“We say they’re ‘curious’, ‘unique’, ‘tenacious’ and ‘energetic’,” Nancy Nelson said.
Another new entry will be the Hairless American Terrierwhich, as the name suggests, isn’t a kind of fur—in fact, dogs need sunscreen or a coat when they go outside, according to the American Kennel Club.
Rounding out the starter trio is the Sloughi, which is pronounced SLOO-ghee, also known as Arabian Greyhound. He was bred to hunt and he likes to run.
So how did these three races make the cut for Westminster? The answer is quite simple: these are the three breeds that were officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2016, and any breed recognized by the AKC can compete at Westminster.
But obtaining this recognition is not so simple. It can take several years and requires a lot of dogs, as well as a lot of effort and organization on the part of those who are passionate about the breed. In other words, the club does not recruit dogs; dog people ask to join.
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First, dog fanciers must form a breed club. This club then approaches the AKC, which requests a written history of the breed – it must be from several generations – along with photos of the dogs and a breed standard, which is a description of appearance and behavior of an ideal dog. Here is one for the Working Kelpie, which is not yet recognized by the AKC.
Then, if the AKC thinks everything looks good, the club usually lists the breed on the club’s Foundation Stock Service, or FSS. This is a place to keep owner records, pedigrees and studbooks of dogs, which fancy dog breeding is all about. The FSS lists more than 60 breeds, including the Bolognese and the Karelian Bear Dog.
The next step can be difficult. Breed enthusiasts must show that the dogs live in more than 100 American homes; that there are at least 300 dogs with three generations of purebred ancestors; and that they live in at least 20 states. “They can’t all be in one city or state,” said AKC spokeswoman Brandi Hunter.
Doing anything that can get a breed into the “miscellaneous class,” which gets them a ticket to some of the 22,000 AKC-sanctioned dog shows that take place each year. About a dozen dog breeds are now in this class, and to make the leap to full recognition the club must continue to produce puppies, as well as hold shows and judging workshops and “breed seminars” , according to the AKC.
Then it’s up to the AKC’s board of directors, who can decide if they think the breed is ready for full recognition. The AKC says this usually happens after one to three years in the miscellaneous class, but it can take longer.
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The Dogo Argentino, for example, was first listed in the FSS in 1995, and it arrived in the miscellaneous class in 2011. Amy Collins, president of the Ohio-based Dogo Argentino Club of America, said the hardest part was keeping household membership up. She said about 150 American households now have the dogs, which were bred in Argentina to hunt wild pigs and cougars.
“Hopefully by the middle of the year [of 2017], we will be fully recognised,” said Collins, who added that bringing a Dogo Argentino to Westminster was a dream of his. “It’s just glamorous to be part of this whole AKC community. To me, that just means we stand out, we’ve jumped every hurdle to get there. I’ve been part of the process since day one, and that’s personally something I want to see through.
But not all breed fanciers want AKC recognition, as some fanciers believe it encourages poor breeding and ends up watering down or completely changing the breed.
The border collie hobbyist community, for example, has long been divided over AKC recognition. The sheepdog was recognized in 1994, “provoking the ire of those who depend on and appreciate the traditional working dog,” according to the American Border Collie Association. The association encourages people to buy border collie puppies from breeders on “working registries” like its own, not from clubs that attend shows.
Collins said some Dogo Argentino fans over the years disagreed with the AKC’s quest for recognition. But they mostly “gave up,” she said.
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