AKC/Eukanuba National Championship 2009: A Show of Plenty!

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There are more than 1,400 AKC all-breed dog shows held every year in the US, most of them by definition pretty average events, so those of us who really love dog shows must applaud the American Kennel Club for once a year going to tremendous efforts to put on a truly spectacular event. It’s not really “The Greatest Show in the Universe,” as is sometimes claimed, probably not even the greatest dog show in the world: a few people involved in the February event at Madison Square Garden may object to such a claim, and the organizers of Crufts and the FCI World Show might also consider the PR a bit overblown.

However, let’s face it: although AKC/Eukanuba can’t claim the long pedigree of Westminster or Crufts, or the size of Crufts or the World Show, somehow the AKC has in just a few years managed to fashion AKC/Eukanuba into one of the dog world’s best known and most innovative events. They deserve credit for that, and Eukanuba should have our collective thanks for supporting the show in a manner that can only be described as spectacular. There are impressive money prizes for the winners, from $50,000 for Best in Show all the way down to $200 for Best Bred-by-Exhibitor in each breed and $100 for Best of Opposite Sex. There’s an impressive display of top dogs invited from around the world. What’s the cost of bringing over dogs and handlers from 41 countries — including some as distant as South Africa, China, Argentina, Russia, Australia and New Zealand — and putting them all up in a hotel for several days? It boggles the mind.

The fact is, of course, that AKC/Eukanuba is nothing like Westminster, Crufts, the World Show or any other dog event you’ve ever been to. Certainly the organizers have “borrowed” a few features from each; that’s natural and even in some ways commendable. I suppose a sense of rivalry, with Westminster especially, is unavoidable but it’s unfortunate. (Is it really necessary, for instance, to air the TV production of AKC/Eukanuba on Animal Planet on Feb. 6 — a week before Westminster?)

Can any other dog show claim to have all the features that AKC/Eukanuba offers? I doubt it. It’s not just the prize money and World Challenge contestants; it’s also the Bred-by-Exhibitor competition (which goes all the way up to Best BBE in Show), the many foreign judges and the run-up to the big event, consisting of several other all-breed shows in the same location during the days preceding AKC/Eukanuba. There are obedience and agility trials, the wonderful “Meet the Breeds” feature (which ought to be obligatory at every AKC show, now that benched shows have all but disappeared); there’s the Junior Showmanship finale; and there are ceremonies highlighting both the ACE and the Breeder of the Year awards. To top it all off there were demonstrations of the Canine Good Citizen test, rally, obedience, service dogs, flyball, police dogs, carting and herding... I can’t imagine a better place for a novice dog lover to learn more about dogs and all kinds of dog activities.

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