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Interview With 2022 AKC National Championship Breed Judge Sam Houston McDonald

Sam Houston McDonald, dressed in white suit with a hat, presenting a ribbon to a dog


Interview With 2022 AKC National Championship Breed Judge Sam Houston McDonald


What does it mean to be invited to judge at the AKC National Championship Presented by Royal Canin, the only all-breed show organized directly by the American Kennel Club?

Sam Houston McDonald: I have had the opportunity to judge this show on several occasions through the years. As with any invitation to judge, one is always honored to be asked to judge but there are those unique judging experiences which standout in one’s anticipation of (and memory of) judging; and the AKC National Championship is definitely one of those assignments.

From the time you receive your letter of invitation from the Chairman, Dennis Sprung, to the completion of your assignment, great details are given to making sure that everyone has a great experience. The Events Chairman, Michael Canalizo, and the Show Planning Committee are to be congratulated on the great success of this show, and as a judge, it is always great to work with the amazing AKC Field Rep Staff.

For me as a judge, the only thing that rivals this type of judging experience are the opportunities I have had to judge many National Specialties, and specifically, my own breed, the Irish Setter.


Can you share your thoughts on your various Breed assignments? Please be specific.

Sam Houston McDonald: I was assigned English, Gordon, and Irish Setters and Golden Retrievers. It was a busy day with 175 dogs. I would prefer not to comment on the specific dogs and bitches I chose that day but wish to give the following criteria I use to select my winners and placements.

First and foremost, the specimens I select must have correct breed type. This is always determined by viewing outline and examination. I then ask each dog or bitch to gait, determining that shape and make are still evident when gaiting and which is correct or nearest to the Breed Standard as relates to form and function. At shows where there is depth of quality, I must then determine which is my choice that day and I may do this by reexamination or viewing side gait once again. I always make my decisions based on correct attributes.


Now that it’s over, what are your thoughts on the 2022 show year? Any thoughts on the year ahead?

Sam Houston McDonald: Dog shows in 2022 began to return to some normalcy. Coming back from the COVID era was (and is) difficult, but I’m glad to see that entries at shows went up in most cases and attendance by the public began to return.

As we begin 2023, it is my hope that we continue this positive direction and that we will return to shows similar to those prior to that time.