Barbara Dempsey Alderman: The Loss of a Legend

And Those Darn AKC Groups Realignment Questions
Barbara Dempsey Alderman: The Loss of a Legend And Those Darn AKC Groups Realignment Questions


Barbara Dempsey Alderman

Our wonderful sport of purebred dogs has lost another legend. The recent passing of Barbara Dempsey Alderman has left a void in our sport, especially in our judges’ ranks. Barbara was not only a highly sought-after judge, she was a true legend who has left behind a legacy that will be difficult to replace.

Spending any time with Barbara was always special. I can’t recall any instances where she was not a cheerful and loving person. She could light up the room with her genuine love for people, dogs, and our sport. She always asked about you and your family, and she was a true friend to all of us who were fortunate enough to have her in our life. The world would be a much happier place if we had more people like Barbara Dempsey Alderman.

A highly regarded all-breed judge, Barbara Dempsey Alderman was not only knowledgeable but also a fair and unbiased judge who called it just the way she saw it on the day. More importantly, when you entered her ring, she always had a smile and was kind and considerate to every exhibitor. It did not matter if it was your first time in the ring or if you were a seasoned veteran, Barbara was going to give everyone equal attention and consideration in her decision-making. Her beautiful smile and genuine personality will enhance those dog shows in heaven forever.

Rest in Peace, my dear friend. May God open his loving arms and welcome you to that special place you deserve after the wonderful life you led here on earth.

BARBARA DEMPSEY ALDERMAN 10/31/1940 — 7/31/2022
BARBARA (DEMPSEY) ALDERMAN 10/31/1940 — 7/31/2022


AKC Groups Realignment Is a Hot Topic Again

I am sure many people have heard the rumors that discussions have reappeared regarding splitting and realigning the AKC Groups. I, like many of you, am not privy to those discussions. But like everyone else, I see pros and cons to the discussion.

When the Working Group was divided to create the Herding Group it was truly needed, as the number of breeds in that Group was growing in huge numbers. The fact that the Herding Group today is double the size it began with is another example of the need at that time.

But I question if dividing and realigning the AKC Groups will truly solve the problems. There is sound reasoning in the Sporting Group with Pointers and Setters being together and Retrievers and Spaniels being on their own, just as the Sight and Scenthounds make sense.

The biggest problem from my point of view is the rapid approval of new breeds into a recognized Group.

Currently, as I understand it, about 50 percent of all AKC-recognized breeds fall into the “low entry” breed list category. Some of these breeds have been a part of the AKC family for decades and, for whatever reasons, their numbers have declined over the years to the point where the total entries in a given year have moved them into this category. However, in the case of many of the recently advanced breeds, they are not even close to coming out of the low entry category.

Breeders and exhibitors of those breeds in the current Miscellaneous status will state how difficult it is to get people in those breeds to enter and compete for just a Best of Breed ribbon and no points. They feel only a handful of people are willing to pay the same entry fees and absorb the high cost of travel and the like just to get the breed recognized to full status.

In my opinion, we need to revisit how we approach the acceptance of new breeds. If I was in a position to make these kinds of decisions I would suggest the system make a few small changes.

First, I would allow the Miscellaneous breeds, once they are accepted by AKC, to be allowed to compete for an AKC Championship. They are allowed to receive titles in all the other events, so why not the Miscellaneous Class? This would at least give people a reason to go out and compete. I would use the point system in place for most low entry breeds.

The new breeds would remain in the Miscellaneous Class until such time that their annual entries are 10 percent above the minimum requirements for a breed not to be considered a low entry breed. Once achieving this status, they would be admitted to one of the established Groups. I would allow all the Best of Breed winners to continue to compete for four placements in the Miscellaneous Groups. I would not, however, allow the Miscellaneous Group winner to compete for Best in Show.

Allowing these breeds to compete for Winners, Best of Breed, Select, and so on may encourage the growth of the breed to attain full status.

Those breeds currently approved and considered “low entry” would remain where they are and be grandfathered in for the future.

In some cases, certain low entry breeds have a built-in advantage in our system, especially in the Group and Best in Show arena. Often in low entry breeds where there is very little competition at the Breed level, one or two specimens win the Breed almost 100 percent of the time and gain entry into the Group where they are seen at every show and often build a great winning record.

