Hints for Obedience Stewards

© Geoff Stern 1996, 1997, 1998. This document may not be copied, reprinted, or distributed without the permission of the author. Thanks for the advice and expertise of many instructors and trainers including George Hanson, Linda Holway, and Ruth Ivers of NEW ENGLAND DOG TRAINING CLUB; Fran Boyle, Rena Fucillo, Wendy McNaughton, and Betty Belliveau of CHARLES RIVER DOG TRAINING CLUB; and several members of the OBED-COMP and OBED-TEACH electronic mail lists. Special thanks to Roseann Mandell (as always) and to Pat Scott (of Fido Flats in Fremont, NE) who’ll recognize some of the wording here as her own. Errors, however, are mine. sternmandell@verizon.net

Stewarding in obedience is a great way to support the sport and to represent the club. If you’re interested in showing your dog in obedience, stewarding also gives you an opportunity to observe the action close up. It’s a good way to learn some handling techniques, ring procedures, regulations, and the nuances of competition. Also you’ll get to meet some nice people, including judges (who aren’t ogres after all).

Here’s a list of some hints for stewards at AKC obedience trials and matches. If you’ve never stewarded before, don’t worry, it isn’t difficult — it’s fun. If you’re an experienced handler and you’ve stewarded before, you might skim through these hints to remind yourself of what you want to teach to rookie stewards.

Rules and Regulations

Before your class

Gate Steward and Table Steward

Usually, one steward serves as the gate steward or table steward, performing some clerical chores and other jobs. If you’re shorthanded, you might have to be the gate or table steward as well as being a ring steward.

Ring Stewards — Novice

In the Novice class, ring stewards serve as posts for the Figure–8, an extra set of hands for the judge, and benign sentries in case a dog breaks during the group exercises or runs out of the ring (usually on the Recall) . Most of the non-regular classes — Brace, Graduate Novice, Sub-Novice (also called Pre-Novice), Team, and Veterans — are the same (or nearly the same) as Novice.

When you’re not in the ring, stay close by the gate and be alert for dogs who might bolt. Make sure that the next handler knows she’s next — some Novice A handlers might need a friendly reminder, and some handlers may not be aware of changes in the showing order because of latecomers, absentees, and so on.

Non-Regular Classes

Ring Stewards — Open

In the Open class, ring stewards serve as posts for the Figure–8, handle the leash and dumbbell, set up the jumps, and help with the group exercises (sits and downs). Decide beforehand who’ll do which jobs.

All exercises in Open are off leash and in the group exercises, the handlers leave the ring and go out of sight of the dogs. Decide beforehand which steward will lead the handlers out of the ring and where they’ll "hide."

When you’re not in the ring, stay close by the gate and be alert for dogs who might bolt (yes, even in Open B).

After the last group of dogs has done the group exercises, you can help the judge and table steward in double-checking the judge’s arithmetic and handing out the class prizes and ribbons. Also, be ready to round up any handlers involved in a run-off.

Ring Stewards — Utility

In the Utility class, the ring stewards set up the jumps and also handle the articles for the Scent Discrimination and the gloves for the Directed Retrieve.

Utility is often a small class (and there are no group exercises), so you may need just two stewards — one places the scent articles, the other places the gloves; one sets up the high jump, the other sets up the bar jump. Decide beforehand who’ll do which jobs. If there are only two stewards, one of you will have to double as the gate steward and get jump heights as the handlers check in for their armbands.

If the class is very large or scheduled later in the morning, find out if the judge will break for lunch. It’s a real convenience for handlers if you mark this on the ring sign (and it’ll save you from answering the same question from every handler in the class).

When you’re not in the ring, stay close by the gate and be alert for dogs who might bolt (yes, even in Utility).

DOs and DON’Ts for Stewards

Thanks for stewarding! Here’s hoping you enjoy the show!

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Dumbbell graphic courtesy of Graphics From Fuzzy Faces