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Dog Show Exhibitor Pet Peeves!

Click here to read the complete article
172 – September 2019

By Sandy Weaver

Have you ever tried to guess what someone is thinking? Psychology, positive psychology and psychiatry are all in the business of studying what people are thinking, and scientists are in the business of studying how our brains work when we’re thinking. As an author and speaker who works mainly with veterinarians and their staff to improve communication and create a sense of wellbeing in their hospitals, I’ve spent years studying both aspects of the thought process, and the most important thing I’ve learned is…

If you want to know what someone is thinking, ask them.

Don’t guess, don’t surmise, and for Pete’s sake, don’t act on what you THINK they’re thinking – ask them!

That’s the genesis of this month’s Canine Chronicle article – what exhibitors think about judges, other exhibitors and the venues where we show our dogs. Most clubs are seeing fewer and fewer people show up at their meetings, at their shows and trials, and in their worker pools. Most venues are raising their prices, deciding not to allow animals anymore, or are being demolished. This puts clubs in a tough position – they have to pay more for a venue, more for judges’ expenses, more for food, more for almost everything. That means they must raise vendor prices and entry fees to break even. Meanwhile, the same handful of club members work all weekend to make the show work, year-in and year-out.

With all of that as background, I asked in a survey about pet peeves in three areas – judges, fellow exhibitors, and venues. Until you know what’s broken, it’s tough to fix the problems. The three questions were open-ended – people could write in whatever they wanted. Some didn’t answer every question, and some had more than one pet peeve per question. The number after some of the pet peeves represents the number of responses that fit into that category. One hundred people answered the survey – here’s what they had to say.

Pet peeves about judges

 • Lack of breed knowledge/not judging to the Standard

• Rewarding the handler instead of the dog

• Lack of attention to some (not all) entries

• Act as if they don’t want to be there

• No patience with new exhibitors or green dogs

• Rude/unfriendly

• Rushing to examine the dog before the exhibitor is done stacking

• Too friendly in the ring with some

• Approved for too many breeds too fast

• Unclear instructions

• In Juniors, they don’t take into account good handling of a difficult dog

• Fault judging resulting in rewarding mediocrity

• Not responding to club correspondence

• Rewarding heavily advertised dogs regardless of quality

• Lack of understanding of how structure affects the function

• Smelling like cigarette smoke

• The appearance of quid pro quo

• Rushing through their assignment

• Handling the dogs’ mouths instead of allowing exhibitors to show the bite


“Some are not down to earth, some are narcissistic, some would put up a squirrel on the right person. Most are good. The good far outweighs the bad – but the bad suck a lot and they always seem to be on all the panels!”

“Rushing through things and not communicating with me. I’m new, I’m lost and scared – help me make things run more smoothly for EVERYONE by slowing down and talking to me, not just pointing. I can also be slightly hard of hearing so addressing the exhibitors in a whisper barely audible to someone with their ear against the judge’s face is ridiculous.”

“Judges who can’t tell the difference between dogs and bitches on a short-coated breed on a hot day.”

“The greying of the greats – who’s going to fill those shoes?”

 Pet peeves about other exhibitors

 • Poor sportsmanship

(intentionally distracting/scaring a competitor’s dog, running up-on, crowding, late to ring, throwing bait, over-used squeaky toys, ringside trash talk, bullying, poor loser, placing blame everywhere but on themselves when they lose)

• Exhibitors not understanding the sport, how things run at the shows, or how to calculate championship points/don’t understand the process

• Personal grooming could use work/show some respect for yourself and the sport

• Disorganized

• Too serious/not enough camaraderie/rudeness

• Unwelcoming to new exhibitors

• Taking up too much grooming space

• Not cleaning up after their dogs

• Indoor grooming space disorganized, messy, dirty with stuff everywhere

• Kennel blindness

• Overnight experts

• Thinking everyone that showed before yesterday just don’t understand how things are nowadays