For other breeds, the road to the Group is much more difficult. Look at breeds such as Goldens, Labs, Vizslas, Dobermans, Boxers, and many others where it is not uncommon to have an entry in the specials class in the double-digit range. In these breeds, the competition is fierce and numerous very good exhibits produce a wide variety of winners at different shows. While the low entry Breed winner will be in the Group at every show in a 4- or 5-day circuit, those higher entry breeds may have a different Breed winner each day and all of them are very deserving exhibits. The simple law of averages will always be with the ones that are seen more often than those that are not.

There are numerous rating systems and, in some cases, the results are obvious. The top-rated (All-Breed points) No. 1 rated dog is not even the No. 1 rated dog in its Breed standings. Of course, geographic and other variables enter into the equation, but in most cases, the results bear it out.

What about those breeds that currently have Varieties? Each Variety Winner goes to the Group while in other breeds this is not the case. Collies, Dachshunds, Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, and others have a Best of Variety whereas other breeds that have different coat varieties and various size differences do not and only send one winner to the Group.

So, if the rumors are true and the AKC is considering the realignment of Groups, I think they need to take a good hard look at the constant addition of new breeds. If we continue to add all of these breeds as rapidly as we have been doing, we will be talking about this issue again in just a few short years.

Careful thought and input need to be involved. The system does need work, but making changes will only work if you consider the past, the present, and the effect on the future of the sport.

The system does need work, but making changes will only work if you consider the past, the present, and the effect on the future of the sport.

Our shows, even with lower entries, continue to last too long, as judges try to do 175 dogs plus their Groups. For economic reasons, clubs try to maximize the use of their judges to try to have them have 175 dogs per day, and as a show chair I understand that economics. Adding new low entry breeds rapidly would increase the number of breeds in the Group at each show, often because that breed only had one or two entries but deserves to be represented in the Group.

My advice to the AKC and the fancy is to go slow, examine all of the options, and create a careful, well-thought-out solution to these issues. We don’t need to try and compete with the FCI and have the same Groups or system.

These are just my thoughts and suggestions. Thanks for reading.



Barbara Dempsey Alderman
The Loss of a Legend and Those Darn AKC Groups Realignment Questions
By Walter J. Sommerfelt

  • Walter Sommerfelt of Lenoir City, TN has been involved in the sport of purebred dogs since acquiring his first Old English Sheepdog in 1972. He is a former professional handler as well as a breeder, and exhibitor of breeds in all seven groups, most notably Vizslas, OES, Pointers, Bearded Collies and Weimaraners. Judging since 1985 he is approved for All Sporting, Working, and Herding breeds and groups, Junior Showmanship and Best in Show and has had the honor of judging on four different continents. Mr. Sommerfelt has judged many of the most prestigious shows in the United States including the herding group at the 2014 Westminster Dog Show in New York City where he has judged on three separate occasions. Mr. Sommerfelt was the founder and chairman for the St. Jude Showcase of Dogs from 1993 until 2009, a unique event showcasing the world of purebred dogs. This special event was the largest collection of various dog events in one location, featuring an AKC all Breed Dog Show, AKC Obedience and Rally Trials, AKC Agility trials, (prior to AKC adding agility NADAC trials ) One of the largest Fly ball tournaments in the U.S.A., Herding and go to ground demonstrations, A main stage featuring performances by Canines from Television and the Movies, Freestyle, Demos by drug and various therapy dogs, A full room of booths for meet the breeds, over 50 AKC judges seminars annually, Lure coursing, A fun Zone for Children, and other dog related fun activities for the general public and their dogs. Over the years the event not only raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the world-renowned St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN, but also raised awareness of the many activities for people with their dogs as well establishing a voice for dog people in the Memphis area with regard to legislation. Many aspects of today’s AKC Royal Canin show can be traced back to the St. Jude event. Along with Carol his wife of 36 years they have bred well over 90 AKC Champions including Group, Best in Show and Specialty Winners, dual Champions and multiple performance titled dogs. During the past 40 years Mr. Sommerfelt has been active in a number of dog clubs and is currently the President of the Tennessee Valley Kennel Club. He is recipient of the AKC outstanding Sportsmanship Award and is also a career agent and financial planning specialist with Nationwide Insurance. The Sommerfelts’ have two grown children, both former Junior Handlers and they are still active breeders and exhibitors of the Vizsla breed.

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