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Tradition! Sportsmanship! Protocol! Mentor!

August 10, 2021

Tradition – the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way.

Sportsmanship – fair and generous behavior or treatment of others

Protocol – the accepted or established code of procedure or behavior in any group, organization, or situation.

Mentor – an experienced and trusted adviser.

A recent conversation on another FB post and watching the Olympic coverage got me thinking thoughts, scary, I know.

Dog Showing is a known as a gentleman’s and gentlewoman’s sport.  Sportsmanship is touted as rule number one.  The AKC wants clubs and exhibitors to present a picture that if a typical family with kids showed up at an event they should feel welcome and comfortable.

But yet after every weekend, social media erupts with stories and comments about bad behavior. Why? Are dog people mean and unhappy? Generally, they are wonderful individuals but as a group sometimes not so much.

Dog Shows began really with “gentlemen” discussing the merits of their gundogs, introducing their breeding stock, trading/buying or selling dogs.  From those beginnings it has evolved into the sport it is today. 

Back in the day everything was more formal and gracious while in the public eye.  There were many traditions and protocols that everyone was expected to follow but in last 137 years things have changed. 

Let’s take the “dress code” in America today everything has gotten more casual dress code-wise.  I work for a Fortune 50 company and it is on a rare occasion I see a suit on either a man or a woman but yet we still expect conformation exhibitors to be dressed in coat and tie or skirts and hose.  We expect judges to dress formally to judge dogs on fairgrounds or arenas but clubs often beg their judges to leave the jackets at home for warm weather outdoor shows but they don’t.  It is tradition!  It is protocol!

Lord help anyone under 30 ask a wardrobe question on social media!  NO! You can’t wear pants, yes you have to wear a tie, and panty hose are a requirement.  It is crazy and to my mind ridiculous, wear something clean and neat and modest (we don’t need to see your undergarments), something that you can move in comfortably and something that frames and honors your dog and doesn’t detract from the dog. 

If you aren’t dressed “right” no one will take you seriously. What type of collar or lead should I use?  Our breed always uses a chain, or nylon or a martingale.  If you aren’t using that no one will take you seriously (maybe explain why those are used).

If you don’t freestack or handstack, insert breed, no one will take you seriously.  It is tradition! It is protocol!

On a recent Social Media thread there was a discussion on moving up and breaking the major.  In the past it has been an accepted practice that when major points were on the line and a dog finished it championship, protocol was to ask the remaining class dogs if they wanted the finished dog to stay in the class to hold the major (and potentially win again) or be absent from the class by either withdrawing or moving up to the BOB class.  It was considered sporting.  Fast forward to 2009 (that is right 12 years ago) when the AKC established the Grand Champion title, where being awarded something other than Best of Breed had its own reward.  To receive points toward the GCH title a dog has to be in the BOB ring and at $30+ an entry it only makes sense to move up into the BOB class if you are planning on working towards a Grand Championship.

Is it good sportsmanship to demand an exhibitor lose their chance at GCH points?  People say “I would never break the major” but would they if they had a chance to earn points for themselves?  Maybe, maybe not.  No one has the right to anyone else’s entry and they should not be made less of for wanting to succeed with their entry.  It’s protocol!  It’s sportsmanship!

Do you know that the AKC gives clubs the option of flooding their geographic area with email updates when they are hosting a local event?  I once belonged to a club that held a match after their show and the AKC did flood the registered dog owners with emails inviting new folks to the event.  Some new folks did show up, I saw them at the match, don’t really know what happened with them but at the next club meeting, members spent a bunch of time making fun of them, their clothes and their dog.  I am sure they are forever lost to the Fancy.  That was neither Sporting or Mentoring, it was shameful and arrogant.

At your next dog event I want to you look at the “traditions”, “protocols”, acts of “sportsmanship” and “mentoring” and see if your reaction to them is because they make the sport better or is it just how it is always been.  Look in the mirror and see yourself as a new exhibitor and don’t make it harder on someone else because it was hard for you.  If you are over 30 realize the under 30 crowd might have a different style than yours, don’t make fun or come across as holier than thou.  And for heaven sake stop being so dang stingy, it takes zero, nada, nothing to be kind.  Share the kindness, share your knowledge, be the person you wish you had in your corner when you started “in dogs”.

And be warned, if you act like a jerk and I am witness, I will call you out, officially, I have no issue with paperwork and I will file a formal complaint.  I have done it before and I will do it again if necessary.  Maybe if enough people shine the light on bad behavior then those bad actors might think about their actions.

Just be a good human being so it isn’t necessary to file complaints.  Remember for most of us this is something we love doing! Tradition, Protocol, Sportsmanship, Mentoring do it because it is the right thing to do.

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