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Competition vs. Sportsmanship – Are They Opposites?

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318 – November/December, 2018

By Sandy Weaver

When was the last time you saw a wonderful example of good sportsmanship? When was the last time you saw a glaring example of poor sportsmanship? Which do you see more often? And which are you a part of most often? If I told you that being a good sport could be very beneficial to you, would that get your attention?

Dog shows have been around for about 165 years, and sportsmanship – both good and not-so-good – has been an issue since their inception. (For a great read on the history of shows, click here for an article in The Canine Chronicle by Amy Fernandez, The First Dog Show). Since some of the earliest shows were held in a tavern, it’s quite likely that the first code of sportsmanship was written to squelch bar brawls!

Dog shows are, by definition, a competition. Designed to dis- play and evaluate breeding stock, the conformation show has turned into big business for some and big headaches for others. The AKC Executive Field Rep often has to play referee between feuding competitors. The Superintendent often has to explain the rules over, and over, and over again to a belligerent exhibitor who wants what they want, no matter what the rules say. The judges are wrong, crooked, and blind according to those who don’t win under them. Clubs are hearing more complaints about the venue, the schedule, and the judges, even as their entries and worker- pools dwindle and their expenses rise. Is it any wonder why civil- ity at shows seems to be on the wane? And what can we do to create a better atmosphere?

A good place to start is by re-reading the AKC Code of Sportsmanship. Please, don’t get hung up on the non-gender-neutrality of it, and, please, don’t read it just to argue with it or point out blatant bad examples you’ve seen with your own eyes. Open your mind to the possibility of what the words present and think of ways you can promote sportsmanship. Because here’s the truth: in the heat of competition, many people forget about the good of the sport and speak or act in ways that don’t serve them or the fancy. You probably know at least one person who couldn’t let a positive word about another breeder or their dogs come out of their mouth if their life depended on it. You probably know at least one person who complains about how the show is run, yet, never lifts a finger to help their club. You probably know at least one person who has laughed while letting their dog potty right next to or on the “no dogs” sign. All of these actions are killing the sport of dogs, one venue at a time, one spectator at a time, one newcomer at a time.

Click here to read the complete article
318 – November/December, 2018

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