What do 141 golden retrievers, 130 Australian shepherds, 89 Labrador retrievers, 94 dachshunds, 67 whippets and 1,395 puppies have in common? They can all be found at the Orange County Convention Center in December as the American Kennel Club brings its huge national dog show to Orlando.
Now in its 21st year, the AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin will bring together more than 8,500 dogs and their handlers for a series of events Dec. 18-19. During the largest dog show in North America, canines will compete in tests of agility, obedience, dock diving, conformation and more.
“It’s not just the traditional, in-the-ring dog show. It’s several things,” said Brandi Hunter Munden, spokeswoman for AKC. “It’s agility, it’s dock diving, it’s obedience, it’s puppy stakes. It’s action with a little bit of pomp and circumstance, but plenty of action.”
These events give handlers a chance to show off their pooch’s prowess in a variety of ways with bragging rights, prestige and even some money on the line for top dogs; the highly-sought Best in Show prize is $50,000. But what the competition also provides is a way for pets to bond with owners and dog lovers to connect with one another.
“It’s the experience of people competing with their dogs, it’s the trust and the bond that’s between the human and their dogs,” Munden said. “You’ll probably see some dogs that get super excited when they win. People think they don’t have a reaction, but they completely do.”
Competitors will gather from all 50 states and 13 countries for this celebration of all things dog-related. While the club’s popular “Meet The Breeds” exhibit is on hold this year, the public can still visit for free to explore and experience all the show has to offer.
“It’s a good place to get some knowledge, find out what dog breeds you might be in love with and find out what you might want to do with your dog. It’s all here for you in one spot,” Munden said.
Events that may prove particularly fun to watch include dock diving and Fast CAT, a coursing ability test where individual dogs chase a lure in a 100-yard dash. Visitors may leave feeling inspired to adopt a dog or compete in AKC events.
“All of these sports are accessible to everybody,” Munden said. “Purebred or mixed breed, you can do agility, you can do rally, you can do dock diving. Whatever dog you have at home, if you think they have the aptitude for it and you’re willing to train them to do it, they can absolutely do it.”
If you go
The AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin is Dec. 18-19 at 9800 International Drive in Orlando. AKC will require attendees to wear face coverings and sign a COVID-19 waiver upon entry. The events are free for public spectators. Parking may cost extra. Coverage will also be available on AKC.tv. For more information, visit akc.org.