Sat, 01/22/2022 - 6:54pm

Question of the Week

Earlier this month, there were 15 days of dog shows in one location, with only two days off in that period. What are your thoughts on showing so many days in succession?


Bill Shelton

Pomona, California

It doesn’t matter what the average breeder, exhibitor knows about the disadvantages of mega-clusters! It’s driven today by a professional numbers-driven industry that feeds off them. Lips service is posted by many at all levels, but nil is ever seriously done, or looked at when considering the ramifications or what needs to be done, to bring healthier choices for the future of our sport, or the dogs that are the objects of it. 


Pat Rock

Providence Forge, Virginia

Definitely too much. Breeder-owner-handlers are at a disadvantage at the best of times. (We have jobs, we aren't independently wealthy, we have a life other than showing dogs – something that keeps balance in our lives.) Long clusters shift advantage to professionals. If it gets to the point that the preponderance of shows are more than Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the future of many breeds will lodge directly in the hands of the pro handlers. Breeders will have less opportunity to get out to evaluate for themselves others’ breeding stock. In difficult-to-groom breeds like coated terriers, presentation already trumps conformation and breed type. The handler's job is to WIN, not to present for the judges' consideration individuals that demonstrate excellence in some trait lacking in the overall gene pool of that breed so that others may seek out that stud or the offspring of that bitch to improve their own stock. Too many breeding decisions already are made by the magazine rankings rather than ringside observation.


Alessandra Folz

Wilton, New Hampshire

As my sister, Sosanna, pointed out, having an exponential number of dog shows simply means that non-handlers can’t compete in standings, and they know it.

The shame of it is that some truly great dogs will now never be seen by the fancy. As a point of note, my sister was always a better handler than me, but now won’t show her own dogs, because judges have a hard time stepping out of the box and rewarding a great dog (who usually looks quite different than the rest of the exhibits) with a handler that they can’t recognize at all. And doubling down on the amount of shows just exacerbates that problem.  


Catherine Bell

Knoxville, Tennessee

I find nothing wrong with the length of the shows. Only professional handlers may do all the days, but people have jobs and can’t take that many days off, so they go on the weekends and that just makes for maybe three days. The next weekend they go again, so four to six days out of 15, that is not all bad. This is not all bad for the dogs, either; in Florida they have plenty of grounds to exercise their dogs – motivation is the word. Unless it is raining or other weather problems, the TV should not be calling until everyone has had their time out of the crates. Yes, I know it is tiring; so are the jobs people have in order to pay for their dogs to be shown.

Know who is showing your dogs and make sure they are doing the right thing.


Bo Bengtson

Ojai, California

I’m sure you will get many responses from people who disapprove of the number of shows that AKC allows these days, and I’m one of them. We go to dog shows less than a weekend a month and never stay for more than two or three days, so it’s slightly unreal to us that there are so many shows.

You have to remember that the exhibitors have a choice to stay at home, though. The dogs don’t, and while I’m sure some love it and are very well taken care of, I feel sorry for those who don’t enjoy it and spend their time sitting in crates unattended for 23 hours of 24.

The rankings surely have a lot to answer for: The more shows you go to, the better the chances are to a prominent position. It would be truly wonderful if anyone could come up with a fair system that isn’t simply accumulative.

Fewer and more meaningful shows would seem to be the answer, but until AKC takes action, the current madness will continue. In the early ’70s, according to AKC’s own figures, there were less than 600 all-breed shows per year; since 1985 there have been more than 1,000 annual shows, and 2006 marks the first year that AKC approved more than 1,500 all-breed shows. The last year from which figures are publicly available is 2018, when according to AKC’s own statistics there were 1,653 all-breed dog shows. 


Beverly Capstick

The Villages, Florida

Not good for man nor beast! Dogs spend too much time in crates. Handlers like the money, but it’s awful hard on the body. The mega-clusters are a big draw, but getting outrageous. From a judge’s viewpoint, I miss the nice weekend family shows. 


Nancy C. Russell

Walsenburg, Colorado

Problems with cluster shows:

1.  Sanitation.

2. Spread of diseases, both canine and human.

3. Tired handlers, both owner and professional, are more likely to take shortcuts on care and exercise for the dogs.

4. Discourages entries from owner-handlers with full-time jobs.

5. Discourages entries from junior handlers for those not home-schooled.

6. Cluster shows make it impossible for owner-handlers with 9-to-5 job to campaign their dogs into the top rankings of their breed, much less into the all-breed rankings.

When I started showing in the ’60s, there was often only one show on a weekend, sometimes two; these were family events. Tailgate parties, everyone stayed and clapped for their breed, regardless of the winner. It was always a plus to be the winner, but being with other breed enthusiasts was the best part of the dog show. And as a breeder, it was easy to get new owners to show their dogs.  


Joan Krumm

Poplar Grove, Illinois

For the clubs, it's probably financially good. For dog shows in general, shows are not spread all over the map and do not bring attention to them in their communities. As for the dogs, if they are indeed good pets, I'm not sure the majority of them are in favor. Not all dogs showing are loving that singular lifestyle.


