Rightly or wrongly, everyone who enters a dog show thinks they should win. [Except for people trying to boost entries with fugly dogs, which happens.] You
squeeze into pull on your panty hose (or if you’re a man you just slip on some dress socks, lucky you), pack your car as though the world were ending and the foremost things on your mind were your dog’s beauty and comfort, and forget to throw in a couple of folding chairs but remember to bring 30lb of freeze-dried liver just in case you win Breed. Checking in with the steward you think, “nice, I can totally pull this off!”
Fast forward through six other breeds, 5 class animals, and the the go–’round. You lost. You didn’t even get Select! “WHAT THE HELL“, you think to yourself, “I clearly had the best Lithuanian Puffin Snotzky, what gives?!” So you trundle off with your now unnecessary 29.9lb of liver and grumble all the way home as your LPS snores in the backseat.
Everybody loses. You, me, Drew Brees, Honey Boo Boo. There are lots of infuriating reasons for it too:
- Your dog sucks. Hey, just sayin’. Maybe you really can’t win? If you lose a LOT you should have someone knowledgeable and unbiased give you an honest evaluation of your dog.
- The dog that won was better conformed than your dog. So maybe your dog doesn’t suck completely, but they just weren’t the best dog this day. It happens.
- Maybe you suck. If the other dogs are better groomed, conditioned, or handled then this is your fault since you have complete control over these things. Either take the time to improve, hire a handler, or find a new hobby [sorry, harsh].
- The judge prefers handlers/breeders/amateurs/women/men/Patagonians. In other words, they favor a particular flavor of person on the other end of the leash. A judge who used to be a handler might put up more handlers (ostensibly to give their buddies a leg up since winning is how handlers make a living, after all). A judge who is a breeder might put up dogs with amateur handlers. Or they may only give Winners to the Bred-By class. So maybe your dog really is the best dog, but you’re not the right kind of person. Bummer. [slams head against wall]
- The judge is a head/topline/gait/expression/coat/ballsack person. As in, they put more weight on one aspect of conformation than any other (even if that isn’t correct for the breed). This is common among all dog people, not just judges, and it’s how fads are born.
- The judge doesn’t know the standard well, so they put up a dog that technically shouldn’t have won. Do you honestly think that a BIS judge knows, front to back, 173 AKC standards? That they know what makes a great Lithuanian Puffin Snotzky great? This is why National Specialties usually select a breeder judge (well, I assume it is).
- Handlers. For the amateur handler, pro handlers are the #1 source of anal pain. I’ve heard people say that handlers work harder at grooming and conditioning, therefore winning more, but I think this is BS [it only explains why the Specials win, not the class animals; and even then I know that not all handlers spend hours each day grooming and conditioning their specials]. I think handlers win because of their connections to judges, owners, backers, and other handlers. Obviously they have skill, but some very skilled owner handlers seldom get the big wins. Handlers also know tricks (dirty or otherwise) that will make them look better, you look worse, or simply demonstrate that they know a thing or two. And then you start to think about advertising…
- It’s your unlucky day. Your dog is throwing his hock out in a weird way or your bitch is extra bloaty from being in season or you feel unusually flustered. Sorry man, maybe tomorrow.
- Your dog is too young. This is typically more of an issue among males than females (and definitely more common in breeds where maturity is slow or males are very masculine), but most judges won’t put up a puppy even if it’s the best example that day. This could continue into the Specials ring if your animal is less mature than the others. [slams head against wall]
- Your dog hates showing. Even the most phenomenally gorgeous Lithuanian Puffin Snotzky might absolutely loath going in the ring, and a dog who hates what he’s doing is definitely not going to look good doing it.
- The list could continue ad nauseum. Weather, airplanes, footing, altitude, blah blah blah.
Basically, you have to accept that even when you are absolutely certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that you should have won, you will sometimes lose. And it really does suck. Showing dogs is not a sport for those with a sense of justice or fairness, because showing dogs (like life in general) is simply not fair or just. So enjoy your dog — even if he was today’s loser for Judge Effelbaumerschmeyer, he’s your everyday winner.