The American Kennel Club and United Kennel Club are the nation’s oldest and most prestigious purebred dog registries offering superb signature dog show events
AKC OR UKC SHOWS?
David J. Arthur, Show Scene/UKC Judge
That is the question and here’s the difference between the nation’s oldest and most prestigious purebred dog registries and their signature show events.
While the name “Westminster” calls to mind the pomp and pageantry beholding of the finest canines the globe has to offer, “The Premier” is far less publicized, yet hosts an equally elegant showcase of purebred dogs. Both events are the zenith of their respective registries, and each has its own close following by dog fanciers worldwide.
Within the U.S., the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the United Kennel Club (UKC) are the two generally accepted all-breed dog registries. Both are over 100 years old, with AKC being 14 years older. They were each organized to promote purebred dog breeding and exhibition, maintaining the documented lineage for each of the breeds they recognize.
Both registries hold competitive events in conformation, obedience, and agility, and are relatively similar in purpose and the type of events they sponsor. But that’s where the similarities end. While the exhibitors may well run the same patterns or perform the same performance routines during competition, the manner in which the clubs have organized their activities vary significantly.
Do you own a Poodle? In the AKC, your dog is either a Standard, Miniature, or Toy variety, and is in either the Non-Sporting or Toy group, depending on its size. In the UKC, Standard Poodles are organized into their own “breed”, so if you have a “Poodle”, then it’s either a Miniature or Toy. The UKC further defines them by color and pattern.
AKC has seven groups; UKC has eight. Group names differ; for example, the AKC “Toy” group is the UKC “Companion” group.
Exhibiting in AKC is a more formal affair. People dress-up for their moment of glory, running around the ring in business attire with their well coiffed canines. Becky Price, Standard Poodle breeder and grooming shop owner says, “The goal (at AKC Shows) is win at all costs; it’s like freeway driving at rush hour, with tension, stress for dogs and handlers, very noticeable to visitors, very structured.”
UKC, on the other hand, is far more relaxed. It’s not unusual to see exhibitors in blue jeans and a nice shirt. UKC’s motto is, “Our dogs do stuff,” and the registry encourages breeders and judges to select more than just a pretty face or well groomed pup.
The American Kennel Club supports the “professional” side of the dog sport. Known as “professional handlers,” they are paid to show dogs for other people. In suits and sports coats, they are proficient artists who win the top prizes and take their profession seriously. The average owner-handler can’t compete with these folks, and thus may find it less enjoyable to participate.
In comparison, the United Kennel Club is rarely a formal affair. Because emphasis is on the dog’s type and structure rather than what the handler can hide in artistry and grooming skills, UKC has the down-home feeling of a county fair. People are more relaxed, having a good time, and because the UKC does not allow professional handlers, everyone is reasonably on the same footing inside the ring.
Breeders, owners, and trainers in both registries are very serious about producing and exhibiting the best quality dog possible. Thus the overall quality is relatively equal, although the Best In Show may vary between the stunningly beautiful to the splendor of a dog truly bred to perform it’s intended function.
Because of the publicity AKC garners and the greater number of shows and larger entries, the “champion” title tends to be more valued. While the Grand Campion title in UKC may be equally difficult to achieve, UKC’s top honor, the “Total Dog” title requires the dog to “do” more than just look good.
Many people compete in both registries for dual Champion titles or because of different events. For example, the AKC has “Rally Obedience” which is much easier than regular Obedience. For the more muscular canines, the UKC offers “Weight Pull” where the dog pulls a weighted, wheeled sled for as far as they can muster.
While the AKC recognizes around 130 breeds, the UKC expands its scope to cover more than 300, many of which are rare and exotic. Thus, if you own a Catahoula Leopard Dog, you would agree with Amanda Tikkanen who says “UKC offers me everything I want out of showing dogs . . . most people with Catahoulas don't want AKC recognition (myself included).”
So, be it glitz and glamour or a down-home good time, there’s plenty of variety in whichever venue you desire. Both registries offer valid and reputable titles which appeal to their segment of the dog fancy.
So grab your purebred and come on down. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll see you in the rings one February evening for the Westminster Kennel Club event in New York and in Kalamazoo, MI for the equally challenging Premier Dog Show in June 2015.
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