Owner Handler Group Conflicts

Lee Whittier -Dog Show Owner Handlers


Owner Handler Group Conflicts

Recently I have heard many exhibitors complain how they feel that all too often the AKC Non-Regular Groups, such as Bred-By Exhibitor, Veterans or even the Puppy Groups, conflict with the NOHS Groups. They feel this does not honor any of the Groups because it often creates ring conflicts so that participants must choose. There are a number of lenses through which this dilemma may be viewed.

It has been my experience as a show chair who works with various clubs, and as a judge, that most clubs try to avoid conflicts between Owner-Handled and Non-Regular Group judging. AKC has set down some hard rules and some more loosely structured guidelines for the clubs and superintendents to follow. My experience with all the superintendents is that they follow AKC guidelines… it’s just that sometimes those guidelines can be interpreted in different ways.


Let’s look at those rules:
  • Begin Special Attraction Groups as early as possible to reduce the chance of conflict with the Regular Groups. Concurrent Event Scheduling: At conformation events where there are multiple parties responsible for scheduling separate events, problems arise when scheduling is not coordinated between events. A concurrent limited breed or specialty club not being aware of the all-breed club’s schedule can create unnecessary conflicts as well as exceeding the 175-entry limit for judges, creating overloads which necessitate changing judges and/or hiring additional judges.
  • Concurrent event and host event secretaries/superintendents should provide each other their proposed judges and schedule prior to any publication. Schedules should be written to avoid conflicts with the all-breed event and overloads on the day. NOHS Groups and NOHS BIS should not be delayed for the sole purpose of holding it directly before and in the same ring as regular BIS. Clubs are following the regulation to provide NOHS Groups with larger rings, preferably in the same configuration as Regular Groups in regards to ring size. By delaying and moving the NOHS BIS to the Regular Group ring, both competitions are being delayed.
  • NOHS BIS should only be delayed because of a competitor’s conflict. NOHS BIS should follow the last NOHS Group in the NOHS Group ring. Additional Special Attraction Groups: In most situations, additional Special Attraction Groups (Puppy, BBE, etc.) will have a smaller entry than either Regular or NOHS Groups. These Groups should be scheduled to start at the earliest opportunity, preferably 45 minutes before NOHS or the Regular Groups. It is important for the club/show chair to understand the nuances of an efficient schedule. Prior to the publication of a judging schedule, the show chair should review the schedule to ensure it meets your goals.
Owner Handler Group Conflicts – Why Do They Occur?

By offering multiple Special Events, the clubs demonstrate the conscious choice to honor the people who make dog shows possible: Breeders’ Groups to honor the breeders who have produced the dogs at the show; NOHS Groups to honor owner handlers who drive entries; Veterans’ Groups to honor the dogs that have whelped and sired so many of the dogs at the shows; and Puppy Groups for the up-and-coming stars that are gaining experience and being shown off as the next “hopefuls.” That’s a lot of HONORS!

Let’s look at what happens when Non-Regular Groups are run consecutively at a 300-dog Terrier show that has Regular, NOHS, Veteran, and Bred-By Groups. At the end of a 300-dog day with two judges who start at 9:00 AM, here’s what it looks like.

When the Groups are run one at a time, there are no conflicts. However, if you give each judge 150 dogs, that’s seven hours of judging with a 45-minute lunch added (required by AKC). Groups start at 3:30 PM with 30 minutes for each Group, so no one leaves before 5:30 PM. From a practical standpoint, that is a long day for club volunteers and for the exhibitors and their dogs. If we have more dogs, this impacts the schedule and extends the day another hour. Additionally, using this system, the club gets complaints on how long the show goes on. Some of the all-breed shows in this position go on until 7:00 PM or later.

Now look what happens when Groups are run concurrently. Instead of the entire show being impacted by long days, a few exhibitors (how many do you think are impacted as a percentage of the whole?) have to make tough decisions. In the Dog Show Mentor program, I teach owner handlers how to be strategic in these situations. And isn’t that what its all about? So instead of making the choice a negative, use it as an opportunity to figure out which system needs the points the most—if your dog is highly competitive. And if he is, you had better already have a strategy to keep him ranked in whichever system has more value to you. It may be that you already have a successful strategy to keep him ranked in both systems!

As a dog person, my level of concern arises for the dogs. Many veterans haven’t been off the sofa for a long time and, in spite of well-meaning owners, they struggle with the multiple ring experiences and long days. The show chair has to make a decision when to schedule the veterans in relation to the other Groups. Similarly, many of the puppies have lots of exuberance early in the day, but they can wear themselves out and also become exhausted. And what about the bred-by dogs? Who’s going to stay to the end of the day to cheer you on? These Groups, when run singularly, seem to go on forever. If totally honest, the day seems to go on forever even for the last set of Groups because now the exhibitors in the last Groups feel that they should be honored by not being the last set of Groups! As in all things, there is always someone who goes first and someone who goes last.

Finally, let’s look at this dilemma as a longtime exhibitor and observer. Realistically, but perhaps less politically correct, dealing with ring conflicts is what handlers do all day long, every day. Even when they’re not actually at shows, they are creating their ring schedules for the week ahead. They have to consider the number of dogs they’re showing, and which dogs on which days. They have to consider which judges are most likely to give their dogs the wins, which dogs have priority in their string, and then, on the day, they have to make a hundred quick decisions whenever judges are going faster or slower than usual or when there are lots of absentees. The professional handlers have ring conflicts all the time where they have to make tough calls of which ring they can make and which will have to be turned over to an assistant or another handler.

Owner handlers, you are not alone in these kinds of issues. Figure out a system to work the system. You are up to the challenge! Have a great day!


Owner Handler Group Conflicts
By Lee Whittier

  • Ms. Lee Whittier has been involved in the sport of purebred dogs for over three decades. Her involvement began as an owner, exhibitor and, subsequently, a breeder of Rottweilers. She has owned Akitas, Bullmastiffs, and a Sussex Spaniel. She currently owns, breeds, and exhibits Tibetan Terriers. Ms. Whittier began judging in 2000, and then took a hiatus for several years to work for the American Kennel Club as an Executive Filed Representative in the Pacific Northwest. She returned to judging in 2011, and currently judges the Working, Terrier, Toy, and Non-Sporting Groups, eleven Hound Breeds, six Sporting Breeds, Bouvier des Flandres, and Best in Show. Ms. Whittier has judged dog shows around the world, from the United States to Asia, at shows large and small; all of great importance to each and every exhibitor. Some of the larger shows are Westminster Kennel Club, Kennel Club of Philadelphia, Del Valle, Great Western Terrier Association, Northern California Terrier Association, Hatboro, Malibu Kennel Club, and the Kennel Club of Palm Springs. Ms. Lee Whittier is a standing member of Dog Fanciers of Oregon, the American Rottweiler Club, and the Tibetan Terrier Club of America. She is Show Chair for Vancouver Kennel Club and the Terrier Association of Oregon’s January show with Rose City Classic. As an active member in numerous clubs, she has worked in the capacity of Show Chair, President, Vice-President, Secretary, Board Member, and Constitution & By-Laws Revision Committee Member. In addition to judging, Ms. Whittier developed the Dog Show Mentor program, exclusively for owner handlers. This is an online program where owner handlers of all stages and levels learn to develop an individual, strategic approach to showing dogs. She also travels to speak to owner handlers all over the world. She currently lives in Vancouver, Washington, with her husband, Wayne, and their three Tibetan Terriers. Her other interests include gardening and hiking with the dogs.

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