Deciding who is the best among 6,000 four-legged competitors — including Alaskan malamutes, German shepherds and , cocker spaniels — is no easy task.
But being a judge at the annual American Kennel Club National Dog Show is a job Ron Menaker has enjoyed for the past 17 years.
The Jupiter resident is the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the AKC, which held its annual competition in December at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. The competition featured about 190 breeds.
Founded in 1884, the AKC and its affiliated organizations advocate for the purebred dog as a family companion, advance canine health and well-being, work to protect the rights of all dog owners and promote responsible dog ownership.
This year’s overall winner, a cocker spaniel named Striker, won the $50,000 first prize.
“The atmosphere at the competition is spellbinding. These dogs are the best of the best. It’s very difficult to pick one winner,” said Menaker, who is a former managing director with J.P. Morgan.
The annual competition is more than handing out treats and obeying commands, said Menaker, who owns a border collie named Becca. The pooch has often visited Jupiter’s Dog Beach.
The AKC competition is not like the Olympics, where competitors win awards based only on jumping the highest, skating the fastest and lifting the heaviest.
The dogs also are judged against their own breed’s standards.
Take the working group competition, which Menaker judged. The winner was Cloud, an Alaskan malamute.
Judges look at the dog’s bone structure. The teeth. The coat. They check the distance the dog’s neck is to the ground, said Menaker.
“In our section of the competition, it’s not about how pretty the dog is or how high the dog can jump. The winner is the dog that comes closest to its breed’s standard,” said Menaker.
The AKC also licenses the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show — held annually at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Dogs — like people — have different traits and personalities, he said.
“German shepherds are rescuers. Border collies are herders. Some dogs train easier than others. It depends on their function,” said Menaker.
While competitive, the show has developed a family atmosphere over the years, Menaker said. Children of parents who trained dogs are now competing, he said.
“The dogs and their trainers have worked very hard. But they also make friends with each other. It’s like a fraternity,” said Menaker.