Kennel Club Membership Has Its Responsibilities & Privileges

Kennel Club Membership


Your Kennel Club Membership Has Its Responsibilities & Privileges – There is no question that the AKC is known as the “Club of Clubs.” Without the local as well as the national and performance clubs, the AKC would have no events to put on.

Each time we enter a show, trial, match, or any other AKC event, we all should know that the only reason we have that event to attend is because of the dedicated members and volunteers of the sponsoring club who give generously of their time, talents, and resources to put on the event for the fancy.

Clubs are, without a doubt, the backbone of our sport. When I see the number of exhibitors who participate in our events, I often wonder why the local clubs struggle to attract members to assist in putting on these events?


Opportunities to Learn

When I was first introduced to the sport, I was encouraged to join and participate in both my local all-breed club as well as my local breed club. Joining those clubs provided me with an opportunity to learn and interact with people from all walks of life and with many different views and experiences to mold and educate me on everything to do with purebred dogs. I cannot think of any time since I began in the sport that I have not belonged to a club.

The dynamics of clubs can often be diverse, and I think it is safe to say that no two clubs are exactly alike. Yet all clubs have one thing in common, and that is the mission to promote the sport of purebred dogs, positively and responsibly.

When you become a member of a club, you now become part of a group of people dedicated to a sport that you love. Clubs come in many different shapes and sizes. Some are conformation only, others are obedience, agility, and performance events only, while many embrace all aspects of the sport.

Membership in any kennel club usually offers an individual an opportunity to learn and grow in the sport as well as to have fellowship interactions with like-minded enthusiasts.

Clubs offer many opportunities for learning through various programs and seminars at monthly or occasional meetings. Some offer conformation classes, obedience and rally classes, and some teach and promote agility and other performance events. Many clubs also recognize the achievements of their members with plaques or other types of awards to signify their accomplishments in the show ring as well as in the performance arena.

For clubs to succeed and continue to put on events as well as provide other local educational events and programs, while also promoting responsible pet ownership, they need members.

Membership in any kennel club usually offers an individual an opportunity to learn and grow in the sport as well as to have fellowship interactions with like-minded enthusiasts.


Giving Back

Every individual who participates in our sport should belong to a club and be an active member to “give back” to the sport.

I often see and hear exhibitors, judges, and breeders making comments and complaining about things at shows and trials, and when I ask them if they belong to a club their answer is way too often, “NO.” At that time, I usually say that we have a responsibility to give to the sport that is giving us so much. We should not be criticizing those people who are giving freely of their time, knowledge, and efforts to put on the show or trial that we are complaining about. None of these volunteers are being compensated for their time or effort. Many members are often using vacation time and their own monies to help the club.

All of us who exhibit or judge owe a great deal to the efforts of these individuals, for without them or their clubs there is no event.

Why belong? Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “The only true gift is a portion of thyself to others.” Giving your time, talent, and knowledge to a club is a great way to give the gift of yourself to the sport you love.

Belonging to a club and mentoring new people is also a way to “pay it forward” in maintaining and developing people to carry our sport into the future.


A Willingness to Commit

In our club, the Tennessee Valley Kennel Club, and with many others, we have numerous people who visit and attend our meetings. We also have some type of educational or fun program every month. We welcome everyone and tell them they are welcome to attend any or all of our meetings, but we don’t want them to join the club unless they are willing to commit to becoming involved in our events and are willing to attend our meetings with some form of regularity. We do this because we don’t need names on a roster that affect the quorum numbers; we need people willing to work together for a common cause.

Every club has a different make-up of members, and I am confident that each collection of members has unique dynamics and people issues.

When you join a club, you need to understand that you are one voice. You have the right to express your thoughts and opinions, but this does not give you the right to dictate or try to push a personal agenda. Clubs should be a democracy where every voice is heard but, in the end, it is the wishes of the majority that matter and should be followed.


Membership Responsibility

Many rewards come with membership to any organization. However, being a member also has a variety of responsibilities that come with it.

When individuals within a club step up and take responsibility for an office or a position working within the club, they should be encouraged to perform and be given the tools to succeed. In our club, we try not to assign more than one job to any member so that we can have as many people as possible involved in our club and our events. We let them do their job and let them know that we are all here for support if they need it, but we encourage them to take ownership of the job and accept the responsibility to get it done correctly and on time.

All too often in many clubs, some individuals want to tell everyone how to do a job or what they don’t like, yet these are the very people who never step up to the plate and volunteer for the job.

