How to Fix the Current Rankings System

Some experienced dog fanciers critique the current rankings system.

By Bo Bengtson | December 11, 2012

Everyone complains about the dog show rankings, but nobody is doing anything about them. That’s been the case for so long it’s easy to imagine they have to be the way they are. Pretty much anyone will tell you our current rankings systems have created a sport that’s dominated by a mindless race to the more shows the better, a competition where the little guy doesn’t stand a chance regardless of how good his dog is, where it often seems as if a dog’s ability to go to just a few more shows than the competitors ultimately determines who is No. 1 and who’s not.

Read about the current ranking systems and my comments at "The Rankings Systems: How to Level the Playing Field."

Here is a cross-section of experienced fanciers and their opinions and suggestions about how to change the rankings system. They provide some interesting new ideas.

 

Kim Booth

Kim Booth was raised in a dog show family, exhibited his first dog as a child in 1967 and has been a professional dog show photographer since 1978.

I believe our current ranking system contains a major flaw. It has a built-in advantage for dogs competing in larger entry Groups compared with dogs assigned to the smaller-volume entry Groups such as Terrier or Non-Sporting. These lower-volume entry Groups, though consistently smaller, are rarely lesser in quality. Having to win two or three smaller Groups that your dog is eligible for, compared to your competition winning one larger group that you are not able to compete in week after week, is not a level playing field.

A possibility to equal this would be to change from a point per dog system to a system that provides points per win/placement. Say as an example:

Best in Show 200 pts
Group 1st 40 pts
Group 2nd 30 pts
Group 3rd 20 pts
Group 4th 10 pts

This point award amount could be adjusted as the size of the overall entry of a show was determined. Shows with 1,000 dogs and below could be at this level, while larger shows with 2,000, 3,000 or 4,000 dogs could award a higher point level — but the points would remain equal regardless of which Group you were in.

Percentage Rankings: This type of system could work, but only if entry at a minimum and maximum number of shows was required. The number could be from the dog’s first entry point on, or left to the owner’s decision as to which shows out of the year would be included.

Limited Number of Results Rankings: I don’t really like this system, as I believe it would encourage quality exhibits to be withdrawn from competition to retain a point advantage. This would deny the fancy the pleasure of seeing them!

Top Show Rankings: This system would be very bad for clubs that were not considered "top” shows. The idea could work if incorporated into a system that rewarded key shows with a higher point level than your regular show.

Specials Defeated Rankings: In an overall ranking system I do not believe that specials should be counted any differently than class entries. Often the class entry quality can equal or exceed that of the specials entry.

Regional Rankings: A regional ranking system could be a lot of fun to follow and would encourage local showing. I do not think any limitation should be put on how many regions one could compete in. It would be very entertaining to see how many different regions one dog could retain a top ranking in!

 

Paula Pascoe

Breeder/owner-handler of the Lehigh Scottish Deerhounds, which have won numerous BIS at both national specialties and all-breed shows. Attends approximately 35 shows per year.

My thinking mirrors yours, and my reactions are virtually the same as your own.

Percentage Rankings: You’re right, the percentage thing would not work.

Limited Number of Results Rankings: The limited number of shows thing is, of course, what they do in some other countries, e.g. Sweden. It has some potential, but you would have to limit it to far fewer than 50 shows for it to make the slightest difference to somebody like me. And obviously the handlers would hate it.

Top Show Rankings: The top shows idea is interesting, but those would be so monopolized by the campaigners and handlers that somebody like me would have NO chance at such shows. It’s bad enough already and this would make it worse, I think, for an owner-handler with a dog who is not shown every weekend, etc.

Specials Defeated Rankings: The number of specials defeated is becoming pretty meaningless, I think, especially now with the Grand Champions — every dog who finishes is now getting the "Grand” also. That worked out very well for AKC — exactly what they had hoped. So there are a lot of "specials” in the ring now who are not at all special. And as you say, counting them would be incredibly difficult.

Regional Rankings: The regional ranking idea is interesting! Your comments are spot on: it would be in addition to the nationwide rankings. I can’t think it would be that difficult for AKC to add a program to their computer system that would separate shows into the various regions and rank dogs that way, as you suggest. I don’t think that should be a big problem. This idea is good and merits more contemplation, I think.

 

William P. Shelton

Past professional handler, currently AKC judge approved for the Hound and Working Groups. Co-breeder of the Coventry Pembroke Welsh Corgis, winners of a record number of BIS over the past decade, including two Group 1sts at Westminster.

