An event such as the AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin offers an amazing opportunity to meet the many breeds competing in the ring. This year, the AKC Meet the Breeds individual booths represented more than 100 breeds. Like every breed, and, in fact, every dog, every booth is truly unique. Each breed club puts incredible effort into helping people understand what makes its breed special, and all of that work is appreciated by the many visitors to the show.
Like the competition for Best in Show, there's also a competition for the Best Booth in Show. A panel of judges selects the four best booths in each group, and from those the top booth is selected. You can see the official winners in that competition here.
But beyond the official winners, we wanted to share some truly inspired approaches to representing the various breeds. Here are a few of the highlights.
Official 2017 Best Booth in Show winner.
What we loved: This booth was a perfect balance between theme and open space to play with these magnificent, gentle giants. The castle décor brought the breed’s medieval ancestry into play. One booth attendant said that the breed used to protect hunters, and they were so valuable that they were traded as a form of currency.
What we loved: With the heritage of the Chihuahua, the Mexican theme was to be expected and was colorfully and creatively realized. The unexpected and wonderful twist to this booth was its interactive and social media savvy – a dog-themed photo booth. No other Meet the Breed booth had anything quite like it. You could get in front of the backdrop, choose some props if you wanted them, hold a pup, and get four shots taken. The photos were arranged into a grid with the heading: “Meet the Chihuahuas," and you could send the results to social media or as a text.
What we loved: This unique booth setup was extremely playful. The speakers were pumping a fun new version of a Cyndi Lauper classic, “Beardies Just Wanna Have Fun,” while the stage displayed fully functional animatronics. The booth was developed, built, and organized by Cindra and Ron Malone. There was simply no other booth quite like it.
What we loved: The dogs themselves were festively decked out for the holidays, but what really drew our eye was the original artwork on display. A huge backdrop by artist Dean Russo featured Goldens, but was reminiscent of old Grateful Dead art. Two gorgeous papier-mâché statues by club member Teri Poetker were also prominently on display.
What we loved: This booth nailed three important elements: history, theming, and interactivity. Queen Victoria popularized the breed in England during her reign and is thought to have been the reason they were sized down to be companion dogs. (They were originally bigger and bred for herding.) At the booth, a costumed club member, happy to tell the breed's history, depicted Queen Victoria on the throne with her canine companions. At her feet there was a puppy pit, where kids and adults could have some hands-on playtime with this fluffy delight of a dog.
American Staffordshire Terriers
What we loved: The patriotic pride here was undeniable. Their historic role in World War II, when they ran messages between units, to their modern role in the Armed Services as bomb-sniffing dogs, were on full display. Not to mention a nod to the American classic “The Little Rascals” star Petey, one of the first Amstaffs to be recognized by the AKC.
What we loved: This gorgeous booth spotlighted the origins of this breed, the Toy Group winner this year. But the stop-and-stay-a-while quality of the video, off to one side of the booth, was what clinched this one for us. Vintage images included an impressive list of celebrities who owned Pekingese, such as Shirley Temple, Lana Turner, Judy Garland, and more.
What we loved: They took the country-of-origin theme in a more modern direction. This booth was set up like a bistro. It featured a beautiful gate to protect the pups, and gorgeous backdrops that showcased the breed’s French origins.
Toy Fox Terriers
What we loved: C’mon. Who doesn’t love a circus theme? Bringing this breed’s intelligence, aptitude for trick training, and history as popular circus dogs into focus, this booth was just too much fun to pass by, especially since it offered kids a great photo op.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
What we loved: This period-piece booth was squeezed down to half the size the club members were used to, but they made it all count by creating a small British parlor, with the ladies in beautiful era costumes. These regal pups looked right at home.
What we loved: The booth for this lovable pup, which took first place for the 2017 Non-Sporting Group (and Reserve Best in Show), was compact, but packed with personality. The pièce de résistance was the giant photoshopped image of the breed as a dapper gent, toasting with a glass of champagne. If that’s not enough to make you stop and say “Bonjour!” what is?
What we loved: This booth took an opportunity to base its theme, not on origin, but on a proud characteristic of the breed. Decked out in royal purple and gold, with a lounging throne to match, this booth brought to life its breed’s nickname, “King of Terriers.” Why this nickname? Because these are the largest of the terriers.