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Ring Layouts: Risky or Rewarding?

As far as ring layouts go, I have been able to see them in all forms and from many perspectives: from showing to assisting to photographing and even fun-match judging. No matter how it pertains to you, it is always important. It’s obvious when it’s good, but it’s even more so when it’s not so good.

From a photographer’s perspective, this is obviously one of those not-so-good ring layouts. Photo by Kayla Bertagnolli.

When it’s not good, you see chairs or cones in the ring to mark potholes, uneven ground and wobbly tables, and, depending on the show, large stakes inside the rings, holding down those big tents. On the other hand, when a ring layout meets exhibitors’, judges’ and stewards’ needs, the show seems to run more smoothly, at least when it comes to the activity inside the ring.

I’m from a state with only three, yes, three, all-breed shows a year, and we tend to keep our ring layouts pretty simple. With only a handful of rings, we don’t have huge tents or extravagant setups. I like these shows because, not only does the show seem to run smoothly, but there are fewer hazards and concerns for everyone involved. Whether I’m shooting photos, showing a dog or judging a fun match, I can concentrate on the job at hand, rather than worry about tripping, turning an ankle or even doing a face plant.

Recently though, I attended some shows that I had never been to. I didn’t know what to expect, so I figured I would just explore the setup when I arrived to find good shooting positions. When I did arrive, I saw these big beautiful tents, similar to what I have seen at large shows in California. I thought, “Wow, these are great, and they might make for some unique photographs.” So, initially I was pleased.

That was until I took a closer look at the actual layout. Fully aware that an outside crew came in to set up these tents, or in other words, non-dog-show people, I’m sure they didn’t think twice about the layout and how it might affect the show’s participants. To them and to any outsider, everything likely seemed flawless.

Because I’m accident-prone, I automatically thought, “Oh boy, someone is definitely going to fall over those tent stakes.” Fortunately, I didn’t personally witness anyone tripping over the stakes or falling down. But when it was time to make final go ‘rounds during Group judging and exhibitors’ nerves kicked in, I saw little groups of people debating what to do. Go around this stake or that one? This resulted in people jumping over the stakes, often barely missing them, while the dogs wondered what was going on. This dangerous flurry of decision-making and activity made me think of other potential accidents I never want to see, such as a handler going on one side of a tent rope and the dog on the other. Who knows what kinds of injuries this would cause to the dog and/or its handler.

I, along with many others I’m sure, enjoy a show much more and am able to do better work when the ring layout is done with safety in mind. At the end of the day, isn’t that what really matters?

Good ring layouts – and Dogs – Freakin’ Rule!

Written by

Kayla Bertagnolli is a 23-year-old from Ogden, UT, who's been involved in the dog show world her whole life. A former junior handler who learned about breeding Beagles from her mother Leah, she assisted several professional handlers and is currently working to become a Junior Showmanship judge. Kayla is passionate about photography and writes the twice-weekly blog, DFR. She plans to continue breeding and showing, and expects to stay involved in dogs "for life!"