Bo Bengtson At Large

Facts & Figures: AKC Ups and Downs

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A couple of readers have expressed surprise at some of the figures printed in this space over the past few months. Are there really so many thousands of AKC champions that the title is losing prestige? Are there too many shows, and are entries dropping so much that we should worry about some kind of dog show inflation?

As far back as I can recall the April issue of the AKC Gazette (and previously the AKC Awards) has been a veritable bible for anyone who’s searching for hard facts: endless pages of detailed data for every conceivable type of activity. It took a lot of time and almost boundless energy to go through it all, but these figures could provide a very good indication of where American dog shows were heading.

This year, for the first time, there were no stats in the April issue of the Gazette; none in later issues either. I was suspecting — unfairly, as it turns out — that perhaps the figures were so depressing that AKC simply decided not to print them, but what happened was simply that this information now appears on AKC’s website instead. How many fanciers have enough time and energy to study all this I do not know, but following are a few highlights of AKC’s 2008 dog show activities.

The number of AKC all-breed shows actually dropped a little, from 1,426 the previous year to 1,411 shows in 2008. The number of specialty shows increased, however, from 2,202 to 2,258, for a combined total of 3,792 shows in 2008 — 50 more than the year before. (If you say that this doesn’t quite add up you’re right: there were also 123 so-called “Limited Breed” shows, which I believe must mean Group shows, even though these are otherwise listed among the all-breed shows.)

If you play around with these figures a little you come up with some interesting data. There were, for instance, an average of three or four AKC all-breed shows held every day last year, and at least half a dozen specialty shows each day throughout the year. There were, again on the average, about 14 specialty shows per breed, although of course this figure varies greatly from breed to breed, some having about a hundred specialty shows in a year, others only one or two. (I counted 160 specialties for German Shepherd Dogs alone, but I might have missed some.)

The total number of dogs exhibited at all these shows dropped from just over 1.5 million in 2007 to 1,422,933 last year — a loss of more than 80,000. The Limited Breeds shows actually increased in size, but the specialty shows lost about 2,000 entries.

What this means, of course, is that the average all-breed shows are getting smaller: in 2007 such a show had 943 dogs in competition; last year this dropped to 894 dogs That, in turn, means an average entry of just five or six dogs per breed... although, of course, there is no such thing as an “average” breed, and most breeds in fact had either bigger or even smaller entries than that. Whether an average AKC all-breed show today provides meaningful competition in most breeds is a question I’ll leave for you to answer.

The biggest AKC dog show of 2008 was once again the Kennel Club of Palm Springs on Jan. 5, with a total of 3,074 dogs participating — still a drop of 300 dogs from the year before. (The 2009 show had 2,711 dogs in competition.) Most of the other top shows had similar figures to the year before: Dog Fanciers Association of Oregon, the Louisville and Evansville Kennel Clubs, for instance. The biggest increase was for Scottsdale Dog Fanciers Association, which moved from 136th place to 13th on the list with an increase of nearly 800 dogs, while on the other hand Harrisburg Kennel Club lost nearly 600 dogs and fell from 2nd to 11th spot.

The biggest specialty show of 2008 was, for the umpteenth year in a row, the Labrador Retriever Club of the Potomac, which had 818 dogs present and competing at their April specialty show. Since this isn’t even officially a parent club, the organizers obviously know a secret or two about attracting amazingly big entries. Following on their heels were the American Spaniel Club (710 dogs), the Golden Retriever Club of America (631), Poodle Club of America (631) and the American Shetland Sheepdog Association (625).

The number of new AKC conformation champions also dropped a little last year, from 21,443 in 2007 to 19,991 — but that’s still an average of 128 new champions per breed, or more than a dozen each month. The following breeds had the most champions: Dachshunds (650 of three varieties combined), Cocker Spaniels (421, three varieties), Chihuahuas (418, two varieties), Collies (347, two varieties), Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (292), Havanese and French Bulldogs (266 each), Australian Shepherds (263), Shetland Sheepdogs (261), Papillons (257), Pomeranians (256),  Poodles (447 Standards & Miniatures), Golden Retrievers and Boxers (244 each), Toy Poodles (242), Doberman Pinschers (239), Pugs (239), Great Danes (237), German Shepherd Dogs (231), Bulldogs (230), Yorkshire Terriers (224), Beagles (221, two varieties), Vizslas (215), Rottweilers (211), Siberian Huskies and Chinese Cresteds (202 each), Labrador Retrievers and Whippets (201 each).

Note that no Terrier breeds are on this list; Toys dominate with nine breeds.

These are the facts. How we respond to them depends on many things, but it doesn’t hurt to know more about the basic framework for this activity that we are all so deeply involved in.

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