© Susan Lybrand,

I don’t know of anyone who enters a dog show with the expectation of losing. We each feel our dog is a worthy example of the breed, conforms very closely to the breed standard, and is a deserving specimen to win on any given day. We enter the ring with every confidence that the presiding judge will also agree with our assessment and we will leave the ring victorious. Sometimes our expectations are right on the money, and other times, they couldn’t be more wrong.

Just about all of those who are victorious in the ring are no doubt pleased with their wins, and all seems right with the world. I say “just about” for we all sadly know of a few, no matter what, winning is never enough. For all the others, the simple truth is that there are always going to be more losers at the end of the day than winners at a dog show as there are a finite number of winning ribbons available. So how do you handle those times when you aren’t at the end of the lead with the winning dog?

Good sportsmanship is essential in any venue of competition, no matter if you are the winner or the loser. It is all too easy to thank the judge for the win while ignoring the other competitors who found themselves “out of the money” on this day. On the other hand, it is all too easy to blame politics or a less than knowledgeable judge on a loss in the breed ring rather than being honest with yourself that perhaps, just perhaps, your dog was not the best in the ring on that particular day. The menu of excuses that can be heard are only limited by one’s imagination. Whether or not you agree with the judge’s final decisions, you agreed to abide by them when you made your entry. You should be courteous whether the outcome was indeed to your liking or not.

Refusing a ribbon, verbally criticizing a judge for their decision or another competitor or their dog that you personally deem less than worthy to be placed over your own dog is also in direct violation of the AKC’s Code of Sportsmanship for starters. While today may not have been your day, perhaps tomorrow will be, as there is always another show with another judge on another day down the road. And if you continually find yourself at the end of the line when the ribbons are handed out, step back and take a good look not only at your own handling skills and attitude in the ring, but the true merits of your dog that you are showing. In your eyes he may be perfect, but in reality, there may be too many things that could be better to be competitive.

I have had wins with dogs that while I was more than pleased with the placement, I truly didn’t feel my dog showed its best on the day and in all honesty felt more lucky than deserving to have won. I also have had losses where I felt my dog should have won against the competition in the ring, but didn’t. It is all a part of competing at dog shows and some days it just doesn’t go quite as you had hoped or felt it should. With Beardies, I try to keep in mind what this breed is all about, i.e. happy go lucky, enthusiastic, etc., and remember that the next time may be my time to shine with my dog.

Win or lose, enjoy the fellowship with others that you share a common interest with, and don’t always look for excuses as to why your dog lost that day. Sometimes there just isn’t an obvious reason as to why. Be as gracious in winning as you are in losing. If you can remember the rules of good sportsmanship and practice them each time in competition, I will guarantee that you will enjoy competing in any arena a lot more.