Fri, 02/05/2021 - 8:55pm

Question of the Week

Should the AKC allow mixed breeds to compete in Junior Showmanship?


David C. Merriam

Bonsall, California

This is just one further step to denigrate the historic purpose of AKC – the breeding and exhibiting of purebred dogs. How long will it be before there are mixed-breed champions? 

Rosemary Leist

Clackamas, Oregon

I am very much against this idea. I taught 4-H for a number of years. Yes, there were many well-loved mixed breeds, but there were also some purebreds. The kids made no distinction between them, but I heard many say they wanted their next dog to look like "Joey's dog." So I think we should encourage children to want a purebred. I know many breeders over the years who have given a registered pup or retired show dog to Junior handlers. Perhaps we should be encouraging active breeders to find a Junior in need of a dog to show. 


Marcia Walton

Wildwood, Florida

It’s a great idea, BUT if AKC allows mixed breeds in the Junior Showmanship ring, what will prevent it from allowing them into all rings sometime in the future if entries get low?  

If allowing mixed breeds in Juniors brings in big numbers of entries – which I don’t think will occur – AKC can use this rationale for allowing more mixed breeds into other rings – i.e., Goldendoodles and other becoming-popular mix breeds, under an eighth category called Mixed Breeds.


Elizabeth Denning

Somerset, Massachusetts

Not only should they let mixed breeds in (get 'em in any way you can these days is my philosophy), but also remove the "must own the dog you show" rule! How stupid is THAT one?


Diane Stille

Hudson, Colorado

I think we are going down a slippery slope. It began with allowing mixed breeds in the performance events, believing that once these newcomers were exposed to the world of purebreds, they would opt to own one. I would like to see the number of exhibitors who started out with mixes and moved on to purebreds. Instead, what we saw in many cases were people intentionally breeding mixes to obtain traits they felt could excel in agility and other sports.  

I would much rather see a class offered for Juniors with mixed breeds, held at all-breed shows, to expose them to the world of purebred dogs. 

This, coupled with educational programs developed by AKC, specifically for Juniors involved in 4-H and other programs, along with some type of sponsorship of these programs, would be a much better idea.


T. D. Harris

Deltaville, Virginia

Great idea. The cost of purebreds has gone out of sight for the average young person.


Donald Sturz

Brooklyn, New York

As the AKC delegate from the Poodle Club of America, and as a judge of and former competitor in Junior Showmanship, I have a variety of different concerns from each of those different perspectives and experiences. I’m a strong proponent of doing all we can to encourage youth participation in our sport. Junior Showmanship has always had its roots in being a training ground for future conformation participants. I understand the argument being put forth of bringing in more participants to the sport, but bringing mixed breeds into the conformation arena undermines the foundation of those events and AKC’s mission as it relates to purebred dogs. 

I have no issue with mixed breeds in performance events, and that is a perfect way for Juniors to participate with their mixed breeds and also get exposure to the conformation world through observation and interaction. Perhaps a structured mentor program through parent clubs or local clubs would be a better avenue for aspiring young participants to be able to access purebred dogs to handle in Junior Showmanship. Perhaps the rule about ownership of dogs in Junior Showmanship could be revised. That’s just off the top my head, so I’m sure there are many more creative options. 

The 4-H argument works from an experiential/instructional model. I support the AKC encouraging the 4-H youth to explore what AKC has to offer. But there are limits to how directly it can all cross over. 

The concept breaks down when one acknowledges that 4-H has no responsibility to oversee the integrity of the breeding and preservation of purebred dogs. As a Poodle fancier, the doodle and designer-breed phenomenon comes into play with regard to my perspective. Having “doodles” – or, more accurately, Poodle crossbreds – in a Junior conformation event normalizes the designer-breed situation. This is a dangerous step in a very troubling direction. As the delegate from the Poodle Club of America I could never endorse this plan on those grounds. 

The provision of the Juniors determining what “breed” they are exhibiting and wish to be judged by is very problematic. Aside from it being unacceptable to consider the doodle breeds a “Poodle,” it is also problematic with regard to presentation issues, such as where and how the Junior will present the dog and where and how the judge will examine it. Breed-specific presentation is a cornerstone of the learning in Junior Showmanship, and this plan tosses that aside. This also creates safety concerns. 

