Sportsmanship and Etiquette:

Getting The Best Out of The Sport of Dogs

Part 2
by Claudia Waller Orlandi, Ph.D.

Sportsmanship Towards Fellow Breeders
and Exhibitors Outside the Ring

Participating in the sport of dogs can lead to the formation of lifetime friendships. Unfortunately, the reverse may also be true. There is some validity to the saying: “You will learn who your friends are when you really start winning.” Good friends are sincerely happy for your success. Following are guidelines of etiquette outside the ring:

Even if you feel you had the best dog but still lost, congratulate the winner. Remember, the exhibitor does not point the finger! Congratulating someone does not necessarily mean you love his dog. It is saying you can be a gracious loser.

On a day when the loss was particularly disappointing, it may take 20 minutes or so to collect your feelings! Once you’ve got things under control, go back to the ring, watch the rest of the judging, and if you haven’t already done so, congratulate the day’s winners. If possible, cheer your breed on in the group, regardless of who owns the dog.

Don’t stand ringside and bad mouth the dogs or the judging. Chances are, people within earshot may own one of the dogs or a judge’s spouse or family may be nearby. Any comments about the day’s activity are best saved for the ride home.

On days when you do win, don’t gloat! Be modest and remember there are people who didn’t win. Don’t brag about the virtues of your dogs.

If you win, don’t declare the judge a genius. If you lose, never tell the winner you think the judge did a bad job.

Remember that your entry fee entitled you to an opinion from a judge. If you don’t like what he/she did simply don’t show to that judge again.

The Kennel Blindness Connection

I have long felt that there exists a positive correlation between kennel blindness and sportsmanship in that the more kennel blind one is the more likely he/she may be to displays of poor sportsmanship. Kennel blindness is a kind of “disease” which renders a breeder or exhibitor incapable of seeing the faults in his own dogs. These individuals are characterized by the following “symptoms”: (a) an inability to see and appreciate the good qualities in a competitor’s dog; (b) a belief that they have bred the “perfect” dog; and (c) a tendency to blame not winning on bad judging, politics or anything except the fact that there may be something wrong with their dog (Orlandi). On days when your dog does not “get the nod,” any or all of these traits may precipitate displays of poor sportsmanship in and out of the ring.

Some Final Thoughts On the Psychology of Competition

Webster defines a competitor as “a rival; one who endeavors to obtain what another seeks; one who strives for superiority.” Research in the field of social psychology suggests that individuals engage in competition for 3 reasons: (1) it may be unavoidable because the desired goal cannot be shared; (2) the activity of competing is exciting and fun; and (3) competition may be a form of social comparison in which we can compare ourselves with others and learn about our own traits and capabilities (Baron and Byrne). In the sport of dogs, most breeders and exhibitors probably fall into all three of these categories.

If competing with others provides new information about ourselves, it benefits each of us to closely examine our reactions to winning and losing. Our displays of good or poor sportsmanship as well as our knowledge of the rules of etiquette, shape the perceptions others form of us, our dogs and our breed. Episodes of poor sportsmanship on the part of handlers, for example, hurt not only their own reputation but also that of the dogs they are showing simply because these animals are on the ends of the lead.

The true sport of dogs goes far beyond the competition of the dog show to include our interaction with fellow breeders, the people we mentor and the new owners of puppies we place. What we convey through sportsmanship, common courtesy and fair play can greatly affect not only how many people we attract to our breed but also how much we get back from our sport .


Alston, G.A. 1992. The Winning Edge: Show Ring Secrets. New York, Howell.

Baron, R.A. 1981. Social Psychology: Understanding Human Interaction. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, Inc.

Forsyth, R. and Forsyth, J. 1989. The Forsyth Guide to Successful Dog Showing. New York, Howell.

Migliorini, M. 1982. Secrets of Show Dog Handling. New York, Arco.

Orlandi, C. 1998. “Kennel blindness” Tally-Ho (July-Aug), 12-13.