As exhibitors the only real power you have over the dog show process is your entry. You can belong to a local kennel club, your national breed club and maybe a specialty club and you can get the opportunity to supply input about judges to the show committee. But, for every judge you don’t think does your dog justice there are many people who can’t wait to show to that person. Because most of us are amateurs we don’t show dogs for a living and therefore, don’t have to enter a particular show at all.
We can pick and choose who we enter to and this is a very powerful thing. Judges judge at the pleasure of the clubs that hire them. Clubs hire judges who can bring in an entry. Clubs get more money if more exhibitors enter. It’s very costly if a club strings together too many years of judges perceived by the fancy as less than desirable. But what makes a show or judge somebody or somewhere you want to go. Many times it is the quality of the judges. A good mix of provisionals and old favorites. It’s somehow a good thing to look down the list of judges and see some names you recognize, even if they aren’t judging your breed.
Providing unloading assistance is also a good thing. In our area we have a kennel club that recently lost its venue of many years and had to move to an indoor event center. They provide unloading assistance and reserved grooming that makes it easier and more sane for everybody. Shows that start later are much appreciated by exhibitors. A nine o’clock start is so much easier on out of towners than and eight o’clock start. Clubs that endeavor to improve a little each year are great. There is a club on the other side of the mountains that used to be outside in the broiling late summer/early fall Colorado sun. This small club now offers indoor rings and grooming, even if on dirt, and this is so much better. They have also tried to bring in judges we don’t get in our area too often and some well known judges. Distance is really the only thing that now keeps us from attending.
But all told, it is still the judge who determines the quality of the show experience. A judge who will look at dogs, not handlers faces, and seems to enjoy their assignment are hard to beat. If every exhibitor would speak with their entry forms, clubs would get the word and maybe some judges who consistently draw small entries coast to coast would also be motivated to make some changes. Clubs walk the line between placating handlers who bring large strings of dogs, which equal bigger revenue, and amateur exhibitors who may bring fewer entries but really drive the sport. Both groups must be molified to some extent or word gets out the club is not a good place to show. We have a club on our side of the state who has had consistently falling entries. This is due in large part to the lack of popular judges. The facilities are first rate, but when you don’t recognize one judge in the premium list you know the entries will be small. This translates to fewer majors and that’s no good for anybody. At a recent meeting some members of the show committee expressed their pleasure that the handlers weren’t coming to their shows much anymore and that was better for everyone. How shortsighted. Money talks. Judges deemed difficult by a majority will bring this club less money. They will be forced to listen to their less than full coffers, if not the voices of the exhibitors, and make choices to make more people feel that they will get their money’s worth if they enter on their weekend.