There are certainly alternative ways to create opportunities for Juniors with mixed breeds to gain access and experience in conformation events. Let’s consider those before we blithely go down this path. 

Gayle Bontecou 

Tequesta, Florida

AKC events and AKC philosophy have always been based on “purebred.” Let’s keep the all-breed tradition, not the mixed-breed “want-to-be, looks like, almost ...”


Kay Henderson, PhD

Alpine, California

My feelings about allowing mixed breeds in Junior Showmanship are, well, “mixed.” At the Del Sur Kennel Club matches, which I chair, we allow mixed breeds in Juniors and have the Junior enter them as the most likely breed. This way we can include all the 4-H kids. If they stay with it, eventually the Junior wants a purebred dog. In that sense the pilot program is doing what we are already doing at the match level. 

At the show level, Juniors is already more inclusive than conformation because it allows altered animals. Perhaps it should also allow dogs with an ILP number breed, but for a show to have Juniors with mutts is unsettling. I see the motive, but not certain that we won’t end up promoting Doodles, Puggles and other hybrids, and that is not our intent.  

Most Juniors who are improving and responsible can find a person with purebred dogs who will let them co-own and show their dogs because there is such a shortage of young people in the sport. Many of us have retired show dogs that would love to be Juniors dogs.

I appreciate the desire to expand Junior Showmanship because it is the future of our sport, but I think AKC should adopt the policy to allow mixed breeds in Juniors for B matches and to allow dogs with ILP numbers for Junior Showmanship. I think allowing mixed breeds in Juniors competition at shows will ultimately undermine the promotion of purebred dogs and is a mistake.  


Marnie Harrison 

Calgary, Alberta, Canada

A huge part of handling is presentation of the dog relative to its best “look” according to the breed standard. Fairing a terrier, getting an Old English Sheepdog to “amble,” stacking a Weimaraner compared to a GSD – all of that nuance that separates the “goods” from the “very goods” will be lost. I love seeing mixed-breed dogs and young competitors in performance events, but this idea is ill advised.


Robert Tainsh, MD

Winter Park, Florida

This is a done deal and I hesitated to respond. I learned a long time ago, "You have to pick your battles." Several of my closest delegate friends approve of this idea, and at the risk of alienating people I admire and respect, I will share my thoughts. 

The AKC Mission Statement reads, " The American Kennel Club is dedicated to upholding the integrity of its Registry, promoting the sport of purebred dogs and breeding for type and function." While I fully understand the corporate panic felt from dwindling income and revenues, allowing Juniors to show mongrels (inflammatory description intended) is a violation of our mission statement. There must be a way to encourage the participation of younger members without contradicting the mission statement. Seriously, must we deny who we are or what we stand for and abandon such a fundamental tenet of our sport to increase entries, participation numbers and income, i.e., the ultimate bottom line? Will these Juniors be in separate classes, similar to The Kennel Club's "Scruffts" initiative? 

When the pilot program ends after 18 months, I will be interested in reviewing a full accounting of the financial data from these entries and will vote for or against the continuation based on these numbers. I want to add that as the father of five children who grew up showing dogs, I fear these Juniors will be treated badly by other Junior handlers.

There is also the issue of the Junior knowing breed-specific faults, grooming and general presentation. Any bets on how long it takes for the first pit bull, specifically bred for fighting and "handled" by a 6-year-old, to tear up an unsuspecting Sheltie?


Kennon Hudson 

Monte Sereno, California

I think it is wonderful! These kids work so hard. It's unfair that they can't compete because their dogs are not purebred. Hopefully, we will have more Junior handlers in the future. Wonderful for the children, wonderful for the dogs. And additional entry fees for AKC.


Elizabeth Ritchie

Powhatan, Virginia

Apparently AKC is no longer the registry and “guardian” of purebred dogs. It’s all about money, and pretty much only about money. Very discouraging.


Deirdre Rahn

Hamburg, Pennsylvania

Can we have an open honest discussion of Juniors showing mixed breeds?

1) Ask any high-ranking Junior: It is very difficult to win with even an AVERAGE purebred dog. While the dog isn’t supposed to matter ... let’s be honest. This is an aesthetic sport, and a well-made dog makes the Junior’s job easier. So these kids and their dogs are no threat to our fragile little world.  

