Taking top prize at a Conformation show is an honor for any dog. But winning the AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin is one of the highest honors in the sport. This national dog show welcomes entries from all over the world and from all AKC-recognized breeds as they face off for Best in Show.
The first AKC National Championship took place in 2001, although it was known as the American Dog Classic at the time. In the beginning, the weekend was devoted to Conformation only, but as the years went on and the show grew, other events were added to the festivities, including Agility and Obedience.
By 2019, the weekend featured even more events, such as the AKC Juniors Classic and the AKC Royal Canin National All-Breed Puppy and Junior Stakes. There was also a record number of competitors with over 5,000 dogs from 49 states and 21 countries competing for the title of National Champion. Including the thousands of entries for the other events, this was the largest dog show held in the United States since the AKC Centennial Show in 1984 and the largest dog show in North America.
Dogs at the AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin are not competing against one another. Judges don’t compare one dog to the next. Winning dogs are those that most closely conform to their breed standard.
2023 AKC National Championship Winner
Shih Tzu “Comet” (GCHP CH Hallmark Jolei Out Of This World) earned the title of Best in Show and was the first of his breed to win the AKC National Championship. Comet’s win was only the second time that a breed from the Toy Group has won Best in Show. Reserve Best in Show winner was German Shepherd Dog “Mercedes” GCHG CH Kaleef’s Mercedes, who won in the Herding Group.
2022 AKC National Championship Winner
Bulldog “Star” (GCHG CH Cherokee Legend Encore) won the coveted Best in Show – and was the first Bulldog to win the AKC National Championship. Star won in the Non-Sporting Group and took home Best of Breed before going against other top dogs for the title. Reserve Best in Show winner was Standard Schnauzer “Bogart” GCHG CH Crivitz Humphrey Bogart Von Diable, who won in the Working Group.
2021 AKC National Championship Winner
Giant Schnauzer “Bayou” (GCHG CH Lagniappe’s From The Mountains To The Bayou) took home Best in Show honors. The top-ranked dog of his breed triumphed in the Working Group before taking the top title. German Wirehaired Pointer “Beacon” (GCHS CH Heywire N Deep Harbor Love That Dirty Water CD JH AX OAJ NF) took Reserve Best in Show after winning the Sporting Group.
2020 AKC National Championship Winner
The tables turned, with Pekingese “Wasabi” GCHS Pequest Wasabi taking Reserve Best in Show to the winning Whippet, “Bourbon” GCHP Pinnacle Kentucky Bourbon. Bourbon followed a trail blazed by her littermate, Whippet “Whiskey” (GCHP Pinnacle Tennessee Whiskey), who won the AKC National Championship in 2018 and was top dog in the Hound Group that same year.
2019 AKC National Championship Winner
For the first time, a dog in the Toy group won Best in Show at the National Championship. Prior to 2019, every other group had been represented in Best in Show. “Wasabi” GCH CH Pequest Wasabi the Pekingese earned the historical win.
2018 AKC National Championship Winner
This year marked the first-ever National Championship win by a Whippet. “Whiskey” GCHP CH Pinnacle Tennessee Whiskey also won the Best Bred-By-Exhibitor competition, which had only happened once before in the history of the show.
2017 AKC National Championship Winner
At the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, Cocker Spaniel “Striker” GCHP CH Silverhall Strike Force pulled off top honors. Cocker Spaniels have been exhibited in the United States since the early 1880s.
2016 AKC National Championship Winner
The first corded dog to take top place, GCHB CH Cordmaker Mister Blue Sky (Preston), a Puli, won in 2016. Along with winning his title, Preston beat out nearly 5,000 other dogs to win the $50,000 cash prize.
2015 AKC National Championship Winner
Rumors are true! German Shepherd Dog “Rumor” GCH CH Lockenhaus’ Rumor Has It V Kenlyn won over the judge in 2015. For conformation showing, GSDs have a unique stack or pose, where one rear leg is under the body and the other extended backward.
2014 AKC National Championship Winner
“Charlie” GCH CH Cragsmoor Good Time Charlie, a Skye Terrier, surely had a good time winning National Champion in 2014. In the past, these rugged little terriers went from working farm dog to a favorite of British nobility.
2013 AKC National Championship Winner
Portuguese Water Dog “Matisse” GCH CH Claircreek Impression De Matisse was the big winner in 2013. Bo and Sunny were two Portuguese Water Dogs that called the White House home, thanks to the Obama family.
2012 AKC National Championship Winner
Another terrier, this time Wire Fox Terrier “Sky” GCH CH Afterall Painting The Sky took the top honor in 2012. This delightful breed was once a core part of traditional British fox hunts.
2011 AKC National Championship Winner
Standard Poodle “London” GCH CH Jaset’s Satisfaction won in 2011. The rounded tufts on the legs, hips, and tail tip of a show Poodle are known as pompons. Their original purpose was to keep vital areas, like the joints, warm.
2010 AKC National Championship Winner
In 2010, “Reckon” CH Propwash Reckon, an Australian Shepherd, was the first member of the herding group to take National Champion. These iconic cowboy dogs were actually perfected in America, not Australia.
2009 AKC National Championship Winner
2009 saw Scottish Terrier “Sadie” CH Roundtown Mercedes of Maryscot take the win. Sadie’s father and littermates were all named after types of cars. She was the first Triple Crown winner of United States-based conformation dog shows, winning the National Dog Show the month before and the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show a few months later.
2008 AKC National Championship Winner
“Holly” the Pointer, with the delicious-sounding name of Cookieland Seasyde Hollyberry was the National Champion in 2008. Pointers were one of the first eight breeds registered in America in 1878.
2007 AKC National Championship Winner
CH Efbe’s Hildago At Goodspice was the big winner in 2007. This Sealyham Terrier was commonly called Charmin because his owner/handler said when he was a puppy, he was “squeezably soft.” His slogan became “Charmin’s on a roll.”
2006 (December) AKC National Championship Winner
The second Best in Show winner of 2006 was Felicity’s Diamond Jim, an English Springer Spaniel called “James.” James was also the 2007 Best in Show winner at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, after which he retired to become a certified therapy dog.
2006 (January) AKC National Championship Winner
The show was held in both January and December in 2006, giving us two National Champions for this year. The first was an Alaskan Malamute called Nanuke’s SnoKlassic No Boundaries (Costello).
2005 AKC National Championship Winner
2003 AKC National Championship Winner
This year’s winner was a Norfolk Terrier “Coco” Cracknor Cause Celebre. When it comes to showing these small but mighty terriers, “honorable scars from wear and tear are acceptable in the ring.”
2002 AKC National Championship Winner
CH Torums Scarf Michael (“Mick” or “Mike”), a Kerry Blue Terrier from England, was the first dog to win a Triple Crown (winning three prestigious events). He also won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and in England at Crufts.
2001 AKC National Championship Winner
The first National Champion was a Bichon Frise “J.R.” Ch. Special Times Just Right. When the judge awarded the rosette to J.R., she exclaimed, “Who couldn’t love that face?”
The AKC National Championship is right around the corner, and you don’t want to miss the action! Tune in to ABC on December 31 at 2 p.m. ET to see who’s crowned Best in Show.
Did you miss last year’s show? You can watch the 2022 AKC National Championship Presented by Royal Canin on demand on AKC.tv!