Bo Bengtson At Large: "Grand Champions — and Others"

The competition for Best of Breed has become much stronger and more interesting because of the relatively new Grand Champion title.

By Bo Bengtson | August 1, 2012

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Say what you like about the Grand Champion title that AKC introduced two years ago, and a lot has been said, both for and against — but nobody can deny it is serving the purpose it was probably meant to. It’s not that most of us feel the title in itself is particularly meaningful (a regular champion title may be more difficult to get in some cases), but the fact that so many exhibitors eagerly try to “grand” their champions means that the number of specials shown has increased tremendously. The competition for Best of Breed has therefore become much stronger and more interesting than it used to be. That is certainly an important achievement in itself.

This isn’t just a ringside impression. In the first year alone, there were 40,000 more entries in the specials competition compared to the previous year, the equivalent of approximately $1.2 million in entry fees. Last year AKC issued 19,649 “regular” conformation champion titles and 6,767 Grand Championships, indicating that about one third of all champions continue to be campaigned to the Grand title.

Perhaps the fact that the bar for achieving the title was set rather low, while ridiculed by many, actually helped make it more popular and “attainable” for exhibitors who otherwise may not have a shot at greater glory. (Getting points even when you don’t win! Where else is that possible?) The fact that you can achieve different Grand Champion levels  — Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum — also means you stay motivated to show your champion for much longer than you otherwise would.

In fact, the great popularity of the Grand Champion title makes one wonder why AKC has not followed up with an offer of other, even more colorful, titles. For the purist, titles may not matter, but most of us happily count the number of champions we bred or that our dogs produced. Many American exhibitors, including those who are most frequently overlooked in the greater picture, even travel to FCI shows in Latin America or Europe for the express purpose of adding a long list of titles to their dogs’ names. Most of us don’t take all these championships too seriously, but it’s good fun and fills the clubs’ coffers with entry fees — so why doesn’t AKC introduce a follow-up that’s as popular as the Grand Champion title?

(At this point I can almost hear my more high-minded friends cringe with embarrassment; those with whom I’ve discussed how it’s the quality of the dog that matters, not how many titles and wins it has. However, difficult times require desperate measures, and getting more dogs in the ring really is important … so just deal with it, OK?)

Here are some suggestions. How about, for instance, a Junior Champion title? (You win, say, a dozen puppy classes and at least some championship points before the dog is 18 months of age.) Wouldn’t a Veteran Champion title be a good idea? (Several Veteran class wins would be required, one or two of them with at least a Select award.) A Multi Purpose Champion title could provide serious PR for our sport to the outside world by honoring dogs who gained not only a conformation championship but also, for example, an obedience or a performance degree (or both).

The exact requirements can be discussed later. What’s important is to give more exhibitors a reason to bring their dogs into competition more often, which in itself would help revitalize the sport.

Oh, the cost… Obviously AKC staff would have to spend money and time confirming these new titles, but I can’t see that anyone (myself included) would object to paying $25 or so to receive a handsome new champion certificate in the mail. AKC might even make a slight profit in the process.

Do I detect some interest?

 

Excerpt from the August 2012 issue of Dogs In Review magazine. Purchase the August 2012 digital back issue or subscribe to receive 12 months of Dogs In Review magazine.

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