2) Kids with mixed-breed dogs will enter shows they normally would never be at. They will have the opportunity to learn about the sport of purebred dogs and get their feet wet. 

3) Many breeders are willing to work with and sometimes even donate a good-quality dog to a junior who is willing to put hard work in. These kids should be welcomed, mentored, and potentially be given a purebred dog to add to their home.  

4) A kid (and their guardians) who are willing to brave our close-knit (and all to often somewhat uninviting) world have the kind of chutzpah that I would welcome into my dog-show family.

If the world of purebred dog sports and the breeding of show dogs is to continue successfully, we need to be creative about how to bring folks in from outside our world. We cannot rely on the “grow your own” philosophy from the past. It isn’t working, and our numbers are dwindling. I see this as a creative solution to address the issue, but it will only work if we, the exhibitors and judges, welcome these families into our sport and make their experience one that they want to continue.  


Marjorie Martorella

Millstone Township, New Jersey

When I first saw this on Facebook, I was stunned. I have not been in agreement with the “Canine Partner Program” for Companion Events and certainly not for Junior Showmanship.

Clubs were given the flexibility to not allow mixed breeds to compete in their companion events. Will that also be an option for Junior Showmanship? I sure hope so!

It seems AKC is confused about their role of promoting purebred dogs and their breeders.


Lilian Barber

Lake Elsinore, California

What do I think about yet another ploy by AKC to make a few more dollars by allowing mixed-breed dogs to be shown in Junior Showmanship? I think it’s a terrible idea. Now, I’m not against youngsters practicing how to show dogs, but it just isn’t suitable for an organization that purportedly is promoting the breeding and exhibiting of purebred dogs to add one more part of their operations to what can be “accomplished” with mixed breeds. This is not what AKC is supposed to be about.  Maybe on a match level it would be okay, but it just isn’t right as part of a traditional show for purebred dogs.


Sid Marx

Mesa, Arizona 

Although I think at times the AKC has moved away from its original charter of being for purebred dogs, I applaud this particular move. If we want our community to survive, we need to find "new blood." Certainly not everyone has a purebred dog, but that doesn't mean that families with mixed-breed dogs don't love them as much as we love ours. Allowing youngsters to show mixed breeds in Junior Showmanship is a great way to get families introduced to our community. It also requires the young person to work with his or her dog, and building on that relationship is a good thing. I think this is a good move.


Walter Sommerfelt

Knoxville, Tennessee

This is a poor decision on the part of the AKC. Part of Junior judging is that a breed is presented in a way specific to the individual breed. Being just generic dogs, All-American Dogs do not fulfill the mission of the conformation ring. The place for the All-American dog is in performance, and in my opinion owners should only be allowed to compete with either one or two dogs achieving titles before they would be required to acquire a purebred. After all, is not the AKC about registering purebred dogs?


Honi Reisman 

Baldwin Harbor, New York

It is my understanding that although it is the Junior being judged, the Junior must also understand the specific breed characteristics. Mixed breeds don’t have specific characteristics, so will this part of the process be eliminated from the evaluation? Will the mixed breeds be judged separately or with the purebreds? I understand bringing more people into the dog-show world, but is this just another money-making scheme for the AKC?


LeeAnne Francis 

Berkeley Springs, West Virginia

I do not support allowing mixed breeds in Junior Showmanship. The AKC is supposed to be about promoting purebred dogs. Not only that, but the Juniors showing mixed breeds will be viewed and treated differently than their counterparts with purebreds. Because their dogs will not be up to par with purebreds they may get discouraged and not wish to continue with the sport. I just think this is a bad idea and will only hurt the Juniors involved. 


Mary Davidson

Harwich, Massachusetts

Mixed breeds at conformation shows. Disgusting. This is the final straw for me after breeding AKC-only dogs for 40 years. I am now going to actively work against the AKC.


Betty Fisher

Raymond, California

This is a positive move, and I totally agree with it and wish the program well.


Karen Werfield

Cleveland, Ohio

You’ve got to be kidding me ...? The AKC is repeatedly slapping long-time breeders in the face and making it clear they are about greed ($) and NOT the preservation of purebred dogs.


