Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Rules, Ethics and Honesty in the Dog Show World

Social media is an amazing thing.  Sites like Facebook allow us to keep in touch with friends and family, to reconnect with old friends and to share what is going on in our own lives.  This should be a positive thing, but there is also a dark side.  Facebook, forums and other social media allows people vent publicly about things that bother them or that they are upset about and the dog show world is no exception.  The comments made publicly were bad enough with the dog forums, but Facebook is a whole new territory with our Facebook pages making our feelings and opinions an open book for our friends, family, dog show competition and anyone we are "friends" with to see.  Many times people are Facebook "friends" with people that they are venting about, so it's sometimes more about saying what you want to say to someone without actually having to say it.

I am sometimes humored, sometimes astounded and sometimes horrified at the different things that I read. Most of the negative posts I see are in some way complaining about either the rules, someones personal ethics and honesty or lack thereof.  

This one is easy.  Rules are rules and you are either following them or breaking them.  If you break the rules, you risk getting caught and facing consequences for it.  The great part about the rules for dog shows is that they are written and they are specific.  If you break them and it can be proven, you may be punished for it. My personal opinion is that when it comes to dog shows it is best to follow the rules, not only because you can get yourself into trouble for not following them but also because it is just the right thing to do.  For me personally, I know the rules and I follow the rules, plain and simple.  It makes it really easy for me if someone suggests I broke a rule.  I wouldn't do it on purpose and if I did it inadvertently I would do whatever I had to in order to rectify it.

This one is a bit more sticky because ethics are a personal thing.  Something that one person feels is unethical may be perfectly acceptable to someone else.  I see people doing a lot of complaining about someone else being "unethical" but again, this is their personal opinion.  I have observed people complaining publicly about all of the following, just to name a few:
  • Moving a finished dog up
  • Not moving a finished dog up
  • Showing after a dog may be finished
  • Not showing after a dog may be finished
  • Committee chairs having someone show their dogs at a show where they are chairing
  • Committee chairs changing ownership of dogs so that they can be shown
  • Making negative to others about dogs at ringside
  • Commenting about others publicly on social media 
  • Breaking a major (even if for a very genuine reason)
  • Showing under a judge that you know, or that owned a dog you bred to, or that you had put you up before, or that you had lunch with two years ago, etc, etc, etc.
  • "Liking" pictures of dogs someone views as not a good dog
  • The judging, basically, disagreeing with the judging sometimes to the point of publicly insulting a judge because their dog wasn't put up
This is by no means a complete list, just some things that I have seen people complain about, usually on Facebook and rarely in person.  The thing is, these are situations in which each individual has a choice and a right to choose.  Of course most of us would probably say that it isn't nice to speak negatively about someone else's dog at ringside and that it isn't the right thing to do.  But, many of the other things are very individual and subjective.  I feel strongly that it is my right to move my finished dog up as a special if I choose to or to leave him in the classes, if I choose to.  However, I have seen people get pummeled for both of those options.  People can make a choice that they genuinely feel is the right, ethical and correct choice but it will still make some people mad.  You know that saying that "You can't please all the people all the time?" Well, that is the understatement of the century in the dog show world.  Not only can you not please everyone all the time, but some of those that are not pleased by your decisions will see your choice as a personal attack on them.  The bottom line is that you are not going to make everyone happy, so your best option is to follow your own gut and your own conscience and do what you want and what you feel is right for you and your dog.

What I find particularly frustrating is that some people will go on a social media rampage about this person or that person doing this thing or that when they do similar things themselves.  Of course, they are able to rationalize their choices and behavior, which is fine as long as they are willing to offer that same courtesy to others, unfortunately not everyone does.  They go on and on about other people and all their crimes and shortcomings and see themselves as completely justified in all their choices.  This is not a good look and not something I recommend.  Double standards are never a good thing.

I couldn't decide whether to talk about integrity or honesty here.  Integrity is really about being ethical which could include honesty, but honesty is really about truth.  Like rules, the truth is what it is, either it is true or not.  In the dog show world people can be so unbelievably untruthful that it is mind boggling.  To me dishonesty is a serious character flaw.  It isn't something I can accept or cope with in a friend and for the most part, I would choose not to be closely affiliated with people that I don't feel are honest.  And so, I don't.  I think it goes without saying that being honest is part of being ethical.  Does that mean that I have to sit at ringside and rip some dog to shreds because I'm "just being honest"?  No, it doesn't.  I think that a good option for ringside judging is that if you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all until you get someplace private with someone you trust where it is appropriate and safe to vent .  In the case of saying it to the owner, if you aren't asked, don't tell.  On the flip side, if you DO ask, make sure that you are prepared to hear the answer.  Asking someone what they think and then being upset with their opinion isn't fair either.  

Several years ago I showed a friend's dog to a big win.  The dog was nice, the judge was good and the win was honest.  Later that day, my friend was walking past a group of people who said, "Congratulations.  Isn't (insert the judge's name) getting a puppy from you?"  Uh, no, the judge didn't even have the same kind of dog and there was never any discussion of a puppy or of the judge and the dog's owner being in business together.  It was so ridiculous that it was laughable and that's how we handled it, we laughed.  What else can you do?  It was just another case of people making up their own stories and fabrications to create suspicion about the win.  No truth to it at all.  Saying "Congratulations" just before saying something snarky doesn't make the comment sting less.  My skin has gotten thicker and I try not let this stuff get to me, but I do find it sad and disheartening when I see lies, sometimes quite vicious ones spread about dogs and owners who never did anything to deserve it.  Sometimes success can make you a target and there is just no way around it.

Sadly, this behavior is not uncommon.  There are just people out there who say things that aren't true. In the case above and the times that I have been subjected to this type of behavior, I simply try to ignore.  There is no law against being dishonest, lying about people or spreading rumors.  So the best I can do is to not give it much thought, laugh it off and walk away.  Oh, and file that experience into my memory and my mind so that I can be thoughtful and careful about the people that I choose to trust, interact with and invest in.   

The just plain stupid category is one you have to just walk away from.  Of course, not everyone can do that. We are human and sometimes people need to defend themselves, fire back or say something and sometimes, it's reasonable and warranted, but, I propose that a lot of the time t's not worth it.  Sometimes it's better (and healthier) to walk away and be the better person and not feed the negativity.

In the end, we each need to decide for ourselves where we stand and who we are in terms of our ethics and honesty in the show ring and out.