We asked the following question to our readers. Here are your responses, taken from the July 2019 Issue of ShowSight. Click to subscribe.
There’s a lot of talk going around about “Cheap Champions,” i.e. dogs who didn’t have to defeat much competition to attain their title. And let’s face it: with some breeds awarding majors in an entry of two or three something seems out of step. How would you re-write the points system to be fair, but also protect the title of Champion as something hard-earned and proudly worn?
I would in fact reduce the number of dog shows in the hopes that fewer will mean bigger entries and so the majors will hopefully be there once again. It’s my feeling there are just way too many dog shows. —Anonymous
Our breed (Manchester Terrier—toy and standard) is an endangered breed. It takes four dogs for a three point major. To get this recently at the Asheville, North Carolina show, we had people travel from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Kentucky, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, South Carolina and North Carolina—we have to work very hard to coordinate to get majors and travel great distances to do so. Our points are hard earned and proudly worn—even though to look at us in the ring, it would look “easy”. Since we are an Endangered Breed, and any publicity about our breed is appreciated. If people don’t know about us, they can’t look for our dogs. You can help us here.A few years back at Lexington, we had our National Specialty. The best very Manchesters in the country were there. Two out of the four days none of our dogs even made the cut for group placement. None. What does that say about the judging? Additionally, in the AKC money-grab program aka “Grand Champion”, dogs that used to be breeding after Champion are now breeding later as they are showing for GC. Later breeding means less breeding which is very dangerous in our breed. Do you know there are more tigers in the world than there are Manchesters? I would hate to have to go to a zoo in the future to see these little dogs but sadly, that is the way we are headed without some help. Thanks for the opportunity to speak. —Cheryl Roach
This is a problem for the whole fancy. Entries have dropped for all of us and in every breed. The points system is a reflection of this fact, not the other way round. The question should be, in my honest opinion, how do we increase participation in the sport? Now that’s very tough to answer. The cost of maintaining our dogs has risen; the cost of hotels, gas, human and canine food, have all gone up. Add in veterinary care when needed and you can understand the severity of the problem. Families who have to choose between college for their children or showing dogs, for example, may have to give up the sport for obvious reasons. I wish I could say that I could wave a magic wand and resolve this but I simply cannot.
One thing I do know, is that the problem isn’t the points system itself. Rather, it’s all the economic and social factors that affect said system. —Maxine J Gurin
There is nothing wrong with the current system, except where numbers are dropping faster that the yearly point schedule. The problem as I see it is a judging issue. Since the dogs are to be judges against a written standard, a quality dog is still a quality dog, whether it beats one dog or a hundred! IF the exhibit is not a quality animal, under the written standard, then it is up to the judges to sift that animal from competition. When we see pet quality dogs finish, the whole sport suffers, as does the breed! —Anonymous
My breed, Norfolk, is a low entry breed. Very difficult nationwide to find competition. There are too many shows diluting entries. —Anonymous
Do not allow the male dogs to get the female dogs points as best of winners when don’t have enough of their own in the ring. Note: I had a female that went winners and the male got best of winners because the judge felt sorry for the male. It went like that for several shows. He was sole as a pet from the breeder and was not supposed to be shown. —Anonymous
First quality over quantity, nowadays it seems one breeder can enter the whole liter and pray the same dog or bitch wins, on a very long weekend. Instead of one other dog or bitch, would make at least three-four same sex.
Judges need to read standards and look at the overall dog being presented to them on that day. Movement and structure have been lost over the years. Not every dog was meant to be a champion, some of the best bitches I have had, are simply the best producer I have had. —Anonymous
Both of my Bouviers titles were hard earned with a lot of time, money, sweat and tears. We were always up against longtime breeders that have been breeding and showing for decades. There was nothing easy about it. —Anonymous
First there are no cheap champions. The cost of showing is not cheap: buying a van, grooming equipment etc. Raising or buying a hopefully special puppy. Thousands in the Norwich breed so cheap is the wrong phrase. Forget the majors in many breeds they are impossible to find unless you have unlimited funds to travel. And even then you may be unable to find that major. Or at least make the major the same number everywhere in breeds that have low numbers.
