Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Newbies Guide to the AKC Show Ring

I keep seeing new people wanting some resources for what to expect in the show ring.  I wanted to offer that here with some information that I hope will be helpful.  What I am sharing here is written in regard to showing dogs with the American Kennel Club.  While much is the same, there are some differences in the different venues, so please be sure to make yourself aware of those things when showing in another venue.

How It All Works (in brief)
Here is a very quick look at how the judging works.

  • Class males are shown first, class bitches are shown second, Champions or Specials are last
  • Staring with dogs, each class (6-9 pup, 9-12 pup, Bred-by, Open, etc) is judged and a 1st through 4th place is chosen.
  • All the 1st place winners from the classes go in for the Winners Class
  • The judge picks a Winner's Dog, this is the only dog that gets CH points at that show for that breed or variety.  The judge then chooses a Reserve Winner's Dog, this dog will get the points if for any reason the Winner's Dog isn't eligible (entered in wrong class for example). Note: If you got 2nd place in your class, stay close by because if the 1st place winner in your class goes Winner's, you will have to go back in for Reserve.
  • The same thing is done for bitches to select a Winner's Bitch and a Reserve Winner's Bitch.
  • After Winner's Bitch all the Champions or Specials go in along with Winner's Dog and Winner's Bitch for Best of Breed or Variety, Best Opposite Sex, Best of Winners and Select for Grand Championship points.

Ring Procedures
In general, it looks something like this...

  • As soon as you are settled in, go to your ring and pick up your armband.  Use one of the rubber bands to secure the armband onto your left arm.  If you have thin arms, you may need two!
  • Dogs are called into the ring in catalog order.
  • The ring steward will tell you where to go.
  • When you get there, stack your dog.
  • At this point, some judges will look at the dogs all stacked up and some will tell you not to bother stacking them (or getting on the ground if you kneel) and just take them around together.
  • Once the dogs have gone around together the first dog in line goes on the table for the exam and in general, the other dogs are free to relax.
  • At this point, many judges will not look at the other dogs in the class at all, and you truly can relax.  However, some will watch the dog go around and then look up the line at all the dogs in the class, if you have a judge that does that, do not allow the dog to showcase something that you don't want the judge looking at again and again.
  • When it is your turn, you will stack up your dog.  Usually, you wait until the dog before you has started his last go around to the end of the line.  Sometimes with table dogs you can put them on the table as soon as the other dog has started his pattern.
  • The judge will exam your dog.  I like to wait until the moment the judge is looking and bait the dog so his head and neck are just how I like it.  The judge will walk up and you want to make sure your lead, hands and body are not in any way in the way of the dog so the judge can see. Do not feed your dog right before the judge will examine the bite. I will sometimes use food to occupy the dog if needed after the judge is done examining his head and bite.  
  • The judge will then have you move the dog.  Usually this will be a down and back, a triangle or a diagonal.  When returning to the judge make sure that the judge is looking at you, that you are moving in a straight line and that you stop far enough away so that the judge can see your dog.  
  • The judge will then have you take your dog around to the end.
  • If there is more than one dog in the class, you will stack your dog once the last dog has been examined and sent to the lineup.  Be sure that you have your dog stacked and looking good as the judge passes.  
  • Some judges will walk down the line and back up to look at rears, some judges will back up and look at the group again, for some breeds you may need to move a few times as the judge walks around.  Some judges for some breeds may have you stack your dog facing the judge.  All things you should practice for and be ready for.
  • The judge will sometimes put the dogs in the order he or she is considering and then move the dogs again.
  • The judge will make the picks and then you go to the stand with the appropriate sign on it (1, 2, 3, 4).
  • If you have won the Open class, you stay in the ring and go to the front of the line for the Winners class.  If you have won another class you simply wait near the ring gate to be called back in for Winners.
  • In the Winners class the judge may move all the dogs again, may put another dog or two on the table, etc.  Be prepared for that.
  • If you win the Winners class, you need to stay close by to come back into the ring for the Breed or Variety judging.
Things to keep in mind
  • Get to the show grounds in plenty of time.  I like to arrive an hour before judging.
  • Watch the judge with other breeds if you can to get an idea of where you will be asked to stack, the patterns the judge is using, etc.
  • Pick up your armband as soon as you are set up and ready to go.
  • Watch the judge but do not disconnect from your dog.  
  • Talk to your dog, have fun and let your dog have fun.
  • Be courteous with bait and toys in the ring.
  • Be courteous about space and make sure to give the dog in front of you plenty of space.