Bullmarket French Bulldog Breeders

Dog Show Temper Tantrums

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.

17 replies
  1. Vivianne
    Vivianne says:

    Oh my god? It’s the same thing eveywhere, I guess. :

    I’ve had people saying I threw a tantrum because a girl of mine lost her class once, when I usually go with my one frenchie to the show, show it myself (99% of show dogs in Brazil are shown by handlers) and then procede to hanging out backstage, watching other breeds perform and talking to breeder friends. lol

    Vivianne’s last blog post..It’s been hot

  2. zoe's mom
    zoe's mom says:

    Boy this is the truth. My first time ever in the ring, I had some idea of what I was supposed to do, but I was really not doing it very well. My girl took reserve and best puppy, and the frenchie people were not nice about it. It’s hard to get into the inner circle. And forget about trying to get info about the breed, or good breeders. I was lucky with my networking, otherwise I never would have found my Zoe.
    I wish winning and losing with grace was the norm, not the exception.

  3. Jenniferj
    Jenniferj says:

    The bulldog ring is usually pretty friendly, particularly to new comers. Lots of clapping, usually for every class. It does have some geographic variation however! But we do have a few people well known for trying to get to new folks and more or less recruit them to their “camp”.

    Overall, people are pretty nice, even to people coming in from outside their little area. But if you decide to throw a tantrum, or engage in nasty behavior, you will be on seven different lists and websites by lunch time.

    • frogdogz
      frogdogz says:

      That’s been my experience with the Bulldog ring and the Mastiff ring – friendly, supportive of newcomers, competitive but sanely so. Trust me, the Frenchie ring is notorious for being full of grown ups behaving badly. Thankfully much more so in the USA than here in Canada, but we have our moments, as well. Anyone in Canada who’s in Frenchies knows what I’m talking about, and has seen or been on the receiving end of their fair share.

      BTW, official announcement! No matter what the breed, if you catch bad behaviour on tape at a dog show, I will HAPPILY post the video. No more excuses for the tantrum throwers!

  4. Jenniferj
    Jenniferj says:

    Now my other ring, is a toy breed ring with the toy fox. They will snark and try to intimidate newcomers. They certainly did not welcome me with open arms. Fortunately I did not care, I was heading to breakfast with the bulldoggers anyway.

    It’s always interesting, I have friends in a variety of breeds and have made many aquaintances hanging out to watch groups. The toy fox folks did not recognize me, although I recognized some of them. They kept attempting to tell me things and give me advice as if I was a newcomer. Some of it was very much an attempt to be helpful, some was intentionally wrong! The first few weeks in the ring, one guy tried every dirty trick in the book. Actually kind of fun as I won’t pull those tricks out of my hat unless someone else starts it so I got to use all sorts of little skills I had not had the opportunity to dust off in years! Ever “lose” your shoe right in front of someone? 🙂

    I have already let it be known on the EB lists that anyone using health testing and DNA results maliciously is to be considered akin to pond scum. Tolerating bad behavior is bad for the dogs and the people who really care about the future and health of our dogs.

  5. Jenniferj
    Jenniferj says:

    I’ll have to start bringing my camera! How bout folks who hang out at the ring of the next day’s judge and talk to them at every opportunity? And tell them about all the wins that the dog has had?

    I saw a woman from a working dog ring stomp away after losing then return to the ring during pictures with a win photo of her dog and shove it under the judges nose demanding to know why she had lost. The judge looked at the photo, agreed that the bitch looked lovely and said what a shame it was she had not looked so good today.

    Oh, and I’ll nominate the bullmastiff and dane rings as pretty decent places. If you want barely contained virulent hatred, the chihuahua ring is often a good bet!

  6. Jenniferj
    Jenniferj says:

    I have to say, aggravating as the conformation ring can be, I’ve had a great deal of fun, met some of the most grounded and ethical people I’ve ever had the privledge to encounter and am proud to count them amongst my friends.

    It does not usually take long to sort out the ribbon chasers from the people who are using the ring for it’s stated intention of helping to sort, display and compare bloodstock.

    That having been said, while winning isn’t everything, it sure is fun!

    • frogdogz
      frogdogz says:

      I agree, but I think the ugly incidents in the Frenchie ring have sucked a lot of fun out of it for people. It’s hard to hear from really good people, who did well and are well regarded in their other breeds, that they don’t think they want to continue showing because of the ugliness they’ve seen and encountered.

