We just can’t get enough of these fine doggos strutting their stuff!
dog competing in the AKC National Championship
Credit: Courtesy of the American Kennel Club

We're completely happy to bypass college football bowl games and weightlifting world championships this time of year. In just a week, you'll find us cozied up with dog breed guides in hand and popcorn ready for the 2021 AKC National Championship Dog Show presented by Royal Canin. It airs next weekend, December 18 and 19, from Orlando and has the potential for some serious four-pawed action! 

The American Kennel Club (AKC) hosts North America's largest dog event, featuring more than 4,000 competitors annually and representing nearly 200 different breeds. First known as the American Dog Classic when it began in 2001, this conformation show (so much more than a beauty pageant!) celebrates all the best attributes of canines in seven different groups, according to their breed standards. It's the winningest show, too, with $150,000 in prize money. 

Here are the burning questions for this year's event.  

Will Darling Whippet Bourbon Win 'Best in Show' Again?

Ooo, it's hard to say. Bourbon (shown above), won in 2020 and hails from a winning line that's pretty popular. Her littermate Whiskey took home the coveted title in 2018, and was the first whippet to do so. 

But, there was a wowza moment with Claire, the Scottish deerhound who recently made headlines as a two-time 'Best in Show' winner of the National Dog Show in November, hosted by The Kennel Club of Philadelphia, thus taking the trophy in both 2020 and 2021. 

So who knows what's in store?

All conformation show judges have specific requirements they use to evaluate who becomes top dog of the year based on their breed standard. While there's a winner in every group, and one from that group participates Best in Show, the dogs aren't technically competing against each other. No one group or breed takes home the prize every time. It's a little confusing, so we made a guide to understand how this dog show works. 

Want to see winners from previous years? Here's a list of all the AKC National Championship Best in Show winners since 2001.

Which Dogs Are the Most Experienced?

While most show dogs can start participating as early as 6 months old, many are at least 2 years old before they enter the big ring, with numerous local and regional championship wins under their collar. The average age (well, as we do it in 'human years') is about 6–7 years old.

In this year's championship, there are two more seasoned pups people have their eyes on in the sports categories of the larger program: 

I'm Excited! How Do I Watch the Dog Show?

From Tuesday, December 14 through Sunday, December 19, you can watch all the action for free on AKC.TV, from the breakout invitational and showmanship events to the AKC National Championship Best in Show. You can also download the AKC.TV app to stream events through your AppleTV, Amazon Fire, or Roku service, as well as on your tablet or smartphone. Here's the full schedule so you can see what event is happening throughout the competition.

The show will also air on ABC on Sunday, January 2, 2022 as a three-hour special starting at 2 p.m. EST.

Now that's entertainment worth watching!