If you’re a dog owner, you’ve likely heard of the American Kennel Club (AKC). It’s a prestigious organization that regulates and registers purebred dogs in the United States. The AKC is also dedicated to promoting the health, and well-being of dogs and responsible dog ownership. One of the ways they do this is by holding dog shows (also known as a conformation show or breed show) where purebred dogs compete for points to earn the title of AKC Champion.
Our golden retriever, KENZO, earned his AKC Champion. In this article, we’ll share his exceptional journey to becoming an AKC Champion, explore the dog show requirements for achieving such a prestigious title.
Understanding the American Kennel Club (AKC)
What is the American Kennel Club (AKC)?
The American Kennel Club, or AKC, is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1884.
The organization’s primary goal is maintaining breed standards and promoting the welfare of purebred dogs in the United States.
The AKC sets breed standards, which describe the ideal characteristics and appearance of each breed and offers educational resources for dog owners and breeders.
AKC also provides a range of services for dog owners and breeders, including breed registration, pedigree information, and events such as dog shows and trials.
What Does It Mean If Your Dog Is AKC Registered?
Having an AKC registration for your dog means that the dog’s parentage is known and documented. The AKC keeps a record of purebred dogs in their registry, which contains important details; such as the dog’s lineage, birthdate, and other relevant information.
Lastly, when your dog is registered with the AKC, it receives a unique registration number and certificate.
A reputable and responsible breeder registers their litter with the AKC. From our experience, our breeder did all the registration with our golden retriever puppy, KENZO.
For breeders, having an AKC registration for their dogs can be important for maintaining the integrity of the breed. AKC registration ensures that a dog’s pedigree is properly documented as well as that the dog conforms to specific breed standards, which can be crucial in preventing inbreeding and preserving genetic diversity within the breed.
In addition, having AKC registration can increase the value of a dog. For instance, when a breeder has a litter of puppies that are all registered with the AKC, potential buyers are more likely to pay a higher price for a puppy that comes with a documented pedigree and certification of breed authenticity.
Overall, AKC registration is a method to uphold the purity and quality of purebred dogs. This can be crucial for owners and especially for breeders who aim to preserve the standards and characteristics of a specific breed.
American Kennel Club
We’re more than champion dogs.
We’re the dog champion.
How It Started For Us …
On November 9, 2019, when Koru Bear celebrated his 3rd birthday, we planned on getting a second dog as his companion. We started our search, filled out several puppy applications from reputable AKC golden retriever breeders, and were placed on a long waiting list.
In late August 2020, we were introduced to our breeder, Julie Scopazzi from CaliGold Retrievers, a small AKC golden retriever breeder from Northern California who is also a member of the Golden Retriever Club of America (GRCA) and the NorCal Golden Retriever Club that follows additional breeding guidelines.
Our application was accepted after completing the puppy questionnaire, as well as several phone and facetime conversations. Then, on October 2020, we were placed on the list for a male puppy.
Our pup KENZO was born on December 9, 2020. Due to the state of the country, we weren’t able to visit the litter but saw them via Zoom calls.
When the pups were seven weeks old, our breeder notified us that one of the male puppies was potentially the “pick of the litter” (pick show dog). It was our pup KENZO! We agreed that our breeder or professional handler would show him at no cost to us except for taking him to the show. Also, we agreed and signed a contract for co-ownerships.
KENZO was evaluated at six months and when he turned one year old by our breeder and a professional handler. KENZO did not have any show dog training, just had basic puppy obedience classes.
In February 2022, Kenzo attended his first 3-day dog show at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, San Diego, put on by the Silver Bay Kennel Club. On the first day, KENZO placed fourth, handled by a best junior handler (our breeder’s daughter). On the 2nd and 3rd days, KENZO placed first, handled by a professional handler. From the show results, our breeder decided for KENZO to proceed; continue to attend dog shows to attain his AKC Champion title.
Why do dog breeders show their dogs?
Dog breeders show their dogs for a variety of reasons, including promoting their breeding program, evaluating the quality of their dogs, and gaining recognition for their breeding achievements.
By participating in dog shows, breeders have the opportunity to showcase their dogs to judges and other breeders, as well as to the general public.
Dog shows offer breeders the chance to gain recognition for their breeding achievements, such as producing champion dogs. This recognition can be a source of pride and can help to establish a breeder’s reputation within the dog breeding community.
What Is an AKC Champion Dog?
A dog recognized as an AKC champion is a purebred that has accumulated 15 points with two major wins under two different judges (a major win is worth three, four, or five points) through successful participation in conformation shows, thereby earning the distinguished title of Champion of Record from the AKC.
When a dog achieves the status of Champion, it is granted the privilege of adding the prefix “CH” to its name.
AKC will also provide you with a certificate after your dog attains an AKC Champion title.
How long does it take for a dog to be an AKC Champion?
The amount of time it takes to earn an AKC Champion varies depending on the show, the judge, and your dog. It can take anywhere from a few months or years. We were told that a dog has two years to finish.
From our experience, KENZO achieved his AKC Champion within a year. He basically attended a monthly show (3 or 2-day shows). He always placed in his class and achieved minor points very quickly. There were months he did not attend any dog show, especially towards the end since he only needed to attend a major show.
KENZO won and finished big. He achieved his AKC Champion on March 2, 2023, at the Golden Retriever Club of America Specialty show held in Phoenix, AZ.
