… “The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
And whether pigs have wings.”
— Lewis Carroll’s The Walrus and the Carpenter
I might not talk about flying pigs (often), but it is time to talk about an issue that is long overdue. The elephant in the room is an all-breed club holding two shows in a day.
Enough! Stop! Never again!
From the January 2017 AKC Board minutes:
“Starting May 2014, the Board approved a pilot program for multiple all-breed or limited breed shows in one day, allowing flexibility by the clubs. The pilot program has proven successful for the clubs utilizing this option. Staff would like, without objection, to make this program a permanent option for clubs. There was no objection by the Board.”
Following this, a 2017 AKC Board meeting resulted in a policy that permitted clubs to qualify for the multiple shows in one day program. A club had to meet certain criteria to qualify for this program.
Various amendments have been made to the program, but the essentials now are that a club may hold two all-breed shows in one day with entries limited to 600 conformation entries per show. Where judges are concerned, judges are limited to 100 entries per event, not to exceed 175 entries per day.
I will admit that when the program started, it was needed and was done with the best of intentions. However, we all know that sometimes there are unintended consequences to decisions. Also, good ideas often run their course, and then it is time to end them. I believe that time is now. No more. Unless something very significant changes, I will not accept any more two-a-day shows.
The benefits of the two-a-day shows are that they enable a smaller club to add much-needed revenue, and for exhibitors they are a double opportunity to compete for points, group placements, etc. Also, in normal (non-pandemic) times, there would be the opportunity for people to watch other breeds, talk to breeders and LEARN!
But let’s be honest – how many people would take this opportunity? How many did before the pandemic? These are worthwhile benefits, but at what cost?
It is no secret that most clubs and show committees are now comprised of a more mature generation in general. At the last two-a-day shows I judged, most committee members arrived at the show before 7 a.m. The Best in Show judging of the second show ended after 8 p.m.
Do the math: That’s a very long day for anyone, and then they got to come back and do it again the next day, when they probably got out even later after cleanup and miscellaneous. The same certainly holds true for the show superintendent.
How about the judges? For sure, most judges fit into the graying generation, and we arrived at 7 a.m. and finished near 8 p.m. That meant having dinner at 8:30 to 9:30 p.m., and then trying to get enough rest to do it again the next day. I think there must be labor laws against this!
What about owner-handlers? Obviously, they were subject to the same hours as above. If they were local, they then had to drive home late at night and return the next morning. Certainly, for those who stay at a motel or rent RV space, there is a dollar saving since they get four shows in two days.
But, again, is it worth it?
One owner-handler (who was very successful at all four shows, so there certainly are no sour grapes involved) says, “I won’t do four shows in two days again. I regret doing [it]. My young dog was DONE [exhausted]. Getting up Monday morning for work was a killer!”
Another very successful owner-handler says, “I couldn’t agree more. Two shows in one day is unbelievably tiring and stressful for owners, handlers, judges and dogs.”
And the professionals? They obviously had the same hours. How do they care for the dogs with them? They also wound up eating late at night, and then needed to exercise the dogs.
And what about the most important issue – the dogs? At a normal show the dogs have the opportunity for some rest, exercise and normal feeding times. Would a handler feed the dogs in her care between shows and then have to take them into the ring? I doubt it.
Every dog faced these same long hours, and some had additional stress. Consider the young Irish Wolfhound that showed in all four groups. If there was even one other Wolfhound entry, this puppy would have had to show at least eight times. In addition to this being very hard on a young giant breed, the dog felt the stress passed down to it from its novice owner-handler. Would you consider this a good first experience for a puppy, or are we not concerned with that any longer?
At a recent show, a member of a Sporting breed won the variety from the classes – not necessarily a very unusual occurrence. If this happened at a two-a-day weekend, this dog would have been in the ring 16 times over the two days – even more if he won the group. Is this really what we want for our dogs?
Can the more experienced show dogs handle it better? Probably – but should they?
Unfortunately, I realize that – for too many – winning those pieces of ribbon, championship points or points towards rankings are THE most important reasons their dog is shown. I would love to think that showing our dogs is to show the results of our breeding programs, and demonstrating to others why they should use your stud dog or brood bitch. I know I am being extremely naive in hoping for this, but I can dream, can’t I?
I do know of instances where handlers – professional and owners – have given their dogs days off while on a circuit or in a cluster. I have great respect for them. One of the dogs that my wife had a few years ago did a great deal of winning, and even though he was a National Specialty and Best in Show winner she would simply not show him every weekend – even when he was “on a roll.” I am by no means telling people not to enter shows or not to show their dogs. All I am saying is do some planning, with consideration for your dog’s well-being the most important part of the decision.
The AKC has a limited number of conformation representatives available to be at shows. I would suggest that if we continue with this two-a-day thing – and I sincerely hope we would not – an AKC rep needs to be present. I realize they are often not there because these are “smaller” shows, but it is exactly because of they are smaller that the rep’s experience and expertise are needed.
If these two-a-days are not terminated completely, maybe there is a compromise. What about one show on Friday (yes, it would mean an extra day rent for the venue), then two shows on Saturday, and one show on Sunday? This would give everyone a chance to rest a bit, and get an early start home on Sunday.
This last statement is aimed at the vicious and wicked airline personnel who shorten up the seat belts when the planes are being cleaned so that it makes me THINK I have gained weight and need to stretch out the belt to fit. Thanks a lot!
What do you think?