Lisbeth Manuel 

Hope Valley, Rhode Island

It is a great idea! I was very interested in being involved with the dog world when I was a kid. My parents said a dog is a dog; you don't need a full breed. Some of the kids will get hooked on showing and stick with it! Will also help dog-show-handling classes get more clients. 


Deirdre Toner

Old Mill Creek, Illinois

AKC is for purebred dogs. There are so many older, retired show dogs that can be accessed for Junior Handlers – why would they allow mixed breeds?


Ray Filburn

Newmarket, New Hampshire

Since it’s a pilot program, I agree! Anything that has the potential to increase interest/ownership in purebred dogs is a win-win. I understand the program is modeled after 4-H events. Getting a junior involved may ignite that spark to continue on in our wonderful world of AKC purebred dogs. Let’s see what happens.


Katherine Kasten

Dallas-Forth Worth area, Texas

Why doesn't AKC just admit it – it is all about the dollars and not healthy purebred dogs. Next they will be accepting Doodles, Morkies and Maltipoos. I am utterly disgusted with the AKC and its continued failure to promote responsible breeders of healthy, sound, beautiful purebred dogs over their focus on making millions to support their elitist board and officers and their disgusting salaries. 

Virus or no, it may be a cold day you-know-where before I enter another show or register another litter with the AKC.


Heather Kelly

Thousand Oaks, California

I think that AKC has forgotten their Mission Statement on the sport of PUREBRED dogs.  I think a better answer to getting more Juniors in the ring is to stop making them be co-owners of the dog they are showing. That would give them a wider range of options. Most of the Juniors I know that are showing are co-owners on paper only, so what exactly is the point of that?


Clyde Shaw

Denison, Texas  

I strongly oppose this action. I am a breeder of purebred dogs for close to 50 years and an AKC judge for more than 25 years. During its existence AKC has promoted itself as representing the sport of PUREBRED dogs. The proposed measure seems to violate that principle by appearing to promote mixed breeds as well.

As a judge of Junior Showmanship for 27 years, I rely on knowing the breed in order to know proper grooming, stacking, gaiting and overall presentation of each entry. A dog entered as a "Golden Retriever mix" could look nothing like a Golden Retriever. And a great many mixed breeds look nothing like ANY purebred dog. How am I to know if the Junior handler is showing his/her specimen correctly? Does AKC want me to just "wing it" and guess how the dog should be presented? If so, this puts the Junior with a purebred dog at a distinct disadvantage, as they must conform to a standard and presentation techniques that the mixed-breed handler need not know, much less adhere to, since no standard or proper presentation exists for their animal.

This appears to be another measure AKC is using to boost entry numbers at the expense of everything for which the organization stands. What a shame!


Shauna R. Brummet, PhD

Wooster, Ohio

Allowing NEW junior exhibitors to use unregistered dogs they already own for showmanship competition is a reasonable idea. Piloting the program is good. It should be evaluated for conversion of the family to purebred dog ownership and participation in other AKC events and programs.


Iva Kimmelman

Stow, Massachusetts

At first glance this did cause a bit of concern to me. The dumbing down of our hobby is so exhausting sometimes. What will it look like in the end remains to be seen.

The one saving grace is that Junior Showmanship is not about the dog, but about the person, so in some ways, it will be even things out perhaps.

The dogs that are not purebred will disappear, and the Junior will stand out. 


Tuni Conti

Oxford, Connecticut

As a former Junior handler and now a licensed Junior Showmanship judge, I was at first taken aback by this decision. However, after asking some questions and understanding more about this, I have come to support the decision.  

When I am asked to judge Juniors I request a list of breeds that are entered from the superintendent. This helps me in case I am not familiar with a breed entered and allows me time to learn fine points of its presentation. 

At first I was confused about how to evaluate a Junior with a mixed breed. It was explained that these dogs get Canine Partner numbers and while #54 may not look like a Labrador, it is “registered” as a Canine Partner Labrador and the Junior is to present this dog as a Labrador.

