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Arranging Breed Seminars

A Code Of Best Practice For Running Of Seminars

The term 'breed seminar' is used throughout these recommendations to distinguish between a breed based activity which may include breed specific anatomy, conformation and movement and a general seminar on health, breeding or other subjects.

There are several well-established breed and general schemes which already fulfil the criteria and which are acceptable to The Kennel Club.

In general a breed seminar must be about the breed and breed judging issues (KC Regulations; completion of records; basic anatomy and general conformation and movement should be covered elsewhere). Breed clubs should make use of the limited time at their disposal to ensure that the fundamentals of the breed and the particular characteristics and unique preparation, showing and exhibition techniques used within the breed are thoroughly understood. At the same time a seminar should be seen as being part of the education process and not as the only way in which experience can be gained.

~ Planning ~

A Breed Seminar Must Be Very Carefully Planned
A proper budget should be drawn up. Some clubs have the resources to subsidise a breed seminar, others may have to recover the full cost. In general, experts on the breed are likely to give of their time freely, but clubs should not assume this to be the case. People who are in great demand may need to be reimbursed for their time and if you want the best you may have to pay for it.

It is sensible to appoint one person or a small committee to manage the seminar once the club has decided the form that it should take.

~ Publicity ~

Details of any breed seminar should be available well in advance - at least a year, if you wish to attract established non-specialist judges. The canine press has special columns devoted to forthcoming educational events (which are free) but some direct advertising is also recommended. Details should be circulated to all showing members (possibly through a club magazine) and individual letters (with a reply slip) sent to all non-specialists whom the organising committee feel should be invited.

~ Content ~

Prior to the breed seminar, those who are to be actively involved in lectures, discussions or evaluation should be brought together by the seminar leader to discuss precisely how the day is to be managed. The fundamental points that need to be explained and understood must be agreed for there are nearly always 'key' elements of a breed which have to be conveyed to a new judge. All those involved must be in broad agreement on these fundamental points. There will always be some discussion about the weight certain breed characteristics should be given but in a breed seminar the essential elements should be agreed and everyone should be involved in putting them across consistently. Those with a fundamentally 'different' view of a breed should be avoided where possible! This is not to say that there should be no place for personal opinions and choices but in a breed seminar it is important to give as clear, concise, balanced and conventional a view as possible. The breed standard must be the guide and, where it is not clear, all those involved with a breed seminar need to have a view which is consistent with the general interpretation of the standard.

~ Participants ~

A frequent problem is that there are too many candidates who then do not receive enough individual attention. Clubs may wish to limit the places available because it is essential that those attending do not leave feeling that the day was wasted.

~ Programme ~

A talk on the breed by an acknowledged expert who has good communication skills is an appropriate centre-piece for the seminar. The characteristics and function of the breed should be explained and related directly to anatomy, conformation and movement. All aspects of the breed standard should be covered.

Live, quality examples of the breed should be used but, of course, acetates, slides, drawings and an analysis of the breed standard are all useful too. It may also be appropriate in some breeds for a senior exhibitor to explain some of the special preparation and/or conventions expected when judging the breed; an understanding of breed presentation, or the fact that exhibitors always expect the breed to be examined on the table are good examples.

The explanation of breed type should be followed up by 'hands on' discussion with experienced judges and breeders. Those who are conducting the individual discussions should themselves have some training as described above. They should be carefully selected and be prepared and able to put across the consensus agreed at preliminary planning meetings. An opportunity should be available for every candidate to have an 'in depth' one-to-one discussion about at least five dogs of different qualities.

(At a more advanced level, exhibitors, breeders and judges should not fight shy of giving their own interpretation of the standard. Having several views should enable candidates gradually to come to their own conclusions, but it should always be made clear that the ideal is to work towards a consensus. There may also be individuals within a breed who may be very successful and valuable but whose views are extreme. Those responsible for planning and conducting seminars should consider most carefully before using such people).

~ Assessment ~

Assessment at breed seminars can be both difficult and controversial. Where possible, Assessors should be selected from recognised breed experts or non-specialists who have the confidence of the breed club.

People interested in judging dogs come from all walks of life and have a wide range of educational backgrounds. Those responsible for organising breed seminars must consider all the options available. If written answers are considered essential, questions relating to the Breed Standard will require definitive answers - not opinions (multiple choice questions may be used where appropriate). Any marking scheme must be clear. Questions requiring more complex answers should be related to the judging and decision making process not the contents of the standard itself.

~ Relative Placings ~

A key assessment topic must always be the candidate's ability to place dogs in an order that would have the general agreement of experts. It is recommended, therefore that between five and seven dogs should be used for a practical assessment. One should be clearly the best, two or three should be of average quality and two or three should be clearly of poor quality. The objective is for the assessors (three are preferred) to agree into which band the dog should be placed - 'excellent', 'good', or 'poor'. There can be discussion about the placing of dogs within the bands but the lines between the bands should be distinct and clear. Candidates should be asked to examine and place the dogs exactly as if judging a class. They should be on their own, with only the assessors present. They should be given limited time (two minutes per dog) and should write a short critique on each (another two minutes). (This may seem prescriptive, but the practice of groups of people standing around a dog whilst trying to write critiques, getting in each other's way whilst discussing its merits and faults with each other and the dog's owner, has been shown to have almost no value whatever).

The assessors should examine the finished critiques and they may question candidates on their comments. However, the main weight of the assessment should always be on placing the dogs in the correct bands. Candidates with good, valid reasons for diverging from the consensus view, should be given the opportunity to discuss and justify their views.

~ Finally... ~

...there is little point in holding breed seminars if they are not in some way related to the club's judging list. The number of breed seminars should be arranged bearing in mind The Kennel Club's recommendations on the compilation of judging lists. It may be that some clubs do not need to make further additions to their lists for some years, while others are woefully short of the number required. Those who have successfully completed a breed seminar have a right to be seriously considered for the club's lists (especially if they have successfully taken part in an assessment). If they should not be accepted, it would be helpful for them to have the reasons given. They should certainly all be contacted after the seminar with an indication of their achievement and for feedback to ensure that any problems are taken into account to improve future events.

This article has been reproduced courtesy of - Dogs

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