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
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
The following statistics are evidence of the magnitude of turnout by the targeted audience and the number of
novices that received assistance:
- Obedience - Novice: conducted 73 run throughs with 45 dogs and 10 New Exhibitors.
- Obedience - Utility: conducted 23 run throughs with 23 dogs.
- Rally: conducted 70 run throughs with 55 dogs and 31 were New Exhibitors.
- Agility: conducted over 100 run throughs with 48 dogs and 6 4-H Club members participated as New Exhibitors.
- CGC: 23 dogs were tested and 21 passed, for an extraordinarily high percentage.
- Junior Showmanship: 72 youngsters participated with a large group of 15 being New Exhibitors.
- 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