Building Your Dog Show’s Entry

By Betty-Anne Stenmark

"Reprinted with permission from Dogs in Review and author Betty-Anne Stenmark, from the April 2015 issue of Dogs in Review magazine."

All-breed clubs looking to increase entries need look no further than forming a relationship with local breed clubs. Yes it’s extra work but well worth the effort, as specialties and trophy-supported entries with or without sweepstakes bring in more  entries. When our club made the big changeover in our format, I learned there is a lot of confusion about the differences between different kinds of specialties. This month we’ll look at independent, designated, concurrent, evening and trophy-supported specialties.

Holding specialties along with your all-breed show will increase entry numbers. Photo by Gina Cioli/I-5 Studio.

Independent Specialties

Independent specialties are, as the name implies, independently held. The club must apply to the American Kennel Club for permission to hold the show on the date, specify the location, submit the names of the judges and pay the AKC fees. The club can assume all secretarial duties or contract a professional show secretary or superintendent to produce and mail the premium list a minimum of four weeks before the closing of entries, collect the entries on the closing date, generate and mail a judging program to every exhibitor, put together the judges’ books and print a catalog to be available for purchase on the day of the show, and after the show submit all the paperwork to AKC and pay the additional fees.

If a club has the manpower, knowledge and energy, it is financially beneficial for a member to act as show secretary. The club will save a great deal of money in expenses, and it is a grand opportunity to put money in the club treasury. I can remember chairing the first independently held Dandie Dinmont Terrier National Specialty in 1980, and the old guard in the club was all aflutter about the certain financial ruin that lay ahead. This was back in the days when the Dandie Board thought the specialty moving to Louisville, Ky., had been in the West! And all this was long before computer desktop publishing programs were even dreamed of, but it wasn’t difficult for a typist with an IBM Correcting Selectric typewriter and a photocopier to generate the premium list, judging program, judges books and catalog. And yes, we did very well financially, and the Dandie Club coffers swelled.

At an independent specialty, it is up to the club to set up the rings, handle overnight and day-of-show parking, hire and pay the judges and ring stewards, arrange for an EMT, pay for the venue, event insurance, arrange for a host hotel, exhibitor hospitality, lunches, and the list goes on and on. Clubs holding independent specialties can also host independent Obedience and Rally trials. This is a big plus for breeds with a large performance following among its membership.

Independent specialties are the best of the specialty options. There is an unhurried atmosphere, the pace of judging can be set to include a nice break between Sweepstakes classes and the start of regular class judging, a leisurely lunch break and another break before Best of Breed competition. Special events, such as a parade of rescue dogs, can be scheduled during the lunch break, a time to honor those who generously open their homes to a dog in need. Many clubs host post-show hospitality, a time to catch up and kick back with friends new and old.

When independent specialties are held as part of an extended weekend with all-breed shows, it builds the entry for each club involved. Add into that a judging panel of interest to those specialty exhibitors, and you will see the entry grow by leaps and bounds.

Designated Specialties

To quote the AKC from its website, "The AKC provides specialty clubs many different ways to hold competition in conjunction with an all-breed or Group show. The club holding the all-breed or Group show is referred to as the host club.”

The AKC website describes a designated specialty as follows: "A specialty club may designate the regular breed judging at an all-breed or Group show as its specialty show. The specialty clubs must submit an event application for the designated specialty. The specialty club does not submit a judges panel; the judge for the breed is submitted as part of the panel of the host club’s show. The host club must provide permission to the specialty club to hold a designated specialty and that permission must be submitted to the AKC. The specialty club may offer sweepstakes and special attractions as part of their designated specialty. No limit on entries for the designated specialty is required. There is no limit on the number of designated specialties that may be held at a host club’s show.”

Designated specialties were once called "a specialty held in conjunction with an all-breed show.” The all-breed club does all the work, provides the services of the superintendent, the ring, and hires and pays the judge. Essentially all the specialty club must do is show up. When specialty clubs have few workers or little money in the treasury, the designated specialty can keep a club going until better times. A Sweepstakes can be offered with a designated specialty. The only downside to a designated specialty is altered veterans cannot compete.

