The best known kennel club in the U.S. is the American Kennel Club (AKC), but there are others as well, including the United Kennel Club (UKC), which also holds sanctioned shows for conformation and performance events like rally and obedience.
Then there is the International All Breed Canine Association (IABCA), which holds conformation shows based on a European model of showing. The classes are the same as for the AKC, but the judges give written evaluations of your dog as well as placing them in a class. Generally the IABCA holds 4 shows over a weekend, 2 each day, and if your dog receives an “excellent” mark in 3 shows, it wins its championship. (If you win best of breed, they give you pretty little gold medals, and your dog goes on to group competition, just like the AKC.) Kunga did this about a year ago.
In the show world, the IABCA is looked at as a kind of cheap championship–most dogs do get their title in a weekend of showing–but I still think this can be a useful exercise. For one thing, the judges are generally the same ones you see on the AKC/UKC circuit, so you can get some exposure to them in a pretty low-key environment. But I think the best aspect of the shows is the written evaluation. It’s one person’s opinion, just like in any other show, but at least the judge has to justify her placement in writing, and many of them go over the evaluation with you ringside. We are all a little “kennel blind,” and this is a good way to hear in detail about your dog’s good and bad points. If you’re starting out in showing, I’d recommend this for you. You can learn more from their web site: http://www.iabca.com.