Today we will go behind the scenes of a televised dog show. There’s a whole lot they don’t show you.

A televised dog show is actually the truncation of the whole dog show. As you can imagine it takes quite a long time to judge every dog entered with 157 breeds. As a general rule you can say it takes about 2 minutes to judge each dog entered. With 2,444 dogs entered at the 2007 AKC/Eukanuba Dog Show, that would total 4,888 minutes of breed judging or 81.46 hours. That’s almost 3.5 days! Of course, this is shortened by having multiple Judges working at the same time during Breed judging.

At a typical dog show, the breed judging begins at 8 or 9am and continues until between 2pm and 5pm depending on the number of dogs. After that comes Group and Best In Show and some regular shows might last as late as 7 or even 9pm. Special shows like Westmister are held over the course of two days. For that reason, only the Group and Best In Show judging are televised. Clips of breed judging and other special events might be shown here and there, but what you are seeing is really just the end of a very busy day.

Although we are not going into detail about how Breed Judging works here, it is a huge part of what you miss when watching a televised dog show. Breed Judging is what determines who the dogs going to Group Judging will be.

Other events that may be going on at the same time include performance events like Agility, Obedience, and Rally trials. Occasionally some fun events like Frisbee or Doggie Dancing will occur. There are usually booths for Vendors where you can do your shopping for your dog. Sometimes there are special educational seminars and even health clinics. At larger shows there might be a “Meet The Breeds” forum where each breed creates a presentation to share with the public in their breed booth. Valuable information about breed characteristics, grooming, sporting events, and rescue is provided along with experts to answer your questions. At select shows the dogs are “benched” which is similar to Meet The Breeds in that the dogs are available for viewing by the public and usually you can ask questions about them.

At every dog show there are sections for handlers to get their dogs ready for the show. Just walking through the grooming areas can be an event. Every breed is groomed differently and requires unique preparation before ring time. Poodles might be laying on grooming tables being meticulously combed while little dogs bark in their crate at everyone who walks by and dryers blow on the furnishings of Terriers who have been washed out. Handlers are varied and include Professionals, Owner-Handlers, Breeder-Owner-Handlers, and Junior Handlers all of whom have a different approach to their dog show day. Don’t get in the way of anyone late to the ring or you will be unapologetically run over.

Behind the scenes at a dog show extends beyond the show ring and beyond the very building. The hotels within a 20 mile radius are booked solid, whether they accept pets or not. Sitting in the reception area of the hotel is a lesson in dog breeds itself. If you are planning a wedding you might want to verify that you are not in a dog show hot zone…not all your guests will enjoy the “atmosphere.” Vehicles on the road have the telltale signs of a dog show. There are lots of vans and RVs filled with crates and supplies. Many are marked with kennel names, dog breed signs, and paw stickers and magnets. There are always a couple bicycles laying around in the parking lot, the RV travelers often bring them as a means to get to local eateries without a smaller vehicle. The sound of generators in the parking lot is unmistakable.

Of course the best time at any dog show is first thing in the morning. It is the time leading up to the start of judging. The dogs and their handlers are arriving at the site, setting up crates, walking their dogs, drinking their coffee. It is a time filled only with the possibility of what might be. Nobody has been judged. Nobody has been dismissed. Every dog and their handler have the potential to be Best In Show.

This perfect moment ends as every good sporting event begins, with the National Anthem. It is the only moment of calm at a dog show. Every person stops to take in that last breath of tranquility, and in a miraculous moment of serenity, even the dogs quiet down to listen.
Tomorrow… Judging at the Group level.

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