• Too much focus on winning and not enough on producing better dogs

• Unwillingness to work on training and/or conditioning their dog(s) or helping put on the show

• Using new exhibitors as point fodder after pretending to help them

• Not having enough people to help take their entries into the ring

• Allowing their males to lift their legs on everything, inside and out

• Putting an inferior dog with a handler so it will finish

• Handler-bashing

• Expecting the clubs to provide everything they may need at the show

• Lack of knowledge about how to take care of the dogs at shows in the heat

• Thinking every judge is crooked and everything is fixed

• Not understanding how the breed they are showing should be groomed or shown (walk not run)

• Taking everything including the kitchen sink ringside and then taking up too much space outside the ring


“Lack of camaraderie between owner-handlers. Pettiness among owner-handlers. Wish owner-handlers would act more like the professionals.”

“Not being supportive of others, especially newcomers. The sport is shrinking, we need to make new exhibitors feel welcome and encouraged to stay in the sport.”

“Lack of sportsmanship! Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose – get over it! At the end of the day you take home the best dog, so if you lose, do so with a smile and a handshake!”

Pet peeves about dog show venues

 • Paying for parking

• Not enough grooming space/tight aisles in grooming area/having to pay for grooming space

• Rings too small/venue is too small

• Cost to the show-giving club

• Poor parking or not enough parking

• Not enough exhibitor focus, especially handicapped accessibility

• None that I can think of

• No healthy lunch choices

• Not enough electric/bad electric service/only paid electric

• Not enough outdoor show venues

• Dirty/inadequate bathrooms

• The grass isn’t cleaned by exhibitors or club

• Uncomfortable conditions (heating/air indoors, lack of shade outdoors)

• Allowing pro’s to save space when the “no save” policy is in the premium

• Poor lighting

• Non-existent hospitality/organization

• Some venues are not very dog-friendly

• Uneven ground not flagged or filled so exhibitors dogs get injured

• Congested loading/unloading zones

• Venue not kept clean

• Superintendent not give judges time for photos

• Failure to enforce “unentered animal” rule

• No consequences for those who don’t clean up after their dogs

• No info on heating/AC in premium list or judging program

• Canceling shows for anything and everything

• Not enough grass

• Not enough focus on space for spectators

• PA in use during judging

• Not adhering to published set-up times so crating/grooming is full before set-up was supposed to start

• Not enough decent hotels nearby that accept dogs

• Venues are too far removed from amenities

• Not enough ringside crating

• Lack of bathing facility/no notice about it

• Red dirt floors

• Shows canceled two years in a row due to storms

• Starting Groups so late that BIS is judged in the dark with little or no lights

• Hiring show photographers that are bad or can’t take a good photo and don’t understand the standard of the breeds


“When they overcharge for reserved grooming, favor reserved grooming, and do not offer electric unless you reserve. Many sites don’t offer enough food vendor choices and disallow outside food which, when you have food allergies, can make life difficult.”

“Allowing spectators to bring in “pets”. I understand there are signs posted but we really should have people stationed at doors to turn people with obese, leash reactive Fidos on retractable leads away. They pose a risk to us and our dogs!”

 Clearly, finances are an issue. Even more clearly, sportsmanship and perceived fairness is a bigger issue. In looking at the responses, it’s obvious that an emphasis on fairness, sportsmanship and just plain good manners are needed for both the judges and the exhibitors. It’s also obvious that there are a lot of clueless people out there who need to read this article and do some soul-searching. Soft-skills are sorely lacking everywhere, not just at dog shows, and it’s often the people with the least skills who are the most clueless about their shortcomings.

Do you have ideas about how to improve any of the issues in this list of pet peeves? I’d love to hear your thoughts. My email address is – I look forward to hearing what you have to say because the sport we save maybe our own.

 Sandy Weaver is an author, professional speaker and judges some Working breeds. When she’s not traveling to speak or to judge, she’s spoiling her two retired Siberian Huskies.

 Click here to read the complete article
172 – September 2019

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