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Should Big Entries Get Special Consideration?

At a big all-breed show this year, I had one owner complain to me that despite the fact that they won an associated specialty they had been overlooked in the group that day. They weren’t just complaining that they didn’t get a group placement. They hadn’t made the cut, and they felt that the group judge had completely ignored them. One of the surest ways to build an entry at an all-breed show is to solicit the participation of breed clubs to hold associated specialties or supported entries. But just what should those clubs expect in return?

Now, there really is only one proper answer to that question. The answer is “nothing.” However, in actual practice the situation is far more complicated. From where I sit, everyone in our sport has an obligation to act in a manner that ensures the sport’s existence in the future. AKC, the superintendents, the host clubs, the judges and the exhibitors all have an obligation to work for the good of the sport. Surely that means we all should jealously guard the ethics and standards that are the foundation of the fancy, basically, the recognition of the dogs that most closely conform to the ideal dog described in their individual breed standards.

Yet, that dedication to a principle does not occur in a vacuum. Each of the stakeholders needs to find a way to make that unhappy exhibitor feel included and appreciated. AKC has instituted multiple changes in our show regulations to allow for more recognition of exhibitors: Bred By, Owner Handler, Puppy Groups, etc. I think supers should accommodate their supported entries with special consideration on ring times. Host clubs can offer reserved grooming areas and additional space for trophy tables and breed information. Being from the South, I do appreciate those group judges who extend the courtesy of a congratulations on the breed win and do a cut as a way to provide some extra measure of appreciation. However, I am loathe to tell any judge how to run his or her ring. I do agree that every entry deserves to be fully considered by a judge.

Now, I am not one of those people who thinks that every kid should get a trophy for participating. One of the things I appreciate most about dog shows is that the fancy taught me how to lose gracefully, a skill I have been able to rely upon on many occasions in my life. Personally, if I had won a breed specialty at a big show, I think that it would be a display of hubris to think I was automatically entitled to more, kind of like that kid who gets a new car for graduation, but complains that it doesn’t have leather seats.

In short, the real value of the supported entry or associated specialty is that exhibitors get to share their dogs with their peer group and hopefully learn something in the process. It’s a pity that some miss that point. And that’s today’s Back Story.

Written by

Billy Wheeler has been attending dog shows as a spectator and exhibitor for over 40 years. Billy is the man behind the popular Dog Show Poop. He is a retired management consultant who has advised multiple organizations affiliated with the AKC and the Cat Fanciers Association on business management, long range planning, customer service, and legislative matters. After 25 years of living in the big cities of New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC, he now resides in his hometown of Memphis TN with his wife, Brenda, her Toy Poodle and his Cairn, Scottie, & IG. When he is not blogging, Billy can be found in the kitchen cooking, and listening to opera.
  • Cynthia Webster July 13, 2012 at 10:05 AM

    As local chairman of our Sheltie specialties, I want to give a “shout out” to the North Shore Kennel Club of MA with whom we host a designated specialty. We have had a very good relationship for seven years. They DO give us select, designated grooming space close to our ring and we also get prime ring time to make it easy for us to then hold an evening independent specialty. They make certain to deliver a trophy table to the ringside for us, too. Most years, the NSKC show committee has chosen a Sheltie breeder judge that we have suggested and that has resulted in our having the largest entries of the day, benefiting both clubs.

  • Eric Liebes July 13, 2012 at 10:13 AM

    I agree with your answer of “nothing” but I have adjusted my group judging procedure to (hopefully) demonstrate that everyone is getting a fair shake. They were getting a fair shake before but now perhaps it is more visible. In the Hound Group the same short dogs are always at the end. I follow the last dog to the end of the line after its exam and start my “who makes the cut” consideration from there. That way if I should happen to just cut exhibits from the front or middle of the line it does not appear that I just was too lazy to go to the end or just ran out of cut numbers before I got there. I think this qualifies as every stakeholder finding a way to make the exhibitors feel included.
    -Eric Liebes

  • Sonya Henderson,Raynics Bassets July 13, 2012 at 11:44 AM

    I would hope that I would always feel an equal opportunity is considered by the judge in the group ring along with the rest of the breed winners. I do not appear in that particular position every time I show my dogs so I always try my very,very best to be the best representative of the breed as well as well as myself as a breeder and owner of my special chosen breed. WE all are equally given the same opportunity to gain a place in the final lineup.

  • inuaknls
    Sheila July 14, 2012 at 2:38 PM

    The Breed owner is the one with bad manners. Just because your dog won a supported entry, or “associated” Specialty is not a guarantee that you will be in the ribbons, or even make the cut, in the group ring.

    You are under a different judge with different dogs. In the Group you could be competing against the best dogs in the nation and the best handlers as well. Thinking that, because you won a Breed at an associated Specialty, you are “due” something is the height of arrogance. I do not agree that any Group judge should put the Specialty winner in the ribbons or make their cut in such a way that the Specialty winner “feels appreciated”. For crying out loud, your dog just took Breed at a Specialty, if that doesn’t give you enough validation then nothing else will and if there are better dogs/handlers in the Group ring then your dog should not be given placement over them.

    I was recently in the BIS ring where the judge was apologizing to the other exhibitors because my Pom was holding up the other dogs, on the go around. She, loudly, stated that she felt Toy dogs were cute but didn’t belong in the BIS ring with the “big dogs”. Needless to say, we were dumped (and we won BIS the prior show). Did I like it? No; of course not. Did I feel that she should have kept her low opinion of Toy dogs to herself? Absolutely!! I, however, did not “expect” that I would be given any kind of consideration of my prior win, nor did I grip about it at ring side.

    Let’s be honest; handlers are going to win more than 99% of owner/handlers. Why; because of a number of reasons (all other things being equal).
    One: They are always prepared
    Two: Their dogs are groomed perfectly
    Three: Their dogs are conditioned
    Four: Their dogs are utterly and perfectly trained

    What you see, in the Show ring, is only a fraction of it. These people make their living at this. At home, or between shows, they are working with these dogs.

    After a National, last year, I was in my motorhome and saw one of the top handlers, in the country, out in the parking lot working with a Special that he was showing. You could tell that he was working on one aspect of the presentation and he kept doing it over and over. The next day, in the ring, that Special was dead on—he looked gorgeous!

    I am a breeder/owner/handler. If I want to be equal to the professional handlers in the Group, or BIS, ring then it is up to me to work just as hard as they do and make me and my dogs competitive. I want to win on equal footing not be handed something just because my dog did well in the Breed ring or I am an owner/handler.

    Sheila :)

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