French Bulldogs have always been a popular ‘second breed’ for breeders and exhibitors. Downsizing from Mastiffs or even Bulldogs to something more compact makes sense – easier to carry, easier to show, less room required. What has come as a shock to many of these transitioning exhibitors is how downright nasty the French Bulldog ring can be from time to time. Oh, don’t get me wrong — all rings are competitive, that’s a given. Everyone showing on any given day is there because they expect to win – it’s just that, in the Frenchie ring, we seem to have more than our fair share of people who don’t take losing with anything approaching grace.
In fact, there’s an awful lot of similarity between some losing Frenchie exhibitors and a spoiled, tantrum throwing seven year old who’s just been told that the party is all out of chocolate ice cream.
For the longest time, certain geographic areas were the modern day equivalent of a feudal fiefdom. “Don’t come into my area” the ruling Frenchie exhibitor was known to growl. “I own these rings, and these judges work for me“. This was true, perhaps – the ruling exhibitor in that area rarely lost, and anyone foolish enough to stumble into their ring was basically treated as a nice way to build points. I have no idea why judges went along with it, although I theorize it was a combination of fear, intimidation and the simple fact that Frenchies just weren’t very common, so putting ones that you knew had won in the past seemed like a safe bet. The feudal Lord style Frenchie exhibitor thrived on a sense of geographical isolation – an isolation that, sadly for them, no longer exists. People routinely travel further for shows, and, more than that, show results and reports are shared across the globe. Judges are seeing more and more French Bulldogs, of arguably better quality than they were used to seeing in that one tiny pocket of the world. I imagine that Judges are also less likely to bow to pressure from a tinpot dictator, now that they’ve seen what a great big world there really is out there. For the feudal dictator, it must be roughly akin to finding out that the world, contrary to previous opinion, doesn’t actually revolve around them.
Another notorious set of tantrum throwers are a handful of professional handlers who’ve carved out something of a niche for themselves handling Frenchies almost exclusively. “This is how I make my LIVING!” they are known to shriek, when passed over for the ribbons – as if the fact they take a fee to be in the ring makes them more important than every other fee paying exhibitor in the ring. Rude to pet people who ask for breed info, pushy at ringside, and demanding of judges, they’re the dog show world equivalent of the ugly tourist. Worst of all, for those of us who take French Bulldog breeding seriously, has been their habit of taking anything into the ring, regardless of quality, health or number of serious faults. “If I’m showing it, it’s a show dog”, seems to be their mantra. There’s a good chance that the recent economic downturn will make these Doggie Divas even less well behaved, as their lower and middle class clients decide to sit the show season out, leaving even smaller pieces of the pie for the handlers still handling.
As I said, none of us take losing well, although some of us try. We mutter to ourselves, or call our friends to vent. We might even post a note or two on a French Bulldog mailing list, forgetting that the note we write in our office is then read by people from across the globe. What we don’t do, or at least what most of us don’t do, is throw a tantrum at the show site. We’ve all seen it, however, or at least heard of it. The exhibitor who berates the judge for his choice (Hello, San Antonio! Yes, even up here in Canada we’ve heard all about your bad behaviour). The exhibitor who tosses his ribbon on the floor in disgust. The exhibitor who harangues his competition outside the ring. The ones who engage in screaming matches, pushing matches or even outright fights.
Here’s the thing, though. Dog shows right now are even less popular than ever. It’s hard enough, at the best of times, to defend this ‘sport’ as anything less than a glorified beauty contest without having to defend the dog show diva behaviour of a handful of spoiled rotten jerks.
Hey you – you with the tantrums and the sense of entitlement. You make all of us look bad. You make our breed look bad. You make our sport look bad. And myself, personally? I’m going to out you, if I hear about it. I’m not going to defend you, or laugh it off with comments about “He’s just passionate about his dogs”. Passionate doesn’t excuse jerkdom, people.
And jerkdom, I find, shrivels in the light of day. So there’s your notice – embarass my breed, or the people who are there showing out and behaving like decent adults, and I will pull you out from under your rock, and expose you to the light of day.