Breed Education: It Starts With You

breed education

Breed education does start with you: You the seminar presenter, You the learner, and You the seminar coordinator. Breed education serves prospective adjudicators, be they judges or breeders. What you put into the learning or teaching experience, is what you, and others, get out of it. In the case of the seminar coordinator, what you put into it affects the learner(s) and the teacher(s). In this issue, we will look at what it takes to prepare for a breed(s) seminar(s), from the perspectives of the presenter (teacher) and learner. The next article in the series will cover preparation by the seminar(s) coordinator.


If you are a breed seminar presenter, or are thinking about becoming one, the AKC has resources that should help you put together and/or present a good breed-specific seminar and hands-on workshop. The biennial AKC Judges Education Symposium was most recently held on December 14, 2018 in conjunction with the AKC National Championship Dog Show in Orlando, Florida. This symposium was targeted at judges education committee members. Sue Vroom (AKC Executive Field Representative/AKC Judges Education Liaison) was one of two speakers that addressed the 40 attendees representing 30 different breed clubs. Among the topics of conversation were the responsibilities and function of the Judges Education Committee, the role of the JE Chairperson, developing a strong mentor committee, what makes a good breed presentation, seminar, and workshop paperwork were just some of the topics covered. A full report can be found in the AKC Judges Education Newsletter, Spring 2019. Being biennial, the next one should be around the same time in 2020. Watch the AKC web site for future announcements.

When beginning my foray into training others within my fields of occupational expertise, I leaned quite heavily on the successful techniques used by effective trainers to which I had been exposed. The commonality across those techniques was the theory of adult learning. On my path to becoming a better trainer, and a coordinator of learning experiences, I took a course which used the Smith & Delahaye textbook, How to Be an Effective Trainer. It is specifically targeted at the adult learner, as adults and children learn in different ways.

Most parent breed clubs have assembled a seminar presentation that can be delivered by designated parent club representatives. This presentation may or may not include audio-visual media or paper-based informational material on the breed. Effective presentations engage almost all the senses.

Effective seminar presenters have several traits in common. They are first and foremost, thoroughly knowledgeable about the history and evolution, purpose, and typical structure, movement, and temperament of their chosen breed. They are steeped in the traditions, not fads, of their breed and nuances of stylistic interpretations while remaining steadfast to breed type and the breed standard. In addition to this deep well of breed-specific knowledge, effective seminar presenters are also dynamic speakers with the ability to engage their audience and keep their attention. They sense when an audience is puzzled by certain points in the presentation and easily reframe that point, making it easier for the uninitiated learners to comprehend. Effective presenters usually have good speaking voices that project, and if not, they request a microphone well in advance of the scheduled presentation. They are quick to adapt to unplanned changes and/or technical difficulties. Through it all, an effective seminar presenter maintains a sense of purpose and a modicum of humor to deal with the array of personalities encountered during the presentation preparation, delivery, and follow-up.

Preparation begins well in advance of seminar and workshop delivery. This starts with the presentation materials themselves. The presenter may or may not have been a part of preparing the parent club breed presentation. However, they should be completely familiar with all aspects of the audio-visual pieces, if, when, and how used, and the varying handouts, be they in paper format or on a USB stick. There is nothing more vexing to adult learners than to have a seminar presentation read to them from material in a slide presentation or in paper format. While a few parent clubs still insist that presenters read the breed presentation script verbatim, the adult audience is quickly lost in the monotony of this type of presentation. When giving learners the breed materials on USB sticks, be it the entire breed presentation, or handouts converted to PDF or other format electronic documents, ensure that these are briefly reviewed and projected so the entire class can see what to expect in the USB stick. Presenters should practice delivering the entire seminar content. This is can be done with another dog fancier that is not familiar with your breed. The listener should be instructed to ask questions, interrupt, lose focus, act puzzled, etc. In summary, the listener should attempt to portray all those behaviors that a seminar presenter may encounter during the live presentation. You, the presenter, should practice how to answer questions, maintain control, and bring the class back from a tangential topic.

If your breed still does the work for which it was developed, or a close facsimile thereof, it is helpful to have videos of dogs at work embedded in your presentation, or that can be played apart from it. Be prepared to explain to the learners what they are seeing or hearing through the stages of the work endeavor. This may be the only opportunity the learners will have to “see” your breed at work.

In terms of the nuts and bolts of the preparation for the presentation and workshop, you will need to have the presentation in a format that is utilized by the hosting seminar group. This is most often a laptop with a connection to an overhead projection system onto a screen. Be prepared for laptops of all ages and capacities. Ask ahead of time what features the hosting group’s laptop and seminar room possess. Do not assume that the laptop has a CD drive (micro or full size), multiple USB ports, has one or the other PC or Mac operating system, MS PowerPoint and/or Adobe Acrobat software or video-playing software. Ask if the seminar room has connections from the laptop to a sound system and microphones and if lights are dimmable. By the same token, do not expect that the hosting group will be able to accommodate your every technical need. Most hosting groups are fortunate to have obtained a space that allows live dogs, is in conjunction with a major dog event, has an AV system, chairs and tables, and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to rent.

