Learning All The Moving Parts

From the August 2017 issue of ShowSight. CLICK TO SUBSCRIBE.

As exhibitors, it’s all too easy to fall into the habit of attending shows every weekend on auto pilot, focused entirely on our own dog—did he win his class? Did the major hold? Did he get a piece of the group?—while giving not a moment’s thought to the many components that make a dog show work.

Think of a dog show as a theater production. It is actually a pretty close analogy. There is drama and comedy; it is always live, always unpredictable; no two shows are exactly alike; and participants and audiences have their good days and bad days. Also, while the actors are visible to us (like the exhibitors, handlers and judges), there are countless people behind the scenes whose collective contributions can make or break the production. Consider the director, the producer, the lighting crew, the wardrobe and make-up departments, the publicist, the musicians in the orchestra: their preparation begins many weeks and often months before opening night. It doesn’t take much—flubbed lines, music off-key, props breaking on stage—to detract from our enjoyment of the spectacle. Yet when everyone is hitting their marks and the performance is flawless, it’s easy to sit through those two hours and three acts, applaud and leave, without appreciating all the work that went into making it a smooth-running event.

Now back to the dog show. The judges, of course, are an essential component. But, speaking of moving parts, remember that it took a show committee made up of volunteers to organize the schedule, book the judges, arrange their accommodations and pick them up from the airport at all hours of the day and night to ensure their presence for your 2.5 minutes in the spotlight. 

The ring pattern a judge uses with the first dog in the first class will be the ring pattern adhered to through the end of the day. Arriving at the ring a few minutes early will give you the confidence to know exactly what pattern the judge requires, even if you find yourself the only entry in your class. Of course the judge will repeat directions as needed but think how efficient it would be to have exhibitors enter the ring knowing exactly where to position themselves. Even brand-new exhibitors benefit from projecting an air of knowledge and familiarity with ring procedure. Your confidence flows down the lead so both you and your dog appear on top of your game. 

Experienced ring stewards are a godsend but even working in pairs, they have a lot on their plate. They will be kept busy handing out armbands for multiple breeds, marking off pick-ups, keeping track of absentees, accommodating judges’ requests and trying to sort out the occasional snafu when exhibitors’ ID does not match information in the judge’s book and catalog. Be alert when judging of your breed is about to begin and don’t let yourself get distracted by ringside conversation. If you have entered multiple dogs, the steward and judge will love you for bringing along a friend or two to hold dogs ringside and take one back in the ring, should that be needed. Anything you can do to keep the ring running smoothly will be greatly appreciated.

On a given day, not every dog will be a winner, but all dogs can arrive at the show groomed and presented like winners… freshly bathed, with clean teeth and nails cut. Dress for success, radiate confidence and show like a winner by looking the part. We all want spectators and the media to take our sport seriously so it’s important that each of us assumes the role of good will ambassador. Motown icon Aretha Franklin never exhibited dogs but her timeless anthem, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” should be our motto in the sport.

As an active exhibitor, it’s enormously helpful to join your local all-breed kennel club. Not only will you be giving back to the sport at the grass roots level by volunteering at your club’s annual show but you’ll get a renewed appreciation of all the components, the moving parts, that must run smoothly for a dog show of whatever size to be successful. We’ll be examining each of these components in future columns. For some of you it will be a refresher course; for newer exhibitors, I hope you’ll find the content helpful as well as entertaining. In the meantime, please look around you at your next show, and take a minute to greet a new face and introduce yourself. We all want the sport to continue to succeed. By paying it forward with a simple act of kindness, you’ll be doing your part in a big way.





For more than four decades, Allan Reznik has been immersed in the world of purebred dogs: as a breeder, exhibitor, award-winning journalist, editor, broadcaster and occasional judge. He has been the Editor-in-Chief of multiple show dog publications, all of which have won national magazine awards from the Dog Writers Association of America while under his stewardship. In 2011, he won the prestigious Arthur F. Jones Award for Best Editorial Column of the Year, given by the Alliance of Purebred Dog Writers. Allan appears regularly on national TV and radio discussing all aspects of responsible dog ownership and is quoted widely in newspapers and magazines. He has successfully bred and exhibited Afghan Hounds, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Tibetan Spaniels, and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Afghan Hound Club of America and the Tibetan Spaniel Club of America. He is a proud member of the Morris & Essex Kennel Club, the Western Hound Association of Southern California, the Gateway Hound Club of St. Louis (charter member) and his two local all-breed kennel clubs.



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