Thursday, May 22, 2014

This ain't a Scene it's an Arms Race

There is an article floating around from Showsight magazine called "We Eat Our Own" by Jacquelyn Fogel.

In it she describes the attitude of dog show competitors and breeders, how quickly we are to criticize another exhibitors dog or another breeder.  It is true, every word.

Dog people often relate to dogs better than people.  I know I do.  With that, I actually am writing a "wordy" blog entry.  

This "life or death" at a dog show needs to end.  I saw at a large show a long time breeder/exhibitor call the rep on another exhibitor WHILE THE SHOW WAS GOING ON screaming and throwing a fit.  Why? the exhibitor looked through the catalog while she was in the ring with her dog and said "oh thats the dog" within earshot of the person who complained.   As in they matched the dog in the ring to the name in the catalog.  Really.

Here are my lessons learned over my short time doing this.  This will keep it fun and enjoyable for all.  You may not agree with it, if not tough noogies.  It is my blog, and no i do not apologize for my grammar.  

1. You never lose - you win or you learn.

In conformation, you are paying for a judge's opinion of how your dog measures up against a written standard FOR THAT DAY.  If a judge doesn't care for your dog - brush your shoulders off.  Yes I don't like to lose - we also enter shows to win - but really in the grand scheme of things, think "well the judge preferred type X and my dog is type Y".  Or "well that dog is REALLY nice" or "that dog outmoved mine" or "my dog was being Turd Furgeson* in the ring today".  Yes some judges are pro-handler biased, and some don't flat out like my dogs. But if I find that out - I don't enter!  Why toss money away to just get frustrated?!  As Einstein said "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result" **

*Turd Furgeson was from the old SNL skit "Celebrity Jeopardy".  It is funny, but not for kids - look it up at home if you do not know.

**I think Einstein said this, at least the internet says he did.

2.  Don't fall into the Moon Door.

In the show "Game Of Thrones" (also not for children), in The Eyrie, there is a seemingly bottomless pit called "the Moon Door".  It is awesome.

Anyhow - Don't get sucked into a clique as a newbie by trashing everyone ring side.  Yes, so and so's dog might not even look like the breed it is supposed to be but that is for the judge to decide.  And if it wins - so be it.  How does it affect you or your breed?  Yes the dog MIGHT be bred but if it is so awful then chances are people with any sense and ethics will stay far away.  If you have a bone to pick ringside is not the place to do it.  Yes, I have lost too, I have gone to the car and SCREAMED with the radio up "WTF was the judge high on, and why didn't he (she) share?!"  But once that is over I am like - well...might as well drive home and watch tv and play with the dogs.  Gangs are just as dangerous in the dog world.  Certain breed groups are more prone to this.  Do not get sucked in to the mob rules or else you will fall through the moon door. (especially if you need to be "jumped in" to be part of a group of so-called friends.  That was a joke.  Sort of.)

3.  It is only a dog show.

Deep breath.  Repeat after me.

"It is only a dog show.  It is only a dog show.  It is only a dog show."

You will have lots more fun this way.  Dog shows ARE SUPPOSED TO BE FUN.  Why else would anyone in their right mind wake up at the ass crack of dawn, brave all sorts of weather (I showed in everything from extreme heat to hail), dress in a suit?!  Your dog only knows your mood, and they want to please you.  They are endlessly forgiving.  They should be happiest with you.  Feral dogs do not stack for judges or breed based on who has the best tail set.

Smile, hug your dog, tell em how awesome they are and be happy you have the BEST DOG EVER.

4. You have the BEST DOG EVER.

You really do.  Your dog lives for you - to make you happy.  The dog doesn't care about a ribbon that cost 10 bucks to make, trust me I lost several rosettes to dog jaws.

You and your dog are a team and you bring home the best dog after every show.  This goes for trials too.

5.  Think before you speak.

This goes for newbies especially.  Saying "Foo Foo's breeder says she has no faults and IS The Standard for Technicolor Wifflehounds"* is a very dumb thing to say.  First off no dog is perfect, every dog has faults.  Second, Foo Foo's breeder needs to be honest to their puppy buyers.  To say an entire litter is show quality is talking out of your ass as much as it is when you trash another exhibitor.

Also, newbies - if you ask someone to critique your dog - and I am not sugar coating it here - be prepared to hear a lot of things you might not want to hear.  Whether the statements are true or not is another story, but for argument's sake let's say this is a completely honest opinion on your dog.  All dogs have faults and it doesn't change (at least it damn well shouldn't) how you love your dog.  But please do not get offended if someone says "his front is very wide and he is straight in the shoulders" or "he is short in body and his tail set is high".  YOU asked for a critique.

Also, for you "veterans" - step back before you speak about another dog.  If a newbie asks you for an "honest opinion" and you meant to joke by saying "well you can drive a freight train through his front legs they are so wide!", think on the flip side.  If you were new and someone said that to you.  Choose your words carefully.

*Credit to my friend Mud for first using the phrase "Technicolor Wifflehound".

6. The "eat your own" mentality is not limited to conformation.

Looking at you performance people!!!!

Now that I am competing at the highest level in AKC agility, I see the same people usually at every trial.  I see all sorts of handlers at all different walks of life.  The thing that makes me sad is when I see another handler yell at their dog or drag them off the course.  Agility is not a natural thing for dogs - you do not see wolves on the Discovery channel doing weave poles and a see saw.  These dogs do it because they love being with you!!!

Obedience exhibitors as well.  The dog is wanting to please you, really you feel screaming at them for not doing go-outs is going to get you anywhere?!  It is a GAME.

Saying all this, I know people may disagree with me.  I know I will never have ranked dogs in a sport.  I do not aim for that.  We only get one turn on this earth, make it count.  Do you want to be remembered as the person who "is a joy to watch run their dog" or "the mean person who yells at their dog"?

Conformation shows are under attack and are becoming a dying sport.  The General Public still thinks we are all crusty old white people who prance around a ring.  We need fresh blood and to do that we need to be a lot more welcoming.  Yes there are people who will always not heed well given advice but at least you can say "I tried".

::steps off soapbox::

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