Are There Dog Show Bullies?

by Susi on May 22, 2013

in AKC reps, bullying, catholic school, dog shows, professional handlers, Show Chairmen

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I had been bullied much of my junior year in high school and reached “critical mass” the day my tormenter threw a fork at me during lunch and narrowly missed my eye. It was the final straw of a difficult year and I’d had enough. I hoisted a leg over the picnic-table bench and stood up, smoothed down the pleats of my Catholic school uniform skirt, walked to the table where Mary Gavin sat and yanked her off her seat with the ferocity of a wolverine.

And then I decked her.

She hit back – I counterpunched – she head-butted me. And then things got really serious.

We started to fight like girls.

Rolling around the floor of the school cafeteria, we slapped, scratched, bit and punched each other silly. It took four nuns to separate us, another two keep us apart. We were marched to the school office like criminals, our classmates apoplectic with shock.  The small Catholic high school had never seen anything like it, and to this day, it remains the only time I was ever in a brawl, let alone one I started.

Mary Gavin had made my life a living hell and I was ill equipped to deal with a bully like her, but seeing her leave school with a black eye would have given me some closure and I aimed to give her one. The experience forever shaped my definition of what a bully is and isn’t, and I would have been happy to leave the miserable memory buried in the past had it not been for a comment made to a recent article that made me ask myself: Are there bullies at dog shows, too?

The comment was left by a reader named “Kara” in response to my piece, “Is the Dog Fancy at a Tipping Point.”  In it, she described an experience she felt was a reason the fancy is in trouble. She had been a lifelong dog owner when she purchased a puppy good enough to show. Kara entered the world of conformation a complete novice, excited at the chance to realize a childhood dream of owning a show dog. She took conformation classes, and at only her second show, her dog won its first point by besting a dog exhibited by a professional handler. Kara remembered the day: “Suddenly, all of that joy was destroyed when the handler started screaming at me…[she] continued to terrorize me for the next five months until I walked away from dog shows just points away from my dog’s championship.”

As dog fanciers, we’ve all likely experienced or witnessed the occasional display of poor sportsmanship or fierce gamesmanship, but in my view, Kara experienced true bullying: She was targeted and subjected to repeated, relentless, and consistent harassment that resulted in a bully’s end game:

She cried “uncle.”  She walked away from the sport.

Novices to dog shows often feel out of their element and unprepared to deal with aggressive competitors; In a “balance of power,” they’re sometimes perceived to be the weak end of the equation, and bullies target people they believe won’t fight back. This changes if a novice’s dog tilts the balance of power in their favor, and therein lies the rub.

Ours is one of the few sports in which novices compete with professionals which can make for misunderstandings and hard feelings. An exhibitor chasing breed rankings or group points doesn’t always exude the “warm and fuzzies” to the competitor behind them who either doesn’t have as much at stake or may be someone struggling just to understand ring directions. To that end, I suspect some exhibitors do have more perceived “power” than others by virtue of their experience, the quality of their dog – or, in the eyes of some, politics.

Bullying can be done in person, behind one's back, on the Internet, in clubs or at a dog show, and people from professional handlers and "newbies" to club members or judges can be bullies and recipients.

Bullying can be done in person, behind one’s back, on the Internet, in clubs or at a dog show, and people from professional handlers and “newbies” to club members or judges can be bullies and recipients.

No one likes to lose, and as a rule, I believe that when most exhibitors fall short of a win, they leave the ring disappointed but ready to face another day. They shrug their shoulders and mutter, “It’s a dog show.” Some take it harder and fume the rest of the day –  but they do recover.

For a bully like Kara’s, however, suffering a loss is deeply threatening, often because their self-esteem is determined by the success of their dog – a significant burden for the dog!  Not content to let a judge’s decision be the final word, a bully has to consistently diminish the other handler or their dog in order to justify their loss. In kindergarten terms, a bully is the person who has to blow out a competitor’s candle repeatedly in order for their own to burn more brightly. It doesn’t matter if the winners or losers are novices, professional handlers or fanciers at the dog show for fun – bullies and their victims come in all shapes and sizes.

George Alston has said in his handling seminars that common handler tricks include “accidentally” blocking a judge’s view of a competitor’s dog, crowding and flustering a novice, or starting a group gait around the ring before other handlers are ready to move their dogs. Are these really “tricks,” are they displays of poor sportsmanship, or are they the tactics of a bully?

Perceptions of bullying varies from person to person and if we’re being really honest, sometimes where we sit on the “teeter-totter” of success in the show ring determines whether we feel we’re the victims, or if we really are the bully we’ve been accused of being. In a competitive sport, is it really fair to hold a serious competitor responsible for the feelings of other exhibitors in the ring? Conversely, is it really necessary for a handler hell bent on winning to resort to ugliness and intimidation? Isn’t the sport supposed to be about the dogs?

Some bullies are typically a bundle of insecurities for whom terrorizing others is about power and control. They pick on people to feel better about themselves and often single out people in their own breed in order to be the bigger fish in their own pond. Sometimes, what threatens them has nothing to do with dogs. They could be threatened by a competitor’s popularity among peers, the importance of their job in a breed club, or a long held grudge from something that happened years ago.

Other bullies feel rather good about themselves. Masterful manipulators, they may be well connected with judges, AKC reps or show chairmen who never see the face a bully shows to his or her victim. Surrounded by peers only too happy not to be at the receiving end of their menacing, the bully is rarely challenged and never called out for bad behavior. This, a bully interprets as a tacit endorsement of their actions. Bullies continue to bully because they can.

If you feel you’re the victim of a dog show bully, it’s important to do a bit of soul searching to rule out jealousy or your own sensitive nature in a competitive sport.  It’s also essential to recognize that “gamesmanship” is not the same as bullying.

If, however, the same person consistently, repeatedly and unrelentingly intimidates you over a period of time by harassing you, diminishing your wins, your dog, or you personally, I believe you are the victim of bullying, and it’s no laughing matter. In the paper, Counseling and Human Development, author, Barry K. Weinhold, maintains that bullying is the most common form of violence in contemporary American society. If more fanciers realized that one of their own is suffering at the hands of another, they should also realize that they are as good as complicit by saying nothing.

  • How many junior handlers are learning that it’s “okay” when they see the adults doing it?
  • How many dogs are suffering at the hands of bullies who, with no human target in sight, take it out on the dog?
  • How many good people has the sport lost because of dog show bullies?

If you are in a position of authority and a complaint of bullying reaches your ears – please listen to the complaint with an open mind no matter how well you think you know the accused bullier. With your position comes an expectation of fairness. For the rest of us, no matter how much we may dislike a person or secretly feel that they “have it coming,” no one deserves to be humiliated, intimidated or harassed every time the same person comes into their midst. It’s bad for the sport, hurts the fancy at a time clubs are hemorrhaging membership numbers, and inflicts untold misery. It takes real courage to stand up to a bully, to overcome the fear of being their next victim, or to suffer the politics of alliances – and in the dog show game, I fully understand that more is at risk than just one’s personal discomfort. At the end of the day, however, is it any less callous to look away from a person’s silent suffering than to cast our eyes away from a dog being mistreated?

At the end of the day, we need to do right by our animals, by our sport, and by our fellow fanciers. At the end of the day, we each need to do the right thing.

A shortened version of this article first appeared in the May 2013 issue of Dogs In Review magazine.

{ 109 comments… read them below or add one }

Charlee May 22, 2013 at 7:26 pm

The key phrase, for me is, “and bullies target people they believe won’t fight back”. You don’t have to be tacky or violent. Confidence and humor can be key weapons. If you can make the bully be the butt end of the joke in a classy fashion, it WILL stop AND your stock goes up for the people around you. Defend yourself, and enjoy the time w/ your dog!!!

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Susi May 23, 2013 at 10:16 am

Agreed, Charlee!!

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bestuvall May 22, 2013 at 9:10 pm

NAME NAMES some dog piece of crap handler is giving you trouble; NAME THEM and report them to the AKC rep ASAP Do they belong the Professional handlers association ?? write to them tell them their member is acting in a manner that is detrimental to dog shows. Nobody like s tattle tale but even worse is when the person being demeaned by the bully it does not have to be a handler.. many of them are patient and even nice to novices.. and those in an owner handled bred like mine.. but we are not called “bullies” for nothing ( bull terriers that is..) get out of our way.. as I tell my new show people.. think this way in the ring… nobody puts baby in a corner .
I must say dog showing is not for the weak or timid but no one deserves to be treated poorly by other exhibitors we get enough of that from the judges .. LOL

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Susi May 23, 2013 at 10:16 am

Agreed! It will take guts to take a stand, but if all of us start thinking in terms of “this ends with me,” I bet we’d start seeing some changes.

