South Windsor Kennel Club (SWKC) and Farmington Valley Kennel Club (FVKC) recently participated in the AKC Pilot Match Program, a new program meant to help draw beginner exhibitors into AKC activities. The clubs hosted two matches in one day to great success! SWKC and FVKC drew more than 100 entries each and more than half were from people who had never been to a dog show before. Club members greeted all of the novices, welcoming them to the match and answering their questions.
The clubs offered free handling classes, emphasizing the importance of making it fun for the dogs. Club members explained to the beginning handlers what judges are looking for and why we show our dogs. They also talked about what breed standards are and urged people to join their national and local breed clubs.
SWKC President Peggy Wampold said, “I think for us, Cheryl Gerzabek, Dennis Vendrillo and myself, who had worked with these novices, the gratification of later seeing them in the ring with their dogs and the way their dogs behaved and the smiles on their owner’s faces made it all worthwhile."
Other activities offered included Junior Showmanship competition, Canine Good Citizen testing and Obedience.
Club members Roger and Lee Gerrish also helped dogs and their owners go through AKC’s My Dog Can Do That to try beginning agility obstacles. More than 30 owners tried the course with their dogs, with many coming back to run it again and again!
“For the clubs that do not hold independent matches, I strongly urge you to reconsider. They are a lot of fun and a great way for people to learn the art of stewarding and judging as well as giving exhibitors a chance to introduce their puppies to the wonderful world of dog shows,” said Wampold. “They are relaxed and a great way for novices to get addicted, just as we are. Our two clubs firmly believe that we need to get new people involved in our sport and this is a fantastic way to do. We want to try to give them the opportunity to see all the many activities that they can do and enjoy with their dogs in our wonderful and versatile AKC world.”