      I think that’s why I’m so angry – because, as I said, this is MY breed, and behaviour like that reflects on all of us, and drives away the newcomers we need for our breed to progress. The worst story I’ve heard comes to me from a former handler, who told me about a couple of pro handlers who were notorious for ‘oops’ stepping on the foot of dogs they regarded as serious competition (the dog would then limp while going around, almost certainly excusing it from the ribbons). That kind of ugliness makes it VERY hard to defend this sport from the critics, and we all need to stop tolerating or excusing it.

  7. Jenniferj
    Jenniferj says:

    I hate that kind of crap.

    Have you ever met or taken a clinic from Tom and Kay Lams?

    They’re mainly retired now although they have a DVD out. Great trainers in balance and problem solving. In their beginning clinics it’s all about how you affect the dog etc..

    In the more advanced clinics, they go into how to protect your dog and deal with ring shenanigans. Tom cannot stand anything that hurts or frightens a dog, ever. They drum into you that your job is to present your dog to it’s best AND protect it. In that vein, we discussed situations such as you describe and proven fast ways to put a stop to them.

    Handlers who resort to such BS are poor handlers who are clearly incapable of knowing a good dog or how to show one. (If any such folks are reading this, yes you suck and believe me, everyone except a few people you are scamming for cash knows it and talks about it too.)

    As a bonus, you also embarrass the hell out of the offending party. I’ve done it and it works. Oh, and word gets around too. 🙂 Anyone having a problem is very welcome to e-mail me privately. Happy to share tricks of the trade for a good cause.

  8. Caveat
    Caveat says:

    This occurs with many different breeds at shows and it is very unfortunate.

    Partly, I think, it’s because quite a culture of corruption seems to have developed in the dog fancy. The owner who has the most status with (in our case) the CKC, the handler who routinely brings in the most dogs – they are likely to win no matter how much better another dog might be. Many judges aren’t familiar with the more rare breeds so they will tend to go with the safe choice – even if it’s not the best.

    A good friend of mine who is a long-time (30 yrs) judge had an exhibitor (whom we both know) blow up and throw a screaming fit in the ring when he didn’t put her dog up. The usual slurs – he knew nothing about the breed, blah blah, ensued. He was quite amused when the next day at the show a judge from the breed’s country of origin put up the same dog he’d put up the day before.

    All of this behaviour simply reinforces that the ‘sport’ has little to do with dogs and a lot to do with disproportionately large egos, insecurity and a quest for status with an in-group.

    No wonder members of the public are disappointed when they go to shows these days looking for info and hoping to meet a nice breeder who might sell them a pup or give them advice. Everybody’s taking this stuff WAY too seriously in one way and not seriously enough in another.

    • frogdogz
      frogdogz says:

      No wonder members of the public are disappointed when they go to shows these days looking for info and hoping to meet a nice breeder who might sell them a pup or give them advice. Everybody’s taking this stuff WAY too seriously in one way and not seriously enough in another.

      It’s hard for me to tell people that attending a dog show is the best way to learn about breeds and meet breeders. Too many of us drop in ten minutes before ring time, and leave as soon as it’s done — or they run into handlers, who don’t have time to “bother” talking to pet people. Benched shows, or shows with breed info booths, or smaller specialties are pretty much the last useful shows left for pet people to attend.

      I bring business cards and some printed info — that way, if I don’t have a lot of time to talk to them, I can at least give them some reference material.

  9. Jenniferj
    Jenniferj says:

    Not everybody. 🙂

    Some shows are also just uptight, difficult places to chat and socialize.

    I like to recommend people go to specialties or outdoor spring or fall shows, on Friday or Saturday not Sunday.

    Dog shows would benefit enormously from having a household pet class as cat shows do.

    The thing is, with regards to corruption or whatnot, it’s usually only apparent to those who have long involvement. Sometimes a lot of what is deemed politics isn’t. 🙂

  10. Marie
    Marie says:

    I have thought for years that they should at least have alter classes. That way those of us who have an interest in showing but don’t want to have intact dogs can participate. I never thought of a HHP division though. Not a bad idea at all! A great way to get newbies interested for sure.

    I’ve thought about showing my frenchie in the veteran class since she is now 8 years old just to see if I like it.

    Marie’s last blog post..Kids and dogs, safety first.

  11. Jenniferj
    Jenniferj says:

    I don’t know how the frenchie ring is for veterans, but at the bulldog ring the rule is “thou shalt clap for the veterans!”

    In two weeks my retired special gets his first veteran outing. There had better be clapping! He loved to show in group or best in show because of the applause, in fact he’d raise his head and swivel his ears about the first few steps to see how much there would be. The more applause, the better he would show. No applause, he would sometimes shut off.

    The downside was that he started to balk at gaiting in the breed ring towards the end of his career. No clapping there until after the awards are given. Absolute prima donna and adore him for it.

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