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Heather Hicks September 1, 2013 at 10:03 pm

I would offer one word of caution in regards to naming names though. I have seen a number of people that have posted in Facebook dog showing groups about the nasty things that they perceive that this person or that person did to them. I would urge caution before for you go dragging someone’s name through the dirt. Before you go ruining someone’s reputation you had better be positive that it was in fact bullying and not just a mistake or something that you misinterpreted. If we do not give the matter careful consideration before hand, we are no better then the bullies that we are trying to prevent. I have seen many people that felt very strongly that a person had wronged them and proceed to bully them and/or cyberbully them in the name of stopping bullies. I would try speaking with the person about the issue or at least getting the opinions of a few people whom you trust (and are not directly involved or caught in the middle) before you take it to the level of naming names.

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Susi September 2, 2013 at 11:01 am

You offer great advice, Heather. Naming names without solid evidence is never a good idea, not especially in a competitive and small environment like the dog show world. It’s hard not to hear gossip, but we can control ourselves when it comes to passing it along or even giving it credence without more facts. At the end of the day, we’re each human and vulnerable to hurt feelings. It’s tough not to lash out when,as you said, we feel we’ve been wronged. That said, I hope the people who bullied someone under those circumstances were taken aside and told that “tit for tat” does nothing to help a situation and usually only makes things worse. I’m glad you wrote!

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Carol May 22, 2013 at 9:31 pm

Great article, you hit the preverbal nail on the head

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Susi May 22, 2013 at 9:49 pm

Gosh, Carol, I certainly appreciate that! It was a tricky article to write because of the many viewpoints about bullying. I was advised that only professional handlers were bullies, but then a few professional handlers privately recounted to me their own horror stories of being targets. It was tough to know from which angle to approach this, and in the end, I drew on a miserable, painful experience of my own to guide me. I remember that fight as if it happened yesterday, and remembering the taunts reminded me of the pain inflicted by bullies. I hope any bullies reading this piece recognize themselves. I can hope, right?

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Susi May 23, 2013 at 10:15 am

Thanks, Carol! I wish I had more concrete solutions because bad apple bullys give the sport a bad name and ruin it for all of us. Most clubs are “greying,” wondering where the future will come from to take up the stewardship of their breed. I suspect if we don’t a handle of the ugliness doled out by some people, the sport will continue to shrink until it becomes a charming artifact of a different time.

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julie May 22, 2013 at 11:41 pm

suzi if you don’t mind, i’d like to take this opportunity to give some props.

allow me to tell you about roz. she is an experienced handler who donates her time each sunday at a local dog facility. every week she holds a two hour ringcraft class that is open to anyone that wants to learn or to practice. there is no charge and she welcomes all newcomers. there is a variety of experience levels in the class. some people are learning the ropes along with their dogs, others with more experience show up to practice with a new puppy or just show up for the camaraderie.

roz started doing this to give back to a sport that has brought her a lot of pleasure and her goal is to help owners be comfortable enough with their abilities to be able to show their own dogs. not only has she nurtured new owner/handers, she has created a WONDERFUL support group. one of our regulars ended up not being able to show her girl last weekend (on crutches), two of us made sure her puppy made an 8:30 ring time. since we also occasionally trade dogs (it’s always a good idea to make sure you’re dog is comfortable with another handler), the puppy girl was shown by someone she’d worked with before.

the other remarkable thing about the group she’s created is that in many cases, some of the ‘sunday crew’ was at ringside for our various breeds to give last minute encouragement or help hold a dog in the case of multiple entries. ……..for newcomers, having someone tell you, ‘well done’, even if you walk out without a ribbon means something.

roz is her very own ‘anti-bully’ campaign!

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Susi May 23, 2013 at 10:12 am

I’m delighted to provide a forum for “props,” Julie, especially for someone like Roz who’s a shining beacon of how it should be done. I hope she sees this and recognizes herself.

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ozdog39 -- jen May 22, 2013 at 11:55 pm

Most definitely there are dog show bullies. As a kid growing up, I never experienced meanness in the ring, but I was taught from day one, by my mother who’d also grown up showing, that people would “try stuff” with me and I was always told what to watch for. I learned a few real-time lessons along the way, but I was no worse for the wear. I quit showing for the better part of 10 years in the 90s, and came back to the Afghan Hound ring in 98/99. One of the first shows I attended in Illinois found me competing against people who didn’t recognize me or who had come onto the scene since I’d left. It was then, in my early 30s, that I found out what bullying was all about in the ring. When it became obvious, after jockeying in the initial lineup, that I was smart enough to make sure I had enough room in front of me and to set up on the very front edge of the mats, then the games of crowding from behind started … the flicking of my dog’s hocks with a brush … the attempts to run up my arse on the go-around … bouncing bait off my dog’s tush … stomping … etc. By the time the brush flicked into the hock coat of my dog, I promptly grabbed the brush and “slid” it out of the ring. I then proceeded to ask the guy if he needed to borrow my brush — being the ever gracious sportsman that I am. After that, word must’ve gotten around quickly because I never had another problem. Until I entered the Non-Sporting group ring as a “novice”. One handler asked if she could move ahead of me with her Lowchen, since the dog in front of me was black, and I had a Schip. Sure, said I. As we waited to enter the ring, a younger “handler” who travels with his mother who is a quasi-pro, informed me that he was going ahead of me with his Bichon. When I informed him that I was fine right where I was and would be going into the ring as I stood, he tried every trick in the book to convince me that I was supposed to let him go first — including the fact that he’d been standing ringside longer than I had. As I walked into the ring (the judge happened to bring us in one at a time), I was launched by a chorus of eff you’s streaming from this kid’s mouth. I decided the best thing to do was either stack my dog backwards to avoid further issue with boy, or get down on the ground to protect my dog. As the kid tap-danced around with his dog, slowly moving toward my dog, I loudly requested that he should be careful because he was about to step on us. Turns out the girl in front me was the kid’s buddy, as she informed me that there was no way the guy was going to step on my dog. And when I went to complain about his conduct unbecoming? Not a rep in sight, but a super who was sick of the complaints and wished there was someone there to officially log the issue. He said that just about every show where this young man ends up, there is generally one complaint. (And for the record, the boy had taken the Bichon in the ring and eventually had to let everyone else move in front of him so that mom had enough time to get to the group ring from whatever other ring she’d been showing. No clue why the insistance and nastiness in the beginning).

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Susi May 23, 2013 at 10:11 am

Thanks for sharing your story, Jen. I’m guessing we’re going to be reading about all sorts of unpleasant handler “tricks” on this page, and that in and of itself is helpful and educational. This kid tread a razor thin line between extremely poor sportsmanship and bullying, and in my view, the show rep needs to take mom and her kid aside to have a word – but no one likes confrontation and sadly, his antics will continue, I’m betting.

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ozdog39 -- jen May 23, 2013 at 11:28 am

Allow me to also say that I have had very few problems at all, and very few with “pro” handlers. I don’t consider the num-nutz in the Non-Sporting ring or his mother “pro” handlers. And I guess I do consider his behavior more along the lines of extremely poor sportsmanship, but a lesser ego would’ve been used to wipe up the floor. His attempts at bullying were thwarted and he threw a wittle fit. 🙂

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Susi May 23, 2013 at 11:36 am

Good for you for having turned a fast ball into a nurd ball pitch! Enough people handle this kid the same way, and perhaps he’ll finally learn the lesson his mother has obviously failed to teach.

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Karen May 23, 2013 at 4:34 am

First run in with a dog show bully (DSB) was when I was showing my first dog. I was doing nothing else the prohandlers were not doing. Actually I was taught by the pro handler who did this to me… they were throwing bait and toys and squeaking things all over the ring. I was not doing this but a piece of bait fell from my hand. The big PH’s dog startled at something else. After ribbons she whipped around and said “You cannot do that – it scared my dog and cost him the win!” The guy behind us came over and said “You did fine, she is just upset because your dog is better than her’s and she needs to get him finished for a client, he will never finish.” Every show this handler would just say something nasty to anyone she felt could be a threat to her win and who was not a pro handler. She was even nasty in handling classes. I was young too. I ended up showing in Canada because I was so annoyed. My next dog ended up not being a show dog.

Another DSB I learned would hang outside the ring and say nasty things about other dogs, any dog she considered competition with a non-pro handler and try to psych them out. She is another big pro handler that people flock to. I could never figure out why because she was so nasty to people – even if you are in her special inner circle, she delivers insults like they are praise. I cannot stand her or her guru like following.

When I was in Juniors, my dog was so pet quality but she had the heart of a show dog. I was teased because of her but one boy, who is now a great guy in the breed, took me aside and said what she looks like does not matter, what matters is how well you do with her. Due to privacy I am removing some info here just in case this gets read by that person who shall not be named (PWSNBN) who was a big bully in Juniors and very passive aggressive. That person still is – PWSNBN will be your best friend if PWSNBN feels PWSNBN can benefit from you in the breed or if you are what PWSNBN feels is equal to her rank in life. But she will also insult you passively.  PWSNBN’s child is following in PWSNBN footsteps. If child cannot win, child throws a fit. I have heard some of the things she says to my daughter when she thinks no one is listening… any game… You need to follow my rules so I can win – that is how the rules go – I cannot lose. I shared some of the stories with you and will not put there here just in case.

