Whether you’re a seasoned handler or a dog show neophyte, the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship on Dec. 1-2 had something for everyone. More than 2,500 agile and obedient dogs descended on Long Beach, Calif., to compete, and top canines from all over the world arrived for the first-ever Eukanuba World Challenge.
You know the results (If you don’t, click here!). You’ve seen the winning dogs. Now, read on for a few insights and impressions from the editors of Dog World, Dogs in Review, DOG FANCY, and DogChannel.
The floor of the Long Beach Convention Center seemed large to me, and it was somewhat of a challenge to navigate. Moving from ring to ring throughout the weekend, it occurred to me that if just one show could be this large, how expansive the global dog-show tradition must really be. It’s more than just the number of dogs, the variety of breeds and colors, or the worldwide influences; it’s the sheer breadth of collective knowledge that astounded me.
On several occasions I found myself standing outside a breed conformation ring. While I watched intently, I was often lost as to what exactly I was watching. Luckily, I usually had an encyclopedic reference named Allan Reznik standing nearby. He would point out a well-regarded Pharaoh Hound, an internationally known handler, or explain the desired curl in an Afghan’s tail.
Similarly, I saw Allan engage in more erudite levels of communication with seasoned experts like Bo Bengtson, Rick Beauchamp and Jeffrey Pepper. Thus I saw relationships between dog lovers forged and re-forged on the show floor; lifetimes’ worth of information and experience was shared and passed on. I witnessed what seemed to be an impossibly huge body of canine knowledge, brought into relative focus at the dog show. It was a humbling experience, to say the least.
Kristopher Wardwell, Associate Editor
This year was my second time attending the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship, and I was impressed by the dogs more so this time around. From their beautifully groomed coats to their obedient behavior and the unique personalities that shine as they walk into the show ring, it’s apparent how much time, love, and devotion went into making every dog the star that he or she is.
After a year and a half of working on DOG FANCY, I’ve looked at and read about numerous gorgeous, intelligent, and sometimes very rare dogs, but nothing beats the opportunity to meet them live and in person. Although our photographers do a fantastic job of capturing the dogs’ qualities, actually petting the dogs, talking to their owners, and sometimes even brushing my face over their soft fur made me look at each breed from a whole new perspective. They’re even more stunning and lovable — even the Mastiff that drooled all over my left arm and the Great Pyrenees who gave me a big, wet lick on the cheek — than any photo could ever illustrate.
But what I enjoyed the most, as I did last year, was watching the dogs compete in agility. It amazes me how disciplined the dogs are. The chemistry that they have with their handlers is astounding. I can’t recall the number of times I thought to myself, “I wonder if I can teach Blue to do that?” referring to my 4-year-old mixed breed. It’s hard to say. But for now, we’ll just continue working on Sit and Shake.
Satori Nakaue, Associate Editor
As a Dog World magazine editor, I digest a daily stream of dog information covering conformation, agility, obedience, breed standards, breeding, and judging. With our experts’ words and photographers’ stills, I mentally paste together the dogdom we celebrate on a monthly basis. This past weekend, however, I got to fix my eyes on the real thing.
The AKC/Eukanuba Championship serves as the perfect arena to witness these sports, ideas, and near-perfect canine specimens in motion.
What often caught my interest was watching the judges in the ring. While observing Mr. R. William Taylor judge the 26 Cavalier King Charles Spaniels in Ring 4, I remembered Dog World’s November 2007 Judge’s Perspective column in which Betty-Anne Stenmark discussed evaluating uncommon breeds at Group level. This wasn’t Group level, and the Cavalier is hardly considered an uncommon breed, but I likened the sea of white-and-orange Toy dogs to Mrs. Stenmark’s example of judging a group of Ridgebacks: “The truth is that, although the dogs are all much the same color, each dog looks a lot different from the one beside it…if you’re ready to judge that breed.”
Standing outside Ring 1, I watched Mrs. Joan Goldstein, evaluate 15 Afghan Hounds. Although not a terribly high entry, the large dogs took up a lot of room. Even though I had a difficult time discerning it, Mrs. Goldstein gaited the dogs in a certain pattern and grouped entries in separate corners – she ran the ring in a way that she believed best used the space available. This reminded me of Jeffrey G. Pepper’s January 2008 article. He notes that judges must “evaluate the ring and determine how best to utilize it during judging.”
These beliefs can only communicate so much in print. For someone who felt a little less wet behind the ears at her second AKC/Eukanuba Championship, these words came to life.
April Balotro, Assistant Editor
It’s extraordinary that a rare breed of terrier, the Sealyham Ch. Efbe’s Hidalgo at Goodspice, aka “Charmin,” went Best in Show and is leading the pack in his group just two years after another Sealyham, “Benlow” (Ch. Stonebroke Right On the Money), was top terrier in the country. Lightning seldom strikes twice, especially in a group as competitive and deep in quality as the terriers.
Perhaps even more amazing is the fact that Charmin’s litter brother is currently the No. 1 dog all breeds in Canada. France Bergeron of Quebec – pronounce her initials “FB” to get her kennel prefix, Efbe – bred this great litter. Although Ms. Bergeron is not a household name in the dog world, over the years she has produced many generations of top-winning and top-producing Sealyhams that have contributed to the breed on both sides of the border.
