Kooikerhondjes are in AKC’s Miscellaneous Class. AKC has a program through which rare breeds have to clear their hurdles in order to receive full recognition: their Foundation Stock Service program. Rare breeds with an active club can apply to be FSS listed, and then they are eligible to compete in AKC’s Open Shows (read: rare breed shows). Once enough criteria have been fulfilled, the breed can move into the Miscellaneous class, which is an interim class while the club works on the population/other requirements to receive full recognition. While Kooikers were moving through this process, there was a lot of opposition to being in AKC at all, and I suspect most breeds go through this argument. However, I have learned the hard way all the things that non-fully-recognized breeds are barred from. The FSS and Miscellaneous classes are kind of the red-headed stepchildren of AKC and thus while we are working hard to compete with our dogs, I wish I had been aware at the beginning of all the limitations that would be imposed on us and our fellow rare breed enthusiasts.
First, if your breed is NOT in FSS/Misc, you cannot enter AKC performance events (obedience, agility, etc.) without registering with AKC as a Canine Partner, which requires you spay or neuter your dog and list it as a mixed breed. Thus, the very rare breeds are forced to choose between potentially contributing to a very small breeding population, and competing in fun events and earning titles.
Once in FSS, you can ONLY show your dog at a special Open Show. These are shows that are only for FSS and Miscellaneous breeds. (That means when all your friends talk about going to this or that local show – you simply can’t enter these!)
They are fun in a way since they are small, with tiny entries of a broad range of dogs that end up competing against each other for Best in FSS and Best in Misc, then on to Best In Open Show. These bar professional handlers. However, Open Shows are few and far between, many times have new judges using them as practice, and are usually isolated on the Friday before a larger show, or in a back corner during the rest of a cluster. Luckily as entries are so low, usually more than one Open Show will be run in a day or weekend.
Once in Miscellaneous, you can begin showing at regular all-breed local dog shows. You are in the Miscellaneous class, which is sort of a stepchild group #8. While entry fees are the same, Misc dogs will not be awarded Championship points or run the same ways as the rest of the groups. Sometimes Best In Miscellaneous is run in the group rings right before the rest of the groups, so there is some legitimacy there. More often though, Best In Miscellaneous is awarded just after all Misc breeds are judged at the beginning of the day, then you go home. Often the Misc class results are entirely omitted from websites that report show results, and they never report Open Show results.
Rare breed dogs (those in FSS and Miscellaneous) thus CANNOT:
- Compete for Best In Show at a regular all-breed show
- Earn a Championship, Grand Championship, or any related prefix titles. Rare breed dogs earn a CM – Certificate of Merit – after 15 points. No Majors are required due to difficulty getting one with low populations. The CM is a title that goes after the name. Subsequent CMs earned – after 30 points, for example – get a number, so the equivalent of a GCh. is a CM2.
- Compete in the National Owner-Handler Series.
- Have formal breed standings/listings
- Compete at big shows like Westminster!
- Compete in a 12-18 month class, an American bred class, a Champion(/CM) class, or (until just now!) a Bred By Exhibitor class
- Be exported! FSS/Misc is a LISTING not a registry – meaning any puppies of breeds not fully recognized born in the US cannot be sold abroad with paperwork. FCI and other countries do not recognize an FSS/Misc listing as a reciprocal registration and thus, for example, if someone in the Netherlands wanted to import an American-born Kooiker puppy, the puppy would be un-registerable, would officially have no pedigree, and could not show, compete, or be bred within the rules of the Dutch Kooiker Club. This is bad news for rare breeds that need to closely control the movement of genetics around the globe, because it means foreign breeders selling to the U.S. are committing to a one-way street until recognition – thus they are less likely to send quality dogs here. Luckily there is an expensive workaround – American-born rare breed dogs can be registered in Puerto Rico, and they can get an FCI-acceptable pedigree that way.
- Going the other way though, importing and registering an FSS/Misc dog with AKC is easier and cheaper than it is with a fully recognized breed. Go figure!
While AKC is admittedly THE organization through which respected dog events occur in this country, perhaps the limitations imposed upon our rare breeds explains well the reasons why rare breed people usually show in other venues. UKC, IABCA, ARBA, and other less-well-known registries are far quicker to grant full recognition for rare breeds so during the years we are waiting for full rights within AKC, most of us exhibit and compete in at least one other venue. That’s why our dogs’ registered names become a mess of titles at both ends (UKC titles generally go in front, and AKC ones as a suffix).
There are legitimate concerns about AKC recognition causing unsustainable population explosion and puppy-mill-style profiteering. However, in my opinion, I want to be fully recognized so that we can take advantage of all the things we are currently barred from – after all, we pay the same entry fees as everyone else, so we should be afforded the same rights.