Now with my child, two people did such a killer job on her that she would not go into the ring for 1 ½ years – bullies at two shows and people she dealt with a lot. It killed her and finally she is showing again and able to deal with bullies more. But at 9 you should not have to. We showed UKC for years before going back to AKC and UKC allows kids under 8 to show in special Juniors classes.

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Susi May 23, 2013 at 10:06 am

I’m sorry to hear of your experiences, Karen, but they’re not the first ones like it I’ve heard. It poises you, however, to talk about it with some authority since you’ve “been there, done that.” Do you have any thoughts about solutions?

BTW, LOL, for some reason, I was reminded of the movie, Princess Bride, while reading your note. I think it was your clever use of acronyms that made me think of R.O.U.S. – Rodents Of Unusual Size.

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julie May 23, 2013 at 10:21 am

suzi wrote: “R.O.U.S. – Rodents Of Unusual Size”

Or perhaps, SSOSFAGTIACAGWAP – Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict.

.

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Susi May 23, 2013 at 10:51 am

LOL!!

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Abby May 23, 2013 at 8:27 am

It’s most certainly NOT just the pros who do this. Peruse the “dog show judges report” for a good bit of bullying. If someone makes a report about a judge the bully likes, watch as they tear down the person making the report. I’ve had it done to me when I reported rude behavior by a judge, and because I wouldn’t give details, knowing that people would discount my experience, my opinion was called invalid, it was implied I was a wimp, a liar, what have you. I’ve seen people leave the forum because of this type of behavior. It sucks.

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Susi May 23, 2013 at 10:02 am

It DOES suck, Abby, and if we start talking about it, perhaps more of us will start exerting a no-tolerance stance. If the article was tricky to write, dealing with it is certainly tricky since in a competitive sport, accusations can be, as you said, dismissed. There are things we can do as a collective group of fanciers wanting to make our sport the best it can be, but it would take an immense collaborative effort. Not entering under “bully judges,” not hiring “bully handers,” not tolerating club bullying, and so on. The Pollyanna in me feels it can be done, just not by ourselves.

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Dannielle May 23, 2013 at 10:35 am

good luck getting the reps at a show to listen, bc if god forbid it’s one the Annointed doing the acting out, there will be no action taken. I’m a small potatoes handler, a niche handler, who works only for one to three people at a time. I finished a dog over “pro” handled exhibits and took a BOS over specials. One handler took it upon herself not to just go on about her usual ringside nastiness, but to use some exceptionally colorful language- which my child, then ten years old, cheering on her mom, heard, and it brought her to tears.
the same commentary was overheard by the steward, herself a breeder judge. she went with me to the AKC rep to make the complaint, where I was strongly encouraged not to make waves, and gee, you don’t want to disrupt groups or anything do you???? it could be really hard on you later….. the implication was that if I made the complaint formal and there was a bench called, there would be repercussions on ME for messing up the show.
I told them if they wanted to treat her with that type of favoritism, they needed to get a leash on her before I knocked her on her @$$. if you want to call me a b*tch- or worse- say it to my face, not to a ten year old.
reps and committees will do absolutely nothing to the big faces. they are too afraid that the handlers will pull their entries and reduce the number of dog at future events, or will make sure they don’t get a judging assignment.
one rule for some of us, another for the privileged few….

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Susi May 23, 2013 at 10:51 am

I hear you, Dannielle, and sadly, I suspect you may be right; between hostile legislation, the impact of AR groups on the public sentiment, our clubs aging and finding it difficult to attract new blood, our sport is facing the “perfect storm” and eventual demise. We have to start somewhere and talking about it openly is all I know to do. It’s interesting to me that we have zero tolerance in schools for this sort of thing, but nothing for the grownups, not in the work place, and not in the things we pursue for pleasure. It occurs to me that I didn’t touch upon the legal wranglings of making an accusation against someone who can threaten to sue for slander. It’s daunting, no doubt about it.

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bestuvall May 23, 2013 at 11:06 am

LOL ROUS I use this often as Princess Bride is one of my Favorite movies of all time maybe you should yell this every time you go into the ring:
HELLO! MY NAME IS INIGO MONTOYA! YOU KILLED MY FATHER! PREPARE TO DIE!

LO ok inside joke but I will give some kudos here and name some names.. Amy Rutherford.. helped me with some grooming on my dog no charge..and a few others who are polite to us when we get to the group and who actually bother to congratulate us when we place ( which is happening more and more)

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JeniQ May 23, 2013 at 11:15 am

Susi – you know my story, how I got into this world of dog fancy. I personally have experienced the following, because of my actions protecting my mom’s life’s passion after she passed away.

I can’t use too many details because we know a lot of the same people. However I can say that when I was personally handling one certain multiple BISS/BIS dog after mom passed – the first show I ever handled a dog in. I had my own ring side cheering section. Cheering every mistake I made, telling me how horrible the dog looks, how embarrassed my mom would be of what I was doing. Nasty demoralizing comments – I was so upset I had tears running down my face as I stacked my dog for the judge. I almost excused myself from the ring, but I didn’t I finished. I had no hope of placing I was already told that because of who the judge was, and who they were friends with (my cheering section). I didn’t place – but I held my head high, tears and all. Walked out of the ring, handed my dog off to a trusted friend and walked out of the building to regain composure.

I DID file a complaint with the AKC, and with the Local KC the cheering section belonged to, etc. The AKC sent me nicely written letter which informed me that their investigation was inconclusive and the other party was given no more than a stern warning. I heard nothing from the KC.

5 years later there is still unsportsmanlike activities that occur. Blocking, stepping on the dog, etc. It’s enough to keep me out of the show ring for the most part.

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Susi May 23, 2013 at 11:23 am

Yes, Jen, it’s a compelling story and you should never have experienced the end result. Period. There is so much room for improvement in so many places, I wouldn’t know where to begin. Wait, I lie. I suspect I know where *I’D* begin, but for that to happen, a climate of zero-tolerance needs to prevail, and for THAT to start, we need the sun to shine on the topic and on an unpleasant aspect of club and competitive activities.

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Wendy Jones May 23, 2013 at 11:29 am

Wow, do I REALLY want to try conformation with my new conformation worthy pup? Yes, and to he– with these bullies. My pup and I will stand up to the best and show that we can at least compete if not WIN! 🙂

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Susi May 23, 2013 at 11:34 am

You go, girl! I love your “can do” spirit and wish you the best! Let me know how it goes?

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julie May 23, 2013 at 12:36 pm

wendy,

my best advice for dog shows is to never, EVAR forget that you were proud enough of your puppy to enter……..make sure you’re still proud when you walk out of the ring even if you’re holding a white ribbon…….or none at all.

i hate, HATE watching someone walk into the ring with PP (precious pup) and they are all smiles and love…….‘come on pretty boy, lets go’ they make smoochie sounds and gaze adoringly at PP. PP of course returns that adoring gaze. then, when the judge points to another, they exit the ring quickly with a jerk of the collar and there are no more smoochies sounds for the dog that was moments ago, the most special dog ever to be whelped! since they’re better than we are about such things, the PP is still gazing adoringly. the dog still thinks you are wonderful……make sure you’re always worthy of that devotion.

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Susi May 23, 2013 at 4:28 pm

A truly wonderful reminder, Julie. There are no losers in the show ring when we still get to go home with a wonderful dog. I love your advice to never forget that if we were proud enough to enter the dog, we should still be proud when we exit the ring.

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sally May 23, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Yep, all of this confirms that there’s no doubt I was bullied in one of the first AKC shows I entered. I was in my 20s and naive – I believed that I was a klutz and tripped, only to be told outside the ring by an observer that ‘she (handler next to me) purposely tripped me because she obviously thought your dog was better than hers’.

That’s why my plan for any purebred dogs I own (including my current adorable-but-not-show-quality pup) will be to compete in anything but the beauty ring. There are so many other low-key, fun events that will allow me to train and learn, and to become a true partner with my dog.

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julie May 23, 2013 at 2:39 pm

i think it’s good to vent. i also think it’s smart to be aware of some of the bad manners that can rear it’s ugly head at a dog show. i’m also supportive of the ‘this stops now’ approach if someone tries pulling that kind of caca on others……..but i’m bummed that our venting and warnings of the possibilities of such antics are having the opposite effect i’d hope they would.

sally, i’m all over the idea of you doing anything that makes you a real partner to your dog. …..whatever that might be. i’m sorry that instead of arming yourself with knowledge about bad antic and bracing for it, t instead of thinking that it will be all rainbows and unicorns, you’ve taking the comments as conformation (heh, see what i did there) that dog shows are to be avoided.

i’ve been out of the show scene for many years. i was pretty active in showing for almost 20 years but dropped out because of some changes that life always throws us. i look at my times in the show ring with fond memories and didn’t ever have any of the issues that others have described. then again, i wasn’t specialing a dog so i don’t know if that is the key difference.

recently i’ve returned to showing. i have a friend that has needed some help getting her puppies trained and isn’t physically able to do it…….fortunately i still am. plus, it’s a load of fun getting to spend time with a friend and her wonderful dogs! my recent return to the shows has been nothing but a pleasure. ……

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DogCatMom May 23, 2013 at 3:16 pm

I have Working Group dogs (one breed only), and since mine have been almost exclusively acquired through rescue channels, cannot show in Breed (neutering/spaying requirements). My comment goes to the question above on “what else to do” to develop a partnership with your dog. (Many of these activities are open to mixed-breed dogs, too, at least at the training level.)