Richard Lewis

Selah, Washington

In the good old days, the AKC allowed all-breed clubs to have only one day of judging per year. In order to successfully put on an event, clubs had to get together, with one club doing Saturday and the other doing Sunday. Because this was a challenge for clubs in areas like Montana, where the distances between show sites is great and the population of the region is low, the AKC let clubs in those areas have a second date. Well, that spread to the urban clubs. Then as clubs encroached on each other’s weekends by time and distance, the AKC let clubs have a third day and it let remote clubs have a fourth day. 

For the AKC, it is all about money. They make $3 or $3.50 per dog no matter how the sponsoring club does on the show. My own club saw its entry cut almost in half when the AKC allowed a show 300 miles from us to have a four-day cluster. We had to leave that weekend and move to another date.

To be fair, some of the mega-clusters occur at very expensive facilities. The only way for the club(s) to make money is to put on as extravagant an event as possible. We are in the middle of two huge clusters right now involving Puyallup, Washington (Seattle area) and Portland, Oregon. The first set of shows starts on a Thursday and ends on a Monday. Exhibitors have one day off for travel and then start up again on Wednesday with a bunch of specialties in Portland. I would think both dog and handler are exhausted halfway through the Portland shows.


Diane Schlicht

Lakeville, Minnesota

Mega-clusters truly do “kill” the fun for the owner-handler. It becomes almost a corporate dog-show environment where the lowly owner-handler is relegated to less-than-competitive status.


Nancy Edmunds

Bowman, Georgia

I think large clusters are fine. I know the handlers love it. If I want to go to some of it, I can, and don't have to go to all of it. 


Maria Arechaederra

Silverado, California 

I feel "mega-clusters" are simply too much. Too hard on the dogs, too hard on the people, too hard on the clubs. Getting back to the original concept of dog shows, which is "evaluating breeding stock," these mega-clusters are so far removed from that concept as to make the term meaningless. I suspect the only persons benefiting from mega-clusters are some professional handlers and/or those chasing points and rankings. Even then, I know many professional handlers who do not enjoy them and liken them to a "death march." 


E.J. Blausten

Richmond, Virginia

Fifteeen on with two off? Scary! I know, working dogs should be in shape to work every day. BUT not every dog is a working dog. And we've foofooed our dogs so much, that even those breeds that SHOULD be able to handle it, can't.

Too many days ... Bad for vendors ... Bad for the dogs .... Only reason is the “ease” for the handlers and the super.  

Time to rethink, AKC!  Are we here for the dogs – for the owners – or for the handlers and supers?

Shame on us for getting to this point.


Julie L. Mueller

Tulsa, Oklahoma 

Too much. I understand handlers are making a living, and breeders are proud of their dogs they want to exhibit. But what about the dogs? Especially the larger breeds; I think of my breed, the Saluki, which needs a lot of free running to stay in condition and be happy. 

Years ago, we had a circuit in Oklahoma in the fall that the handlers referred to as the "Death March." Started in Tulsa four or five shows, then with two days off in between, moved to Oklahoma City for another four or five shows, and there were specialties, too. I can remember that there were always dogs getting sick in Oklahoma City. We were fortunate that living in Tulsa, we had the luxury of being able to let our dogs be home and then move to Oklahoma City, two hours away. 

Everyone does their very best to keep the dogs healthy and happy, but the old adage, "There is no place like home," could apply here. We all know how happy our dogs are when they return home, and we feel the same way, too. I believe there is always a certain level of stress for the dogs when they are traveling and at the shows, and for the people, too. I also think it is really hard on the judges, and now with the challenges of the airlines canceling flights and delays, just getting to the shows is exhausting. Winning is an amazing feeling, but now, more than ever with Covid, we first need to take care of ourselves and the dogs. 


Katherine Means 

Merlin, Oregon 

More than four days is too many. It is supposed to be a sport, not a career. Too many days borders on abuse.  


Adrianne Dering 

Morgantown, West Virginia

I have problems toward the end of a five-day cluster. Both myself and my dogs are exhausted. I don’t know how many owner-handlers have the freedom and desire to spend two weeks straight showing. It becomes a chore rather than a fun experience with your dog. 


Coleen McGee

McKeesport, Pennsylvania

I am not in favor of that. You are only promoting professional handlers and turning your back on the breeder-owner-handlers – the backbone of the sport. 

Terry Hundt

Sandy Hook, Connecticut

I personally think that there are way too many shows, period. To have that many shows consecutively is crazy. Are we thinking about the money involved? How about the dogs? They go from crate to ex-pen to the ring to the crate. Is this the sport of dogs or the sport of making money? 


Marilyn Pipes

Stephenville, Texas

I see a lot of the pros opting to do what's best for their dogs and managing how much they show at these huge clusters. Many owner-handlers already are limited just due to finances or other obligations. It is also understandable that clubs cluster because of the economics. Venue options are scarce and getting very costly. Also, expenses related to judge travel and other create the need to share these costs with other clubs. There is even the consideration of availability and durability of volunteer club members between the clubs. Often members of all or most of the clubs in a cluster stay the whole time so all jobs can be covered and performed well for the good of all involved (exhibitors, judges, clubs). 


