Friday, November 26, 2010

The American Kennel Club and Me

I asked for, and received, "The Complete Dog Book" for Christmas in 1961.  (This was the new revised edition of the official American Kennel Club listing of breed standards, histories and descriptions.)  I was nine years old and I pored over that book for about 40 years!  That book lists six groups of dogs as follows: 24 sporting breeds, 19 hounds, 28 working breeds, 20 terriers, 16 toy breeds and 9 non-sporting for a total of 116 AKC recognized breeds.  I thought that was the total of all breeds in the world.  It was enough for me to daydream about.  I think I longed for over half of the breeds in that book at one time or another.

I now own the 19th edition of "The Complete Dog Book" which was copyrighted in 1998.  This one lists eight groups as follows:  24 sporting breeds, 22 hounds, 20 working breeds, 25 terriers, 19 toy breeds, 16 non-sporting breeds, 17 herding breeds and 5 miscellaneous for a total now of 148 AKC recognized breeds.

I'm not an authority and I'm not likely to be a prominent or recognized dog trainer.  I am just an average dog owner who loves to train and compete with her dogs.  I also have this long standing love affair with the AKC.  Maybe it's only because I didn't know there was anything else out there.  Still - my feelings about dogs are tangled up with THE American Kennel Club.  It's what I grew up daydreaming about and it's part of my dog related history.

I have owned three AKC registered Samoyeds so far.  I began training and showing when I got Jazz, who was my second Samoyed.  We competed in AKC events only, until I went to a NADAC agility trial and was hooked on the opportunity to run six times in one day and the more relaxed atmosphere of the NADAC agility trials.  Jazz is now registered in NADAC and competes in that venue also.  Recently I attended my first UKC obedience and rally trial and Jazz and Coach are both UKC registered now as well.  I plan to compete in UKC in the future.

My goal in competing with my dogs is to have a stronger relationship with them and to be sure that they stay active, interested and alert as long as possible.  Jazz has recently had surgery on both knees.  I don't know if he will ever be 100% again.  As far as I know, AKC does not have a veteran's class in agility or obedience.  Agility does have a preferred class, but Jazz still has to jump 20" in preferred.  He can entered skilled and veterans in NADAC and jump 12"!  I fully expect him to be able to compete in NADAC in the near future.  I think we might be able to return to AKC, but that will be much farther down the road.  Obedience is worse.  He is 25+ inches at the shoulder so he has to jump 26" in obedience and 52" broad jumps.  There isn't much of a run to get up momentum to go over these jumps.  I'm not sure he will ever be able to jump these distances again.  I'm not sure why the AKC couldn't have a veteran obedience class that would allow Jazz to continue to compete, but jump lower and shorter jumps.  UKC has veterans classes with lower jump heights, which is why we are now planning to enter UKC obedience.  Jazz is not totally in love with obedience, but he hates being left out of anything.  I hate leaving him behind.

I would also like to see AKC agility have more opportunities for the dogs to run in one day.  It's a lot of work to pack up dogs, travel to a show, unpack everything, and then run twice (three times if FAST is offered.)  I love a dog trial, but it would be more fun for me and the dogs if there were more opportunities to run in one day.  Obedience has lots of nonregular and nontitling classes.  I would like to see more opportunities to have some fun at agility trials as well.

My last comment about AKC trials is something that I feel most strongly about.  I hear AKC and non-AKC people constantly complaining that AKC events are too serious.  Everyone is stressed out and unfriendly.  AKC is just not fun.  I think this is true to some extent, but "AKC" is not a person.  The people at these trials are us!  If we don't want the trial atmosphere to be stressed and unfriendly, relax and be nice!  I like to think that the trials held by my club are among the most relaxed and friendly around.  I think each host club has the opportunity to contribute to a more relaxed and friendly atmosphere.  I am so pleased that non-AKC recognized breeds and mixed breed dogs are now included in AKC trials.  I hope that these new entrants will contribute to a more relaxed atmosphere. 

I think it is a compliment to the AKC that so many people so desperately want to do well at AKC trials.  For many of us - it's "the big dance."  Still - it's a great opportunity to have fun with dogs and people.  I hope the AKC continues to grow and change.  Maybe add more agility classes - titling or not - and a preferred level to lower jump heights in obedience?  What would you like to see AKC change?  Any thoughts?