Tracking (a very few generous and gifted human/dog teams do Search & Rescue)
Agility
Obedience
Rally Obedience (aka “Rally O”)
Drafting (aka Carting)
Dock Diving
Flyball
Nose Work
Pack Hiking (at least one breed has a “Pack Dog” title)
Herding
Frisbie/Tricks
Lure Coursing

And probably other activities I can’t think of at the moment. In the ones I’m familiar with, the human/dog team is either working against the clock + points or scoring (either points or pass/fail) against consistent, publicly spelled-out criteria, and owner handling is the rule at least 90% of the time.

Be happy with your dog. Be a team member with your dog. Then, if you both want to, try the Breed ring again. Your confidence will be higher, and so will your dog’s. 🙂

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Susi May 23, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Good advice, DogCatMom! Selfishly, I’d still like to see the dog community stand up to bullying in the conformation ring which is already at risk from hostile legislation and a changing public sentiment. I hate to see us brought down “from within….”

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Kara May 23, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Thank you Susi for telling MY story. I did everything that was suggested in the comments. I attempted to stand up to the bully but when the bully, joined by bully friends, is screaming lies at you in the middle of a crowded hallway, not so easy to stand up for yourself as a novice in the strange world of dog shows. People around me knew what was happening and not ONE person stood up for me, even tho they knew what the bully was saying was a lie. Privately, they told me that was what the bully did to get rid of competition and they wouldn’t say anything because they didn’t want the target on their back. I went to the AKC. At the end, the AKC said they “couldn’t protect” me. This type of behavior will only stop when the people who see it happen stand up and put an end to it. Sadly, I was told about a bully who went after a junior handler in the ring. Not one adult in that ring stood up for that child. If the AKC is going to survive, this is definitely an issue that needs to be addressed.

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Susi May 23, 2013 at 4:20 pm

And thank you, Kara, for sharing your horrendous experience with me. It inspired a lot of people to think, and me to write about it. Sadly, I don’t have better solutions than to try to fan some air on the topic and get people to talk about it; like you, I believe that if clubs and larger organizations tolerate it much longer, it’s part of the “perfect storm” that will see the demise of the sport. It’s a damn tricky thing, having to take sides or believe one person over another – but when there’s a pattern of behavior and officials still choose to distance themselves from dealing with it, I find it as good as being part of the problem. I have no illusions that my little article will provoke change, but at least I’ve thrown my voice into the chorus that’s saying, “enough!”

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Susan May 23, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Unfortunately, the obedience, rally and agility side of competition has seen some bullying, too. Obed/Rally/Agility exhibitors are not as tightly wound as some of the conformation folks, but there are always those type A personalities that have to be the best. I’ve been lucky to have been surrounded mostly by exhibitors that not only enjoy the competition, but are also willing to give advice to a newbie. I’ve seen some rough handling of dogs and I’ve seen some no- so-subtle intimidation of fellow exhibitors. Don’t know much about conformation, but if an Obed/Rally/Agility judge catches you doing mischief they can and will come down on you hard.

Lighten up, people! Have fun with your dog!

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Susi May 23, 2013 at 4:23 pm

Having fun is what it’s supposed to be about, I agree, Susan, but I sympathize with those who find it hard to enjoy the ring when ringside comments are hurtful and destructive. I know we all have our hands full when we’re in the ring, but by golly, I hope someone reading this will think to put the kabbash on such talk by suggesting that such remarks are distracting their dog, or some such light silliness. Sigh. Easier said than done, I know.

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Erica May 23, 2013 at 5:58 pm

My Facebook rant was my view on the necessity of zero tolerance for the bullying in this arena. I’ve been bullied, I’ve seen bullying. More than anything it is the product of good people doing nothing, which infuriates me.

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Susi May 23, 2013 at 7:19 pm

I agree, Erica. If even one person had stood up for me in high school, it might have helped – on the other hand, it might also have made that person a new target which is, I suppose, why more people don’t stand up to bullies. They don’t want their dog to lose, and I imagine that’s the fear that’s in the back of everyone’s head. Make a powerful enemy and your dog will never win again. It’s blackmail, really.

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Erica May 23, 2013 at 8:05 pm

It is definitely blackmail. Every time someone says don’t make waves instead of standing against it, they are complicit in the same.

It’s one thing when we are talking about children but adults know better. The community is powerful if united, but does the community care enough to be united and save itself?

I’m joining my local kennel club in need if new blood next week. Lets see whether I am welcomed or not.

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Susi May 23, 2013 at 8:11 pm

Good for you! If I may suggest stealth?

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Erica May 23, 2013 at 8:54 pm

That’s me, stealthy like a bull in a china shop.
I really am a cheerful, welcoming and enthusiastic Pollyanna 95% of the time, I just get a little honey-badger over witnessing bullying/manipulating/injustice.

I haven’t even joined yet and I’m planning on starting outreach to the pet community regarding the altered classes that are sometimes offered at the conf shows.

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Susi May 24, 2013 at 11:31 am

A great idea, Erica (reaching out to the community). The more we can expose the public to what we’re about, the better!

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rosemary mitchell May 24, 2013 at 11:26 am

Julie, can you please tell us where this Roz person is and holds her groups? Sounds wonderful and if she is anywhere close to us, I would love to go.

And thanks for a great article and comments. I have been to dog shows and witnessed what I thought was subtle bullying but the victim seemed to handle it well. I have seen the bully at several shows, including Nationals, and did warn my novice friend about him. I have never been in a conformation ring but may have a show quality puppy. It does confirm my plan to turn him over to a pro and keep my eyes open at any show in which he might be competing.

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Susi May 24, 2013 at 11:30 am

Thank you for the kind words, Rosemary, and I hope Julie connects with you. That said, don’t totally abandon the idea of showing your dog, yourself?

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julie May 24, 2013 at 12:27 pm

i’m not sure where you’re located but it’s in san diego at the markim dog center. every sunday at noon.

there needs to be ‘roz’s’ popping up in other areas!!!!

and to others that are ‘ringwise’ and feel comfortable showing……..what she does can be done anywhere. If you’ve got skills and feel like you’d be willing to share them with others, start a ringcraft group. perhaps in connection with a local obedience club. i fully believe that ALL of the dog fancy needs to unite and find common ground and learn mutual respect. some of us love agility, ob, flyball., nosework, tracking, etc…………and many of our dogs can do multiple sports.

i know that some folks in conformation were convinced i’d ruin my show dogs by doing obedience. the automatic sit during heeling had them thinking my dogs were going to be sitting in the ring. i was confident that my dogs were smart enough to know the difference. i just made sure i used a different collar. i often showed in the breed ring and then ran over to OB at the same show.

rosemary, if you’re not in the san diego area, perhaps if you let us know where you are located, someone will be able to find you a mentor that can help you learn…….even if it’s a different breed.

speaking of……….perhaps that is one way we can make a difference. if we had a list of people wiling to help newbies, breeders could hook up puppy buyers with an experience show person that would be willing to help a potential show person. it doesn’t even have to be your breed……..

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rosemary mitchell May 25, 2013 at 11:41 am

Julie and Susi, Thanks for responding. We are in Virginia (dang). We do belong to 2 dog clubs, one breed specific and an any- type of dog. There are a couple in my breed specific club who show in conformation. The breed specific group is having our annual picnic/meeting dog-play get together in a couple of weeks and I will bring this up with the experienced conformation folks. The other club operates in a very old former school building and has no heat or AC so things slow down there in summer and winter. But we might be able to meet occasionally somewhere else. We would offer our house but we would not have much of a show ring but we could talk and practice on our own. Hmmmm, have lots of ideas now. Thank you for stimulating the actual thinking part of my brain!! Will definitely do some thinking of how this could be done and get on our club websites also.
rosemary

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Lscheer May 24, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Another factor I have observed that leads to both bullying and other unethical behaviors is the fact that for many exhibitors and dog owners, the competition is a business. Dogs with titles enable their owners to charge substantial breeding fees- and charge much more for their puppies. When money is a factor, unfortunately it brings out the worst in people. And, unfortunately, too many breeders will do anything they can get away with to pad their wallets, rather than considering the health and quality of the dogs they sell.

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Liza May 25, 2013 at 1:37 am

I say record these bullies, post the videos on social media, and let the bright light of public opinion shine on their ugliness!

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Susi May 25, 2013 at 9:39 am

An interesting thought, Liza, though I suspect most bullies would turn into sweetness and light at the first sight of a cell phone pointed at them….