How Does a Dog Become AKC Champion?
For a dog to attain AKC Champion status, it needs to fulfill specific eligibility requirements and exhibit exceptional performance in conformation shows.
Eligibility Requirements To Be An AKC Champion
To become an AKC champion, the initial prerequisites include the breed being recognized by the AKC, the dog being of purebred lineage, and its registration with the AKC.
Also, as stated by their breed’s parent organization, there are no disqualifying faults.
It is important too that the dog is in good health
and up-to-date on vaccinations.
Lastly, to participate in a conformation dog show, the AKC dog must be six months old or older and must not be spayed or neutered.
What skills does a show dog need to know?
At a conformation show, it is expected that your dog will exhibit three essential competencies; gaiting, stacking, and being able to undergo a physical examination without any resistance. Some other skills include showmanship, temperament, and training (obedience and grooming).
I will create another blog post and discuss each of these skills.
Finding The Right Professional Dog Show Handler
A professional dog show handler is a person who is trained and experienced in presenting dogs in conformation shows.
A dog show handler’s skills include grooming, handling, training, and conditioning the dog for the show ring. A dog show handler may work independently or as part of a team of handlers to prepare the dog for competition.
Dog show handlers, with their wealth of experience and expertise, are crucial in presenting dogs at their best and guiding them toward success in competitions.
Our breeder has experience in showing dogs and has connections with numerous professional dog show handlers. All of our dog show schedules and handlers were arranged by our breeder. We were glad for KENZO to have the best dog show handlers, Larry, Liz, Laurie and Gillian from the Black and Gold Team. We gained a lot of valuable experience and knowledge.
Compete in Conformation Shows
Conformation shows are events where dogs are judged based on how closely they conform to their specific breed standards set by the AKC.
KENZO winning Major Points – Winners Dog and Best Of Winners at NorCal Golden Retriever Club Specialty Show, September 17, 2022 at Vallejo, CA
2 Types Of Conformation Show
1. All-Breed Dog Show
All-breed dog shows are usually sanctioned by kennel clubs where varieties of dogs recognized by the AKC are judged based on how well they conform to their breed standards. In these shows, dogs compete against others of the same breed or type, and the winners move on to compete against dogs from other groups until a final Best in Show winner is chosen.
2. Specialty Dog Show
Specialty shows are restricted to dogs of a specific breed or to varieties of one breed. For example, the Golden Retriever Club of America Specialty is for Golden Retrievers only.
What do conformation dog show judges look for?
In conformation shows, dogs are judged on how closely they adhere to the particular breed standards established by the AKC.
Dogs are judged on a variety of factors, including their gait, physical structure (bones, teeth, coat), temperament, and overall appearance.
Conformation shows are held year-round and are open to dogs of all AKC-recognized breeds.
How Can You Find Conformation Shows In Your Area?
You can use the AKC Event search page. Other resources for finding dog shows are InfoDog, Jack Bradshaw, and Jack Onofrio. To attend a conformation show, look for an All-Breed (AB) show or a Specialty show of the breed in which you are interested.
Our breeder scheduled all of KENZO’s dog shows. As owners, our job is to take him to the shows.
Who Can Go to a Conformation Dog Show?
A dog show is a public event that anyone can attend as a spectator, and it’s a fantastic way to gather more information about breeds that you’re interested in and a great place to meet breeders.
From our experience, there’s no entrance fee to watch a show, but be prepared to pay for parking. Many local dog lovers watch and some bring their kids to see the junior handlers. If you plan to attend, check the show program and be a respectful spectator. Read more on the AKC site: How To Attend A Dog Show As A Spectator?
Earning AKC Champion Points
Points are awarded based on the number of males (dogs) and females (bitches) of the breed in competition.
The larger the show entry, both male and female dogs have the potential to earn more points. At any dog breed show, the highest number of points that can be awarded to a dog is five.
As dog owners who are unfamiliar with conformation shows, understanding the number of points per show can be confusing, so I use this guide from the AKC: Counting Points, and our breeder helped us a lot to understand.
First, the males and females compete separately with their respective breeds in seven regular classes; Puppy Class, 12-18 Month Class, Novice Class, Amateur-Owner-Handler Class, Bred-by-Exhibitor Class, American-bred Class, and Open Class.
Once the regular classes have been judged, the first-place winners in each class then come back to the ring to vie for the titles of Winners Dog (for males) or Winners Bitch (for females). This competition not only earns them championship points but also qualifies them for the best-of-breed judging round. Additional points are earned if the dog also wins Best of Winners.
I will plan to do another blog post explaining these dog show conformation classes, titles, and associated ribbons.
Benefits of an AKC Championship
Earning an AKC championship brings many benefits specifically for the dog breeder.
For the dog, the title signifies that it is a superior example of its breed and has been recognized for its exceptional qualities. For the breeders, an AKC championship can increase the dog’s breeding value and open up opportunities for stud services or breeding programs.
KENZO’s official AKC Champion certificate and last Winners Dog ribbon from March 2, 2023 Golden Retriever Club of America Regional Speciality, Phoenix AZ
Becoming An AKC Champion
Becoming an AKC champion is not an easy feat. It requires a lot of hard work, commitment, financial investment, and a deep understanding of the breed.
The AKC Champion title is a significant achievement in the world of purebred dogs, especially for breeders. It is a recognition of the dog’s superior breed traits, soundness, and conformational excellence.