Bo Bengtson At Large | A Unique World Event

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Let’s not beat about the bush: the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship is a terrific addition to the world’s dog show calendar. Sure, a few things need to be smoothed out, but the 8th annual event, held in Long Beach, Calif., Dec. 13-14, offered such a wealth of features not seen at other AKC shows — or, for that matter, anywhere else — that anyone who cares about our sport must feel heartened by such an embarrassment of riches.

Following are some of the features:

•  Entry is limited to the top 25 dogs in each breed, plus a few others (BIS and National SBIS winners, dogs that finished entirely from the BBE class). This means the total entry is not huge — 2,314 dogs this year — but on the other hand all the dogs you see are worth watching.

•  The top five dogs in each breed from foreign countries are also eligible to enter, adding the international flavor so often missing from our American shows. (Unfortunately, most of the foreign exhibitors don’t know they are eligible, because almost no foreign clubs maintain “Top 10” lists, as AKC somewhat naively assumes. This can and must be fixed.)

In breeds that had foreign competition the visitors often did well. If you didn’t know it already, for example, Toy Poodles from Asia and Dobermans from Latin America can easily hold their own with (or defeat) ours.

•  The prize money is huge and well distributed. Of the $225,000 total, a big chunk goes to BIS ($50,000), but the rest trickles down to Group winners, placements, BOB and even BOS ($100 each). It is difficult to argue with such generosity.

•  In each breed a “Best Bred-by-Exhibitor” is selected to compete in separate Group and BIS finals, with $15,000 going to the winner of “Best BBE in Show.” Where else are breeder-handlers singled out for such attention?

•  Breeders are further honored in the selection of seven “Breeder of the Year” finalists (one for each AKC Group), who are announced before the show and invited into the BIS ring for the announcement of the winner.

•  The wonderful “Eukanuba World Challenge” provides a unique microcosm of the world’s top show dogs. One dog from each of 52 countries was invited (with two human companions) to come to Long Beach, all expenses courtesy of Eukanuba, to compete in four semi-finals, with the top three from each section going on to the finale. The parade of people and dogs (with flags of all nations) had something almost Olympic to it... Seldom have I heard such enthusiasm at ringside — and who could ever have imagined that an American dog show would be able to provide such a unique display of international show dogs?

•  “Meet the Breeds” is one of the best new features in years and ought to be compulsory in some form at all shows. The reason most people go to dog shows is to learn about the different breeds, and this is much better done in a booth with welcoming people and dogs than at ringside with nervous exhibitors. The throngs of visitors stopping by sent a clear message that this type of information is badly needed.

•  The finales of the AKC National Agility and Obedience championships were held in conjunction with the show, attracting nearly 600 additional entries and, as usual, enthusiastic ringside support.

In the early days many of us were put off by AKC’s overblown hype for what seemed to be just a Westminster knock-off. Now this show can stand on its own and provides an event that’s so different from Westminster that it’s not competition so much as a West Coast counterpart.

So what’s not to like? Well, the catalog falls apart, the selection of the foreign top dogs is sometimes questionable, there are the usual quibbles about who’s judging what breeds (especially in regards to overseas judges), it’s too crowded on the floor most of the day yet too empty in the stands during late-night judging. Most importantly, the vast main hall was virtually vacant during the prime hours between 3 and 7 p.m. Obviously some activities to entertain the public need to be provided at this time.

This year’s AKC/Eukanuba will be open to ALL purebred dogs. It could become the big, popular American dog show we’ve waited for so long. I can’t wait to be there!

For a run-down of who won what, see the report and photos in this issue.

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