AKC only has to see the numbers in shows are dropping. Many times no class animals only specials have entered. Or seriously look at the Canadian system. —Anonymous
Personally it is how the judging is done that should be re-written. It is far too subjective with some very good dogs from breeds that are not known never getting recognized. Lazy judging but lets face it even an all breed judge cannot keep up with all the finer points of each individual breed anymore. There are just too many breeds. —Anonymous
I would like to see all dogs judged on a score system from breed class up. Judges would then have to be accountable for why the dog was put up. We will never see this happen which is why our sport is dying. —Chenoka Lowchen
As an exhibitor for over 50 years, I say it can’t be done. Better judging is what is needed and the best way to achieve that is to require written critiques to point winners at least. Each parent club could come up with a 7-10 item list of traits (based on what’s most important in the breed standard and the current state of the gene pool). A simple line could follow the listed trait with a mark in the middle representing average quality for a dog earning champion status, and the judge could mark an x along that continuum for that trait, or group of traits). Examples of groupings: head, ears, expression; topline and tailset; coat texture; etc. Similar but tailored for the needs of each breed. Some extra time, and cost for paper and printing, but totally worth it.
The big problem in my breed and others like it (hard-coated terrier) is the emphasis placed on grooming. When only professionally handled dogs are in consideration you don’t get owners at the shows, so they don’t have the opportunity of talking with other breeders and learning. Critiques would help all breeds (and could be limited to Winners and Reserve for all but Specialties or Supported shows. Think about it: A novice exhibitor usually ends up breeding that first show dog. If they show the dog 10 times and don’t get a championship, but receive ten critiques and nine of the ten indicate the exhibit is deficient in topline, they have valuable information for selecting a mate for that animal. And they have valuable information about that tenth judge. —Anonymous
I would establish a minimum number of dogs/bitches needed for Majors (more than three or four!). Majors do not have to be available at every show. I also would not be granting a point for one dog-one bitch BOW, as was recently established. In many cases a Bronze, Silver or Gold Grand Championship is harder to earn (and not very hard at all!) than a straight Championship.
—JoAnne M. Buehler
I think calling any championship “cheap” smacks of bad sportsmanship. Low entry breeds have to work HARD to find majors, and often have to travel long distances to find them—hardly cheap! This kind of attitude really irks me. It’s not a competition about whose championship is more “worthy” than another. Can’t we all just be happy that there are people still out there who love the sport enough to try and achieve championships on their dog in the first place? —Jan Hare
I’d get rid of the current point system entirely. What I would do is give every judge the freedom to award a WD or WB zero to five points based on merit alone, regardless of class size or amount of competition. WD and WB get the points.
That would put the judges in complete control of the situation and do away with “building a major” by entering extra “meh” dogs to get the required number of points for the hoped-for major wins. Twenty dogs in competition might only bag a mediocre dog one or two points. On the other hand, a really spectacular dog being the only dog in competition might bag a five point major from a judge if the judge feels the dog is superstar quality.
The points would be for quality, not quantity. It would, in fact, be a “grading system” for want of a better description.
So, the number of points at any given show would be determined by the judge, not the number of dogs entered. That would also mean if a “cheap champion” is made, all you have to do is look up who awarded the dog the required majors to finish and there would be names of judges who made up the cheap champion.
The title of Champion no longer means anything to me as a more than 20 year breeder. The opposite happens as well: friends of judges rewarded instead of worthy dogs. I will not be participating in AKC conformation any longer and am choosing UKC instead. —Anonymous
I don’t think there are cheap champions. The GCH program, veterinary costs and the cost to put on shows have all combined to reduce the number of dogs being produced and shown. AKC is responsible for part of this.
The GCH program means instead of finishing a dog and breeding another one to show they keep showing the new champion to gain more titles, thus robbing the classes of dogs. The point scale has fallen to the point it only takes 1/3rd the number of dogs for a major as it did 20-30 years ago. In many breeds it only takes four dogs for three points last I looked.
Veterinarians are pricing themselves out of the market. In the last two weeks I have taken two sets of two puppies each to the vet with diarrhea. They give excellent care, testing, etc. It cost $250 each time and they still have major problems. I know vets have many expenses. I am lucky to have the ability to go. I am stocking my “breeder” cabinet for future use.
AKC takes $3.50 of every entry fee from our club. This doesn’t seem like much but it is (>10%). Exhibitors demand breaks to bring puppies, bbx, vets, sweeps, etc. (I don’t blame them) but we don’t get a break for expenses from the facility, judges, AKC. The Super gives breaks on 4-6 and sweeps but they are in the same boat with us. Facility and judge costs are through the roof too.
