairly large, many times the Select winners basically defeated no one. Even when class winners defeat them the specials can still win Grand points.

If there are four specials, two of each sex, all four will most likely go home with a tasteful parting gift of Grand points. In short, in the current design, the Grand Champion effectively means nothing. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest a mediocre dog could gain its Grand title with greater ease than it got its regular championship title

One of the biggest problems with the present system is that control on quality is not based on competition. Although judges always have the prerogative to withhold any ribbon, most will not do so and the majority of exhibitors expect to show their dog and receive an award if competition allows. So to expect the quality of Grands to be controlled by judges is not the outcome that exhibitors nor, I suspect, AKC would wish to see.

With all that criticism meted out, I still am a strong advocate of the concept. We should have higher-level champions who can bear titles which represent their worth. In cats, they have absolutely met this desire. It translates into many useful benefits which can truly improve the quality of dogs.

For instance, knowing the quality level required to reach a Grand title, cat breeders can price their cats and grade their stock in accordance with what the buyer truly desires. If you want top-quality stock, you inquire about “grand-able” kittens, and there is no misunderstanding between buyer and seller as to what this means. 

Finally, how can the current AKC program be fixed to yield the desired result? I would suggest that class animals be allowed to compete for the Select awards. A champion seeking Grand status must be good enough to actually beat the point winners.

There is no reason not to allow class animals to acquire both championship points and Grand points, and because one is built upon the other, a class exhibit would always be a champion before it could qualify as a Grand Champion.

I feel we cannot expect judges to withhold the award as a control device on the quality of the Grands. I do believe it should be a meaningful intra-breed recognition. And I do believe its correct execution could have a very measurable impact on the quality of purebred dogs

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Vonne   Phoenix, Arizona

3/3/2014 8:33:40 PM

I see AKC shows are decreasing in numbers because as owner/handlers you have a little chance to finish a dog. I've seen people who had the same dog out for a year and never got a point but the minute the put a well known handler, they finish the dog in a few months. It's quite obvious and becomes frustrating to see a substandard animal win just because the owner uses a handler or because they can afford to campaign the dog. When AKC changes to owner/handler only shows, they will start really making money. Problem is many judges will never put up a dog if it is not with a professional handler.

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J.   Newport, RI

7/29/2011 12:41:24 PM

I like the "I showed up" concept, because that's all that title is to me. Someone has the money to keep showing their champion long enough for the Grand Champion title. It means nothing to me, so neither of my dogs will compete for it. IF the title required a title at the other end, JH, CD, etc, THEN it might mean something. Right now, every dog out there it seems is a grand champion, so big deal.

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Andrea   Newport Beach, CA

7/28/2011 9:15:48 AM

Great article, Jon. I, also, feel the title of Grand Champion should be for the top percentage in a breed. I will withhold if I don't feel the quality is there for a Select. I haven't so far though. And I, also, have shown cats for many years, as maybe you know. Andrea

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