A Conversation with Dennis Sprung, AKC President & CEO
This year’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show was another extraordinary celebration of the sport of dogs in America. Do you have a favorite memory of the show?
Dennis Sprung: This came at the conclusion of the first Group and continued throughout both evenings, that is; the extraordinary and sincere sportsmanship by each competitor towards the winner.
As Westminster is your “hometown” show, how did it feel to join with fanciers in Queens instead of Manhattan (or Tarrytown)?
Dennis Sprung: My preference is to be back in NYC, with the Groups and Best in Show at Madison Square Garden. Nevertheless, the three years in Tarrytown, which is a well-known site, were successful, as the club did everything right. This year Westminster was at a new venue that had not previously been used for a dog show. Numerous obstacles existed, and of course, David Helming worked his usual magic as Show Chairman. New President Donald Sturz never stopped working to enhance the event, even while the show was in progress. His dedication, confidence, and background knowledge is second to none. With their years of experience, members were out in full force. Many fanciers welcomed Tom Bradley and Sean McCarthy back, as their talents are irreplaceable.
In your opinion, how important is it to provide live-streaming and evening telecasts of shows like Westminster? Do you see AKCtv expanding its coverage of dog shows?
Dennis Sprung: It is most important to have streaming and evening telecasts. Proudly, I can report that Gina DiNardo, Ron Furman, and Bill Ellis have increased AKCtv coverage of events by 33 percent, including Companion, Performance, and Conformation.
The Masters Obedience Championship and the Masters Agility Championship have become jewels in the Westminster crown. How are these Performance Events a reflection of the sport in 2023?
Dennis Sprung: Obedience and Agility Trials are exceptionally important. The AKC offers 26 sports for purebred dogs. There is something for everyone’s lifestyle. The AKC brand attracts people from every walk of life, and we welcome that. Obedience and Agility are, to be precise, Companion Events.
As President and CEO of the American Kennel Club, what significance does Westminster hold for you personally? What is the show’s importance to the sport of dogs?
Dennis Sprung: It is the dream of every breeder, owner, handler, and exhibitor to win Westminster. They have held 147 Conformation shows, and as a result, it is the best-known AKC event. This year was my 56th consecutive “Garden” and I admired every effort the club made. Donald, his staff, and membership accomplished a great deal. Again, it is the dream of every breeder, owner, handler, and exhibitor to win Westminster.
The AKC brand attracts people from every walk of life, and we welcome that.