Concurrent Specialties

AKC describes the concurrent specialty as follows: "A specialty club may offer an independent specialty on the same date and at the same site as an all-breed or Group show. Specialty clubs must submit an event application and a judges panel for the concurrent specialty. The host club must provide permission to the specialty club to hold a concurrent specialty and that permission must be submitted to the AKC. The specialty club may offer sweepstakes and special attractions as part of their concurrent specialty. There is a limit of one hundred (100) total entries for the concurrent specialty. The limit includes any entries in sweepstakes or special attractions held in conjunction with the concurrent specialty. There is a limit of one hundred (100) total entries for the breed judging in the host show. The limit includes any entries in sweepstakes or special attractions held in conjunction with the breed judging in the host show. Host clubs must get pre-approval from the AKC if they want to have more than five concurrent specialties with their show. Judging for the concurrent specialty cannot begin until the completion of the breed competition in the host club’s show. This includes regular judging, sweepstakes and special attractions. The judging in the concurrent specialty must not be stopped to accommodate entries that are participating in other competition. If a conflict occurs, the exhibitor must choose which competition they want to participate in.”

These are essentially independent specialties in every way except they take place on the same day and on the same grounds as an all-breed show. To hold a concurrent specialty, the all-breed club must give its permission. Breed judging takes place under the all-breed club’s auspices in the morning and the concurrent specialty takes place in the afternoon. The Best of Breed winner from the morning classes competes in the Group that afternoon. The Best of Breed winner from the concurrent specialty does not compete further that day. Entries at the all-breed club in the morning and the afternoon concurrent specialty are both limited to 100 dogs. Altered Veterans can be shown at concurrent specialties as they can at independent specialties but not at designated specialties or all-breed shows.

The AKC at the present time permits a total of five concurrent specialties with an all-breed show each day. However, this year there are two upcoming weekends where a sixth concurrent specialty has been approved on a trial basis. Personally, I see no reason why there can’t be a dozen concurrent specialties if the showgrounds are large enough to accommodate them without impacting the main event. AKC also allows a like number of concurrent Obedience and Rally trials, but Obedience and Rally classes for that breed are not permitted to be held at the all-breed (host) show that day.

Evening Specialties

AKC describes evening specialties as being "on the same date and at the same site as an all-breed or Group show. Specialty clubs must submit an event application and a judges panel for the evening specialty. The host club must provide permission to the specialty club to hold an evening specialty, and that permission must be submitted to the AKC. The specialty club may not offer sweepstakes or special attractions as part of their evening specialty. There is a limit of fifty (50) total entries for the evening specialty. Judging for the evening specialty cannot begin until thirty (30) minutes after the completion of the Best in Show judging (or Group judging at a Group show) at the host club show.”

I am not a fan of the evening specialty. I am not sure most dogs would volunteer to get out of their warm beds at 6 a.m., be trotted off to the dog show, prepped and exhibited later that morning, spend the afternoon in their crate and after the conclusion of the all-breed club’s Best in Show, find themselves back out of their crates and up on the grooming table for more prep and another trip into the ring. Frankly, I think this is too much for man and beast. Many Best in Shows are not concluded until well after 7 p.m., so if the evening specialty has 50 dogs and begins at 7:30 p.m., then judging will not conclude before 9:30 p.m. By the time the exhibitor returns home or to the hotel, it’s likely to be nearing midnight. My dogs would go on strike if I did that to them!

Trophy-Supported Entries

The AKC describes a supported entry as follows: "A specialty club may support another club by providing prizes and trophies. No application or other notification to the AKC is needed. The club must comply with the AKC rules regarding the prizes and trophies offered, and they must be listed properly in the premium list, judging program and catalog. A specialty club that is not licensed or sanctioned with AKC cannot be listed as supporting an entry. If the specialty club is not licensed or sanctioned with AKC they are limited to being listed in the trophy section of the premium list and the listing is limited to a notation that the club is donating a trophy or prize.”

A Trophy-Supported Entry (TSE) is yet another way of building an entry. A TSE can be as little as one trophy for Best of Breed or a trophy for every class winner; it is entirely up to the sponsoring breed club.

The specialty club offering the TSE can also sponsor a Sweepstakes and a Veteran Sweepstakes. The specialty club must complete an AKC form requesting permission and submit the name of the judge. The Veteran Sweepstakes can be open to intact as well as altered Veterans, as the winner does not compete beyond the Veteran Sweepstakes.

Speaking of judges, the Sweepstakes classes give new and aspiring judges an opportunity to get their hands on a breed and learn from the experience. Before someone applies to judge a breed, he or she must attend a breed seminar, visit breeders, attend a specialty or a major entry, and hopefully judge a few of the breed at a sanctioned match or a specialty sweepstakes.

All-breed clubs working with specialty clubs should ask for a list of judges their members would like to see. It makes little sense to gain specialty support if the judge isn’t someone highly regarded by the exhibitors. I am a firm believer that if the judging panel is good enough, exhibitors will drive long distances to attend the show.