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Amanda May 26, 2013 at 12:54 am

It absolutely sucks hearing the whispering and the nasty backstabbing commentary from folks involved in the show ring. While I still enjoy my time there, knowing that there are people out there who live to start the gossip mill going will often make me sick to my stomach. It got so bad a while back that I took a whole year off except for one or two shows.

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Susi May 26, 2013 at 10:38 am

I hate hearing this, I really do. Realistically, I suppose, it’s too much to ask that our sport be free of individuals who also make up the greater population – the small minded, petty, insensitive and plain ‘ol mean people you find anywhere. There is nothing this sort hates more, however, than to see joy and resolve in the objects of their tongue wagging. Be happy, Amanda, it’ll drive them crazy. Seriously. And thank you for writing. Stay in touch.

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Amanda May 26, 2013 at 10:47 pm

I definitely do these days. I go in, win or lose, and enjoy my dogs. At the end of the day, they’re still #1 in my book and those that want to be nasty in secret will still continue along that path to unhappiness.

Thanks for writing this blog. Hopefully newbies will see this and realize they’re not alone and there are those of us who’ve been there and dealt with the shenanigans and “mean girl” attitudes and that will allow them to move on and continue enjoying the time with their dog(s).

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Kacie Johnson May 27, 2013 at 9:21 am

Currently I don’t show AKC because my dog’ father (Xoloitzcuintli) was registered by inspection with the Mexican Kennel Club and he is short 1 great grandparent for a 3 generation pedigree. When they were in Misc we were allowed to show. I am also (in my 60’s a neophyte in the ring. I am fortunate with my breed that nearly everyone I have met is very helpful to newcomers and have had mostly good experiences and am looking forward to an AKC registered show dog.

I have shown many different venues that accept the Mexican Registry as sufficent and have only come upon a couple of “Bullies”. As a retired HIgh School teacher I have had success trating them like spoiled HS Freshnmen which usually puts it to a stop then I ignore them. There are too many great people out there who are willing to help a beginner for me to waste time on the “spoilers”.

We have a local AKC affilliated Obedience Club in Tucson which has a fantastic group of positive people. We all support each other with our different dogs and our competitions, including conformation. Stay with the positive people as much as possible. The bullies are inside insecure unhappy people who will eventually cut their own throats.

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Susi May 27, 2013 at 10:32 am

I’m glad you wrote, Kacie, and honestly, I’d love to hear how, as a retired teacher, you’ve dealt with bullies. Perhaps you have a method that might help the rest of us? That said, I seem to recall a certain “look” a teacher could level at me that, I suspect, takes years of training and perfection (grin). Your group sounds wonderful.

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Texas May 28, 2013 at 12:22 am

My first show experience was a match where my puppy won BIM &
I won BJH. That was some 40 years ago. In the breed ring we beat
A gal who’d been showing for several years & she was miffed. What
Kind of a person approaches an 8 year old & says nasty things?
Have never forgotten. After over 40 years, the gal is still miffed!
It’s hilarious! Ran into her at a show a couple of years back & out
Popped her nasty attitude. Informed her she was a loser then &
Hasn’t improved a bit. Some things never change… There’s a group
Of Beagle people in Texas who display the same sportsmanship…
From tripping people in the ring to running them down. Gives people
In Texas a bad rap. No one likes to go to some of the Texas shows as
A result. Some have finally left showing, thank goodness. It’s amazing
How some people are able to make people believe they’re nice. Have
Been in this game a long time, but a newbie could really have an
Issue & not return. As veterans of the sport, it’s our opportunity to
Ethically mentor newbies & shun the antics & attitudes of anyone
Who attempts to spoil our sport. When a newbie has a negative
Encounter with a “pro” handler, I always try to impress upon them
That any popular handler or veteran who is insecure enough to
Be nasty to a newbie is a no one in the real world. Then I tell them
To look the nasty person up & down, raise an eyebrow & start laughing. Gets
Them every time!

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Susi May 28, 2013 at 10:55 am

I couldn’t agree more, Texas. In the emphasis to give back to the sport by participating in rescue, might we be overlooking the notion of “giving back” by cultivating the next generation of fanciers to look after our breeds and be stewards of our sport?

I also love your advise to give ’em a “once over” and laugh. You’re right. Nothing gets under anyone’s skin as much as being dismissed with laughter. Great comments!

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Loreta Serafini - OZ Yorkshires September 1, 2013 at 6:51 am

Judges can be bullied too and are all the time. Lambasted, ridiculed, put down by an organized cacophony of bullies just because they went in and picked the best dog in their opinion. How secure? How fortified? must a judge be to continually go in and do the right thing. And yet there are those that refuse to play the hand that is being dealt to them knowing full well they will be invited to fewer games and be victimized by the chattering classes, Cheers to those judges for providing a glimmer of hope and decency in a sport that is down and seemingly on its way out.

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Susi September 2, 2013 at 11:03 am

I couldn’t agree more, Loreta, which is why I wrote in the piece, “People from professional handlers and “newbies” to club members or judges can be bullies and recipients.” As you said, “cheers!” to the judges made of tougher stuff than to succumb to school yard bullying.

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Beth September 1, 2013 at 10:29 pm

I never even made it to a show with my now almost eight year old show quality pup. I was in a puppy agility class with a somewhat well-known breeder (though not known to me). Our teacher had given her a heads up about my dog and her background thinking she might encourage me. Bull. She started in on how I ever got my girl in the first place being that dogs from New England rarely come to Florida. She gave me a laundry list of what was wrong with my dog. Kept trying to get me to jump a six month old puppy over jumps that were taller than she was. Intentionally tilted a teeter so my dog spooked, and on and on. Our teacher kept telling me what a great help breeder X was being to me and my dog.

I found out why our teacher thought she was a great help when I got a call from my dog’s breeder. She had been told that I was going to Nationals with breeder X and we were going to show and compete agility and possibly brace. She had also been told that I had promised to breed my girl to one of Breeder X’s males and that Breeder X would get pick puppy. What this all boiled down to is that girl is fom a line that rarely goes South of the Mason-Dixon and the person who bred my girl’s dam refused to sell Breeder X a puppy many, many times.

Sigh.

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Susi September 2, 2013 at 10:56 am

Sadly, Beth, it seems to me you were caught up in someone else’s battle. Dog show folk are, in my view, a microcosm of our larger society. Conflicts, hurt feelings and immaturity isn’t limited to children, more’s the pity as our sport is hemorrhaging new people and could use your enthusiasm. We simply don’t have the luxury of such behavior anymore (not that it was ever right). I find the experience I gained when my children were acting like recalcitrant brats to be helpful when dealing with difficult grownups, only use bigger words (grin). There are real stinkers in any competitive sport, but there are also lovely, friendly people. Unfortunately, sometimes it can be the same person showing a different face to different people. These people, in my view, are toxic and to be avoided. I’m sorry this happened to you. Any chance you’ll give the sport one more try?

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Cheryl C Hockhan September 2, 2013 at 1:38 am

We have two 12 month old dogs (both castrated), one is a Sprockerpoo (Sprinkerspaniel/cocker cross mated with a Crufts Champion miniature poodle)the other a long haired Jack Russell. We have taken our dogs for socialisation purposes mainly to a couple of local Companion shows. In the main we have found people to be very friendly and helpful but I did experience two incidents at the last one. The first was when my Jack very politely went to make friends with a boxer bitch, he is very submissive when meeting new dogs. She growled and bowled him over snapping at him…her owner carried on walking and did not even correct her..commented on by at least four other people and their dogs who had witnessed it…one even commenting pointedly that they thought it was Jack’s that were the nasty ones..still no reaction. The second was in the novice obedience class. I use a Halti on my Jack as I have bad knees and even the slightest pull hurts me. I did the exercises with this in place and no-one said anything…when it came to the group down and stay, the woman next to me, another competitor complained very loudly that I had kept that halter thing on and that it wasn’t allowed, how dare I? I pointed out that there was nothing in the written schedule and as I had explained to the judge I was a total novice and didn’t really know what to do, surely if it was not allowed he would have told me before starting me on the exercises. She hrmmphed very loudly and when we were placed higher in the class (not a rosette winner by any means) she was heard to put in an official complaint. I am sorry if we upset anyone but we are doing it for fun and for the dogs enjoyment, I will abide by the rules if someone points them out to me…I will not be bullied by some officious woman whose dog isn’t as well behaved as mine whether she is a champion or otherwise.

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Susi September 2, 2013 at 10:46 am

Rudeness knows no geographical boundaries, I’m afraid, and I’m sorry this happened to you, Cheryl. It’s tough being a “newbie” at anything, and I wish more people would remember what it was like to be a “stranger in a strange land.” There’s no excuse for not correcting a dog’s bad behavior, but I have a couple of ideas which may explain the behavior you encountered, but not forgive them.

