Scenes Around a Dog Show

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The scenes around a dog show vary greatly depending on whose point of view is emphasized. As a show dog myself, I can tell you what the pet’s view is of a dog show.

My own pet parent is a former dog groomer. She followed her passion years ago when she went to grooming school to learn the proper way to make pets both look and feel beautiful. Professional groomers are seen around a dog show. They are employed to help the dogs look their best before entering the ring. These groomers usually learn their skills from another show groomer rather than from a grooming school that focuses on pets. Often, the dog’s show handler is also the groomer.

As you stand outside the dog show ring, you notice two different types of handlers. My pet parent is an amateur handler. A professional dog handler must have a great deal of experience with showing dogs first. Then, to be successful, the handler should apprentice with a well-known handler. Many junior exhibitors grow up to be professional handlers, following in their parents’ footsteps.

The number of dog shows have increased across the country so owner-handlers often hire professional dog show handlers to show their dogs when they are not able to be there themselves. The salary range for a dog show handler varies greatly with experience and even the prestige of winning at a particular show. In my case, Amelia and I earned my show titles without hiring a professional dog handler. However, whenever we were around a dog show, we watched what the pros did very carefully to learn how to be the best we could be in the show ring.

The most respected people at the dog show are the judges…or at least they should be. I have found that dog show judges are very nice to puppies and junior exhibitors. They prefer to give helpful tips and make cheerful noises to get the puppy’s attention. They do expect more from long-time professional dog handlers though. A dog show judge must pass the test of the licensing organization and take courses and seminars to learn more about the breeds they are judging. More breeds are being accepted by the American Kennel Club. The AKC requires that judges have 12 years of documented experience with dogs.

AKC delegates who represent member clubs may judge but they receive only show expenses such as travel, parking, tolls, motels, and meals. Most starting judges receive a small fee per dog. Fees paid to experienced judges can progress from $100 upward per day plus expenses according to Ellen Shenk who authored the book “Careers With Animals.” We have known judges to waive their fees or discount their fees so that the show itself keeps the money and is able to continue having shows. It stands to reason that judges who are qualified for judging more breeds showing in the conformation ring will have more work. This is also true for judges qualified to judge both Rally obedience as well as the standard obedience trials. This allows the dog show to hire fewer judges and minimize dog show expenses.

To have a well-run show, other workers are needed around a dog show. Any dog that has pooped in the ring is familiar with the pooper scoopers. Often the show will hire 4-Hers or Boy Scouts to fill this job as a way of giving back to the community. It is really embarrassing to poop in the ring and sometimes disqualifies the entrant so there is very little work for the pooper scoopers inside the ring. With limited venues for dog shows, most dog owners and handlers have been conditioned to clean up after their dogs so that they will be welcomed back the next year. In other words, pooper scoopers will have plenty of time to watch the show!

Dog show superintendents have a special spot around the dog show so that they can be easily found. They are needed to handle the details of a dog show so that it runs effectively. They print the entry form which is known as the premium list and mail it to prospective exhibitors. They draw up the show program and then mail it to each registrant. The superintendent may also handle the responsibilities of the show secretary if no one from the hosting club volunteers for the job. They also bring the necessary ribbons and armbands to the show. Websites such as provide a listing of dog shows and enable online registration as well as the results of the dog show.

As the superintendent for The Fall Mountain Classic in Cumberland, Maryland, MB-F also provides the physical equipment needed for the show. Semi-trucks haul in the mats, ring standards, barriers and special equipment such as ramps and tables for the smaller breeds. The day before the show starts is spent setting up the ring barriers, taping down the mats and erecting any necessary tents.

A favorite person at the dog show is the dog show photographer.

Kurtis Photography

Winners are expected to be photographed but others can also pay the photographer to have their picture taken. In today’s digital world, the exhibitor can select the photograph that they want right at the show by reviewing the pictures on the photographer’s computer screen. The increase in the number of shows and types of dog shows will allow a new photographer to get their start. They may also fill the slot of a retiring photographer or the photographers that are not pleasing the exhibitors with the quality of their photographs.

If your pet parent’s passion is to be around a dog show, they can start by volunteering to be a steward. Stewards in a dog show assist the judges so that they can concentrate on evaluating the dogs. They help to keep the show running on time, maintain the show records, and keep the ring clean. Stewards also give the judges ribbons and trophies to hand out. Show dog handlers rely on stewards for their armbands, answers to their questions, and for calling them into the ring when it is their turn to show. Dog club members may volunteer to be stewards but if there are not enough volunteers, then a club may pay a small fee or give a free lunch to a steward.

Encourage your pet parent to follow their passion and fill one of these positions to keep the dog shows fun for everyone! Be sure to comment on the Smilebox video that we have put together from Your Pets View of the scenes around The Fall Mountain Classic dog show.

Living in the moment,
Pet Companion to animal lover Amelia Johnson

Leave a comment from you or your pet below!


  • Hawk aka BrownDog

    November 5, 2011

    Hi Y’all,

    Great pics! Love the Dane looking to escape from the car.  

    Y’all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

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