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:
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.