Dog show people are a traditional lot, by and large (and at least in this country), and a halti isn’t something one sees in a class setting. If you throw into the mix an intolerant “know it all,” it might explain the complaint that was lodged. I’m presuming you paid for your spot in the class and if that’s the case, part of what you paid for was instruction. It seems to me incumbent upon the class instructors to take you aside and discreetly and helpfully offer a “lay of the land” as to how things are done. I would be temped to share with them what you shared with me: that you’re there for socialization and fun and are happy to abide by the rules if you know what they are. The burden should be on them to respond in a helpful manner.

I wonder, too, if you were the victim of a bit of bias. The dog show world is all about purebred dogs and seeing a Sprockerpoo in their midst might have raised a few hackles. Fanciers are increasingly feeling that our world is shrinking and that as breeders and purebred fanciers, we’re in the crosshairs of certain animal rights or shelter/rescue groups.

Rudeness is rudeness and I make no excuses for boorish behavior, but I find that if we understand what’s behind it, it can help us know how to respond. Consider making that call to the training center, or better yet, visit them during off hours and share with them your feelings about what has happened in a non-threatening way (putting people on the defensive is never helpful). Perhaps they’ll come around and recognize that part of their job is maintaining a good environment?

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Barb September 2, 2013 at 10:46 am

the worst is when it is all witnessed by a judge who does nothing about it, or tells the bullied competitor not to makes waves, or allows that behavior in the ring. Or allows an axhibitor to bully the judge himself for the choices he made, and does not file a complaint with AKC and have the person removed from the show grounds.

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Susi September 2, 2013 at 11:06 am

To me, when a judge fails to set the mood for their own ring, they’ve failed to control it. As in so many things, money talks, and I can only conclude that in the interest of wanting more assignments, a judge will choose not to make waves by filing a complaint or allows poor sportsmanship in the ring. As exhibitors, we can do a bit of talking of our own by not supporting such judges with our entry. I’m glad you wrote – it’s time to “out” such behavior.

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Donna Patrick September 11, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Oh YES there are Bullies in dog shows. One particular screamed at me on at least three occasions in front of 100+ people and at one show screamed that I was a “bitch” in front of 50+ people. Makes you wonder how this same person can be judged and given “Best Sportmanship” Award at the national show while at the same time treating two people who attended the show with her in the most awful way. Yelling at them because they used their cell phones to be in contact with their families while they were out of town. Actions like this would send anyone far aaway from the sport of dog showing!!!.

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Susi September 11, 2013 at 12:51 pm

We have a lot of housekeeping in front of us, Donna, if we’re to make a concerted effort to beat back the real threat out there, animal rights and shelter/rescue zealots. Hearing your story makes me nuts, absolutely nuts. Getting a Best Sportsmanship award while mistreating her fellow exhibitors – seriously? You’re right, it IS enough to run people out of the sport, and I’ve already heard from folks who have done just that: they got out.

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Disillusioned October 24, 2013 at 12:28 pm

I was exposed to a POI (person of interest) that has been in the sport for a long time that (ringside) openly criticized both the founder of our parent club but an officer (and AKC judge) in the parent club. I should have reported her, but wonder now if there would have been more “repercussions” from “doing the right thing”. She had her “followers” and is known as a cyber bully if you are not ” in her circle”. I was very intimidated by this person and felt “threatened” by her apparent “power”. Long story short, later on I happened to get a pup off of this woman’s lines through another breeder that had gotten dogs from me. Because I was not one of HER followers, she posted pictures of MY dogs (supplied by the now defunct friend) on FB), openly making accusations of their heredity, breeding, origin, etc as a way of “discrediting” me, even making PERSONAL remarks about me and my family….and in addition, 2 wks after I “shut her down” with rebuttals regarding her postings , I then because a POI with AKC…so I have experienced another kind of bullying in the show world…she has money, she has connections and apparently she has power that makes her and her little followers feel like they are “in control”. It’s enough to make you 1) become aggressive and play her game, thus lowering your standards 2) avoid her and her “toxic” gang (which is very hard in the show world 3)take up knitting….just saying…

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Susi October 24, 2013 at 2:42 pm

A really disheartening comment, Disillusioned, and worse, not a rare experience. I think your conclusion – the three options as you see them – are probably realistic (although you DID leave out moving to another part of the country entirely – said half jokingly). I imagine this isn’t the place you’d want to share why you became a POI with the AKC, but I’m inferring that they were either of no help to you, or were “sic’ed” on you by the bully). It’s possible she should have been reported, but how are we to know at the time the right course of action in a community as small as the dog world? I’m sorry this happened to you, sorry that this person is being enabled to pursue her toxic practices, and clearly this has worked for her. I wonder if she even remotely senses that she’s a bully. It’s this sort of thing that just has to stop if the entire fancy is to evolve. We’re losing good people. We’re losing new people. And we’re teaching our youngsters horrible life strategies. I appreciate the time you took to write, I just wish I had a magic elixir to solve the problem. At best, I can only offer a lame, “it will take people with courage to call her out.”

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Debby November 27, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Unfortunately, some Bullies only bully when there is no one to witness the act. When you stand up to them, then you are labeled the bully. Or you try tell people documented facts and they stop you form telling your story and let the Bully whine and cry to get their sympathy. Sometimes it is a no win situation.

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Susi November 27, 2013 at 4:38 pm

You’re right, Debby. Bullies are crafty. Since writing the article, a few folks have suggested to me to advise someone who has a consistent problem with the same bully to carry a cell phone and use it to record incriminating conversations either calling yourself, a friend, a voice mail, etc. One person said she simply dropped the pretense and used her phone’s video to record the bully in action. It infuriated the bully, by her account, and it stopped. Not sure that would work for everyone…..

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Rachel H December 19, 2013 at 10:22 pm

Wow, i have been in and out of the show ring since i was 10 yrs old, i am now almost 30. But i have never bred anything myself and never experienced any obvious bullying, though there was probably some i wasnt aware of especially as a child. I actually had to quit reading all these stories as i am currently looking for a show qulaity toller and may want to get into mini americans…but maybe not now with all this crap. I unserstand there is always someone trying to ruin your day, and i am generally so focused on my dog i dont notice anyone else, but i cant handle peoplr screaming and swearing at you while you are in the ring and neither the judge or ring steward will stop it. Frankly that is unbelievable and not something i feel like being subjected to.

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Susi December 25, 2013 at 11:43 pm

An article like this one, Rachel, tends to invite horror stories rather than the experiences of contented exhibitors, and happy, well adjusted people ARE in the dog fancy, I promise. Adults behaving badly can be found everywhere, especially in a competitive environment, but I doubt there are more bullies in the dog fancy than any other sport, work place, club or competitive venue (holy cow, you should see kid’s soccer and baseball!). Please don’t be discouraged from getting the dog you want and working with it in the show or performance ring. Just remember to gravitate towards reasonable people who have other interests in addition to dogs, they seem have balance in their lives over the people who eat, breathe and bleed dog shows. I have a feeling you would stand your ground successfully. Go for it!

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Micky December 22, 2013 at 5:45 pm

Excellent article. I would say this applies to any walk in life and not just dog shows. How many of us are willing to speak up and call the bullying behavior on the carpet. It doesn’t take an argument but just pointing out how wrong it is and speaking up. Shining a light at bad behavior will usually squelch it. You can’t fill the black hole some need to fill with their misery but you can sure support the one unfairly attacked.

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Susi December 22, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Thanks for the kind words, Micky, and I’m glad you agree. What is the old saying……the only thing evil needs to thrive is for good men to do nothing? Or something like that……

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Storm March 27, 2014 at 9:56 am

I can be a sore loser. I think it’s human nature to want to win. But I recover quickly usually. And, I also strive to be a better human being as a result of my mistakes and shortcomings. What I’ve never recovered from is fellow exhibitors delving into our personal lives, calling animal control and home owners associations, sending emails and letters to our kennel club and AKC, putting the kibosh on breedings and sins under dishonest judges, spreading hateful lies and rumors about us, and sending anonymous postcards in the mail with hurtful and mean things. Are there dog show bullies? I could write a book. In fact, I am. What’s sad is that there is an objective to “drive us out of dogs” and it’s been turned into a vicious mean girl’s game to see who can do it. Not just paranoia. Not just a silly rumor. This garbage really happens. It has made me strive to be a better sport and better person. But it’s made me also lose my with in thhe system and in the sport.

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Susi March 27, 2014 at 10:16 am

I’ve had discouraging days too, not just because things didn’t go well in the ring that day, but because it felt like a trend. I have no answer for that one other than that the only way out of such a funk is through it. I find it imperative that we have other things going on in our lives to keep us balanced, but not everyone does or chooses to. They put so much stock in the outcome of a dog show that a win or loss can blow out of proportion – but it’s easy to do. I suspect that recovering and striving to improve are signs of a healthy psyche, but the journey to that state is the proverbial “road trip.” I don’t think we get that kind of perspective overnight.

I think something else entirely is going on when a fellow exhibitor resorts to calling animal control, sending vicious postcards or contacting one’s homeowners association. In my view, that isn’t just being a sore loser, that’s being a disturbed person AND criminally mischievous for which there are laws – and I wouldn’t hesitate to pursue legal action. If this is happening to you or someone you know, I have to wonder if they’re not being harassed to the extent that more formal action needs to be taken.

