Bullying at Dog Shows — Is Your Dog Safe?

Bringing Allegations to Light
Sad woman representing concept of bullying at dog shows, she is sitting and her head is down in her hands, worrying about her dog's safety

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: reportharassment@akc.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.





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
our dogs.

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.

  • Ms. Lee Whittier has been involved in the sport of purebred dogs for over three decades. Her involvement began as an owner, exhibitor and, subsequently, a breeder of Rottweilers. She has owned Akitas, Bullmastiffs, and a Sussex Spaniel. She currently owns, breeds, and exhibits Tibetan Terriers. Ms. Whittier began judging in 2000, and then took a hiatus for several years to work for the American Kennel Club as an Executive Field Representative in the Pacific Northwest. She returned to judging in 2011, and currently judges the Working, Terrier, Toy, and Non-Sporting Groups, seventeen Hound Breeds, ten Sporting Breeds, Bouvier des Flandres, and Best in Show. Ms. Whittier has judged dog shows around the world, from the United States, Canada, South America, and Asia, at shows large and small; all of great importance to each and every exhibitor. Some of the larger shows are Westminster Kennel Club, Kennel Club of Philadelphia, Del Valle Dog Club of Livermore, Great Western Terrier Association, Northern California Terrier Association, Hatboro Dog Club, Inc., Malibu Kennel Club, and the Kennel Club of Palm Springs. Ms. Whittier is a standing member of Dog Fanciers of Oregon, The Central Florida Cairn Terrier Club, Columbia River Cairn Terrier Association, and the Tibetan Terrier Club of America. As an active member in numerous clubs, she has worked in the capacity of Show Chair, President, Vice-President, Secretary, Board Member, and Constitution & By-Laws Revision Committee Member. In addition to judging, Ms. Whittier developed the Dog Show Mentor program, exclusively for owner handlers. This is an online program where owner handlers of all stages and levels learn to develop an individual, strategic approach to showing dogs. She also travels to speak to owner handlers all over the world. She currently lives in Vancouver, Washington, with her husband, Wayne, and their three Tibetan Terriers. Her other interests include gardening and hiking with the dogs.

  • Show Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

comment *

  • name *

  • email *

  • website *

You May Also Like

owner handlers success

Take 2: If at First You Don’t Succeed…

The following stories are offered here with one goal in mind: to encourage Owner ...

Dog Shows

Dog Shows A Numbers Game?

Dog shows were developed to evaluate breeding stock. In the last 10 years, as ...

One Person’s Look at the Current and Future State of Our Sport

ShowSight Dog Show Magazine, September 2019 Issue. Click to subscribe.   Do you ever find ...

To Bait Or Not To Bait

To Bait Or Not To Bait

Have you ever thought about how your use of bait in the ring can ...

Your Cart

No Item Found
Subtotal $0.00
Shipping $0.00
Tax $0.00
Total $0.00