Owners of AKC champions of record can begin competing for the new Grand Champion title on May 12, 2010, concurrent with the implementation of the 2010-2011 AKC point schedule.
However, this news seems to have caused barely a ripple in the conformation world. Compare it to the fancy’s instant and vociferous response when Group Realignment was first proposed.
If you are unfamiliar with the concept, according to the AKC website, “This new title will be available to AKC Champions of Record, giving the opportunity for Champion dog owners to return to the show ring with their dogs and further showcase the quality of their breeding stock.
“‘AKC Conformation is meant to be an evaluation and showcase for breeding stock,’ says Robin Stansell, AKC Vice President of Event Operations. ‘Many Champions are retired after earning their titles… We are excited to offer the Grand Champion title as a way to encourage these quality dogs to return to the ring…’
“Competition for this new title will be judged during the Best of Breed/Variety competition… There is no additional entry fee. Grand Championship points are awarded, at the judge’s discretion, to the following placements: Best of Breed/Variety, Best of Opposite Sex, Select Dog and Bitch. Select Dog and Select Bitch are Champions that were recognized as the top quality of their sex after BOB and BOS have been awarded.
“Grand Championship points are calculated using the same AKC Point Schedule as is used for Championship points… Although Winners Dog or Winners Bitch can win Best of Breed or Best of Opposite Sex, in no case will they be eligible for Grand Champion competition.
“Completion of the title requires all of the following: 25 Grand Champion points; three majors (three or more points earned at a single show) won under three different judges; at least one or more of these points won under a fourth judge; and [the dog or bitch] must have defeated at least one other AKC Champion of Record at three shows.”
I took an informal poll while writing this column, and contacted about two dozen active breeder-exhibitors across the country, asking if they intended to pursue an AKC Grand Champion title in 2010. Their breed involvement runs the gamut from Toys to giants. Not one planned to dust off a retired champion and return it to the ring although all would be delighted to earn a Grand Champion title on their current special.
In this economic climate, exhibitors have tightened their belts and learned to enjoy their hobby on a more modest scale. “To pay a second entry fee and line up a second handler to show a second dog in hopes of gaining a Grand Champion is not feasible for me,” replied one exhibitor.
Another cited practical matters. “My retired champions are typically cut down and bred. They are not in coat. But even in short-coated breeds, a champion needs to be conditioned before returning to the ring.”
Speaking bluntly, a third exhibitor had this to say: “I definitely believe quality is deteriorating in many breeds because of the lack of competition in the Specials class. But I don’t see the Grand Champion title as a realistic incentive to promote quality competition. Insightful judging pushes a breed in the right direction – and therein lies the real problem.”
Will judges who are currently unwilling to withhold ribbons and points, want to tell exhibitors they don’t feel their dog possesses the quality to earn Grand Champion points?
Do you plan to bring out a retiree this year to earn a Grand Champion title? We’d love to hear from you! Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll share a selection of comments in an upcoming issue.