In my experience with dog clubs, there are four types of members: the Intense, the Eager, the Regulars and the Satellites. We all know what Intense members look like: these are the people that are at every meeting and serve on multiple committees and range in personality from ambitious to control freaks to martyrs (some in the highest sense of the word, others with a little eye-rolling necessary). These are the members that make sure everything gets done, whether by delegating or by doing it themselves.
The Eager members want to be Intense but don’t really know what they’re doing—they suggest lofty, but implausible ideas at meetings and require some direction to channel their enthusiasm. The Regulars treat the club like a bar or restaurant—they show up to meetings fairly often, vote, occasionally work at events and otherwise go about the rest of their lives. And the Satellite members mail in their dues but only rarely show up at meetings or events and most club members have no idea who they are.
All of these different personalities have to somehow come together and achieve the common goals of hosting events and hopefully making enough money for the club to survive another year. And if there is one thing I know about dog people, it is that there are as many different opinions on a given topic as there are voices in the room (and sometimes more). To quell the chaos and hopefully keep everyone on task, we have Robert’s Rules.
Cake and Robert’s Rules
For the uninitiated, Robert’s Rules of Order is a book that was originally published in 1876 by Brigadier General Henry Martyn Robert as a manual of proper procedures for organizations to follow when conducting business. According to “The Official Robert’s Rules of Order Website,” it all started when Robert was asked to run a public meeting in a local church. The meeting was apparently something of a disaster and he decided to research parliamentary law before agreeing to do anything similar again. In his research he found that there was little consistency across the country for parliamentary procedure, so he decided to write a manual on proper procedure that could be adopted by all organizations and societies.
Robert’s Rules deals with procedural matters like how a topic should be put on the agenda for a meeting, how motions are made and all of the ins and outs of voting. Some of it is common sense, like taking turns discussing an issue and not all yelling at once (generally the president keeps track of who wants to speak and calls on the next person up). Other sections are a lot more complex, like how to suppress the discussion of a motion and either bring it to an immediate vote or put the motion aside for a later meeting.
Reading the Rules is somewhat dizzying even in small amounts (the FAQ on the official website was more than enough for me), but it does provide for consistency between organizations so that people from different parts of the country can participate in meetings without needing to learn each other’s ideas on proper procedure and localized definitions of terms (For example, a “majority vote” actually means that more than half of the people voting voted in favor of the motion (or against), not simply that more people voted in favor than voted against (or vice versa). This sounds like it’s
just semantics, but it actually could make a huge difference). Many organizations, including dog clubs, have adopted Robert’s Rules for this reason, so it is important for people interested in official positions to have an understanding of them. At one of the recent meetings for my training club, two motions were made back to back that contradicted each other. The situation was able to be sorted out before an improper vote was made on the second motion, but the president had a copy of Robert’s Rules in her car that could have been brought out if we needed it. For the sake of our evenings, most people dread having the Rules brought out and consulted but, just like the rules for board games (and dog shows!), they are necessary to keep everyone on the same page and to maintain consistency.
While Robert’s Rules may make being involved with your club seem daunting,
it doesn’t have to be! Not everyone can or should be the president of a club. Clubs need members to participate in a wide range of capacities, from serving as show chair to working on the club newsletter to manning the kitchen at a show site. Everyone can contribute to the success and well-being of their club.
And dog clubs aren’t all rules and business! Most of the local clubs I have been a member of periodically host potluck picnics and seminars on meeting nights, partly to encourage more members to attend, but also just for everyone to have some fun and to build a sense of community. If the venue is dog friendly, meetings are a chance for retired dogs to come out and work the crowd or for new puppies to get some positive socialization. My personal favorite part of these meetings is when someone has a big brag, such as a new Master Agility Champion or doing really well at their National Specialty and brings a big cake for everyone to enjoy. We all get to celebrate each other’s successes and aspire to doing well with our own dogs. And who doesn’t enjoy a little frosting?