Gregory Alden Betor
When it comes to dog show, what is sportsmanship? 

In my opinion, it is a great deal more than saying "Thank you" to the judge or giving the winner of the class a big smile and a "Congratulations."

Sportsmanship at a dog show isn't any different than "sportsmanship" in life.  Dog shows and life can't be separated for dog shows are simply part of life ... just as life is part of dog shows.

The "Thank you" and the "Congratulations" are outward manifestations of sportsmanship but unless they are sincere these two terms become simply gestures, good manners if you wish, but not true sportsmanship.  And don't get me wrong, good manners are part and parcel to sportsmanship but not the whole picture.

The ability and the desire to be of help to your fellow exhibitor; to encourage newcomers to the sport; to give praise and encouragement to those who need it to see the positive side of the sport all fall into the category of good sportsmanship.

The experienced breeder or handler who jumps in to help some one who has multiple entries; the junior who suddenly appears at ringside to hold dogs between classes for an exhibitor without having been asked; the steward who knows that someone is hard of hearing and so informs the judge without being asked; the judge who readily "spots" the newcomer and takes a few extra seconds to put him/her at ease ..... all are examples of sportsmanship.  And all are steps to be taken, nay, steps that are to be required if one is to partake of this marvelous sport of ours.

The rumor mongers, the naysayers, the constant complainers and whiners soon become known to most of us.  They continue their negative ways even if they continue to win.  The complaints may change as the wins increase but there are some folks whose very nature it is to complain and whine.  You know the type...those who walk away holding the BOB ribbon complaining that the rings weren't big enough or the judge didn't give them sufficient recognition and time to "really move their dog" [I'm not sure what they think the BOB ribbon symbolizes!]

But in my opinion, sportsmanship is our dog world goes well beyond what we encounter in the ring.  It deals with the entire show scene ... and the show scene begins long before one arrives at the show site.

If you know someone inexperienced in whelping a litter is expecting their first or second litter, do you offer help?  Do you explain grooming to the newcomer [or even the inept old timer] and offer to help them prepare their dog for the ring?  Do you mentor less experienced breeder/exhibitors?

There may be judges you think are totally incompetent [and we all have a few on our DNS lists].  Do you just write off these judges with the "I'll never show to them again, they get a whole page in my DNS book" or do you find a way to meet the judge and take the time to explain your breed to him/her, emphasizing what the standard says, what it stresses, and WHY.  Most judges are eager to learn but can become defensive when the conversations begins with "You did a really rotten job today. Probably because you don't know or understand what our breed's all about."  Not the way to influence judges.

But in a relaxing minute an approach of "Mr. Judge, may I ask what you were looking for in coat texture today.  I noticed a number of dogs did not have the harshness of coat called or in the standard ... did you find the same?"  I've had relative "newbies" [a term I personally hate!] come to me after judging and in the questions they have asked, I have learned much about both my judging and my breed.  Remember, judges are human beings with the same feelings and defense mechanisms each of us as exhibitors have.

None of us, judge or exhibitor, like to be criticized in public.  All of us, judge or exhibitor, like to think we are doing a good job and are appreciative when we are told.  If you did not win but think the judge did a good job in the ring, what's to stop you from after judging telling him/her that you liked what they did even though you didn't win .... that's not sucking up to the judge, that's being a good sport if you are sincere.

If you're in the ring and the exhibitor in front of you runs up on the novice in front of him what do you do about it?  Do you assume that the judge will notice and say something?  Do you ignore it and think to yourself, "Well, that person's new, he'll just have to learn and he will in time".  Or do you step forward and quietly say to the person committing the bad play, "Hey, cut it out.  It doesn't do you any great service to act like a jerk."  Perhaps you would want to use slightly less inflammatory language, but you get the idea.

Do you share information on the judge with your fellow exhibitors?  No, I don't mean on the list, I mean at the show.  If the judge insists on a loose lead, do you share that information with your fellow exhibitors or do you figure they'll find out in the ring?  Or do you figure that if you tell them, you're giving them an "unfair advantage"?  If the judge obviously dislikes squeaky toys in the ring, do you tell the competitor that you know uses a squeaky toy and may be in a later class?

If a strange face appears in your grooming area and is obviously unsure of themselves do you take a few seconds to introduce yourself and welcome them .... or are you too busy brushing to make sure that you win (or think you will win as the case may be)?

Corney as it may sound, sportsmanship at the dog show (and in life in general) is simply following the Golden Rule ... do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  It's a tried and tested, principle that has been around for centuries.

On the other hand, many of our poorer sports have their own rule .... do unto others before they have a chance to do it to you!

Enjoy the shows, enjoy the people, but by all means do it in a manner that would have made your mother proud of you!