While we were stewarding in the obedience ring back in August, my friend Donna (Sheltie and AKC Rally Judge Donna, not Labs and Beagles Donna) were discussing how many exhibitors in Novice A and even Open A looked as though they had no clue what they were supposed to do in the ring, what they were allowed/not allowed to do, ringside etiquette, etc. People were removing leashes before they stepped into the ring or leaving the ring without having clipped the leash on their dog. Some gave both hand and voice commands at times when they were only allowed one or the other. Some Novice A competitors had obviously not had it explained to them that there are major differences between what is allowed in Rally and what is allowed in obedience. (And that's probably all I should say about that.)
We've seen the same thing with new conformation exhibitors (hey, I was one of those not that long ago!). Some of the new folks didn't know how the classes progress, when they had to go back in the ring, when they should show up at the ring, etc.
So, we started talking about why that might be.
Let me take an informal survey here: How many of you have trainers in your area who offer competitive obedience classes? If the obedience classes you take are not geared toward competition, does the instructor have experience competing? Does he/she talk about competitive obedience at all?
For your handling classes, does the instructor ever talk about class progression, ring etiquette, counting points, how Reserve works, etc.? What about all of the unwritten rules that seem perfectly obvious once you've been at it for a while, but are totally unknown when you start out?
My theory is that many of the folks who were having the most trouble had attended some classes to learn basic obedience and/or how to best handle their dog in the show ring, but no one had talked to them about the other stuff that you really need to know before you step through the ring gate for the first time.
We've been thinking about offering an afternoon seminar on these things, kind of a what-to-expect-when-you're-exhibiting sort of thing. I would like to see new exhibitors have a positive experience their first time out, not feel like they got blindsided by a bunch of things no one ever explained.
What are some suggestions for topics you think we should cover? Is this something that you think new folks might attend if they are thinking about showing or competing?
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