This feat was last accomplished several decades ago. The breed was Borzoi, and the two litter brothers were “Moustache” and “Dalgarth,” bred by Dr. Richard Meen and Dr. John Reeve-Newson of Campbellville, Ontario. Moustache stayed in Canada with Dick and John, while Dalgarth was sold to Dyane Roth in California. The two aristocratic hounds dominated the breed across North America, just as the double-trouble Sealyham boys are doing today.
This year’s AKC/Eukanuba National Championship was my first foray into the dog show scene. My only prior experience with a mass number of dogs came from visiting a popular local dog park with my mother and her three boisterous charges.
This experience, however, was vastly different.
For starters, every dog in the place looked impeccable, even those not showing, and their behavior was faultless. Even the Bloodhound who drooled generously on my hand as I gave him a scratch did it in the most refined manner possible. Although the demeanor of the dogs I saw impressed me, my attention and admiration were captured by something else entirely.
While I wandered through the labyrinth of grooming stations and vendor booths, noises carried over to my ears that seemed out of place: a yell, a shriek, a scream, then shortly after, applause. I was intrigued. I followed these peculiar sounds, and after gently pushing through a large crowd, I saw their source: agility competition.
Forty-five minutes later, I was hooked. I cheered wildly when a Border Collie soared through the course in just over 30 seconds. I muttered furiously when a Labrador Retriever stood uncertainly in the middle of the teeter totter for what seemed like an eternity. I couldn’t help but chuckle when an overly enthusiastic Old English Sheepdog raced through one particular tunnel repeatedly, barking all the while, despite her handler’s most vigorous commands.
Although the performances were memorable, what really stuck with me was the relationship between humans and dogs. No matter how poorly a dog did on that course, he still received a sign of affection from his handler at the end and a loud round of applause from the audience. That attitude was one I saw echoed throughout every facet of the AKC/Eukanuba event.
I had never attended a dog show before, and it’s true that I entered this one with certain preconceptions. But I certainly didn’t leave with them. This wasn’t a place for just dog breeders or dog professionals – it was a place for dog lovers.
Evangeline McMullen, Assistant Editor
It was no surprise to me when black Standard Poodle Ch. Randenn Tristar Affirmation (“Yes”) headed into the Best in Show ring on Sunday evening. I had seen the Standard Poodle breed competition the previous afternoon, but missed the evening’s Non-Sporting Group.
Certainly I am no expert on breed standards and what I know about the dog show world could fit in a thimble – OK, maybe a teacup. But when the six Standards entered the ring on Saturday afternoon, I was immediately struck by “Yes.” The trim of her show coat looked flawless from my vantage point just outside the ring. And when she trotted alongside her handler Tim Brazier, she exuded spirit and grace.
Apparently my nearly seven years of exposure to this amazing sport have given me the beginning of an eye for fine examples of a breed. And “Yes” certainly qualifies. She won the Poodle Club of America Best in Specialty award earlier this year. I’m hoping to get another look at her in February at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
Susan Chaney, Editor
DOG FANCY and DogChannel
Although it’s exciting to see the dogs and their handlers prancing around the ring in competition for Best of Breed or Group, my favorite part of the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship was the Meet the Breeds booths and simply watching all the beautiful dogs coming and going around the Long Beach Convention Center.
When I arrived at the show on Saturday, I just stood in the lobby for about 15 minutes dog-and-people watching. I felt a bit like a kid in a candy store – awed by all the gorgeous breed specimens walking around. I’m always so impressed at how well-behaved show dogs are. They calmly walk right past unknown dogs of all shapes and sizes, often with nothing more than sidelong glances at each other, or a quick half-interested sniff.
I suppose, though, if I had someone primping and grooming me several hours each day and giving me his undivided attention day after day, I would grow to be a very calm and noble being, and just expect that kind of royal treatment.
And royalty these dogs are. I walked back and forth in the halls of Meet the Breeds booths at least three times that day. My favorite booth was the one with the man wearing a kilt – an unavoidable preference based on my Scottish heritage – and holding a Cairn Terrier, of course. This booth happened to win Best in Show for Meet the Breeds.
At DOG FANCY magazine, we profile three purebred dogs in each issue, which works out to 36 breed profiles each year. We sometimes get fuzzy about remembering which breeds we profiled when, and it often seems like a dizzying number. But when you go to an all-breed dog show like the AKC/Eukanuba Championship, you’re reminded that the canine species is extremely diverse, and we’re only just scratching the surface.
Perhaps the reason that I am so moved by watching these show dogs is the fact that I’ve been studying them on paper and in photographs for years now, but it’s only once or twice a year that I get the opportunity to meet and touch many of these amazing and somewhat unusual canines.
And once again, I found myself smitten by that tall, hairy sighthound – the Borzoi. There’s something to be said about a dog who shows his affection by calmly leaning in on you. Then, of course, there’s the adorable, otter-like face of the compact Border Terrier. Oh, and the oh-so-endearing and massive Mastiff … I’ll take one of each, please.
Hazel Kelly, Managing Editor