Five Things You Should Know About the Alberta Kennel Club’s Winter Classic

From January 19 to 21, expect a barking good time as dogs take over Spruce Meadows.

Photograph by Nicole Prokopishyn


From January 19 to 21, a different four-legged creature will be on display at Spruce Meadows. Best known as man’s best friend, dogs will be taking over during the Alberta Kennel Club’s Winter Classic. Wendy Hamilton-Petkau, the Alberta Kennel Club (AKC) President, told us five things you should know about the upcoming event.


Are you a dog lover? Get stoked – there will be wide variety of your furry friends.

“We have up to 106 breeds competing,” says Hamilton-Petkau. And, there are even more individual dogs. Friday and Sunday will have over 500 dogs, with Saturday reaching almost 700.


For the “Breed Championship” events, the judge is looking for specific characteristics in each dog.

“Conformation is judging dogs by comparing them to their breed standard as set out by the Canadian Kennel Club, which falls under Canada’s Animal Pedigree Act. Each judge is discerning which dog best represents each breed. At the end of the day, they decide on one dog for Best in Show and one dog for Reserve Best In Show, as well as Best Puppy in Show,” says Hamilton-Petkau.

To those who are new to the dog show circuit, this means that the judges are looking for specific things that have been identified as distinguishing features for their particular type of breed – AKA the “breed standard.” The Canadian Kennel Club identifies all of these features on their website, including things such as ideal size, length of coat, or movement.


One of Hamilton-Petkau’s favourite moments judging? Seeing a dog’s rise to the top.

“[Some of my] most memorable moments judging, would be seeing the dog you judged at a lower level who goes on to compete in Best in Show and win under a different judge the same day,” says Hamilton-Petkau.


The two biggest misconceptions about dog shows? Snobbery and a certain comedic film…

“The biggest misconception most people have about dog shows is that we are an elite group of people. What we are is very passionate people about our various breeds and our sport. I also believe the movie Best In Show has made our sport into a bit of a laughing stock to the average person who does not take it seriously,” says Hamilton-Petkau. “Competitors really do take this sport seriously. So much that the Westminster Dog Show is world renown and has attracted people from all walks of life for well over 100 years. From the waiter or waitress to the doctor who all believe they are guardians of their breed and want to do their best to make sure their breed is not one of the ones that become so rare, they disappear.”


Scent Hurdling is the event you shouldn’t miss at the AKC Winter Classic

While Hamilton-Petkau identifies “Rally Obedience” as a popular event with audiences, she divulges an insider tip to check out “Scent Hurdling”: “If you wait until after Best In Show is over, the Scent Hurdling is quite exciting and very interesting.”

Scent Hurdle Racing is an event at the AKC Winter Classic which incorporates both agility and the ability to sniff out a particular scent – the dog’s owner. A team of four dogs competes against another team. The dogs go to head to head through a series of jumps and each dog must pick up the object at the end of the obstacles with their owner’s scent on it and return to their team. The first team that has all four dogs complete this correctly wins.

The Alberta Winter Classic runs from January 19 to 21, 2018. For more information, please visit and

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