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Conformation shows and other dog sport events are exciting occasions for both dogs and handlers. But they can also be stressful. Emotions do run high, but it’s important that everyone involved in dog sports demonstrates good sportsmanship. Unsportsmanlike behavior is not only unpleasant, but it also compromises the integrity of the sport as a whole.

It’s important for unsportsmanlike conduct to be monitored and reported immediately. For anyone new to the world of dogs, that process might feel unclear or overwhelming. Thankfully, there are procedures and supports in place in case anything ever happens.

Addressing Misconduct

Incidents of misconduct at AKC events might not be common, but it’s important to take them seriously when they do occur. Not only does misconduct make AKC events unpleasant places for competitors to be, but they also can negatively impact the perception of the sport. Addressing misconduct can leave a bad taste in one’s mouth, and this is especially true for first-time participants and spectators.

Most people and dogs are on their best behavior at AKC events. Those involved are all there to showcase the best of the dog world, but on occasion, things happen. When they do, thankfully there are processes and procedures that enable these situations to be dealt with professionally via appropriate channels.

What To Do About It

If you’re at an event and experience something you feel is prejudicial conduct, you should immediately talk with the event officials. You may be requested to make a formal written complaint at that time. The incident will then immediately be investigated by the event committee while witnesses are still at the show.

At events, an incident taking place in the parking lot, at a show hotel, and/or at a dinner associated with the event could be considered within the jurisdiction of the show. Any incidents that might occur traveling to or from events are not considered part of the event and are outside the jurisdiction of the event committee. The event committee is made up of at least five people who are members of the sponsoring club.

The event committee at an AKC event has the full authority to act on any issue of misconduct on behalf of the AKC. They will investigate any incidents of misconduct, interview witnesses, and conduct a hearing. There, they listen to witness testimony, plus testimony from the accused, then vote on if the accused should be suspended. Regardless of the outcome of the hearing, all information will be sent directly to the AKC. The complete Dealing With Misconduct at American Kennel Club Events booklet can clarify any questions or concerns.

Avoiding Gossip

If you are a witness to an incident of misconduct, follow AKC protocols and speak directly with an official to file a formal complaint. Part of upholding good sportsmanship is to take action through these appropriate channels, not through participating in gossip in person or on social media about an incident. It can feel good in the moment to vent about something to your friends, but it doesn’t actually resolve the issue.

Those involved in dog sports care about dogs, bettering breeds, and demonstrating the amazing things that our dogs are capable of learning and doing. That means representing the sport positively and holding others to those same standards by reporting alleged misconduct.

AKC Outstanding Sportsmanship Award

While misconduct can be dispiriting to experience, there are so many dog owners, exhibitors, and handlers who maintain the highest levels of sportsmanship and integrity year in and year out. Each year, the American Kennel Club recognizes these individuals through the AKC Outstanding Sportsmanship Award.

The AKC Outstanding Sportsmanship Award program was established in 2006 to provide each member club with an AKC Medallion to award to one of its own on a yearly basis. This award honors those individuals who deserve special recognition that have made a difference in the sport of purebred dogs.

So, while unsportsmanlike conduct is an issue that’s unlikely to be fully eradicated in any sport, dog owners should always appreciate and uphold those in respective sports that approach sportsmanship the proper way.
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