I believe this new rule will be a gateway for more children to learn about our sport and get involved with purebred dogs. If you look around at our current dog shows, you see very few people under 25 involved with helping at a show. We need to encourage our youth. A few special people encouraged me when I was a Junior and led me to a wonderful career as professional handler, and I have made lifelong friendships. 


Kandi Ramsey 

Bangor, Pennsylvania 

I am hoping to breed and show Newfoundlands. I started out with a Newfiedoodle, which made me desire a purebred Newfoundland.

To allow mixed breeds in, I believe, will lower the standards of the breeders investing so much time and money into breeding for a better-quality dog.

Purebred dogs are top of the top – and I believe they should be in a show of their own.


Steven Barbash

Victor, New York

As a Juniors judge, I would oppose the addition of mixed-breed dogs as not appropriate for the promotion of purebred dogs. If it is felt that there is a reduction of interest in the sport among the young, why not try it out first in match competition?


Deborah Barrett

Hoover, Alabama

Perhaps there are more instructions I haven't yet seen for this? I wonder what the judge will see in their judge's book? More often than not I don't proactively receive a listing of the breeds I can expect when I judge Juniors, so I don't think that will work. Will we also start seeing next to their numbers, the breed they expect to be showing? And I assume they are allowed to change breeds after they make their entry, so what then?

Now I will be able to have a dog standing in my ring, and I might have no idea of what it allegedly is or how it's best presented, as a basis to judge the Junior.

"Show me the beautiful head essential to your breed." And yet maybe this exhibit looks nothing like what it's supposed to be, including the head. So should I reward the Junior who is careful to emphasize to me their dog's dreadful incorrect expression?  


Barbara Burns

Freeport, Illinois  

This has become a very hot topic among the Delegate body. I see both sides. We need to find ways of encouraging younger people into the sport. However, the American Kennel Club is supposed to promote purebred dogs. Allowing mixed breeds, or All American Dogs, into the conformation ring, even the Junior ring, in my opinion opens up a can of worms I don't think we want. We are not 4-H, and I hold no ill will toward that group, having taught and judged for that organization many times. Most of them have purebred dogs that are unregistered in AKC or can be easily identified. If one shows a cow or sheep in 4-H, they must be registered with a reliable registry. So I don't think the 4-H argument is valid. 

I know purebred dogs can be expensive, but have you priced a Doodle? We need to be more aggressive in advocating for purebred dogs and the breeders so there will be more availability for Juniors to show purebreds in their ring. We allow All American Dogs in performance, and transitioning to the purebred ring is a natural progression that we need to encourage.


Delinda Davis

Birmingham, Alabama

I am in favor of anything that gets more young people involved in canine sports. I was thrilled when AKC started allowing mixed breeds to participate in companion events! 

I have some reservations about allowing mixed breeds to participate in conformation shows. I think allowing Juniors to handle dogs that they do not co-own would make it much easier for young people to enter Junior Handler competitions. I know many breeders who would be happy to mentor and let a youngsters handle their dogs but are not comfortable with a co-own. It seems to me that finding a mentor for a Junior showing a mixed breed might be more difficult than finding a mentor when showing a purebred.

I also think that exhibition events for Juniors at large shows are a wonderful idea. (After COVID restrictions are lifted, of course.)


Tracey Deyette

Newmarket, New Hampshire 

The American Kennel Club is a purebred dog registry, and its purpose is to promote the purebred dog. I feel that with this will come the legitimizing of the influx of "Doodles" and other "designer breeds." Owners of these "breeds" love to say that "Oh, my breeder says they are going to become an AKC breed!" This encourages people to continue to buy from disreputable sources, and will likely make them even more desirable. ("Well, they must be really something if the AKC says they are ... .")  

Another problem I have with this is that a lot of these kids have no idea what they are in for. There is a HUGE difference between 4-H and Junior handling at an actual dog show. Children can be cruel, and I can see many Juniors treating them poorly because of their entry and their lack of savvy handling skills, which most show kids are taught from an early age.  

I came late to the dog show game; I was 19. I had a mixed breed, joined an Obedience fun club (non-AKC) and got hooked. I wanted to compete in AKC Obedience, so I got involved with a breeder of English Cocker Spaniels. I've now been showing dogs in AKC breed, obedience, rally and agility for more than 30 years, and breeding for 25-plus, with more than 50 AKC champions under my belt. I can't say for sure, but if mixes were allowed in Obedience back then, I may have stuck with them instead of having one as a stepping stone to the "big league," if you will.  


