Bulletin Board

"...an educational event intended to teach interested individuals how to get started in the competitive environment of purebred dog events..."

"...to expand the exhibitor base for purebred dog competitive events by providing prospective exhibitors with a forum to obtain informal but experienced training.."

AKC Canine Experience Educational Event

Look for a Red Shirt, Look for a Red Shirt

And, that is precisely all a dog exhibitor "hopeful" had to do in Kansas City on May 10, 2008 at the latest version of the new canine-related event designed by the American Kennel Club to train future dog show exhibitors. The AKC Canine Experience is an educational event intended to teach interested individuals how to get started in the competitive environment of purebred dog events such as comformation shows and obedience, rally and agility trials.

The red shirts referenced above included shirts, blouses, and sweaters that were attire worn by approximately 170 dog club members serving as volunteer instructors (representing 55 purebred dog organizations located within about 175 miles of Kansas City) to readily identify those persons who were primed to freely give of their knowledge to anyone interested in learning how to gain a start in exhibiting their purebred dog. The volunteers converged on Kansas City's venerable Governors Exhibition Building, part of the world famous American Royal Complex, that was the site of the Kansas City AKC Canine Experience educational event.

Saturday, May 10, 2008 dawned like many other days in the Midwest except for one major difference - an aura of anticipation prevailed in the minds of roughly 170 members of area all-breed, specialty, obedience and agility clubs and their families. The anticipation was due to the AKC Canine Experience event scheduled to begin at 10:00 that morning. The culmination of planning activities that began less than a month earlier was to exceed everyone's most optimistic projections.

The primary purpose of the event's concept designed by the American Kennel Club, stated simply, is to expand the exhibitor base for purebred dog competitive events by providing prospective exhibitors with a forum to obtain informal but experienced training in order to begin a dog show career devoid of the uncertainty that surrounds many beginners in knowing just how to properly begin participation in dog events. All a veteran dog exhibitor has to do in order to sense the value of such an event to a beginner is to think back, in many cases 10, 20, 30 or more years, and recall how their early show experiences were a trial and error undertaking with many lessons learned through the school of "hard knocks". Through the years, many thought there needed to be a better way.

And indeed, a better way did emerge when the AKC developed the concept for the new program and presented a pilot event in February 2007 that was named an "Educational Match." The event was presented again in Hillsboro, Oregon in June 2007. Later, the successful event was renamed the "AKC Canine Experience" and was presented with refinements in Raleigh, North Carolina on February 27, 2008 prior to the Kansas City "Experience" on May 10. Future "Canine Experiences" are already scheduled this year with a repeat event in Hillsboro, Oregon on June 14 and in Bay Shore, New York on July 27. More clubs will undoubtedly join the ranks and begin planning their own Canine Experiences as the weeks roll by.

An effort began to bring the event to the Heartland of the Midwest. The Heart of America Kennel Club, headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, answered AKC's call and agreed to serve as the primary host club and pledged to underwrite all expenses beyond any contributions received from other dog clubs that might join together to assist in the planning, preparing and conducting of the event. A planning meeting was held on April 16 to start the ball rolling with a target date of May 10 because that was about the only open weekend in the Midwest (as a result of the date being temporarily vacated for one year by an all-breed club with extremely limited membership). With a temporary hold placed on a show site and a core group of 40 club members attending the initial planning meeting representing 7 area All-Breed clubs, 13 Specialty clubs, 1 Group club, 1 Obedience club and 1 Agility club along with 2 representatives of the AKC, a concerted effort began to assure that the event would indeed spring to life in Kansas City on May 10.

At the initial planning meeting, various conceptual ideas were discussed and decisions were made such as to not charge for any activities during the event, not even the match. An Executive Committee was named, chairpersons were selected from volunteers for many specific activities that would comprise the day's activities and an overall coordinator was appointed. Attendees left the initial planning meeting full of pride that the AKC Canine Experience would indeed come to the Midwest and was the start of the feeling of anticipation that was sensed by the approximately 170 club members and their families when they arose on the morning of May 10.

As the starting hour approached on the big day, prospective exhibitors began filing into the event site and were met by red-attired club volunteers serving as greeter/mentors. The attendees were made to feel welcome, helped to prepare a name tag and were given a participant ribbon and floorplan diagram complete with a descriptive index of the various activity stations, Attendees were then escorted to where their primary interest was being presented as a starting point for the day.

The morning was devoted to educational and instructional sessions ranging from grooming and handling demonstrations, informal breed discussion groups with veteran exhibitors, Canine Good Citizenship testing, Junior Showmanship classes and judging, explanation and discussion about Obedience, Rally and Agility events followed by many run throughs of those events, and explanations of basics such as how to fill out an entry form and how to use the services of a licensed show superintendent. In addition, a full-line vendor of necessary equipment and supplies was present to assist the novices with purchase of items they learned about in the educational sessions.