The seminar presenter should prepare the audio-visual presentation so that it adapts to the hosting group’s hardware and have a back-up of the presentation. This means having your presentation in MS PowerPoint and Adobe Acrobat on a USB stick in case one or the other software system is not functional or congruent with your software version used to produce the presentation. The presentation should be duplicated onto a separate USB stick. Both USB sticks should be virus-free. Do not count on WiFi availability if your presentation is wholly web-based. Download it to a USB stick into a format compatible with the hosting group’s software. It doesn’t hurt to send your presentation, well ahead of your seminar, to the seminar coordinator on the USB stick type you intend to use so that it can be tested with the hosting group’s hardware and software. I hesitate to recommend having your own laptop for presentations, as the technology of the venue’s connections may differ from what your laptop
can accommodate.

Gather the approved handout materials your parent club has authorized and have sufficient copies made, or burned onto a sufficient number of USB sticks to accommodate all attendees at your seminar presentation. The use of unapproved materials is discouraged; however, if you must, clearly mark those as not approved by the parent club. You are obliged to so inform the learners and your parent club that those materials are not parent club approved. If you have older historical material produced by the parent club and now retired in favor of newer versions, ask if it may be used and mark the material as retired or obsolete. Be prepared for learner questions as to why the retired or obsoleted material is being used. In order to know how many copies of materials to bring with you, or ship, keep in close contact with the seminar coordinator regarding paid registrations received for your breed’s seminar. Most presenters will pad that number by 5-10% to ensure they have a sufficient number of handouts for all attendees. If you have multiple paper handouts, they are most easily managed when assembled as a per attendee package in a presentation packet with letter size pockets on the interior. Some parent clubs go so far as to affix their logo to the exterior of each presentation packet. This makes for easy discernment at the seminar and at home when filed away by the learner. Please do not assume the seminar coordinator can receive and transport your shipment of presentation packets. Ask if that is a possibility, timing for delivery, delivery location, etc. If you must ship materials, and the seminar coordinator cannot receive and/or transport them, please make arrangements for delivery to the hotel at which you intend to stay, or some other trusted repository. Please do not trust a seminar venue to receive, track and store your materials. Many do not have staff available on weekends when some seminars occur, and the staff they do have is usually stretched pretty thinly.

Ask the hosting group seminar coordinator if you are responsible for making an adequate number of copies of seminar attendee sign-in forms, participant evaluation forms, hands-on workshop breed evaluation forms, and seminar and hands-on workshop report forms for your breed’s presentation. The most up-to-date forms can be found at the bottom of the AKC web page at Please go all the way down to the bottom of the web page to Reports and Guides and click on each of the four links located thereunder. Each link opens to a PDF version of the forms that need to be used for seminars and hands-on workshops as well as the introduction. Your parent club may issue individual attendance certificates or not. It is incumbent on your parent club to provide those to you as the seminar presenter. The hosting group seminar
coordinator usually has attendance certificates that cover one or multiple breeds. Ask the seminar coordinator which method they use. Ask the seminar coordinator ahead of time who will turn in the attendee sign-in sheets, participant evaluations, and hands-on workshop breed evaluations to the AKC.

Be prepared to wear comfortable professional clothing and footwear to your presentation. You are representing your parent club, your breed and its history. If you are presenting on a breed that does (or did) a job for a living, having an assistant in attire corresponding to the type of canine work done (e.g. riding or foot huntsman/woman, fur or feather hunter—leave the ammo at home please) may give the learners another reason to get excited and be engaged with your presentation. Many venues have variable ambient conditions depending on their ventilation systems or hold the workshop portion of the presentations outdoors. Be prepared for variations in temperature, humidity, and precipitation.

The first and foremost aspect of the hands-on workshop endeavor to be considered by the seminar presenter is the gathering of the best breed examples possible so that learners can fix in their minds what is proper type, exemplary construction reflective of the breed standard, typical movement and typical temperament for the breed. For those breeds that go through obvious developmental differences through the maturation cycle, it is helpful to have a couple of 6-18-month-old representatives of the breed available. These may or may not be used in the hands-on workshop depending on their quality, mental maturity and steadiness. Learners should have the opportunity to see immature specimens of the breed in order to know what is normal and acceptable at the different maturation stages.

