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Ick, Ugh, Eeek!
Is it really fun to celebrate ugly dogs?

The World’s Ugliest Dog Contest (Dog Lover’s Festival, Sonoma-Marin Fair, Petaluma, Calif., June 25) brings out the buzz kill in me. Sweet, unsuspecting pups “celebrated” for tufted hair, bucked or missing teeth, disproportionate bodies, wrinkles and bumps, baldness and protruding tongues—many of these exaggerations introduced by breeders in the first place and sometimes creating very real health challenges. It just feels like stories of “pig parties” (where frat members compete to bring the ugliest date to a party) or the flipside of beauty contests, which I don’t much like either.

This is not to say that many of the other events at the Dog Lover’s Festival—such as tips for adopting a dog from the Sonoma Humane Society, Paws for Reading’s kids reading to dogs, and a Nose Work demonstration (see our story on K9 Nose Work)—aren’t worthy offerings.


Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom. lisawogan.com

Photo: MargiL, Flickr. Courtesy of the World's Ugliest Dog Contest, Sonoma-Marin Fair, Petaluma, California.


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Submitted by wombatarama | June 16 2010 |

I totally disagree. You can see it as a celebration of loving our dogs in spite of their flaws - and a slap in the face of those that think they should be held to some ideal of physical appearance. And come on, lighten up - it's just darned funny. As a pug owner, I'm always kind of indignant that those hairless dogs have the competition locked up!

Submitted by Anonymous | June 19 2010 |

As a pug owner I'm a bit offended by the last two poster's remarks. What in the world does a pug and an 'ugly dog contest' have to do with one another? Nothing except they are for the same species! My sweet, joy-full smooshy-faced babes are not 'so ugly they are cute' they are simply adorable - period.

Submitted by Maura | June 16 2010 |

Oh I LOVE this competition! Anything to draw attention to possibly more people finding out about rescue dogs is great!
I used to have a pug too and it really was so ugly that it was cute and I totally see that in all those Chinese Crested dogs that always win.
This draws out so many people in the Bay Area and if that's what it take to get people excited about dogs again, then that's fine! The one pictured above is really cute!

Submitted by Kathrine Konetz... | June 16 2010 |

Oh, I don't know--I mean, dogs don't know that they're ugly, and even if they did, I'm not sure it would bother them all that much. These dogs are living in the moment and loving all the attention and time spent with their cherished owners. And I don't think it's the same as college "pig parties" because these owners truly love their special little dogs. I do agree with the previous poster, though--it does seem that the hairless guys have this competition sewn up. They seem to be prone to warts, bumps, and bad teeth (like many small dogs)and it does give them a distinctive appearance. As they say, beauty (and I suppose, ugly as well) is in the eye of the beholder.

Submitted by Carolyn | June 16 2010 |

Actually, I'm with Lisa on this one. The points made by previous posters are valid ... but somehow it seems like humor at the expense of innocent animals. Through no fault of their own they are deemed "ugly" and may suffer health problems or compromised lives because of it.

Submitted by Jane | June 16 2010 |

I've always felt these types of "contests" aren't good reflections on us and the respect we should show to our companions. The author makes good points. To me, all dogs are lovely as are all animals. I dislike the "humor" shows where animals are shown being themselves but an audience and voice over ridicule them. Jane

Submitted by Lisa | June 22 2010 |

Ugly compared to what?

What exactly is the "standard of beauty" for a dog? Soft fur? Is there a certain colour that is considered to be more "beautiful" than another? Does white fur equate to blonde hair in a human? Are symmetrical features that resemble human faces considered "beautiful", while un-human-like features are "ugly"?

How silly. The whole idea of calling a dog "ugly" is bizarre to me.

I own a beagle mix and a Shar Pei. I suppose the beagle, with her soft white fur, soulful brown eyes and floppy brown ears could be considered the more conventionally "attractive" of the two. However, when I look at Sophie, my Shar Pei, my heart fills with the same amount of love as it does for my beagle. I treasure her wrinkly, perpetually quizzical expression, as well as funny way she has of wagging her curly tail.

That being said, at least it's not a dog "beauty contest", which would be a sad imposition of our human tendency towards superficiality. Ultimately, the "Ugliest Dog Contest", and our need to categorize our canine companions based on their appearance says more about humans than it does about dogs. I'm pretty sure the dogs don't care. Which is another reason why I like them so much.

I had a boyfriend once who liked to remind me that I wasn't attractive. He told me he was the only one who could ever love me, and that if I ever wanted to get married, I would need a million dollar dowry. We both worked in the same hotel restaurant, and when I would sit, counting my tips, he would tell my coworkers that I was "saving up for a gigolo". I dumped him.

Submitted by Katie | July 2 2010 |

I actually love the photo displays from the ugly dog contests (I was looking at a really nice photo montage of the recent one just yesterday). It's different from the 'pig parties' where part of the kick is the cruelty and misogyny. Judging by the pictures most of the people who enter their dogs, many of them older pooches, love them with all their hearts and the dogs seem to love the attention. We're a society that throws away animals that don't meet conventional standards of beauty, older dogs being replaced by puppies or overlooked in shelter because of their age, runts in litters being destroyed by breeders, and dogs having their tails docked and ears clipped unnecessarily. To see these 'ugly' dogs being celebrated by their owners and the dog world is pretty refreshing. My elderly dog is actually extremely handsome but when his lip gets tucked into his snaggle tooth and he looks at me with that funny little underbite, my heart melts. I think the cuteness is worth having a party for.

Submitted by Anonymous | July 2 2010 |

Please, please go read Berke Breathed "Flawed Dogs"! It's a message that bears repeating...and repeating...

Submitted by Cuda | October 24 2010 |

I'm thrilled to part of the next World's Ugliest Dog Contest because I could have easily ended up a bait dog.

Submitted by Anonymous | April 10 2011 |

don't you realize that giving prizes for deformed inbred dogs just encourages breeders to know there is a market for them too ? That money you're raising would be better spent on dogs suffering in your local shelter than seeking fame for you and a dog that may not appreciate the trials of travelling thousands of miles in a cramped cage !

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