Losing Sucks (Especially When You Should Have Won)

22 Sep

Everyone who enters a dog show thinks they should win, otherwise why pay the entry fees?  You squeeze into pull on your panty hose at 5am, 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, we 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 HECK“, 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 and there are lots of reasons for it:

  1. Sorry to say it, but perhaps your dog isn’t a great example of the breed. It never hurts to have someone knowledgeable and unbiased give you an honest evaluation of your dog.
  2. The dog that won was better conformed than your dog. Maybe your dog is pretty decent and they just weren’t the best dog this day under this judge. Try again tomorrow!
  3. You might need to work on your preparation and handling skills. If the other dogs are better groomed, conditioned, or handled then you’re at a disadvantage no matter how great your dog is.
  4. The judge prefers handlers/breeders/amateurs/women/men/etc. I haven’t been showing long enough to see this play out but, for example, I know men who won’t show under specific judges because “she only puts up women”. A judge who used to be a handler might put up mostly handlers. A judge who is a breeder may only give Winners to the Bred-By class. Judging is subjective, so maybe there’s validity to this? Then again it could just be sour grapes.
  5. The judge is a head/topline/gait/expression/coat person. Perhaps they give more weight to one aspect of the standard and your dog doesn’t ring their bell.
  6. The judge doesn’t know the standard that well. Most judges start in their own breed, then branch out to the rest of that group. A bulldog breeder might be judging Standard Poodles.
  7. Politics. A professional handler once gave me this piece of advice when I asked about how to become a pro: to truly succeed you have to have excellent connections and know the judges personally.
  8. 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. Maybe the show grounds have another event going on or you’re right next to an airport (been there).
  9. Your dog is too young, especially if you have a male. Puppies can and do win majors from the puppy classes but it’s rare.
  10. 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.

Even when you are absolutely certain that you should have won you will sometimes lose. And it’s frustrating! Conformation is a subjective sport and you may never know why you won or lost. So enjoy your dog — even if he was today’s loser he’s your everyday winner.


Posted by on September 22, 2012 in Shows


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4 responses to “Losing Sucks (Especially When You Should Have Won)

  1. Larisa Hotchin

    May 31, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    Very well written! I love it. Do you mind if I re-share it?

    • Cassafrass

      May 31, 2013 at 1:45 pm

      Thank you! Absolutely, please go ahead and share; I just ask for proper credit. :)

  2. milesandemma

    September 22, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    True, on many accounts. I decided I couldn’t handle conformation early on. As a child, I did competive dog 4-H, and showed rabbits. The rabbit 4H had conformation shows. I know — but still! The experience was so tough. One of the many childhood realizations that life just wasn’t fair.

    Now I do Agility with a 5000% pure terrier, and we are up against… Well, not 5000% terriers. I guess I still am nutty anyway…

    But I mean to say, yes. Life is full of these moments. And I feel for everyone in them.

    • Cassafrass

      September 24, 2012 at 9:14 pm

      Agreed, it’s hard lesson to learn. I’m at the point where my naive enthusiasm for showing is being tempered by reality, causing me to adjust my expectations in ways I don’t like! To me the nice thing about agility is that winning is based on points and time, so you know exactly why you lost and what you can do to improve. What bothers me most about conformation is how subjective it is. Winning or losing is based on how one individual interprets a standard, and that individual doesn’t have to give any kind of justification for their selection. That’s what allows all the BS to creep in. :p

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