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20 Years and Going Strong… Behind the Scenes of the ANC!

In 2001, the vision Ron Menaker had for a special AKC event came to life. Ron and the seated Board of Directors of the American Kennel Club would give birth to the AKC National Championship (ANC). Fast forward 20 years (and a few name changes and eligibility requirements), the event has become one of the world’s most important dog competitions.

Just like any “child”…there were growing pains. Venue logistics had to be flexible. With each successive year, the event grew and so did the need to accommodate that growth.

An important element for Ron at the ANC was to put a spotlight on breeders—the backbone of the sport.

The sponsors of the show were exceedingly generous with prize money at all levels. It was the highest level ever seen anywhere in the world. To that point, Ron and his committee(s) ensured that prize money was awarded at every level of competition, starting with Best of Breed and Best of Opposite Sex awards. It was important that cash prizes were awarded in the new Best Bred-by-Exhibitor in Show competitions. This BBE competition would become such an important part of the ANC and remains so to this day. Additionally, AKC celebrates its Breeder of the Year winners at the show. AKC has recognized so many important breeders whose contributions have made a lasting impact on the sport and their chosen breed.

Although this article might be for a conformation publication…the ANC encompasses far more than breed judging. It is the National Championship for Agility, Obedience, Diving Dogs, Rally and, our newest addition, Fast Cat. AKC would hold the National Owner-Handled Series Finals on the weekend and Juniors competition would be offered in most events. Another addition would be the Judges Institute that draws a large segment of the judging community for a week of education. For many years, the AKC Meet the Breeds would be represented and, now with that event “going on the road nationally” (once COVID-19 lessens its grip), we will find good use of additional space once the venue completes its
expected expansion.

The event started with a strong relationship with the Eukanuba company and, for many years, they would be the proud sponsor. When Eukanuba shifted away from P&G and became part of the Mars Family, their Royal Canin brand would take over this significant relationship, with Eukanuba still having a presence. Each event would partner with local clubs in the area to make for multiple days of showing. The relationships with the Long Beach Dog Clubs, previously, and, currently, the Orlando Cluster of Clubs are important and are valuable components of what has become the National Championship week.

Over the years, the ANC built upon the goal of bringing a national event that would attract the best of the best to all competitions. There is no disputing the success of that vision. To maintain this distinction, there needs to be a few (well…many) “must haves.” Of course, as the event grew, so did our requirements to have the space to expand. We found the perfect venue in Orlando, Florida. The Orange County Convention Center has been our “home” for the last 10 years and should remain so for another decade,
maybe longer.

The event always sought to find something new and exciting to offer the fancy. The staples were massive-sized rings where “big moving breeds” could have the room to show-off their gaiting without limitations. Carpeted rings were standard…being the first to introduce the “Dressage Rails” for ring barriers was an instant hit. We offered bathing and electric when it was almost (and still is) very limited at an event with the scope of multiple events. The judging panels sought input from parent clubs and, coupled with the addition of a “Specialty Day,” some breeds attracted huge numbers year after year. The architects of the Eukanuba World Challenge were Ron, a Eukanuba principle who could represent the FCI, and myself. It brought the ANC an international element never seen before, with its pageantry and uniqueness. When they moved across the pond to another major event with Eukanuba, our new sponsor with Royal Canin would introduce a new and exciting competition: “The AKC/Royal Canin Puppy and Junior Stakes.” This brought attention to the “next generation” of the breeder’s efforts…another massive success.

The above explains what the fancy “sees” at the ANC…what happens behind the scenes is another vital part of its success. Both the AKC and Royal Canin dedicate staff all year long to the details of the ANC. Both organizations bring a synergy that runs seamlessly, and the dog sport has embraced and supported the event with their participation. We strive to earn this support annually and have created an event for purebred breeders/owners and handlers to proudly show their efforts.