I basically agree with Bo Bengtson on each point. I do believe the regional approach would be best overall as it gives boundaries and an individual with more limited resources would hopefully still be able to compete for best regionally. I also like limiting the number of shows, as this would not just make it a marathon and would allow individuals to be a top dog without having to go to every little show across a region just to accumulate points. Both would be good at the same time: regional boundaries with a limitation on the number of shows. A system like this would be different and wouldn’t feed into flying everywhere every weekend. What a relief I think this would be for human and canine.

 

MICHAEL H. FAULKNER

Artist, author, breeder of Golden Retrievers and AKC judge. Sporting Dog specialist and lifelong student of the sport of purebred dogs.

I like the idea of a regional rating system; however, the logistics would be a bit crazy to implement. What about dogs bred and owned in California and shown in the East? [The idea is meant to be based on the region where the show is held, not where the dog is from, the same way as AKC’s current champion point regional system. — Ed.]

How about setting criteria using only points awarded by an individual judge one time? You can show your dog as many times as you would like under the same judge, but only one Breed, one Group and one Best in Show would count under a particular judge. This would level the playing field quickly.

So, if one particular judge awarded the same dog five Best in Shows, only one would count toward the rating system. If a dog wins the Breed and Group under a judge who has previously awarded it a Breed and Group and it happens to win Best in Show under a new judge, only the points from the other six Group winners would count in the total, as the Breed and Group judge’s opinion would be a repeat evaluation.

Also, if a dog wins the Group under a new judge and wins a repeat BIS, only the Breed and Group points would count. Am I making sense? I know this sounds a bit bizarre, but it sure would level the playing field. Also, you could apply the regional competition concept along with the one judge/one award. This would allow for some exciting end-of-the-year stuff.

 

Michael & Cathy Dugan

Breeders of the top-winning Aviator Portuguese Water Dogs, including the 2011 Westminster KC Group winner. Cathy Dugan is also an AKC judge for several Working breeds.

We have been discussing this topic with other owners for quite a while. We have struggled with a solution and can’t even agree totally.

To be candid, we personally have no problem with the current system of ranking dogs. We’ve used the system well to produce several Top 10 dogs. But does the system really serve all dog owners?

Local kennel clubs create "show clusters” as a way of spreading expenses and creating economies of scale. By definition, however, clusters favor professional handlers and those who can afford to compete for four to five days. For the average owner, committing to a long show and the expense that comes with it is difficult, if not impossible.

In AKC competition today, professional handlers and owner-breeders willing to spend major bucks to win have changed the way dog shows operate. The average dog owner who wants to win an AKC championship (and perhaps more) has been pushed out of the system.

The MB-F survey last year for 2008 to 2009 showed decisively that non-handler dogs do well at the class and Best of Breed level, but once you look at Group wins and Best in Shows, the game changed completely. Today, it is very rare for a dog to place in a Group, win a Best in Show, or rank in the Top 20 of a breed without being shown by a professional handler.

How do we level the playing field? Here’s a suggestion.

Separate competitions where professional handlers dominate from competitions where owners have a legitimate chance of winning. We’ve already done that somewhat with Bred by Exhibitor, American Bred and several other designations we truly don’t understand. The UKC has already adopted a system with no professional handlers to attract owners who don’t want to mess with the AKC.

In a show with professionals versus owner-handlers, the new owner could compete against other owner-handlers and have a chance to win Best of Breed, Group and Best in Show. To keep out the "ringers” we would track the wins of an owner and, after a designated number of wins, promote them to the professional class of competition. We all know that many breeder-owners are virtually professional handlers because of their experience.

Owners would still have the option of competing in the professional classes. There’s no stopping ego. There would be two ranking systems: professional and owner-handler. At the end of the year there would be a No. 1 dog in each category. As before, competitions like Westminster and AKC/Eukanuba would invite the top five dogs in each division. That would add some new excitement, as we see the No. 1 dog from the owner-handler class compete against the big boys; everyone likes the underdog.

The owner-handler class competition would also provide training ground for prospective judges to get to their approved status sooner. Today, it is very difficult for a provisional judge to get assignments because multiple-Group judges dominate the assignments.

Instead of them waiting for years to get enough shows to be approved by the AKC, the owner-handler division would accelerate the march to judge professional shows. Sports already do this. To become an NBA referee, a referee has to work a lot of high school and college games to get to the big leagues. The umpires who work the World Series are not rookies.

The future of the business of dogs is bright. Americans spend nearly $50 billion a year on their pets. The future of purebred dogs and all of the businesses that depend on that industry is problematical, however.

For those of us who believe that purebred dogs are essential to the sport and advancement of canines in general, finding a way to enhance and modify how we do business is critical to our survival. Creating a level playing field for competition is simply a good place to start this process.


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