It’s easy to feel we’re losing our way within the sport when forces beyond our control are chipping away at it from all sides. What I can’t abide is that fanciers themselves are helping by chipping away at it from the inside, as well. The system needs shaking up, it seems to me, but what I’m most afraid of is that it will collapse under its own weight. You write your book (holler when it’s done, I’d love to see it) and I’ll write my articles, but it will take a lot more discontented people than us to shout from the rooftops: I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore. More of us need to start calling out bad behavior at dog shows and in clubs, attending legislative sessions to make sure laws can’t be used in a frivolous manner, and standing up to anyone or anything that puts the sport at risk. I get very brave when I’m typing at my kitchen counter.

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Storm March 27, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Susi, you really have a firm grasp on your dialog. I really have found much peace from your article and posts. Because we have decided or back off and limit our involvement in this toxic game. Thank you so much. I would love to open a dialog with you privately. Please email me if you are interested. I too recently had an article published in Dogs in Review regarding Personalities and Addiction. Perhaps we could collaborate on something? My email is handspeak@outlook.com and I would love to her from you. Storm

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Susi March 27, 2014 at 5:00 pm

It’s just possible that you’ve paid me the highest compliment I could ever get by suggesting that anything I’ve written has brought you peace. I’ll have to share this with my husband after I’ve made him listen to the 15th rewrite of a piece, lol.

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Storm March 27, 2014 at 10:00 am

I can be a sore loser. I think it’s human nature to want to win. But I recover quickly usually. And, I also strive to be a better human being as a result of my mistakes and shortcomings. What I’ve never recovered from is fellow exhibitors delving into our personal lives, calling animal control and home owners associations, sending emails and letters to our kennel club and AKC, putting the kibosh on breedings and wins under dishonest judges, spreading hateful lies and rumors about us, and sending anonymous postcards in the mail with hurtful and mean things. Are there dog show bullies? I could write a book. In fact, I am. What’s sad is that there is an objective to “drive us out of dogs” and it’s been turned into a vicious mean girl’s game to see who can do it. Not just paranoia. Not just a silly rumor. This garbage really happens. It has made me strive to be a better sport and better person. But it’s made me also lose my faith in the system and in the sport. –

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Jennifer Smith March 27, 2014 at 5:48 pm

Thanks once again for sharing your wisdom and ideas for making the sport better!

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Dog Show Newbie August 11, 2014 at 6:32 pm

I distinctly remember being screamed at — very loudly and very publicly — by someone whom my breeder had asked to show my first dog at a specialty, for the unforgiveable crime of being 5 minutes late. Just as distinctly, I remember walking away from her setup and thinking that that would be my last dog show EVER. You can guess the rest. 🙂

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Susi August 11, 2014 at 8:26 pm

I’m more sorry than I can say at hearing this, Dog Show Newbie. If you were late for the ring, that’s one thing, but in my mind, it’s nothing short of malfeasance to be so hard on a new person, and oh, by the way, what about respect for another adult? And we wonder what show numbers are dropping. Did you walk away entirely?

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Bunnie October 29, 2014 at 4:42 pm

Susi,
A club member brought your article regarding dog show bullying to my attention. Unfortunately, I too have been a victim. Your article was very well written and stirred up emotional feelings within me all over again. However, as I continued to go on to read all of the posts from others, I began to feel a renewed sense of compassion, understanding, love and support. It also gave me some further insight to why this happens at dog shows. The only way I could diffuse my latest encounter, was to simply turn around and walk away. As I read the posts from everyone here to date, I took notes of key points that were expressed. I am going to type these phrases on an index card and take it with me to every show I enter. I plan to read these words of inspiration shared by the other victims, before I enter the ring. In doing so, this index card will serve as a “pep talk” to myself before the “games” begin. I want to preserve what was expressed on this site that these other victims have so openly shared. Besides just walking away, which is ultimately what I felt I had to do recently, someone suggested using defense mechanism of Laughter! As the saying goes, “Laughter is the best medicine”. Should this bully care to approach me a third time, “Three strikes and your out buddy!” and I just may burst out in LAUGHTER!! Thanks again, everyone!

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Susi October 29, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Bunnie, I’m truly delighted to hear from you, though it saddens me that it’s for the reason it is. It strikes me that at the heart of most bullies is either an insecure, very frightened three year old, or someone with a bigger problem, perhaps narcissism. Both can be deflected with laughter because who really enjoys being laughed at, or worse, being dismissed with laughter? I like your strategy and wish you all the best as you push back against those who hurt the sport, and worse, hurt another human being. Bullying is an insidious, destructive act than needs to be quashed. Unfortunately, I suspect some bullies have no clue that they are, indeed, bullies. Please let me know how it goes? You have a friend here who is fist pumping for your success.

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Bunnie October 29, 2014 at 7:11 pm

Susi,
Thank you for posting my comments so promptly today and for your thoughtful reply. I just finished typing out the notes I took from the comments of others in this forum. It is in the form of an attachment. As you know from my previous post, I intended to print it out on an index card. I was going to keep it with me and read it before dog show competitions as a “pep talk” to myself. Wouldn’t you know however, it is TWO PAGES long! If you want to send me a private e-mail, I would be very pleased to share it with you.

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Deborah April 10, 2015 at 1:51 am

I am on the verge of finishing my dog with her OTCH. A member of the training club with which I am a member knows I’ve been working on this title for a long time. OTCH points are just not that easy to earn even if you have a fairly good dog. This person told me that when we earn our OTCH, it won’t be any real accomplishment because it took us so long and she says anyone can finish an OTCH on a dog if they are given long enough. She said that there should be a time limit, and if you can’t finish your dog in at least a year, the AKC should take all your OTCH points away from you and your dog and make you have to start all over again. It doesn’t help that my dog and I have beaten her and her Border Collie a number of times. Also, by the way, this person who told me that is a beginning judge, not certified yet for the advanced levels.

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Susi April 10, 2015 at 10:42 am

I once read that there are those who feel the need to blow out the candle of others for their own to burn more brightly, Deborah, and I think your story is Exhibit A. The subtler form of bullying surely has to be the diminishment of the accomplishments of others. Though I don’t work in obedience, in my view what this person told you is rubbish and reminds me of those irritating new young mothers who brag about when their kid was toilet trained or learned to handle a fork. It’s not like that information is going to be on the child’s resume. I’ve had it “to here” with such folks, Deborah, so my knee jerk reaction is to be proactive and send a letter to the AKC about her less-than-encouraging manner and ask that the letter be put in her files. It may do nothing, but at least it will be there. Getting involved with a club and working your way to sitting on the club’s Judges Selection committee is also a way to be proactive. I’m not suggesting vindictiveness because that would make you no matter than she is, but the sport needs protection from people like her, and until she learns to be more supportive (even of competitors), her judging assignments should be limited (in my view).

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DawnB August 23, 2015 at 1:30 pm

I wouldn’t want people to think that bullies are the norm and that there are not wonderful, supportive people to be found in the show ring…because there are. Since growing up showing dogs ( and now also a Mom to a soon to be aging out junior and soon to be junior), I have encountered many more people who have been amazing friends, teachers and supporters. Sadly, mean people exist everywhere – schools, work, social organizations and even church. We enjoy the people that are good sports and kind individuals and ignore the bullies.

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Susi August 24, 2015 at 3:14 pm

You’re right of course, Dawn. There ARE amazing people in the sport, and thank goodness for that. But you likely know as well as I do, Dawn, that one bully can make life a misery for a person, and sometimes all the kindness in the world can’t undo the hurt inflicted by one vicious person. I agree with you, I’ve seen incredible kindness shown by the dog community when “one of our own” is in trouble, but where we really need it is at dog shows and club meetings. And yes, “meanies” can be found everywhere, it’s just that our sport is in trouble and bad behavior doesn’t help.

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Nancy winton August 24, 2015 at 8:47 am

very well said. we have been experiencing this in my breed of Treeing Walker Coonhounds. For 3 years it was intensive but is finally calming down. We just kept going to shows and blocking where we could on media. Taking the high road is not an easy path but well worth it in the end. Irefuse to have some bully drive me away from something I love..

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Susi August 24, 2015 at 10:14 am

I’m sorry to hear this, Nancy, but commend you for staying the course. No, it’s not easy at all, but look at it not just as sticking to your guns with dignity, but also as saving the sport. These days, it’s under close scrutiny by those who would see the end of it. Happy, good natured people enjoying their sound, beautiful dogs is a hard thing to criticize. Well done, you.

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Suzi August 24, 2015 at 11:46 am

I showed another breed for many years. When I decided to get another breed that was a highly competitive breed, I had someone look at me and laugh and say, there is no way you can show your own dog with this breed. The handlers will win every time. Well poo poo. I did show my own dog and others and I have won with them. One of reason dog show bullies bully, is if they feel you have a dog that could very well beat their clients dog. All is fair in love and dog shows, I would like to think.

