Exhibitor Orientation

Posted on April 24, 2023


We are pleased to have you join us at this show. Whether you are just doing some preliminary research in choosing the right breed for you and your family, or you already have your canine companion and want to learn more, this is an excellent place for you to start. 

This booklet was designed by the Dog Show Superintendents Association to give you some basic information. If you have become involved in the sport, or if you are thinking of becoming involved, Superintendents can be an important factor in your experience. Superintending organizations work together with clubs to produce and manage dog shows. Part of their job is to help insure that everything runs smoothly for the club and that everything is progressing for their show according to AKC Rules and Regulations. Another important part of their job is to help newcomers understand those same Rules and Regulations. Helping you understand shows and helping you gain in your knowledge of AKC Rules and Regulations will add to your success and enjoyment of the sport. (For more detail on what Superintendents do see page 14.) 

This booklet contains information on the most frequent items with which you will come into contact during your day at the show. If there is anything you would like to have additional information on, or if there is something that is not quite clear, please feel free to come to the Superintendent’s desk and ask. If you don’t have any questions during the event but think of something after you have left, we have included some website addresses for specific sites as well as some helpful e-mail addresses you may use to obtain additional information. 


Here are some brief pointers in basic dog show etiquette for you and your family when you attend your first shows. These particular items were developed by and are displayed at the Thanksgiving Classic shows in Springfield, MA. We appreciate their cooperation in allowing us to reproduce them here. They have been slightly expanded by DSSA. They will be very helpful in making your dog show experience a good one. You will notice they are just good common sense rules. 

Ask before Touching or Feeding a Dog!

Often people have spent hours grooming their dogs. Other dogs early in their exposure to shows may be nervous at shows or may not yet be used to crowds or children. And, some dogs grab for what they may interpret as treats or they might have finicky stomachs. Once a dog has been shown exhibitors/owners are usually happy to have the dog receive some additional petting, especially if they are adding to the dog’s socialization. Be sure you ask the owner the correct way they like their dog to be approached and, in the case of a coated dog, where they would rather have you pet the dog and what area on the dog they’d prefer you to avoid. 

Never let your child hug a strange dog and don’t stick your fingers into a strange dog’s crate!

Just like most people object to being grabbed and hugged by strangers, or prefer not to have strangers invade your home space, so do many dogs! Please act accordingly. 

Watch where you step!

We’re sure you don’t want to step on any feet, noses or tails of our doggie friends. And, on another note, unfortunately not all dog handlers are considerate enough to clean up after their dogs. Likewise, particularly at outdoor shows, it’s always a good idea to keep your shoes on your feet. 

Keep all family members on the outside of ring barriers!

 Each dog and handler has only moments in the ring for the judge to evaluate him and any distractions (food or objects thrown into the ring, body parts hanging over or under the ring barriers, and/or loud disturbances) can throw their performance off. And please remember, an empty ring is not a playpen. Don’t attempt to step or jump over ring barriers or attempt to leap over or jump up and down on rolled matting. Remember, the ring may only be idle for a brief break or it may have been reset and cleaned for upcoming judging. 

Always ask first if it is a good time to talk!

You might be catching someone as they are nervously waiting to go into the ring, intent on grooming for an upcoming ring time, or just closely watching dogs they are interested in seeing. If an owner/exhibitor is engrossed in something, they will be happy to let you know when and where is a better time to talk. 

Cell phones and the like should not be on while you are at ringside.

If you absolutely, positively cannot be without your device at ANY time 24/7, you should have it on mute or vibrate while you are at ringside. Ringing, beeping, musical tones and any other of the myriad rings, chimes, songs, etc., such a device may make are distracting to the dogs, the exhibitors, and the people standing or sitting next to you, plus they don’t want to be involved in your conversation. Please be courteous; use your good manners.

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