Early afternoon brought the start of a conformation "B" match complete with typical class, best of breed and group competition. An Afghan Hound puppy was ultimately selected as Best in Match at the first presentation of the AKC Canine Experience in the Midwest. An impressive array of ribbons and rosettes were presented to the respective selections made by the judges along with delightful prizes donated by Nestle Purina PetCare Products Company.

The following statistics are evidence of the magnitude of turnout by the targeted audience and the number of novices that received assistance:

  1. Obedience - Novice: conducted 73 run throughs with 45 dogs and 10 New Exhibitors.
  2. Obedience - Utility: conducted 23 run throughs with 23 dogs.
  3. Rally: conducted 70 run throughs with 55 dogs and 31 were New Exhibitors.
  4. Agility: conducted over 100 run throughs with 48 dogs and 6 4-H Club members participated as New Exhibitors.
  5. CGC: 23 dogs were tested and 21 passed, for an extraordinarily high percentage.
  6. Junior Showmanship: 72 youngsters participated with a large group of 15 being New Exhibitors.
  7. Conformation match: 104 entries with a remarkable total of 36 being New Exhibitors.

In addition, a significant number of people observed the grooming demonstrations and participated in the training offered by the grooming and handling instructors, while many took advantage of the expertise available from the breed mentoring veterans to learn about dogs in general before selecting a breed for a family pet while others were simply looking for information to learn more about the specific breed they already own. All in all, it was an outstanding level of participation.

In summary, it can be said with pride that this presentation of the AKC Canine Experience provided literally something for everyone. The proof of the pudding, so to speak, will be in the number of participants who go on to a career in the sport of purebred dogs. Even if most don't stay with the sport for very long, the participants were given a solid understanding of what is necessary to be successful in purebred dog competition events. For that, the club volunteers can be proud to take with them the satisfaction of knowing that they helped others while giving back to the sport. Is there a better result of such a day and event? Honestly, yes there is. And, it is in none other than the coming together of 170 individuals from 40 Specialty, 12 All-Breed, 1 Group, 1 Obedience and 1 Agility clubs with a new found camaraderie resulting from former competitors working together hand in hand toward a common goal -- the goal of teaching others and thereby expanding the population of canine exhibitors. The club volunteers served that goal well. As the overall coordinator of the most recent presentation of the AKC Canine Experience, I was and am proud to have been associated with the many club volunteers, even if for only a short time. Hopefully, paths of the volunteers will cross again many times in the years ahead and all will proudly reflect on the day they spent together in Kansas City, putting aside the competitive factor, to undertake the unselfish act of doing something positive for others to improve the sport of purebred dogs!

Richard D. "Dick" Rees, Coordinator
May 10, 2008 AKC Canine Experience
Kansas City, Missouri
Written: May 17, 2008

AKC Canine Experience Photos
Click on each picture for enlargement.
AKC's Bailey welcoming everyone to the event site.
Checking In
The day began by signing in at the Greeter table.
More Arrivals
More arrivals signing in.
Canine & Human Participants
Some of the participants - canine and human.
Red Shirts Everywhere
Red shirts in abundance helping event participants.
Overall View
Overall view of the day's activities.
Another View
Another perspective of the day's activity.
Vendor Services
Full-line vendor services were provided by John & Linda Williams.
Hospitality Table
Bailey welcomed event volunteers & participants at the Hospitality table.
Breed Mentoring Area
View of the breed mentoring instructional areas.
Grooming Demonstration
Grooming demonstration underway by Steve Kuehn with his Samoyed.
Wire Coat Grooming
Participants watching Wire Coat grooming demonstration.
Handling Class
Teresa Nash conducting handling techniques class.
CGC Testing
Canine Good Citizen testing.
More CGC Testing
More CGC testing.
Obedience Run Through
Golden Retriever in mid-jump during Obedience run through.
Obedience Sit Stays
Obedience entries in sit command.
Rally run through underway.
More Rally
More Rally competition.
Agility entry performing on the platform.
Junior Showmanship Class
Teddy McDowell instructing Junior Showmanship class.
Best Junior Handler
Best Junior Handler Summer Nye with Instructor Stephanie Hill.
Best In Match Judging
Best In Match Judge Bob Bostrom reviewing Group winners during BIM judging.
BIM Winner
BIM winner with owner Bruce Coffman, HOAKC President Bob Goodin & Judge Bostrom.
Trophies donated by Nestle Purina PetCare.
Trophy Chair Cathy Chase and her Afghan puppy exhibiting prizes donated by Nestle Purina PetCare.
Good Bye
The end of a successful AKC Canine Experience in Kansas City as participants head home.

Photos courtesy of Ken Peterson, David & Darlene Scheiris and Thaylia Smith.

This page updated: August 6, 2008

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