Over the past few years, a great deal of change has taken place in the dog show world. The National Owner Handler Series has been added to many shows and is growing every day. Covid-19 hit our country causing the cancellation of thousands of events. Following the resumption of shows, we have seen many new protocols put into place such as the wearing of masks, social distancing, a change in ring procedures, judges now not only marking their books but also pulling and handing out their ribbons. The groups being divided into sections to allow for social distancing. The return to various outdoor/indoor undercover venues and due to the reduction in the number of shows a significant entry increase for many of the shows throughout the country.
All of these changes have had a huge impact on the running of shows. Most shows start judging at 8:00 in the morning and in many cases, Best in Show is not being completed until 7:00 to 8:00 at night. Currently, Judges are limited to only 175 dogs per day but with many doing regular and owner-handler groups today's judges may be judging between 200-275 per day. For many judges that can be anywhere from 8 to 11 hours a day standing, bending over, and judging. Those of us that do judge know it is not only a physical but also a mentally demanding day. Calculate it over a three to four-day period and it is truly strenuous. Following the show, the judges barely have time to shower, eat dinner and review their standards for the next day before they grab a few hours of sleep and are back at it the next day.
While exhibitors and handlers have breaks during the day judges are lucky to get 45 minutes for lunch and also must take time during the day to squeeze in photos for the winners. When you factor in such things as cold, hot, windy, or rainy weather or dirt floor venues, muddy grounds and the like Judges are extremely tolerant and hardworking individuals that do their very best to keep things moving and running on time.
The show superintendents try to do a good job with the schedules but following the AKC and social distancing guidelines make our shows run longer and longer. Almost everyone at the shows feels that shows keep running much later than any time in the past.
Since it appears that a complete return to the way it used to be will not happen I would like to share some suggestions for speeding up shows as well as creating a safer healthier procedure for judges.
1. If judges are expected to also judge several groups each day it is time to reduce the number of dogs per day to 150 Max a day. Allowing for the standard 25 dogs per hour expectation and a 45-minute lunch it would mean no groups would need to start any later than 2:45 each day.
2. When judging the group the judge should not have to reexamine any dog that he judges earlier in the day. (exceptions could be made for televised events) After all, I don’t think anyone of us has ever seen a dog lose his teeth, misplace his testicles, go oversize or gain that much weight between the breed and the group.
3. Look at changing the after-lunch judging schedules to one with no breaks. Hopefully by lunch time the judge should have judged about 100 of his/her 150 daily limit. Often because of absentees and the like, a judge might have a 15-20 minute break between segments as they are currently scheduled and then the last segments are full and the judge is pushed to be finished in a hurry to not hold up the groups. With only 50 or so dogs left after lunch no break should be needed.
4. The four to six puppy classes are a wonderful opportunity for new puppies and new exhibitors to gain experience. In most cases, there are only 1-4 exhibits, and each breed with most usually only having one. Why not eliminate the breed competition and bring in all puppies in that particular group and judge them all as one group with 4 placements. You would still have 7 group winners plus miscellaneous but all the puppies would have a great opportunity to be in the ring for a longer period and it would cut down on the time and paperwork under the current system.
5. Rather than having the Owner-Handler groups follow the regular groups Start them earlier before the regular group. The order would not need to be the same and it would avoid delays because of judging conflicts. All too often the Owner-Handler Best follows the regular Best in Show and most people leave and no one is left to cheer on the owner-handler group winners.
6. Many Owner-Handlers feel like second-class citizen's. All clubs should be required to at least provide the same size ribbons and rosettes that are given to the regular group and Best in Show winners.
7. If a club offers Owner-Handler competition they should not also be allowed to offer Best Bred-By Exhibitor groups or veteran groups these take up a great deal of time and can be confusing during the day's judging.
8. The time has come to recognize that using ramps for the judging of many breeds would be a safer and better way for judges to examine numerous breeds. A large towering judge can be a little overwhelming to some of the younger entries in many breeds. It is also a safer and more secure way to examine these breeds.
I believe we will see some reduction in the total number of shows in the future and I also think we will continue to have some shows and circuits where the entry will be larger than we have seen recently.
I also understand the economics of putting on a show and the cost of judges, ribbons, Venues, Stewards, and the many other things that go to putting on a show. However, if managed properly it can be done cost effectively.
We are also obligated to give the exhibitor a judge that is not physically or mentally exhausted because they are judging 250 plus dogs per day under various conditions.
As I mentioned earlier these are just my thoughts. I have been judging since 1985 and have served as a show and cluster chairman on numerous occasions. I have listened to my fellow judges, the exhibitors, and the club members and in my opinion, we all want safe, efficient, high-quality shows that are completed in a timely matter. What do you think?