Learning All the Moving Parts: The Dog Show Superintendent

"Learning All the Moving Parts" is a monthly column that examines the various components of a dog show, and explains how each one makes these events possible. 
Although a few kennel clubs choose to be their own superintendent, for the most part clubs are happy and relieved to entrust this huge responsibility to professional superintendents. Chapter 9 of the AKC’s Rules Applying to Dog Shows, specifies, in Section 1, that “The Superintendent of a dog show held under the rules of The American Kennel Club must hold a license from The American Kennel Club.” Later, in Section 12, it is stipulated that “Any reputable person or superintending organization in good standing with The American Kennel Club may apply to said Club for license to act as Superintendent of a dog show… When the application is received by The American Kennel Club, its Board of Directors shall determine whether the applicant is reasonably qualified from training and experience to act as Superintendent of a Dog Show and whether a license shall be issued to said applicant. The fee for being granted a yearly license to be a Superintendent and the fee for renewal of said license each year shall be determined by the Board of Directors of The American Kennel Club. The fee for being granted a license to superintend one show and/or one field trial only shall be determined in like manner. No yearly license will be issued to any person or superintending organization until having superintended at least three dog shows.” And in italics appears the all-important caveat, “No annual superintendent shall be granted a license to be a judge.”
Have you ever heard of the Dog Show Superintendents Association? According to the organization’s website, it was “formed in 2002 to represent professional AKC-licensed superintendents in all important matters impacting superintendents and the Dog Fancy.” The national association is a “fully organized group of professional superintendents that, in many cases, can call upon more than 100 years of experience in offering services to the AKC, show-giving clubs and dog show exhibitors.”
The duties and responsibilities of AKC-licensed superintendents are many and varied, always promoting and defending the sport of showing purebred dogs as defined by the Constitution and Bylaws of the AKC. Superintendents will assist clubs in site inspection and layout when requested, and, in preparing and mailing premium lists per their contract agreement, act as the agent of the show-giving club and as the trustee of the club’s income from entry fees to protect large sums of money either by bond or other acceptable means.
President of the Dog Show Superintendents Association is Bob Christiansen, who is also President of Moss Bow Foley Dog Shows. He started at MB-F in 1981 as a computer programmer, became a superintendent in 1983 and President in 1985.
Asked what exhibitors’ most common misconceptions are about superintendents, Christiansen identifies six.
  1. Since we accept all the entry fee money, many assume that superintendents are wealthy and keep the majority of the money. Some may also think we set the entry fee, which is solely determined by the club. A full 100% of the money is credited to the club on the show settlement and then our contract charges are deducted. Forty or 50 years ago, superintendent charges were typically 50% of the gross entry fees. That percentage is now only about 25% with the difference claimed by rising costs for show sites, parking attendants, judges, travel and AKC fees. Superintendents have been able to reduce their costs with more efficient use of technology, computers, the Internet, email and printing methods.
  2. Some believe we determine the layout of the showgrounds. This is a club decision. We may be asked to visit a site initially and make suggestions but the club decides how it wants to lay out the event.
  3. Some believe that superintendents can do anything they want. No. We have to follow the AKC rules just like everyone else. What exhibitors don’t realize when they ask us to “bend” or “break” those rules is that we are subject to fines, reprimands or, in some cases, suspension of our licenses. We have $5 million invested in the property and equipment we use for producing the best product possible. This is our livelihood and that of our employees; we don’t want to jeopardize that.
  4. Many today who believe superintending organizations are “out for themselves” probably do not realize that superintendents are responsible for a lot of the things now taken for granted. For example, it was a superintendent who came up with the idea of producing an organized schedule and catalog (Foley). It was a club and a superintendent that made it possible to have the first cluster shows in response to the gas shortage in the 1970s (Raleigh KC and MB-F). It was a superintendent who first utilized a computer in producing dog shows and aided the AKC in their first foray into computers (Tom Crowe). It was a superintendent who made it possible to take entries by phone and then online (MB-F). It was superintendents who lobbied to make it possible to accept an entry for a divided Puppy Class that did not specify the division (previously if the division was not included we had to return it). It was a superintendent who began online posting, real-time posting and transmission of results to the AKC (MB-F). It was superintendents who made it possible to be able to change a dog from a class for which it was ineligible to the Open class, which allowed the dog to be exhibited (DSSA).
  5. Many exhibitors believe we choose the judges—especially if there is a change the day of the show. This is solely a club decision. If they were notified a day or two before their event a club will usually have an idea of what they may want to do and may have already contacted a replacement; sometimes, if they’ve just been notified that morning, they may ask us for suggestions; but it’s their decision. Once they’ve made the decision it’s our job to try to make the judging program work in the best way possible.
  6. There is the misperception that we are not writing judging schedules efficiently. In recent years, with the addition of special attraction groups (e.g. Owner-Handler, Puppy, Bred-by-Exhibitor, etc.), shows are typically running one to 1.5 hours longer. Numerous variables affect the schedule, such as AKC Best Practice Policies, the number of rings available, the number of judges, concurrent specialty and group club events, and added special requests for rings and times. Our software specifically computes judging times to the minute in accordance with all these variables. We calculate and publish a group order in every judging schedule and it rarely varies. In almost every case where there is a variance it is due to a judge falling behind for some reason (exhibitors switching dogs, some incident in the ring, the previous judge in the ring running late, etc.), a last-minute judge change or some other unforeseen circumstance. Superintendents are the first to arrive at the show and the last to leave. Our goal is always to schedule the show to finish as efficiently as possible.
Christiansen commends show chairs who, for the most part, he says are very experienced and have worked closely with superintendents for many years. “Even new show chairs, who may rely more on us their first year, are typically experienced exhibitors and have interacted with us in that capacity as well. They should always feel comfortable asking questions and always remember that our goal is to help them have the best event possible.”
How could exhibitors and clubs work more effectively with show superintendents? “Clubs should be familiar with AKC rules and policies and our contracts, to better understand our responsibilities,” says Christiansen. “Let us know as soon as possible if they’re experiencing a problem. And be aware of, and adhere to, the AKC and superintendent deadlines.
“Exhibitors should also be familiar with AKC rules and policies. They should carefully check over their entry information before they submit it, and submit their entries in a timely fashion, no matter what method they use (postal mail, phone, online),” adds Christiansen. “Waiting until 11:55 a.m. to attempt to enter for a noon closing isn’t the best idea. Be sure your information is correct on your entry form.”
Finally, Christiansen cautions both clubs and exhibitors that “just because you sent it doesn’t mean we received it. Problems occur in postal mail (we’ve received mailed items anywhere from a day to three weeks to a year after a deadline, or we never received it at all) as well as email (sent to the wrong email address, or a typo in the email address that makes it undeliverable).”
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