Maggie Peat 

San Francisco, California

As a current breeder, owner, handler, former Junior, active member of breed/parent/all-breed clubs, show chairman of all-breed and specialties, and active mentor of newcomers to purebred dogs, I continue to feel AKC makes decisions in stark contrast to their mission statement. This is slippery slope and is gravely different than allowing AKC Canine Partners to participate in performance events. This is a conformation/breed-focused event. I support making changes to Junior Showmanship to increase involvement, but I will not support this.  


Robert Vandiver

Simpsonville, South Carolina

While I commend the AKC for trying to widen interest in our sport, I believe that there are issues with this proposal. The primary one being the assignment of a specific breed type to a mixed-breed dog. 

How many conversations have you had with someone with a mixed breed telling you about the dog’s background? “Oh, he’s a Rottweiler and Pointer mix,” when in fact, the animal does not have one characteristic of either breed. This is typical of people who are not that familiar with our many purebred breed types. Yes, they love their dog, but they have no idea what breeds were involved other than a best guess based on the observer’s dog background. 

In a search of 4-H rules, I found the following: 

Arizona State 4-H Competition: “No consideration shall be given to the breed of dog. Handler should know the breed/crossbreed and show the dog to that breed standard.” Does the handler have the knowledge to assess the dog’s breed type?

Texas 2020 4-H Show: “If non‐purebred, please list the dominant breed or breeds. Non‐Purebred classes will be judged according to the predominant breed characteristics.” But the rule says the “dominant breed or breeds (plural).” How do you judge a dog with two breed types?  

The Devil is in the details. 

This is not a performance event where the conformation is not under evaluation. This is an event that evaluates a handler’s ability to show a mixed-breed dog to the normal show presentation of a purebred dog. Which raises the question, will the judge be able to recognize the breed type?   

Maybe AKC can develop a system that will ensure that the mixed-breed dog has enough breed type to reasonably compete in an event like this. If this is just a way to introduce Juniors to the world of AKC dog shows, and as long as everyone understands that it is nothing more than a few ribbons, and a fun competition for the kids, then I have no problem with it. If it evolves into something more … like AKC 4-6 month puppies earning a Certificate of Merit title or Puppy of Achievement certificate, then I would suggest we not go there.


Joe T. Caton

Columbus, Ohio

If you want to go this direction, why not offer a spay-neuter class as well? This will also give you more dollars for entries. Plus a great place to offer more room for provisional judges to get hands on for breed judging.


Barbara Miller

Old Brookville, New York

Most young children have little or no understanding of purebred dogs. They just want a dog. Children for the most part take their cue from parents who in turn might not know much about our purebred world. Once the “designer” dogs hit the ground, their popularity soared. At this juncture if the only way to introduce a youngster to the dog world is through a mixed breed, so be it. Juniors is where the youngster can learn, and hopefully a purebred mentor will appear, taking the child under their wing. It is difficult here in the New York metropolitan area to get children to participate in Junior Showmanship, and, believe me, the Long Island Kennel Club has tried a variety of things. If we open up the class to kids with mixed breeds, we just might be able to educate the kids and their parents on what we do … exhibit a purebred. Having a variety of purebred storybooks around the ring for the child to take home might result in an eye opener. But we must remember, if it wags its tail, barks and gives kisses, it’s a dog – a dog the child loves. A gentle tug in the right direction, though, might be helpful.


Ann Lettis

Staten Island, New York

I am writing as the delegate for and on behalf of the Grand River Kennel Club.

Although there has been a lot of discussion with regard to mixed breeds being allowed to compete in AKC Junior Showmanship, many details are left out. There has been a tremendous opposition to this pilot program, one which was created to welcome 4H youngsters to the AKC and expose them to purebred dogs. Ultimately, this idea was supposed to encourage them to eventually obtain a pure breed to compete with at AKC events and become part of the fancy. However, in reality, currently there are 13 AKC events where mixed breeds can compete for AKC titles. Difficult to imagine that while competing in these events their owners are not exposed to purebred dogs, nor are they not welcomed. Currently there are no specific records kept as to how many owners of mixed breeds later acquired a purebred dog. No survey or follow-up was ever implemented to obtain that information relating to each specific event. There are no records showing previous success of bringing young people into the fancy by accepting mixed breeds to compete at AKC events to date, just a warm and fuzzy feeling for some.

