At Large: Dog Show Entries: Up or Down?

Where is the future of dog shows headed?

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Are dog shows getting bigger or are they not? A few shows have had considerably higher entries this year than the last, but it also seems we’ve never had so many small all-breed shows before, even in relatively well-populated areas. Some of them had just 300 or 400 dogs entered — barely enough for more than two or three dogs per breed.

The general consensus seems to be that the sport of showing purebred dogs is heading for a crisis. AKC registrations keep falling year after year, seemingly with no end in sight, and although registrations and shows are not necessarily closely inter-dependent, a lot of people worry that dog show entries in general may also drop off. For the record, the biggest AKC show held since 1986 (when I started keeping records) was Louisville KC in 1994 with 4,378 dogs in competition. No shows in the US are as big as that these days: Louisville was down to 2,971 dogs last year, and the biggest show in 2009, AKC/Eukanuba in Long Beach, had 3,313 dogs in competition.

It is therefore heartening to see that both all-breed and specialty shows are credited with high figures in the official “American Kennel Club Report 2009” — over 1.5 million entries at all-breed shows, almost 145,000 at specialty shows last year. That’s an increase of almost a quarter million all-breed entries from 2008, compared to what’s been reported in AKC Awards in previous years! There were also more shows held than in the previous year, but the figures still average out to a respectable all-breed entry (979 dogs per show), with 63 dogs at an average specialty.

Other AKC sources show different figures, however. According to records published on the AKC website there were “only” about 1.2 million all-breed entries in 2009 and less than 128,000 at specialties. I suspect that the higher figure may indicate number of dogs entered, the lower how many actually were shown after absentees were deleted, but it could also have to do with the fact that AKC statisticians finally recognized that Group shows (those limited to any one of the seven AKC Variety Groups) should not be lumped in with all-breed shows, as they were in the past. Until a couple of years ago both the decline in “all-breed” entries and the increase in the total number of shows could at least partially be explained by a large number of new Group shows that were counted as all-breed events by AKC and therefore dragged down the year-end totals. Of course a Group show (the Montgomery County Terrier extravaganza excepted) can seldom be as big as a regular all-breed show.

For the record, 125 Group shows were held in 2009 (an increase of about 25% since 2005) with a total of 31,372 entries.

Since the numbers are contradictory, I did my own research, trying to find out if we’re heading up or down. I simply added entries for shows reported in DIR’s “Show Scene” (which in turn come from AKC records) and compared the totals for the first six months of 2009 and 2010.

The result indicates that we really may have more and smaller shows than ever before. According to my calculations 676 AKC all-breed shows were held in the first half of 2009 (two were cancelled due to the weather) with a total of 725,438 entries. The equivalent for the same time period this year was 697 shows (plus one cancelled) with a total of 699,605 entries — so nearly 26,000 fewer entries, in spite of the fact that there were 21 more shows.

The biggest show so far this year was Evansville KC in Louisville with 3,403 dogs entered. (The smallest two, Valley Isle KC of Maui on May 1 and 2, had 76 and 75 dogs entered, respectively — perhaps the smallest AKC all-breed shows ever?) The busiest period by far was Memorial Day weekend, with 52,669 entries at 48 shows around the country over five days. Exactly how many dogs make up all those entries is not known, but it’s probably fair to say that at least 15,000 individual dogs may be exhibited across the US on a randomly selected show day.

Do we have too many shows? Would a focus on fewer, bigger and better shows help the sport in the long run? Or should we just continue to hold more shows? Write to bobengtson@impulse.net and let us know what you think. I look forward to hearing from you.


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Michele   Pembroke Pines, Florida

11/23/2013 8:31:33 PM

We do NOT have too many shows. Yes, the number of entries per show (Florida) have dropped tremendously over the last few years. I noticed one show in particular in West Palm Beach, which usually has over 1200 entries, had only 400 the last few shows...I am guessing the main cause is the crappy economy. People do not have the disposable income they once did. Show people will tell you that their puppy sales are down too. Another contributing factor is the typical breeder/owner/handler is tired of throwing good money after bad to try and compete against professional handlers that are winning politically. It gets old after a while. I think once money starts flowing again people will get back out there.

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