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.