Hands-on workshops and the live exhibits requested to be present for the learners to examine and evaluate is sometimes fraught with contention; from the aspects of the exhibit owners’, the parent club influencers, the presenter’s predispositions, and the availability of excellent quality breed representatives whose owners commit to bring exhibits for the hands-on workshop. When the exhibit owners, presenter and parent club are at odds regarding the exhibits selected for participation in a hands-on workshop, it is incumbent on all parties to agree that only by having the best breed examples at a workshop will learners be more competent adjudicators of the breed in question.


Many parent clubs have their breed’s study guide(s) on the AKC web site These guides can be a starting point for the learner to get a background on a specific breed or breeds prior to attending the breed seminar and hands-on workshop (also known as “workshop”). There are often gems of information in those study guides that you will not see or hear in the seminar presentation or hear/see/feel in the workshop. Please be sure to review the history of the breed, so the explanations of form, as well as temperament/personality/attitude, can be related back to breed function during the seminar presentation and workshop.

You are responsible for your learning. It is important to the exhibitor of the breed you will be adjudicating to know the “why’s” and “how’s” of the specific breed, as much as the “what” of the breed. You will be judging breeding stock, not a glamour and showmanship contest. You are there to adjudicate so as to choose the preservation of those traits which allow a breed to continue to positively move into the future conserving its functional and
structural heritage.

If you are at a breed seminar and workshop as a breeder, owner, and/or exhibitor, you also are also subject to the same responsibilities as the learner-judge. Your role as an adjudicator takes on a different perspective as you learn more about your breed enabling you to become a better breeder or exhibitor. Your added role as a learner, albeit in a different setting, is to understand the health and genetic complexities of your breed so as to preserve your breed for a healthy and functional future.

On the creature comfort side of things, ask about the venue: seating, desks/tables, ambient temperature, class hours, lunch and break times. Be prepared with comfortable shoes and clothing, while maintaining a professional or workplace appearance. Ask well before you register which hotels are nearby or recommended, and nearby or recommended eating places, and if there is transportation from the local airport to the hotel or venue. Ask if the seminar coordinator maintains a listing of people looking for hotel roommates, ride shares, or if they would share the registrant contact list. Some registrants would like to share a hotel room or a ride, but don’t know who’s attending. Ask if water and/or snacks will be provided but please don’t expect the seminar
coordinator to cater to every snacking desire. Most all seminars are run on a really tight budget! If you have particular snacking needs, please bring those with you.

If you are a learner that is comfortable bringing your laptop on which to take notes or view the parent club website’s presentation download, do so. Please make sure your laptop battery is fully charged, as there are usually no extension cords for your use, or convenient outlets in which to plug into. Just be aware that not all venues have WiFi access. Ask! If you prefer to write your notes on paper, or directly on the handouts, bring at least two writing implements. Some learners like to bring a highlighter with them to emphasize information that they want to easily have stand out.

If it is an all-day or multi-day session of seminars and workshops, be rested up (each day) for an intense brain workout. Come with an open mind and no preconceived notions. Your head will fill rapidly!

Next in the Series

The next installment in this series will cover the preparatory aspects for a seminar coordinator, be it a coordinator for a group that hosts multiple breeds seminars during one period of time or a single breed seminar coordinator one or several times a year. Sometimes the breed presenter is also the seminar coordinator and that is a complex job unto itself.

Until next time, please send us your comments, questions and suggestions for this series by clicking here.

  • Celeste M. Gonzalez is a graduate of the University of Florida, majoring in Animal Science and is also a Registered Quality Assurance Professional - Good Clinical Practices, Certified Clinical Research Professional, and a Certified Veterinary Technician. She works in the medical device field in clinical research and development after a long period of service in animal health, both in clinic and research. Celeste began showing dogs in 1975, while still in college, with the purchase of her first Basset Hound and began coursing and showing sight hounds with the purchase of her first Saluki the same year. She finished her first champion, a Saluki, in 1976. Participation in lure field coursing during the infancy and development of ASFA garnered her Salukis their ASFA FCh. One of her owner-trained-handled Salukis also obtained a C.D. in obedience. Salukis remained a part of her life until 1989 and she continues to be active in Basset Hounds to this day as an owner, breeder, and exhibitor. She continued to show her Bassets through her college career and began to breed in 1980. Her Jolly Time Hounds kennel has produced numerous Basset champions from a very small breeding program, including Best In Show dogs. Celeste has dabbled in tracking and field work with her Bassets and is proud of the accomplishments of her dogs that have gone to hunting and field trial homes. She is also very involved in Basset Hound health and her dogs are genetically tested for hereditary familial thrombopathia, MPS1, and primary open angle glaucoma. Celeste has judged Basset Hound and other Hound and Terrier breed specialties across the United States, including the BHCA National Specialty, and judged the Basset Hound Club of Spain national specialty in 2009. She is approved to judge the Hound and Terrier Groups.

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