In a recent Dog Show Mentor nationwide email blast to owner handlers, I announced a pop-up webinar to learn some of the issues that owner handlers face when competing in Conformation. I expected to receive a multitude of NOHS comments and ideas, which I did. However, one comment stood out as being of paramount concern: the dogs’ safety.
First, I don’t know all the facts concerning the issues laid out here. I have laid out a scenario based on one brief exchange with an exhibitor. By no means do I know what happened, what words were said, or the tone in which they were delivered. However, I’m responding as if the fears of the owner/handler have validity. Their comments are in italics below.
The owner handler wrote (and I paraphrase):
A fellow exhibitor who is also a professional handler was bullying me and said that I should be concerned about my dog’s well-being. When I contacted AKC, they just sent me a link to fill out some paperwork. Seriously. My dog’s safety is a concern, and they send me their paperwork. This dog show world is seriously concerning.
Before experiencing this myself, I heard stories of people sabotaging each other to get ahead. I never dreamed I would end up in the middle of it all. It breaks my heart because I enjoy showing, but we also do Performance, Obedience, and Companion sports. I hope AKC takes things more seriously in the future, or more and more people will leave the Sport. I am not even sure I want to continue to show anymore.
I read the email several times and wasn’t sure how to respond without all the details. It sounded like she felt “dissed” by AKC, so I sought to understand the circumstances that led to her plea for help. I responded, “I’m so sorry to hear this. Very sad. What would you like AKC to do? What remedies were you seeking to make you believe there was authentic concern from AKC about your situation?” She was clearly vexed, trying to make her situation understood.
What would I like AKC to do?? I’m not totally sure, but I expect AKC to enforce sportsmanship in action, not just verbally. I left voicemails with AKC twice about the threats against my dog’s safety by the exhibitor/professional handler. He stated, “I would be concerned about the safety and well-being of my dog if I were you.”
These can be frightening words. Even though no true professional in the Sport would threaten the safety of a dog, that’s not to say that someone who is getting paid to show dogs (by definition, a professional) would not do such a thing. In my Pollyanna costume, I would like to believe that the professional handler had some reason to think the dog was in danger in some way, that we cannot discover from my brief exchange, and was expressing sincere concern.
How would you take that? she asked. The way I see it, some people don’t like to lose. I am a nobody with a lovely dog who has been beating them.
Welcome to competitive sports. Nobody enjoys losing and everyone wants to win—fair and square. She went on…
In my area, a monopoly is happening in my breed ring. Professional handlers are attempting to bully me into not showing and getting mad if I do.
I love showing my dog. I do more than Conformation, so my world isn’t all about one person’s opinion. I keep a balance. However, since COVID, Conformation seems more corrupt than ever. AKC should take a deep look into what is happening out there.
Any alleged bullying incident such as this should be immediately reported to the AKC Rep on-site. As a former AKC Field Rep, I understand their primary function is to be the eyes and ears of AKC out in the field, as the title implies. Reporting to the AKC Rep is the first way to keep your dog safe.
Beyond that, send your concerns to: firstname.lastname@example.org. For issues on social media, AKC has put together Tips to Prevent & Stop Cyberbullying.
Second, and extremely important, is to follow AKC’s guidelines. If they ask for paperwork, fill it out. AKC has a very good Legal Department that knows the legal ramifications of bullying and the steps to keep us safe.
Keep a log of the name of the person(s) bullying you, dates, locations, a summary of threats, and as many specific details as possible. Tracking is one of the best ways to keep your dog safe, along with reporting every incident in detail to AKC offices, the AKC Rep, and the Show Chairperson.
TIPS TO PREVENT & STOP CYBERBULLYING:
FOLLOW AKC’S GUIDELINES.
IF THEY ASK FOR PAPERWORK, FILL IT OUT.
Fear for Your Dog Is Not New
I remember when I showed Rottweilers, and there was a lot of fear around our dogs’ safety at show sites. Our dogs were so well-socialized that anyone with dog-friendly skills could take most of them out of their crates. A few of us used to padlock our Rottweilers in their crates in a locked but ventilated vehicle. I know it seems odd to be so concerned about a guarding breed; nevertheless, the times were rough even then. Despite that action, we still feared for the well-being and lives of
One year at Eastern Dog Club dog show, a Rottweiler was taken from her crate on the show grounds. The following week, one of the most prominent breeders in the country who lived in Boston was walking on the street and happened to see the stolen bitch being walked by someone who was not the owner. He recognized the bitch right away since he had competed with her the previous week. A big, convincing guy, he was able to get her away from the thief and back to the actual owners. A great story; it is 100% true.
Success Loves Tracking: Your Action Plan
When you create a Tracking Log, not only will you see a pattern, but AKC will as well. Start each show in the same way for a while. When you arrive in the morning before judging, first check in with the AKC Rep and the Show Chairperson and tell them what happened. Then show them an up-to-date log. This will give you more credibility than the bully. It’s sad that you may need to do this, but you must keep your dog safe.
Although it shouldn’t be, bullying is part of our 21st century world. It’s just not safe, so I’m the first to say that we should all be pulling together to keep each other’s dogs safe. We shouldn’t have to worry about our own dogs’ safety from within our community!
In our culture, we are fortunate that bullies have been recognized as an element of society. They can be men, women or children, and members of any social circle, sex, gender or race. Bullying has probably been going on since mankind stood erect. Has the world ever been a truly safe place? Probably not. Thankfully, upon recognition of bullying, there are measures already in place that allow exhibitors to work with AKC to ensure the safety of every dog and every exhibitor at every show.