A Look at AKC vs UKC: Part 1

By Jessica Freni

When we talk about dog shows in the US there are two registries that are typically the focus of the conversation, the American Kennel Club and United Kennel Club (UKC). The AKC was established in 1884 and UKC in 1898. AKC is undeniably the bigger force, more visible and largely considered the best registry/ dog shows and most respected venue in America while UKC bears the sort of “step sibling” reputation. Often a comparison is made between AKC being the “major league” vs UKC “minor league”, but is this really a fair or accurate assessment? Are there elements and aspects of UKC shows that would be a welcome addition to the AKC venue?

Join any dog show centric Facebook group and you’ll notice a theme, particularly, for newcomers to the sport, start in UKC. Whether the dog is new to the game and or the handler, try UKC is a common reoccurring theme, generally it’s a venue considered “easier” to start in, perhaps even more welcoming. AKC and UKC exhibitor, Dolores Ferrero explains, “Realizing that the events are generally much smaller than AKC, it is an awesome entry point for new people (far lower stress/pressure/drama than AKC, though those things are there if you look for them.”

So, why is UKC considered more welcoming or perhaps the better question is, why is AKC considered more intimidating? Is the reputation of higher quality dogs in AKC deserved and accurate, or is it simply a difference in presentation? As Dolores explains, “I appreciate the focus on the total dog… our dogs with correct overall conformation aren’t overlooked because they’re not flashy or showy.”

The main points cited as making UKC vs AKC a “more welcoming” or “beginner friendly” venue are: more casual dress, absence of professional handlers and style of grooming (UKC dictates a more “natural” presentation of the exhibit, ex. less product), more sense of “community”/helpfulness. Do we really need a St. John suit and a trunk full of grooming products to best showcase our dogs?

In the coming weeks, we will dive deeper into this comparison of AKC and UKC, hearing from exhibitors in both venues, if you’d like to contribute please message via the ADF Facebook page or email mrs.j.freni@gmail.com.