Choosing Where to Show
As we were watching the all-breed shows on AKC.TV during “my break,” Shelly and I had a discussion about what makes people decide to attend a specific show — especially if it is some distance away.
As always, I reached out to some of my friends for their input on this topic. I asked them to discuss or rank their reasons for attending a show as an exhibitor: judging panel, location of show, size of show, accommodations of show site, ease of travel to the show or a welcoming show committee. Those responding represent every aspect of our show community: judges who show, owner-handlers and professional handlers.
A quality breeder says the judging panel is the most important factor in his decision on which show to enter. Location and size of show have a little input on his decision, but the judging panel is the most important reason to choose that show. He also considers “special attractions,” and whether there is a supported entry or specialty. Talking about the show committee’s attitude, he says, “All pretty much don’t have an effect. Nice show committees and members are great, but wouldn’t cause me to travel farther for a show or go to a show unless everything else was equal. I try my best to show to people whose opinions I respect and desire — win or lose.”
A judge who still actively exhibits ranks her choices as (1) judging panel, (2) show site – including size of rings, and (3) location – ease of travel to show. She also said that if she is showing a class dog, the size of the show — possibility of majors — would move up to number-one deciding factor. She adds “a good quality motel at a reasonable cost — many motels taking dogs for a reasonable fee have questionable safety.” She also says, “I try to support local shows as much as possible.”
A professional handler lists the judging panel and the opportunity for majors as her two deciding factors. She says, “None of the others [factors] matter.”
Another professional handler says, “I often have a few choices for shows each weekend. Judges and the comfort for myself and the dogs are priority. The willingness of the club to make the show exhibitor-friendly. Even if the venue is not ideal, it goes a long way for the club trying to do their best. The weather is a factor at some times of the year.”
An owner-handler who lives in a mountain state ranked the factors used to decide where to show as follows:
Ease of travel - Probably the most important to me is how far I have to drive. I go to local shows no matter what due to ease.
Judging panel – Although I will forgive one day if the rest of the panel is good.
Weather – This is a big one in the winter.
How far to drive and exercise ease for the dogs.
Size of show – Depends on if I am looking for majors or single points.
Previous success/failure – I do think it has a subconscious effect, but not a conscious one.
Interaction of club members and committee – Not really significant to me because I can look past a bad experience.
Another judge replied with the following comments:
Judging panel — MOST important reason I go to a show. I have skipped many great show sites because of judges selected.
Show site - Parking, RV parking, ring size — If it’s a four-day circuit in the summer, RV is important along with parking. Big things are grounds, safe area? It makes a difference if I attend. Parking cost is usually controlled by event site, so it is what it is. One of the best sites for a large show is Ann Arbor KC. Wonderful site and venue. Good size rings.
Heat can affect people from coming.
For winter shows, I like sites with a hotel attached. Makes it much easier to show and relax. New Orleans shows and Great America Dog show in Schaumburg are nice.
Previous success or failure at this location (indicated some shows that have made changes — such as no longer allowing RV parking — and this will certainly affect the entry).
Size of show — Chance of majors. Depends where I am on finishing a dog. I like the local small shows if judges are good.
Interaction of club members and show committee — Welcoming clubs will always get my support.
A very successful owner-handler responded with, “My decision to show at any particular show is the judges panel first. I have shows basically in my backyard and have not shown due to the panel. Location of the show, if I can drive there in a reasonable amount of time and also what dogs I am showing. If it is a long trek, a seasoned special, yes, but youngsters, no way, unless I can afford to do the trip in two days. Also, a big plus would be if there are specialties along with the all-breeds. Of course, we always like to attend a show that the club members are involved, and they cook food for the exhibitors to purchase! Homemade pie, what's not to love? Even if you don't win, pie always makes everything better. I was at shows this past weekend and the show chair was walking around handing out cookies, now that is super nice. Another big plus is places to walk the dogs, good grass, and hopefully people pick up after their dogs.”
Another judge’s reply sounded much like mine would be: “The Panel, The Panel and The Panel ... and maybe the distance.”
So many owners and handlers travel great distances these days, and that makes me wonder if other factors are not considered. Of course, I see absolutely nothing wrong with distance traveling for national specialties — that is as it should be. Nationals should be a place to learn, and should always be supported if possible.
Since I am fortunate enough to judge in a great many locations, I get to see that there are differences in the quality of different breeds in various geographic areas. Do people take this into consideration? If there is lesser quality in your breed in one region — and you know it — would you travel to that area to try to “finish” your dog? (Of course, this requires you to be objective enough to know the quality of dogs in comparison to yours.)
For those for whom rankings are important, is this why they are traveling cross-country so much? Of course, rankings do not take geographic area into consideration. If dog A is shown by a professional (or owner) who is willing and able to travel from California to Florida, and dog B is owned by someone who cannot or does not want to do the same, how much value should be given if dog A is ranked higher than dog B? Rankings absolutely do not mean that dog A is of higher quality than dog B — sometimes, it simply means that dog A is shown at a lot more shows or under more favorable judges, no matter where they may be in the country. Rankings do not — and cannot — take the quality of competition into consideration. Only numbers matter.
How do different aspects of shows affect judges? Whereas, surprisingly, handlers and exhibitors did not rank the attitudes and actions of the show committee as high in their decisions on whether to attend or not, judges would greatly disagree. As a judge, the show committee is extremely important. Just as important is the show venue/location. Standing on concrete in the cold all day is exhausting for a judge — especially those of us who are no longer youngsters. Not so surprising is the fact that there are shows that offer warm, excellent lunches for judges — and this ranks high in the judging community. Judges greatly appreciate friendly, caring show committees and members. Conversely, there are shows I will not judge for again because of the attitudes of the committee members.
Shows that are widely spread out are difficult for handlers who show more than one breed, and they are also difficult for judges who may have to judge in three or four different rings during the day. Most clubs have golf carts and drivers to transport the judges in this instance, but they are not always available when needed.
One more thing about handlers and dogs who crisscross the country: Consider how that affects the judges involved. Obviously, the judge likes the dog that has traveled far to get to him or her (otherwise why would they have done that?), and this puts the judge in a difficult position. We want to judge the dogs in front of us, and I may love this dog who has traversed 2,000 miles for this show, and I know how it will look to others when I put this dog up — but I must if I think it is the best. So, I have no choice. This has happened to me, and there was a point at which I told the handler, “That’s enough. Do not follow me anymore.”
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Thought for the day: Our lives get lived while we are busy with other things. Don’t let this happen to you.
What do you think?