What Makes A Good Exhibitor?

To adapt Wordsworth's lines, "Who is the good exhibitor? Who is he that everyone who shows should wish to be?"
Author unknown


The brief answer is that a good exhibitor is the one who enjoys the game and plays it as a game.

That does not mean that dog showing should be regarded as a matter for lighthearted trifling. On the contrary, to get the best out of it and to put the best into it, it requires to be played in its full rigor, not luke-warmedly. The exhibitors who affirm they have no pleasure in winning; that they are indifferent whether they show or not, or whether they win or lose are not good exhibitors.

In any game the purpose must be to win. The need is not to banish that purpose but to accept defeat, whether merited or not, in the right spirit.

Starting from the point that everyone who shows dogs, whether as a hobby pure and simple, or with a more commercial motive, is out to win, it follows that the good exhibitor must expect, and be prepared to make, an effort. It is useless to assume that victory can come simply by leaving it all to the dog. The greatest dog needs care and attention outside the show ring, and all the assistance a handler can give it at a show.

All the great exhibitors have been good kennel managers.

A dog is not just the product of good breeding. It is no good breeding a dog right and training it wrongly, or leaving those two essential elements in its preparation for the show ring to chance. It is an old saying and a true one, that the value of half a pedigree goes in at the mouth. A dog is the product of feeding, housing and training, acting on an inherited potentiality. This potentiality will only be fully realised under the optimum environmental conditions.

The good exhibitor will be concerned, at all times, to ensure such conditions for his dogs, so that when they appear in the ring, they will be in peak condition and ready to give the best of which they are capable. It is not simply a matter of giving a sufficiency of food and shelter

An understanding must be established between handler and dog so that each has confidence and faith in the other. Without it even a good dog can give a sorry display in the ring.

The first thing a handler has to learn is to do his job without fuss. Here, if anywhere, art consists in concealing art. The great handler, with his apparent nonchalance and imperturbability, may make handling look a very simple thing which anyone can do, but the ease with which he carries out his task can be deceptive. Much training and study of the game has gone into the acquisition of that ease. Don't therefore imagine that you can just take an unrehearsed dog into the ring, without any training of yourself or the dog and get the best out of it. You can not.

Having brought yourself under control, so that you know exactly what you have to do...and can do it without being put out of your stride by anything that may happen...you must know the breed and have a complete knowledge of it's merits and faults.Breeds vary in their temperaments, and what may serve in the handling of one breed, can defeat it's objects with another. Then there is the matter of taking an objective view of the dog, so as to familiarise yourself of its good points and its faults.

A good handler knows how to make the most out of the former and to minimise the latter. This is not sharp practice but good jockeyship, comparable with the skill of a jockey who nurses a seven furlong horse to win at a mile.

The use of that racing simile brings us to the other form of jockeying..that for position..which never escapes notice, at least by the ringsiders, and which is always to be deplored. We all know, loathe and despise the exhibitor who allows his dog to to distract and upset another; who pinches the top of the line in the hope of catching the judge napping; who chatters to ringsiders and exhibitors while judging is proceeding. He who does any of these things is not a good exhibitor

Last, but not least, there is the spirit in which the judge's decision is accepted. Playing the game in its full rigor should not involve bad manners, or "such boastings as the Gentiles use". Any judge can make a mistake. Even if defeat is thought unmerited and harsh, that does not justify a show of resentment,audible bad-mouthing of the judge or withholding sincere congratulations to the winner. Flouncing out of the ring without waiting for a minor placing, does no good and draws ringside criticism to the aggrievied exhibitor, not to the judge

Then there is the exhibitor who, failing to get what conceives to be his just desert in one class, fails to bring that dog, or another dog back into the ring for a subsequent class, without any permission for withdrawal sought or granted. This only puts the exhibitor in the wrong under most show regulations, and is very shortsighted. Judges are human and have been noted to reverse their decisions.

Fortunately, my preaching here can only be directed at a minority, for the overwhelming majority of exhibitors are "good exhibitors" as I have defined the term here. What is needed is that there be no "bad exhibitors".

Submitted by John Chandler


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