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Sportsmanship Matters, Win or Lose

When it comes to winning and losing, we’ve all been there and done that. Sometimes, as competitors, we tend to focus only on winning, but it’s important to remember there’s a fine line between someone who exhibits good sportsmanship and someone who’s a sore loser.

So how do we prevent ourselves from becoming sore losers?

The best way that I can think of is to teach our young handlers that it is OK to lose. The younger they learn this lesson, the easier it will become to accept the defeats, as well as victories, in the ring.

A tough class of junior handlers during their final lineup, moments before the decision was made and everyone congratulated the winner.

I’ve been thinking about how to put into words some sort of advice for young handlers to help them keep a positive attitude and always demonstrate good sportsmanship. However, finding the right words is easier said than done.

Sharing my experiences as a junior handler is easy and might be helpful. I can remember crying sometimes and being upset and confused about losing – hey, it happens to the best of us! The one person who always got me through it and showed me that losing can be OK was, of course, my mom, Leah. This is why I decided to go straight to the source and reach out to the parents of some of today’s junior handlers to get their take on the subject.

I’ve sat ringside more times than I can count on both of my hands, chatting with parents of juniors about how they deal with the different stresses and challenges their kids experience in and out of the ring. Every conversation leads to the same message: “We just want them to enjoy showing.” I think this is something that we all need to remember. Win or lose, showing a dog should be an enjoyable experience for everyone involved – including the dog!

A special thanks to these parents who shared their words of wisdom on sportsmanship with their juniors and all DFR readers:

Porsche Sessions: “For the first time in my life I can’t put my thoughts into words easily because giving this kind of advice is not easy. I want to say that the most important relationship any junior handler has is the one with their dog. Each show, win or lose, is a learning and bonding experience that can only make that relationship stronger!”

Angela Grinsell: “Be a good winner, but an even better loser. If you win, be thankful, and if you lose take an honest look at your performance and work on your weaknesses. Also, remember to never blame the dog for your mistakes. I tell my daughter, who is currently a junior, that every time she enters the ring she has another opportunity to learn something.”

It may not be easy, but it’s OK to be a good winner and an even better loser. After all, isn’t that what your dog would do if it could?

Win or lose, Dogs Freakin’ Rule!

Written by

Kayla Bertagnolli is a 23-year-old from Ogden, UT, who's been involved in the dog show world her whole life. A former junior handler who learned about breeding Beagles from her mother Leah, she assisted several professional handlers and is currently working to become a Junior Showmanship judge. Kayla is passionate about photography and writes the twice-weekly blog, DFR. She plans to continue breeding and showing, and expects to stay involved in dogs "for life!"
  • Gabi Schneidman June 1, 2013 at 5:09 AM

    I try to imagine the Greats in the sport of showing from Mrs. Annie Clarke, Mrs. Florence Nagle to Mr. Sam Ewing and how they would behave, win or lose. Great sportsmanship and especially losing gracefully takes character. As we become a society of equality minded people, striving to make everybody happy by having no winners or losers, this is one of the most decisive venues that I can think of.
    It is thrilling as each handler moves up the competition pyramid with their charge. At the end of the day, out of 800-1400 dogs, there will be only one winner! Most of the time we already know which one out of a very few it will be…. Be it in the breeds, in the groups, or in the Best In Show competition, it is all about elimination to get to the top dog. It is nothing personal, but it takes a solid belief in yourself and, Oh yes- character.

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