The largest dog show in North America will feature more than 5,000 entrants competing for the $50,000 Best in Show prize.
AKC National Championship where a row of dogs are lined up; how to watch the AKC National Championship
Credit: Courtesy of Winter Churchill Photography

Cheers to ringing in 2023 with some beautiful pups on some ridiculously red carpet. 

It's time for the 2022 American Kennel Club National Championship presented by Royal Canin. The largest dog show in North America was held earlier in December in Orlando, Fla., but the action will appear on TV come Jan. 1. 

Here's all you need to know—how to watch; how the show works—about the AKC National Championship: 

How To Watch the 2022 AKC National Championship

The AKC National Championship conformation show was held Dec. 17 and 18 at the Orange County Convention Center. The top dog took home the Best in Show trophy that Sunday evening. 

If you missed the live streaming options, ABC will broadcast the group and Best in Show judging on New Year's Day. The three-hour broadcast will begin at 2 p.m. eastern. 

(You tell me a better way to nurse a NYE hangover than with dogs on the not-so-loud TV, potato chips, and a lake's worth of water.)

top breeds run the ring with their handlers at the AKC National Championship; how to watch the AKC National Championship
Credit: Courtesy of Winter Churchill Photography

How Does It Work?

The weekend included several canine sports—including Fast CAT and junior showmanship—but here we'll focus on the main event: the conformation show to determine who wins Best in Show and the $50,000 prize.

During each round, the dogs are judged on how they best conform to their breed's standards. So golden retrievers are examined against their list of ideal characteristics. Here's how the dogs progress: 

  • Best of breed: All the dogs of the same breed enter the ring, and a judge decides which one of them best fits the breed standard. So one golden retriever will ascend above the rest.  
  • Group winner: The breed winners advance to the group rings. The 200 AKC-recognized breeds are separated into seven groups: Sporting, Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non-Sporting, and Herding. Each dog is again measured against their breed standard, and the one judged to fit their standard best wins the group. In our example, the golden retriever would win the Sporting Group. 
  • Best in Show: Only seven dogs, the group winners, make it to the final ring. This year, Judge Desmond Murphy decided which of the seven dogs fits their breed standard better than all the others. That dog won Best in Show, while the second-place dog took home Reserve Best in Show. 

Murphy had the tough job choosing from the best of the best, but spare a thought for the breed judges, too. A record 5,376 dogs entered the conformation show this year. They represent all 200 breeds and come from all 50 states, Washington D.C., and 22 other countries.

The 200 breeds included three newly recognized in 2022: Bracco Italiano, mudi, and Russian toy.  

According to the AKC, four breeds had at least 100 entrants: goldens, Labrador retrievers, Australian shepherds, and French bulldogs. Seriously, consider having to judge dozens of picture-perfect golden retrievers—all fluffed and brushed to the max—before deciding which one is the best example of the breed. A pretty unenviable job if you ask me. 

Who Won Last Year? 

AKC Best in Show winner, Bayou, a black Giant Schnauzer, running the ring with his handler
Credit: Winter Churchill Photography

Bayou the giant schnauzer is your 2021 AKC National Championship winner. Then 3, Bayou—registered name GCHG CH Lagniappe's From The Mountains To The Bayou—beat some 5,000 other dogs to win the title and surprise his owners. 

"It was a true shock," Holly Reed, one of his owners, told Daily Paws last year. 

Who's a smart Best in Show bet this year? Beats me. It's a huge field, and 20 breeds have won Best in Show in the show's previous 21 editions. But if you're looking for favorites, here are the top-ranked show dogs this year.

Maybe Bayou will repeat. Or perhaps Winston the Frenchie closes out his year with yet another victory.