Everyone is probably familiar with the huge AKC Westminster Dog Show, which is televised every year in New York. The glitz and glamour surrounding that dog show is an amazing thing to see, and even veteran exhibitors love watching.
Seasoned dog show exhibitors will have their favorite clubs and venues they prefer to show. While they may all dream of being invited to Westminster one day, some may not like the American Kennel Club shows. They may prefer the more laid-back style of the United Kennel Club or even the International All Breed Canine Association of America shows.
Conformation vs. Performance
Everyone is familiar with the beauty pageants of the dog world. What they may not know is these are called conformation dog shows. It takes a lot of prepping, training, and conditioning to get your dog ready for conformation shows.
Before deciding to dive into the world of conformation dog shows, you should evaluate your dog’s potential. Check with your dog’s breeder to see if they feel your dog can compete and have the correct registration type for competition. Learn how dogs are judged at dog shows and go watch a show in person before you enter a competition.
There is a whole other part of the dog show world many may not be as familiar with. Performance events are fast-paced and exhilarating to watch. Dogs compete in barn hunts, agility, rally, trick dog, dock diving, weight pull, lure coursing, and so much more. Performance events showcase dogs doing the work they were bred to do and then some. Training for performance events is a great way to exercise your dog.
AKC Dog Shows: Older May Not Always Be Better
The American Kennel Club (AKC) began in 1884 when the first meeting took place in Philadelphia. The by-laws and constitution for the club were drafted, and the American Kennel Club was born. They hosted their first dog show that same year.
While AKC shows are the oldest dog shows in the United States, they have also earned a reputation for being unaccepting of newcomers. Professional handlers, breeder judges, and unsportsmanlike conduct in many breeds have turned people away from AKC shows.
An AKC championship is still a prestigious accomplishment. Many people are dedicated to participating in only AKC shows. However, several other exhibitors have discovered different clubs offering more laid-back dog shows where they can enjoy their dogs and their fellow exhibitors.
UKC Dog Shows: Total Dog Contenders
The United Kennel Club (UKC) was created in 1898 as a club that catered more to the performance side of dog shows. UKC shows have evolved through the years to include several performance events and conformation shows. The club promotes family-friendly fun, and children are encouraged to participate in all parts of their shows.
Offering Total Dog and Total Junior awards for those participating in both conformation and performance events, UKC fosters a positive atmosphere for people wanting to be involved in dog sports. The general atmosphere at UKC shows is more laid-back than their AKC counterparts. Families, especially with younger children, seem to find UKC shows more enjoyable.
Performance events, including obedience, agility, and lure coursing, are a big part of UKC shows. Entry fees for UKC shows are comparable to AKC shows, however, UKC does give price breaks if you enter an entire weekend cluster. Many newcomers prefer to start at UKC shows rather than diving into fast-paced AKC shows.
IABCA Dog Shows: New Kid on the Block
The International All Breed Canine Association (IABCA) has been in existence since 1989. Boasting European-style dog shows, the club has gained popularity in recent years as an alternative to AKC and UKC shows. You do need plenty of patience when planning on showing at an IABCA show. Two shows are held each day of the show weekend, and their schedules are always running behind.
The IABCA dog shows are also one of the most expensive to enter, and your dog must be registered with the club within 30 days of showing, or you will lose any points earned. There are also title fees for any titles your dog does earn, unlike AKC and UKC, which mail out titles earned for free.
Expensive entry fees and other extra charges aside, the laid-back atmosphere is great for beginners. After your dog has been judged, you receive a written critique and can speak with the judge. Many judges will give handling tips and are happy to tell you what they liked and did not like about your dog.
Best Shows for Newbies and Families
While AKC dog shows are still considered the most prestigious, for newbies and families, they may not be the best place to start. Families with younger children will probably find UKC shows more to their liking, even though there are generally two shows per day, they move along quickly, and you are not waiting around a long time for ring times and other events.
There are several terrific events for junior handlers at UKC events. AKC also has a junior handling program that encourages young children to step into the ring. IABCA does lack a solid junior handling program, offering junior handling competition only one day each event weekend.
For people not sure if they want to show conformation or want to try some of the breed-specific dog sports events, UKC is ideal. They are extremely welcoming and will even help you learn the ropes. Other exhibitors encourage you along the way and cheer you on.
Several people choose to show their dogs with all three clubs, each one for different reasons. With several events hosted each year throughout the United States, you can pick your favorite club or dabble in each one until you are comfortable in the ring with your dog. You will gain valuable experience every time you step into the show ring or participate in a dog sport.