Tuesday 10 May 2022


Sounds kind of sarcastic, doesn’t it? Now, think about it -- it’s not a bad thing to lose; in fact, you can learn a lot more by losing than you can by winning. Still not convinced? Well, I guess no one in their right mind wants to lose, and depending on your reason for showing, losing can make you ANGRY, HURT, SAD, FRUSTRATED, and even JEALOUS! Which emotions are much harder on your psyche than actually losing, when you think about what they do to you.

So, how can losing ever be a good thing? Speaking to the relative newcomer to showing dogs, I guess the first place to start is to understand why you are showing dogs. There are as many reasons as dogs, and even more complicated; however, let’s sort out the major ones.

1. You bought a really nice puppy, and the breeder wants you to show.
2. You bought a really nice puppy, and you want to show because
  • a) It looks like fun 
  • b) You have a good competitive spirit 
3. You breed dogs, and as a breeder, you want to "compare" your dogs with others.
4. You breed dogs, and you want to show everyone how wonderful your dog is.
5. Your dogs are better than ________’s, and you want to beat him/her.

No matter what your reasons, we all start out as novices in the only sport that requires the rank amateur to go up against the seasoned professional, no holds barred. If you believe everything you hear, you give up before you start – and hand the dog over to a professional handler. Or, even worse, you start showing the dog, and lose – and then decide it’s all politics, and give the dog to a professional handler.
The professional dog handler should love showing dogs, he gets his kicks from winning, not to mention his livelihood. He has become an expert by dint of study, practice, listening, watching and learning. He has a varied choice of quality dogs to pick from, and if he has a good eye, he takes out the best. Sometimes he takes out a dog that isn’t great, but finishable, to help with expenses – and because the owner wants so desperately to make his dog a champion. His time is limited as handling requires management skills, people skills, and dog skills … and training, dealing with clients, etc. take up a lot of time. There are those owners who simply have no desire, or time, to show their own dogs … these people have to use a handler.
What you must remember is that there isn’t any owner handler who can’t devote a great deal more time to learning these same handling skills, and hone it to a fine art! Going in the ring the first few times can be kind of scary, but if you go with the expectation of learning, not winning, it’s amazing what you can pick up in just a few shows. Then, perhaps, you’ll be interested in attending one of the many "handling" classes offered by most all-breed dog clubs, and which provide excellent socialization for your dog as well as learning the ropes yourself.
You should learn what to look for from the judge, other exhibitors, and little "Poopsie" himself. When you lose (notice I didn’t say if), begin to find out why. Don’t blame politics, the judge, another exhibitor or the condition of your dog. These are all non-excuses – if the dog is out of condition, that’s your fault for showing him like that; if you tripped over him in the ring, that’s your fault! If the judge didn’t like your dog, Hey! You paid for his opinion, remember? He might like your dog better another day, in the company of a different group of exhibitors. If another exhibitor dropped his brush on your dog, or stomped around the ring too aggressively, that person may be nervous, too - and the next time try not to get next to him in the lineup.
See, you’re learning already. If your dog lost because he wasn’t as good as the winner, ADMIT IT, if only to yourself. Being oblivious to the faults of the dog you’re showing not only proves you’re kennel-blind, but how can you present a dog properly if you don’t know what faults to minimize? If you win, … ummmmmhhh! Bad. Now you have nothing to learn. You have a great dog, and you’re a great handler, the judge is excellent and all you have to do is keep up the good work, right? Wrong! Because the next time you just might lose, and then what … are you going to start looking for excuses, or accept the responsibility and find out why.
It’s tough to win one day, and lose the next in the same competition - but judging is very subjective, and judges are human. Every time you win, your self esteem is bolstered, and it gets harder and harder to lose – and when you lose, it becomes a serious blow to your pride. Losers must take a serious look at their dog -- no matter who you ask, people are very leery of critiquing others dogs – that can get them in trouble. Ask me, I know! Competitors won’t be generous in their praise, trust me, unless they’re looking for fillers for points they hope to win themselves.
So, educate yourself about what a good dog is - and remember, just because a dog is a big winner, doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a good dog. Just because your dog wins doesn’t mean he’s a great dog! Maybe he won against poor competition, under a blind judge, and because he walked in the rain, and the others wouldn’t. Maybe he’s highly advertised, promoted and shown 45 weekends in the year - he’s bound to amass "clout" and a "win" record. All I’m saying is if your dog is in perfect condition, perfectly groomed, well trained and handling well – and you continue to lose regularly, there’s a reason. Sniff it out, listen to friends, talk to judges, and above all don’t be kennel blind to the faults that may be there.
Maybe I’m a hardhead, but when I started, I remember showing dogs for over a year before I ever took a point! When I lost, I found out the reason was usually something under my control, and I took the responsibility for making it work. Sometimes, I had to go with another dog - hard to admit your pride and joy just doesn’t have it - but that’s easier than the alternative -- finishing a bad dog! So join the ranks of "learners", of which I’m one. There has never been a show where I didn’t learn something new; about handling, about judges and the competitors. When you stop learning, you might as well get out of the dog game completely because when you already know everything, what’s the point?

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