The current pilot program as formatted simply implies, a 4-H’er with a mixed breed will enter the Junior Showmanship ring, compete, then leave the ring. Seriously, does this seem welcoming, and their exposure to purebreds is simply being in the same ring with them. Will there be a welcoming committee waiting outside the ring to greet and mentor them? That scenario would be quite insensitive to Juniors competing with their purebreds. Currently Juniors are the future of conformation; they will be the owners, breeders, owner/handler, perhaps even pro handlers, of purebred dogs. These are the Juniors who deserve respect, not treated like second-class citizens. 

According to this pilot program, the mixed breed will be identified as a purebred so it can be decided how the dog should be shown. Who makes that determination is unclear. The only valid way the combined breeds that make up a mixed breed is through DNA testing. Even if that test was done, suppose the result shows there are four different breeds within that mixed breed? Does one play a guessing game to choose the purebeed it will be shown as? I read with interest that the 4-H and UKC accept mixed breeds in their Junior Showmanship. When did the AKC become a follower and not a leader? Unlike the 4-H and UKC, the AKC prime commitment is to promote and protect purebreds.   

Did anyone involved in putting this pilot program think about the fact that spectators around the ring will most likely think that the mixed breed being shown as for example, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier (SBT), is actually what the breed looks like? Now, this mixed breed might have full prick ears, be long as a freight train, weigh at least 60 pounds and move like a Miniature Pinscher, but does have a short coat and rather blocky head. No thought seems to have gone into the misrepresentation of pure breeds that will leave a lasting impression on some John Q spectators. Furthermore, this is teaching children the AKC thinks it’s OK to misrepresent a breed simply for the possibility of getting a ribbon. Suppose a spectator approachs a child with a mixed breed who has just come out of the ring and says, “Oh, what kind of dog is that?” Child answers, “Well, I showed it as an SBT, but it’s really a mixed breed.” All too many times through the years, breeders and owners have dealt with the misidentification of breeds, all too many times misidentification has had to be settled in courts of law or time spent opposing unjust laws.  Why in the world would the AKC add to that confusion?

There are delegates who have provided excellent suggestions on the delegates list as to how they work with 4-H members. Many of those delegates have and currently work with 4-H. They are truly welcoming to them, provide mentoring, hold matches, and/or special events to include mixed breeds, however they do not have them compete in AKC Junior Showmanship. Many suggestions have been made by breeders and/or owners willing to provide a purebred dog and mentoring to a 4-H youngster with a mixed breed. With such experienced people within our fancy expressing a willingness to welcome these young people into the sport through their knowledge, I’ve no idea why they were never contacted. How easy it would have been to send an email to every club in the country, asking if they are involved with their local 4-H club. Perhaps some clubs aren’t, but many are. The email could have sought information on exactly what their involvement is, and utilize that information to put together a far more constructive program. There were numerous suggestions of holding a special event at a show just for mixed breeds, similar to the Pee Wee events, later giving the 4-H children a tour of the show, letting them meet breeders/owners/handlers. Certainly, many of the suggestions based on experience were far better than a child with a mixed breed simply walking in and out of a ring in the hopes of encouraging them to become part of the fancy

Some asked that the delegate body be able to vote on this. However, lo and behold, the delegate body is not able to vote on anything that has to do with Junior Showmanship. Yet there are delegates who are in clubs that promote and work hard to support Juniors exhibiting pure breeds but have no say through voting. Junior Showmanship is an AKC event, held at an AKC show, but it’s considered a non-regular event; therefore delegates have no input. Proposals are made by a subcommittee, then sent to the AKC BOD, which votes on that proposal. 