It is also important for members to understand that even though they may be the chairman of an event or a committee, the club should have the final say in how things need to be done. No club needs to be run by a dictator. When one or two individuals impose their agenda in any club, it is a recipe for eventual discord and disaster.

It is also important for clubs to have people in positions as a “back up” just in case a situation presents itself where the principal in charge has an emergency or some other event which causes them to not be available when needed. This is especially important in show and event chairs. Life does not let us know in advance when things happen, so it pays to be prepared with people in place to step up when needed.


New Members

It is vital to the survival of all kennel clubs to encourage new membership from people who are dedicated and who share the clubs’ missions. New members should have “mentors” made available to them to help them along and encourage them to pick an area of interest and get involved.

It is vital to the survival of all kennel clubs to encourage new membership from people who are dedicated and who share the clubs’ missions.

Older, long-term members should always welcome the newcomer with open arms. Also, just because someone is new does not mean they do not have great ideas or experiences that can help the club. So, listen to them. Though sometimes they don’t know the rules or the “ins and outs,” with the right kind of mentoring they will become a vital part of the club moving forward.

Important Points for Club Members:

  • Check your agenda at the door. All members need to work together to make things work for the betterment of the club.
  • Volunteer for office, or join or lead a committee in your area of interest.
  • If your time and availability are limited, be sure to try to volunteer at shows and events whenever possible.
  • Attend meetings whenever possible. Remember, you count against the club’s quorum and no business may be conducted without a quorum.
  • Pay your dues on time.
  • If possible, support your breed or group by sponsoring a trophy for the show. We all know how much they are appreciated, especially by the newer exhibitors.
  • Encourage and support your fellow members and be willing to mentor those who ask for your help.
  • You may offer your ideas and share your concerns, but never attack those of others, especially if you are not willing to do the job yourself.
  • Always accept the vote of the majority, even when you don’t agree. Clubs should always be unified to the general public.
  • Support and encourage the mission of the club.
  • Always support and encourage responsible animal ownership.

Being a member of a kennel club will provide you with many new, supportive friends. It will also help to keep our sport alive well into the future. If you don’t belong to a club, start today and do your research to find one that you feel comfortable in—and join. You will be glad that you did.


Your Kennel Club Membership Has Its Responsibilities & Privileges
By Walter J. Sommerfelt

  • Walter Sommerfelt of Lenoir City, TN has been involved in the sport of purebred dogs since acquiring his first Old English Sheepdog in 1972. He is a former professional handler as well as a breeder, and exhibitor of breeds in all seven groups, most notably Vizslas, OES, Pointers, Bearded Collies and Weimaraners. Judging since 1985 he is approved for All Sporting, Working, and Herding breeds and groups, Junior Showmanship and Best in Show and has had the honor of judging on four different continents. Mr. Sommerfelt has judged many of the most prestigious shows in the United States including the herding group at the 2014 Westminster Dog Show in New York City where he has judged on three separate occasions. Mr. Sommerfelt was the founder and chairman for the St. Jude Showcase of Dogs from 1993 until 2009, a unique event showcasing the world of purebred dogs. This special event was the largest collection of various dog events in one location, featuring an AKC all Breed Dog Show, AKC Obedience and Rally Trials, AKC Agility trials, (prior to AKC adding agility NADAC trials ) One of the largest Fly ball tournaments in the U.S.A., Herding and go to ground demonstrations, A main stage featuring performances by Canines from Television and the Movies, Freestyle, Demos by drug and various therapy dogs, A full room of booths for meet the breeds, over 50 AKC judges seminars annually, Lure coursing, A fun Zone for Children, and other dog related fun activities for the general public and their dogs. Over the years the event not only raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the world-renowned St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN, but also raised awareness of the many activities for people with their dogs as well establishing a voice for dog people in the Memphis area with regard to legislation. Many aspects of today’s AKC Royal Canin show can be traced back to the St. Jude event. Along with Carol his wife of 36 years they have bred well over 90 AKC Champions including Group, Best in Show and Specialty Winners, dual Champions and multiple performance titled dogs. During the past 40 years Mr. Sommerfelt has been active in a number of dog clubs and is currently the President of the Tennessee Valley Kennel Club. He is recipient of the AKC outstanding Sportsmanship Award and is also a career agent and financial planning specialist with Nationwide Insurance. The Sommerfelts’ have two grown children, both former Junior Handlers and they are still active breeders and exhibitors of the Vizsla breed.

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