THE POINT SCALE
There should be more zones to refine point scales. It is ridiculous to have other states in with Texas or California. Perhaps a point scale could be developed by state? Take all specialties out of the mix—they often have the ability to pull in enough fillers to have a major but it’s only those shows. Maybe have a point scale based on the total all-breed entry Example: <500, 501-1000, etc.? Also take into consideration that “big” all breed shows pull enough entry to make the point scale for small shows so high they can’t make it. We have a two day all-breed—one of only two in Oklahoma. All the rest are 4-5 day weekends with specialties. The five-day shows offer specialties a really good deal -$5/dog with judges total. We take advantage of it. We also realize that the handlers are generally going to be the winners at those shows. Quite a few owner/breeder/handlers won’t enter or only come/enter one day. (Judges run $1000/day or more w/o fees). None of this is cheap for exhibitors or clubs. No cheap champions here. I am glad to see that AKC has finally figured out that one+one=two and gotten past their “sex discrimination” on points. —Suzie Cambpell
A dog would need to obtain one of the majors by legitimately defeating enough dogs to earn it, other than going best of winners each time and not defeat any dogs. —Anonymous
I’m not so sure the point system is the culprit. Instead, I believe we should examine the “Best of Winners” and the virtually automatic awarding of Best of Breed to the special in the ring. If there are sufficient dogs to award a point, and there are sufficient bitches to award five points, the “crossover” should not be automatic. If the judge is confident in the ability to judge the breed, they should be confident to justify the awarding or not awarding of the cross over. The point system reflects the number of animals of that breed being shown in a geographic area, somewhat tainted by the ability move across state lines and get a greater number of points. Looking for judges who are less than capable is a tenuous practice, but I’ve encountered it and lost because the judge put up the wrong end of the lead. I have seen specimens of my breed become champions when I wouldn’t want them for other than a companion. Still, the system is designed so that, showing the inferior specimen enough times, and to enough judges willing to point at it, there will be a new champion. —Anonymous
Look at the UK method of attaining a championship. You have to defeat champions to become a champion. So in addition to majors require two champion defeats at different shows under different judges. Long term the real solution is to draw more young people into the sport not as handlers but as preservation breeders. —Susan Shephard
I wouldn’t re-write the points system. Based on breed registrations, it is fair. However, to be hard-earned and proudly worn, all champion titles should be attained by owner handlers. Once champions, owners may choose to hire professionals to special them. Changing the point system is never going to level the playing field between breeds with small entries and the most popular breeds with mega entries where the majority are professionally handled. There are many Champion Popular Breed dogs that did not deserve the titles professional handlers put on them. I wouldn’t call them hard-earned and proudly worn. If the concern is poor quality dogs getting Champion titles, the focus should turn to breeding better dogs and sportsmanship, not the point system. —Anonymous
Get rid of one dog/one bitch BOW equals one point. Cheap points! Only exception truly rare breeds. Best Of Winners should only be an awarded major—if there was a major in both sexes! Period! —Maura C. Ptacek
A few weeks ago, I saw an exhibitor in a breed that doesn’t lack competition, go to a show that never pulls an entry for that breed in order to build majors to finish a dog. This dog had been shown by a professional handler and had been measured out (height) one prior time. Try as they might, they were not able to win with the dog in most competition. The dog was able to finish that weekend against kennel mates, although he was measured out again. One more measurement and he would not be a champion. —Anonymous
It is perfectly legit to build your own majors. I completely understand that in some breeds the only competition that a dog may face is from kennel mates. The quality of the dogs getting their championship may be first rate It also may not be. —Anonymous
There are judges who withhold ribbons and do it with compassion, we should encourage them. No one wins when dogs that lack quality attain the title of champion. Maybe one way to help matters would be to have wickets at ringside for breeds with height disqualifications and to encourage judges to use them. Fellow exhibitors in most breeds rarely call a wicket on a dog for fear of backlash. —Anonymous
It’s sad to say that some champion certificates are worth more than others but it’s true! —Karen Hanson
One idea is that AKC break up the divisions not by total state but by regions within each state-especially the large ones. Do this according to the number of entries per breed each year vs. the total in the whole state. In a large state like Pennsylvania, there are pockets of several breeders and many pockets with very few. You get the idea. A major won with only four dogs total in a breed is not much to brag about! —Anonymous