Limiting the delegate body so they cannot vote on all issues that relate to dog shows is shameful; this is a rule that should be changed. Additionally, rules on ownership/co-ownership for Juniors should also be changed, allowing them to exhibit any pure breed. Rather than putting a Band-Aid on a situation, time to start thinking outside the box about the negative ramifications decisions like this current pilot program can cause. Without including our Delegate body in all decisions pertaining to dog shows, changing the rules for Junior Showmanship and most of all truly promoting and protecting our pure breeds, the AKC is weaving a wicked web.


Nancy Fisk

Chair of the Delegate Junior Sub-Committee

In response to your "Question of the Week," our Sub-Committee members have approved the following document:

The AKC Board approved at its January meeting a proposal, submitted by AKC Staff and unanimously approved by the Delegate Junior Sub-Committee, to allow Canine Partners to be exhibited in Junior Showmanship. This will be an 18-month pilot program.

The Delegate Juniors Subcommittee, appointed by the Delegate Coordinating Committee, includes a representative from each of the Delegate Committees, two ad hoc committee members with valuable 4-H expertise, as well as Michael Knight, AKC Board, and Mari-Beth O’Neill, AKC Staff. The committee’s goal is to develop a “Best Practices” living document to assist clubs in attracting, engaging, and retaining juniors and young adults. Each committee member brings a unique perspective and approach to addressing this goal.

In an effort to attract and engage Juniors and their families into the conformation aspect of our sport the Sub-Committee members looked at the successful 4-H programs and how they encourage young people to learn about and compete with their dogs in all aspects of canine sport, including in Junior showmanship competitions. The 4-H and UKC Showmanship competitions include children with Canine Partners, as well as purebred dogs. Canine Partner dogs are already competing in our AKC companion and performance events, so Juniors may compete with their family dogs there, but those same children have not been encouraged or welcomed into the AKC conformation world.

Some all-breed shows include companion events, but many do not. Often the conformation world remains elusive, intimidating and out of reach to those kids and their families, even if they have taken advantage of the opportunity to compete in AKC companion or performance events. To exclude these prospective young and energetic members from our clubs and our sport at a time when we are seeing not only a graying and shrinking of our membership, but a shrinking of entries and overall participation seems like a recipe for dooming our existence.

The Junior Showmanship event is not about the dog being exhibited, but about the Junior and his or her skill in presenting that dog correctly. The Canine Partner dog would be clearly entered as a neutered Canine Partner, with its Canine Partner number on the entry form. The Junior exhibitor would designate on the entry the breed his or her dog most closely resembles and would be judged on his or her ability to present the dog according to that breed standard. This requires that the child learn that breed’s standard and understand the nuances of showing it correctly. The eligibility of Canine Partners to be entered in Conformation Junior Showmanship is limited to all-breed shows, or events holding all-breed Junior Showmanship, not specialty shows.

Those Juniors who do choose to take advantage of the ability to show their Canine Partners would start their entry into the Junior Showmanship ring in the Novice Class, and would need to advance from there, just as any other Junior does. It is there that the opportunity exists for clubs and members of our sport to kindly reach out to them, welcome and include them, teaching them about the joys of our purebred dog world and all it has to offer. It is up to us to take advantage of the opportunity to build bridges between these young people, their families and our world, or we can choose to alienate them and chase them away, depriving ourselves of a much-needed infusion of dog-loving people.

When the Canine Partners joined the companion and performance world, there was much concern that it would be bad for AKC and purebred dogs. It is estimated that the total non-purebreds competing in those sports number only approximately 5 to 10%. The sky did not fall.

No one is suggesting that the Canine Partner dogs be elevated to a place of recognition in our conformation sport, other than to be a means to allow children to venture into our world. With nurturing and kindness from our clubs and our exhibitors, these kids may become purebred-dog enthusiasts and hopefully find a breed that they will devote themselves to for a lifetime. They may well become the preservation breeders of our future.

For judges concerned about how to judge these children and their dogs, the Judging Operations Department will be providing procedural information. Many Juniors judges have already had an opportunity to judge these competitions at 4-H shows. The effective date of the program is scheduled for July 1, 2021, and the impact of the pilot program will be assessed in 2022.

The Sub-Committee has heard the concerns raised about the introduction of Canine Partners dogs into the Junior Showmanship competition by many in the sport. The Sub-Committee will therefore raise the possibility to the AKC Board of introducing this pilot program as an option for clubs that may wish to opt out.



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