Dana Read

Hillsborough, North Carolina

Wow! 15 days? One locale? That is so many days of pretty much the same entry. What is the point? There are great dogs to be found all over!

Dog shows should be nothing more or nothing less than the evaluation of breeding stock. Not rankings, not breaking records, nothing but breeding stock. I know I am old school here, but if one accepts this as a premise, why would so many shows need to be held in one site with essentially the same entry? Is it to showcase those who can afford top handlers and tons of advertising? IMO, that is financially based, not breeding based. Maybe a better idea would be to have the get evaluated for 15 days of shows to get a consensus of who is passing along those great genes to their progeny (logistics of that would be a nightmare!).

All in all, I think a four- to five-day cluster is more than enough in one area. Move on so other worthy dogs can be found. Level the playing field (this is after all a SPORT!) so that the more local breeders have a shot to be recognized. 

Just my opinion, of course!


Darlene Jevning 


I think they are great. Maybe not 15 days, but eight would be nice.


Margaret Reid

Ranger, Georgia

I am not understanding the purpose of 15 days in one location. Is it to accommodate professional handlers only? Many owner-handlers plan their lives around weekend time so we are able to show and not take time off from work. Is there no concern, in this day and age, about transmission of Covid variants when we are exposed to concentrated groups of people for an extended period of time? Showing for extended periods of time puts a great deal of stress on not only the dogs but also their owners. I am not understanding the rationale.


Honi Reisman 

Baldwin Harbor, New York

Wasn't going to answer, but have to. Wasn't it just a few years ago some people were up in arms about having two shows on one day? In my opinion there are so many things wrong with clusters like this. How are these dogs getting proper exercise? Some are living in crates in a truck and then spending limited time in X-pens. Then how many days between these shows do they get off before they're back at more shows? This is just not right. Have the stats become more important than the dogs’ well-being? Wasn't showing dogs about showing your breeding stock? Yes, being the top dog in your breed is exciting and rewarding, but it has gotten to be too much.

Patricia D. Johnson

Spotsylvania, Virginia

Only helps the professionals, and they are not the backbone of conformation showing. So many of our local smaller shows have gone because of the clustering. Yes, I know it helps out the clubs, and I don’t mind the three- to five-day shows, but it definitely helps professionals more than your local conformation person. 


Jay Phinizy

Acworth, New Hampshire

Well, if you are a professional handler or chasing ribbons, I suppose that mega-clusters have their benefits. 

Sadly, too many sanctioned all-breed clubs have migrated to the cluster venue – not only out of convenience but to reduce costs. Unintentionally, clusters or cluster sites have done a very great disservice to purebred dogs. By allowing clusters to expand and practically speaking the rule and not the exception, AKC has relinquished its authority as the advocate of all things “canine” and the “go to” resource for the American public. Moreover, the concentration toward one or two sites has given the animal-rights folks a huge gift. Gone are the days when local shows brought in local crowds where the public could interact with knowledgeable breeders and exhibitors. It is no small wonder that HSUS and activist groups have made inroads into state legislatures, where the real action is. 

One way to begin to reverse this trend would be not to charge recording fees for shows held within a defined radius of a town or city within their “territory.” After all, the major expenses for an all-breed show are such things as tenting costs and site rental. The local all-breed show was the best form of direct marketing and advertising the American Kennel Club could spend money on, and, by waiving recording fees, a cost that AKC could easily absorb.

Wyoma Clouss

Meridian, Idaho

I don’t have a magic number for the number of shows in a row. My concern is for the dogs involved. By staying in one location without the need for travel, the potential is there for more comfortable and relaxing time for the dogs, (and for people). Careful exhibitors will know their dogs, and how to maintain them best. But with so many shows, so many potential wins available, some exhibitors might stress young or inexperienced dogs beyond what they might be able to handle. Will they resist temptation, will they remember we are doing this for fun, remember to keep their dog’s well-being as a priority?

Georgette La Spina

Sevierville, Tennessee

Mega-clusters accommodate professional handlers and the wealthy. For many owner-handlers with careers outside dog-show-related fields, these clusters eliminate a large number of shows each year. Quite sad – dog shows keep moving out of reach as a hobby for so many dog lovers.  


Bobbie Wood

Cranford, New Jersey

Personally, I don’t think I could get through that many days of shows and still be standing at the end. I think these clusters rob the individual clubs of their identity. You go day after day and you have no idea which club is on that day. It’s just another dog show. Besides, unless you’re a handler, you have to go to work to support this habit, and as we all know, breeding and showing dogs doesn’t make you a fortune!  I like going to a weekend show then going home to regroup, do laundry, wash the dog, then off to the next! I guess I started too long ago when every show had its own location, but I do know that is long in the past!



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