Where to Draw Align

One of the many conversations we had in the grooming area at the Fitchburg shows was a collective “What ever happened with AKC’s proposed group realignment?”  Last any of us could remember, the work group had proposed dividing the current 7 groups into 10 by splitting the Hound Group and the Sporting Group, and creating a Spitz group.

Since our discussion basically amounted to “WTF?”  “Yeah, I don’t know either,” and since I’ve been checking the AKC website obsessively to see when the Fitchburg show results get processed anyway, I thought I’d look into it.  As it turns out, there is a revised proposal on the table, and it calls for 11 groups:

  1. Sporting – Pointers & Setters (18 breeds/varieties)
  2. Sporting – Retrievers & Spaniels (21 breeds/varieties)
  3. Scent Hounds (21 breeds/varieties)
  4. Sight Hounds (15 breeds/varieties)
  5. Working – Utility (19 breeds)
  6. Working – Molosser (20 breeds)
  7. Working – Spitz (24 breeds)
  8. Terriers (31 breeds/varieties)
  9. Toy (23 breeds/varieties)
  10. Non-Sporting (14 breeds/varieties)
  11. Herding (30 breeds/varieties)

A complete Suggested breed list can be viewed by clicking on the link.

There were a couple of moves that jumped out at me:  Dalmatians would go from the Non-Sporting Group to the Working – Utility Group; more surprising, the Italian Greyhound would move from the Toy Group to the Sight Hound Group.

The Miscellaneous Group would disappear.  Of the 14 breeds who currently reside there, the Wire-haired Vizsla would go to the Sporting-Pointers & Setters group; the Portuguese Podengo Pequeno would go to the Scent Hound Group; the Azawakh, the Cirnecco dell’Etna and the Sloughi would go to the Sight Hound Group; the Bergamasco would go to the Working – Utility Group; the Boerboel, Chinook, and Dogo Argentino would go to the Working – Molosser Group; the Rat Terrier and Russell Terrier would go to the Terrier Group; the Peruvian Inca Orchid would go to the Non-Sporting group; and the Belgian Lakenois and Pumi would go to the Herding Group.

One thing that really struck me in looking through the suggested breed list is the number of breeds listed on it who are not even included in AKC’s Miscellaneous Group yet:

  • In Sporting – Pointers & Setters:  Bracco Italiano, Drentsche Patrijshond, Portuguese Pointer, Small Muenstenlander Pointer, and the Stabyhoun
  • In Sporting – Retrievers & Spaniels:  Barbet, Kooikerhondje, and the Lagotto Romangnolo
  • In Scent Hounds:  Grand Basset Griffon Vendeen and the Treeing Tennessee Brindle
  • In Working – Utility:  Appenzeller Sennenhunde, Slovensky Cuvac
  • In Working – Molosser:  Caucasian Ovcharka, Central Asian Shepherd Dog, Estrela Mountain Dog, Perro de Presa Canario, Rafeiro Do Alentejo, Spanish Mastiff, Tosa
  • In Working – Spitz:  Eurasier, German Spitz, Jindo, Kai Ken, Karelean Bear Dog, Kishu Ken, Norrbottenspets
  • In Non-Sporting:  Coton de Tulear
  • In Herding:  Berger Picard, Catahoula Leopard Dog, Czechoslovakian Vicak, Lancashire Heeler, Mudi, Schapendoes, Spanish Water Dog

That’s thirty-four new breeds who, if the proposed realignment is accepted, will be fully recognized by the AKC between now and 2015, when the realignment will go into effect, even though they are not currently even in the Miscellaneous group.  Thirty-four.  [As an aside, my spell-checker now HATES me.]

I’ll admit to my memory being fuzzier than the area behind the couch where the vacuum doesn’t reach, but wasn’t one of the stated purposes of the realignment to streamline the judging process?  The addition of so many new breeds, and in such a short amount of time, would seem to me to be the exact opposite of streamlining.  Breed judging will take longer with more breeds to judge, and then the lucky BOB winners are faced with waiting through 11 groups instead of the current 7.  Also, the argument that group judging will progress more quickly because the dogs are divided into smaller groups does not hold up — the same number of dogs are still being judged, PLUS  there will be more breaks in between as the stewards reset the ring for the next group.  I can envision no scenario in which 34 new breeds + 4 more groups = faster, more efficient judging.

So what DOES all of this accomplish, then?  Three things spring immediately to mind:

  • More registerable breeds and more show entries mean more money in the ever-avaricious AKC’s pockets.  There has already been a veritable explosion of new breeds being added since I toddled along to my first dog shows in the 70’s.  The ever-increasing speed with which  new breeds are now recognized sort of begs the question of just how many shortcuts are being taken when it comes to verifying stud books and so forth.  Are there corners being cut somewhere and, if so, just who is doing the cutting?
  • More group placements to hand out.  We all want those coveted Group 1’s, 2’s, 3’s and 4’s;  with the enactment of this realignment, now 16 more lucky exhibitors will have bragging rights to a group placement.
  • Or will it really be 16 more exhibitors?  Will this realignment actually put more ribbons in more hands, or will it just put more group ribbons in the hands of the professional handlers, who walk away with the lion’s share as it is, and who could now theoretically have four more shots at a Group win?

If the proposed realignment does not streamline the judging at dog shows (or does, in fact, prolong it), what could AKC do with the Groups instead?

  • How about decreasing the number of Groups instead of increasing it?  Since the AKC is apparently willing to do away with the Miscellaneous Group, why not just do it?  Negate that stepping stone and require full recognition of a breed before it is eligible for competition.  Or, do away with the Non-Sporting designation and make the Miscellaneous Class truly miscellaneous.  Take dogs like the Lhasa Apso, the Tibetan Spaniel, the Schipperke, the Lowchen, the Boston and the Bichon Frise out of NS and put them in the Toy Group (and change the “Toy” Group to the “Companion” Group), where they look more like they belong.  Put the Standard Poodle in Sporting, since that was its original function (and get rid of the ridiculous hair-do’s while they’re at it).  Put others, like the Dalmatian, the Keeshond, the Norwegian Lundehund into the Working Group.  There should really be very few breeds who don’t fall into one of the other categories.
  • Do away with the Varieties.  Do we really need to have three Cocker Spaniels in the Group ring, when the only difference separating them is color?  I think not.  Sort them out at the Breed level in the Open Class, just as Collies and Shelties do, and send one to Group.  Same with Dachshunds – they should be structurally identical underneath the different length and texture coats, so judge them on those things and decide which is your best of breed.  Hell, the four Belgian Shepherds — Lakenois, Malinois, Sheepdog (Groenendael) and Tervuren — are considered varieties of the same breed in most other countries.  Combine them, separate your Open classes by coat, then choose one to represent the breed at the Group level.
  • Stop rushing new breeds through the pipeline.  Seriously, 34 new breeds in 3 years?!  That’s kinda ridiculous.

Believe me, I am ALL FOR streamlining the judging at a dog show.  Winning Best of Breed is almost a double-edged sword — yay! I won!  Shit, now I have to wait for Group.  It’s bad enough when your group is the 7th being judged.  I don’t think anyone wants to be the 11th.  I think AKC can do better.

What say you all?  Sound off in the comments and tell me what YOU think AKC should do with the Groups.

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Posted on January 26, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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