Ring stewards are the unsung heroes of the dog show world. Breeders and exhibitors prepare and show the entries and judges are responsible for assessing the entries and making awards. According to the Mission City Stewards Club, the steward is “a judge's assistant who is tasked with coordinating the logistics of getting the exhibitors and their dogs into and out of the rings efficiently. Stewards are responsible for the smooth operation of their rings, and the comfort of the judges they are assigned to assist.”
Develop Your Skills and Contacts
Learn about the different breeds that are eligible to compete in the shows sponsored by the registry or registries for which you will be acting as steward. The American Kennel Club suggests that individuals who act as stewards should be those who are “familiar with the most current judging procedure, breed, classifications, and the AKC’s ‘Rules Applying to Dog Shows.’” A vital first step to acting as a steward, then, is to develop knowledge of the different breeds, colors and coat patterns of the dogs you will be directing into the ring. Because each registry and association has different rules for running conformation events or performance events, it is important to be aware of different stewarding procedures with each organization.
Join a stewards’ club. Stewards’ clubs develop their own procedures for running a ring in an efficient manner. In addition, such membership frees the prospective steward from securing his or her own assignments.
Shadow an experienced steward at one or more official events. Acting as a shadow provides experience with the “lesser” tasks of handing out arm bands to exhibitors and calling entries into the ring.
Running a Conformation Ring
Arrive at the show at least 30 minutes before judging is scheduled to start in the assigned ring.
Pick up the steward’s book, judge’s book, ribbons and other ring equipment from the chief steward, show secretary or, in the case of the American Kennel Club, the show superintendent.
Take the bag immediately to the ring to which you have been assigned. It is inappropriate to take the bag anywhere but to the ring; do not go to the bathroom or stop for coffee on the way.
Prepare the judge’s table. Lay out the placement ribbons and any special award cards that might be provided for the classes to which the judge is assigned. Make certain that the judge’s book that has been provided is for the correct assignment and that the judge has access to at least two pens with which to mark the placements.
Ensure that the ring is clean of all debris, including dog hair or discarded bait. Make time to walk the mats in the ring before judging, not only to check for these items but also to determine if there are any bubbles, gaps or other problems that could cause a dog or exhibitor to slip, trip or fall.
Hand out all exhibitor arm bands, marking those that are present with a check mark, hash mark or similar marking preferred by the stewards’ club. Arm bands that are not picked up should be set aside; however, no marking should be made on them until after the class to which they belong has been run.
Call exhibitors to the ring at the appropriate time. Whenever possible, classes should be called “on deck” at least two classes in advance, so that the exhibitors will be ready to enter the ring when the judge is ready for them.
Call the exhibitors into the ring in catalog order, unless the judge has expressed another preference. If any numbers have not been picked up prior to the class, call those numbers several times to allow the exhibitors to come to the ring if they have been delayed by other circumstances.
Make certain the arm band numbers on the exhibitors match those that are listed in the catalog for that class. Mark the arm bands of any absentees with an “A” or an “AB” and set them aside to give to the superintendent later. Make the same notation in the steward’s book as well.
Put all necessary placement ribbons within easy reach of the judge’s book.
Mark the steward’s book with all appropriate placements, disqualifications and those excused for each class.
When appropriate, call the first-place winners back to the ring for “Winners” judging. If no Winners judging will take place due to lack of competition, call the “Best of Breed” class to the ring.
Place all appropriate ribbons, rosettes, trophy cards or special awards within easy reach of the judge’s book.
Mark the steward’s book with the best of winners, best of opposite sex, best of breed and any other appropriate placements or special awards.
Call the next class to the ring as the current class prepares to exit.
After the Classes Are Over
Witness the judge signing the judge’s book.
Call the photographer to the ring using the two-way radio provided by the club. If no radio has been provided, then notify the photographer that his or her presence is needed after the steward’s bag has been returned to the superintendent.
Replace all absentee arm bands, leftover ribbons and awards and the two-way radio into the steward’s bag.
Return the steward’s bag to the superintendent.
Report to the individual acting as chief steward, indicating that the assignment has been concluded. If any problems have arisen, bring them to the chief steward’s attention.