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Joanne Cook August 24, 2015 at 9:28 pm

The “bully” that stuck in my craw was the one that told me he was angry that I took the class away from him, cause its HIS livelihood, and just another play date for me. Many many in the “classes” now think that way, and depend on the big win to make their bones, if you will, and they are not afraid to let you know it.. 9You wont succeed around HERE unless we show your dog FOR you) etc.. schlock, poppycock, and if its your J O B, guess that day, you didnt make book eh? Since then, I’ve beaten, and been beaten by him multiple multiple times, but I dont go in to ‘play’. I go to be the best the DOG can help me be. Great article, thanks.

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Susi August 30, 2015 at 5:40 pm

I’m sorry to hear about your bully experience, Joanne, and sadly, sometimes the worst bullies are the one who should know better. On the other hand, I’ve also experienced incredible kindness and sportsmanship from professional handlers, so I guess you can never tell. In the end, it’s a dog show and the best dog should win. Your dog has BEEN that dog, and the competition is free to up their game with a different/better dog, right? Well done, you.

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PeriNorman August 29, 2015 at 12:11 am

Great blog Suzi!

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Susi August 29, 2015 at 12:13 am

That’s very much appreicated, Peri!!

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Debbie Novak July 28, 2016 at 8:19 pm

Are you still putting stuff on this page. I have had something happen to me with a National Club that I would like to talk about & need advise.

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Susi July 28, 2016 at 8:25 pm

I am, Debbie. I’ve been tied up with another project and miss writing more for DogKnobit than I do these days, but I will again. That said, I’m always monitoring the page – so what’s up?

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Mara B. August 23, 2017 at 8:15 am

There’s another bullying approach–being really, really helpful. I ran into this in an agility competition, where I was making an attempt at a novice title with a dog who will never be a MACH. (And that’s fine. We all don’t have to be top of the field.)

A more experienced handler decided to give me “advice,” and ended up tearing apart every single thing I did, from the pitch of my voice to the side I prefer when I run my dog. In fact, she told me she thinks I should be focusing on my younger dog, instead of wasting time with this one. (The wasting time words are mine, but the implication was there in her “advice.”) She even told me that I should let her run my dog so she could show me how to make her more “peppy.”

This torrent of ridicule came in the hour before our run, despite my efforts to flee from her (hard because we were crated side by side) and numerous requests that she hold her tongue until after my run. She clucked and said, “I’m just trying to help. I’ve been where you are…” and then launched into all the stupid things I was doing out there that made me look like an ass.

Needless to say, our run was a disaster. I got out there and couldn’t move or speak. My poor dog was totally confused. We took down or refused every jump! EVERY ONE! I decided I never need to talk to this person again.

I just ignore her when she shows up at events. Totally. Like she is not there. Works for me.

Amusing postscript: In the last leg for our novice title (which was all I hoped for, but now we are moving up!) the judge came back to where we were crated after our class, shook my hand, and said, “That was awesome.” It was an amazing enough experience; he’s a very well-respected judge. Even better: My bully was sitting right behind us, glaring at her iphone, looking sour, not saying a word. 🙂

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Susi August 23, 2017 at 8:57 am

Mara, your story makes me shake my head in fury. Is there a human being on the planet who thrives on ridicule or criticism? Thank you for sharing your experience, and how you’ve handled it – and not only that, but pointing out that bullying can happen in other venues besides a conformation ring. Personally, my inner child hopes this experienced handler encounters a bit of her own medicine one day…

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Mara B. August 23, 2017 at 8:17 am

OH! And great, great article!

My one experience aside, I’ve been really impressed by how nice and supportive most people are at agility and obedience competitions. I’ve also run into no bullies in the few conformation shows we’ve entered, but I’m not too much of a threat as a handler, so maybe that’s why.

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lasertest September 2, 2017 at 1:31 pm

Hiya! Quick question that’s completely off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile
friendly? My site looks weird when viewing from my apple iphone.
I’m trying to find a template or plugin that might be able to fix this problem.
If you have any suggestions, please share. Thank you!

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Susi September 2, 2017 at 1:37 pm

Sorry, lasertest, I don’t. I leave the technie stuff to the web master, but perhaps another reader can offer suggestions?

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Hunter November 15, 2017 at 10:18 pm

I just recently joined the show dog world with my 6 month old Great Dane Titus. Titus is my first Great Dane and the first dog I ever considering Showing. Now it’s important to know that I had Titus ears cropped (please no hateful comments) and a week after his surgery we we’re at a public outing in Lowe’s together when a older woman walked up and grabbed Titus stitches. He had always been an outgoing and friendly dog towards strangers until this happened. I’ve been working every day since to show him he doesn’t have to be afraid of strangers. When we started out first training class with the large kennel club close to us I had gotten him completely comfortable around strangers but he still had a fear of being touched. I told the class instructor and she was completely willing to help us. He was terrible his first class growling and completely uncomfortable with being touched. After a month of daily training and weekly classes he is letting strangers do full body examinations from teeth, ears, undercarriage and full body. I was so proud of how far both he and I had come from knowing nothing. (I didn’t even know what stacking your dog remotely meant.) Most everyone I had met was very kind and helpful, showing me and Titus how to improve. I heard about a kennel club closer to where I lived and figured I’d give their classes a go to! I have never felt more of an outsider than the moment the instructor met me. His first words to me when I introduced myself was “I know who you are. I’ve heard good and bad things about your dog.” A little dumbfounded I shrugged it off and explained my experience with him and the problem we’re working on over coming and how I experienced I was. The entire class he proceeded to make sure he told me I’ve heard bad things about your dog as often as possible. Titus actually handled the new situation and people better than I ever expected. He never showed fear or aggression or even that he was unhappy. He was enthusiastic about his evaluation times even wagged his tail when being petted by a stranger (huge accomplishment for us). While I learned some valuable information I was constantly reminded that my dog was know for bad things. Every one in the kennel club treated myself and Titus like we we’re not worth their time. I’m going to try and give them a few more chances to see if it’s just them *testing the waters* with the newbie. I guess it never really crossed my mind that some people could be downright rude and hateful because of gossip. Well at least I’m learning.

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Susi November 16, 2017 at 9:19 am

Hunter, as I see it, the dog show world is an intense microcosm of the bigger world, and like the rest of the world, there are all sorts to be found. Perhaps my own revelation as a newbie all those years ago was that a love of dogs was not enough to unite different people onto common ground. It is a subculture where competition can bring out the best in people, but also the very worse (particularly if you have a winning dog). Life is too short to “hang” with negative people, and if I were you, I would go back to the original class where you found a more nurturing environment for you and your dog – it would be worth the drive. I promise there are other people like you in the dog fancy, and I promise that there are also lovely people reveal themselves over time. Gravitate to them, to reasonable people whose self worth isn’t invested in their dog (for they have more balance in their lives), and to positive individuals who have a healthy perspective on this crazy sport of ours. Put another way, people who don’t need to blow out someone else’s candle for their own to burn more brightly. We need folks like you, and I’m encouraging you to hang in there and rise above the pettiness in others. Enjoy Titus, and do your best to make sure he has fun because the only reason he’s going to classes is because you’re taking him there. You’ll continue to see progress both in yourself and the dog. In the show ring, you may win some and lose some, but always keep the perspective that it’s a dog show, there will be others, and that, for all intents and purposes, you’re on a journey in a new land where you’re learning a new culture. Please write again and let me know how things are going?

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Hunter November 16, 2017 at 11:25 pm

Thank you for the kind words. When I was in the sixth grade I was sexually assualted and tried committing suscide. The two things that kept me from trying to kill myself again was my dog at the time Rockey and my horse Kaylee. After the incident I got into horse showing I remember my first horse show I had the completely wrong tack and one of my competitors stopped me and gave me their spare bridle to use so I wouldn’t get points deducted for wrong attire. After the other competitors saw what she was doing they all helped me from showing me how to tape my boots so that they wouldn’t stick out through my suit and how to tuck my horses braids in so they wouldn’t fly out during our pattern. Needless to say all of us remained friends till today. We used to sit and talk in the line up while we waited for the results. There were very few times when a stranger didn’t congratulate you or even be unsportsmanlike. Those that were unsportsmanlike we’re few and far between. Each of us held a certain level of respect whatever we competed in or on because of our mutual love for our horses. My boxer Rockey died last year which sent me spiraling back into depression. I have two other dogs but Rockey held that place in my heart. I bought Titus so I could start a program called Rockey’s Legacy which donates dogs as emotional support or personal protection dogs to survivors of sexual assualt or rape. I want to show for some points on Titus record so that when I breed I can sell half of the litter and use the money from them to help fund the other half to be trained and donated. I thought going into dog Showing was going to be a similar atmosphere. I have met several kind people who have been wonderful in helping myself and Titus. I love him with all my heart and I know he understands how much me means to me. I couldn’t ask for a better dog. They truly saved my life. I hope that eventually I can do the same for other.

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Susi November 17, 2017 at 9:56 am

A noble endeavor, Hunter, and I commend you for enduring and prevailing. Stay in touch!

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