The Vizsla club’s creative six-foot reminders, designed by committee member Lindsay Tita Adams.
Wed, 10/21/2020 - 6:41pm

Turn of Events

Tried-and-true tips for holding dog shows in the age of coronavirus

If you haven’t met me, you might not know how much I like winning. My siblings refuse to play the board game Clue with me, because the logic and piecing together of clues are totally in my wheelhouse and I remain undefeated. My W-2 lists my profession as a salesperson, and every personality test I’ve ever taken focuses on my determination, leadership and drive.  After three sentences, you may have already decided you don’t ever want to be my friend.  But if you are trying to accomplish a dog event during the pandemic – I’m exactly the personality type you want on your team.

This pandemic requires thick skin. Navigating local, county and state rules is tricky. Being able to separate yourself from the (sometimes callous) opinions of almost everyone is necessary. A logical thought process, attention to detail and the ability to not just plan for events, but to execute, are needed.

Reminders on floor plans with one-direction walkways are imperative indoors.


I’m wrapping up my third dog event in four weeks: the Vizsla National, my Sporting Dog group show, and my performance club’s agility trial. Here are some of the tips and tricks I’ve picked up for holding shows during this pandemic.

Get your ducks in a row. There are SO many rules. In Colorado our state government made guidelines for reopening. They created thresholds for acceptable hospitalization and ICU utilization. If a county was below the state threshold, they would allow the county to apply for a “variance,” which allows you to have limits less restrictive than those of the state.

For example, the state was limiting indoor events to 50 people, but Larimer County (where two of my three club events were held) had a variance allowing up to 175.  To get that head-count limitation, either your event or your facility has to apply for a variance. 

I’m sure your state may have something similar, and as the person that had to research the state and county guidelines and create a plan to allow the Vizsla National to be held, I offer the following advice:

Know your stuff. Before you write a plan, make sure you read all your requirements. For example, we were required to have 16-foot aisles – eight feet in each direction. That will cut into how big your ring(s) can be. Save yourself the headache of redoing logistics by knowing all your limitations in advance. 


Crating space required 16-foot aisles, which cut into available crating spaces.


Check your list twice. With tight timelines, you might only have one shot at getting a plan approved. Make sure you are hitting every requirement your local government requires, including how you are going to enforce them. (With us, explaining the bench process went a long way to give people confidence about enforcement!)

Offer options for approval. I asked for a couple of different seating options in hopes that something would get approved. Try not to put all your eggs in one basket, and explain how you will accommodate different options.


Ringside seating was sold in family units, with six feet between “families.”


Be prepared to contact-trace. In writing our plan, I saw that the county required temperature checks for almost every segment – restaurants, businesses, hospitals. We attacked it head on with a plan to check temperatures and capture contact information via a signed waiver. Feedback from the event was that people felt safer since we were temperature-checking, so planning for it may give your attendees more comfort to attend, too!

Identify your executers. You will not be able to hold this show if you only have “talkers” on your committee. You need people who walk the walk. Some people are great at coming up with ideas and ways of working, but can’t prioritize or execute on their feet. Keep these folks on the committee, but ensure you have people that will be able to pull through all the extra tasks. You’ll need a great cruise director.


Double ring gating ensured no one could get closer to the ring than six feet.


Trust your team. If you don’t have people on your team who you can trust to execute a task, you will not be able to do all the extra requirements. 

Pick up the phone. You’ll likely need twice as many volunteers as you have had in the past. If you don’t have enough volunteers, pick up the phone and start giving people jobs. I got one of those calls from my friend Katherine, who chaired the agility trials for both the Vizslas and our performance club, Longs Peak Dog Training Club (LPDTC). Katherine said she knew I was knee deep in planning for Vizslas, but she needed to be sure I was going to be able to help with set-up for LPDTC, too. Had she not called, I likely would have forgotten to send in my entries! I think you will find people are happy to help; have a specific task in mind and get their commitment.

Pay for service. If you have a job that’s proving difficult to find volunteers for, it might be time to pull out the checkbook. My sporting club, Mile High Sporting Dog Fanciers (MHSDF), long ago discovered things go much smoother if we pay ring stewards. This year, we paid the grounds security team extra to take temperatures. 

Remember your primary goal. If we’ve seen anything during quarantine, it’s how divisive this topic is. You will never make everyone happy, but the whole goal of these extra steps and measures is to get back to the events we love while keeping everyone safe!

Put on your armor. People are going to complain about the rules. They are going to roll their eyes at the reminders. They might not even realize they are doing it. You can’t take it personally.


A red “X” placed every two feet meant if you sit, make sure there are three “X”s between you and your neighbor.


You can never remind too much. As we start going to more events, old habits are re-emerging. People are drifting closer together; they bunch up in the corner of the ring or at the start line. Signs reminding people to distance should be used, as well as marks on the floor, or ring gating. 


Hanging Vizslas cut-outs from ring gates reminded exhibitors about six-foot distancing, an idea thought up by Ginger Sammonds.


Be ready to enforce. At MHSDF’s group show, we clearly stated in just about everything that there would be no dryers or fans. Handlers had to be reminded. At one point we discovered that three different club members had to ask a handler to turn off her dryer at different times. Had we all realized it earlier, we would have called a bench after she turned it on a second time.

Consider a group text message to make sure everyone is aware of who already had a polite warning. Infraction #2 is no longer a mistake. In this day and age, when audits from the health department can happen at anytime, compliance needs to be as close to 100 percent as possible to ensure our shows do not get shut down.

In closing: Do your homework, plan, create a team you can trust to execute, and above all, remember that no victory is sweeter than holding an event, receiving the thanks, and having two weeks go by with everyone staying healthy.

Now go search out your winning personalities, and let’s get back out there.



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