E. Katie Gammill, AKC Group Judge
The dog show ring is supposed to be about uniformity of type so why do dog breeders run amuck by increasing bone, coat, wrinkles, and muzzles?
Courtesy Pam Guevera, photo archivist
This creates a new “breed type” or “style” even though Nigel Aubrey Jones noted “even though ‘exaggeration has always been responsible for destroying type in almost every breed.” Long time breeders and professional handlers are responsible; however, judges who allow these exaggerated, larger, smaller, or overdone animals to win are shirking their responsibility regarding protection of the breed standards.
Many breed standards call out a “desired size” because a dog too large, small, heavy, fat, or overdone may lose its ability to perform as intended. We may not use dogs for their initial purpose today; however performance people don’t select overdone dogs for competitive events.
I judged a large entry of a breed with a 27” desired size but giants swelled the ranks. Although impressive, their bulk results in sloppy movement. Aware of
correct size, judges should attempt to award the animal best representing the overall picture of breed type. Where does one draw the line between quality and size regarding the retention of movement, grace, and type? Judges of measurable breeds know the appropriate size ranged and can easily spot an overly large or small dog. If a DQ regarding size presents itself, the wicket awaits.
Why should a lovely correct specimen of any breed be overlooked because it “appears” different than the rest? Smaller, bigger, less coat, or color for example.
Perhaps the different dog is the only correct dog with correct breed type. Some judges have a template of each breed in their head. If any “one thing” such as coat, wrinkles, bone, obesity, leanness, or angulations draws their attention, it may indicate incorrectness or exaggeration. Having standards handy on the table is great if one fluctuates between Chihuahuas to Great Danes to Belgians to Cockers in ensuing classes. This “quick check” regarding size can re-adjust your “eye”.
In many breeds, enhancements of “what was” and “what is” leaves too many dogs waddling and rolling and unable to carry themselves efficiently. Heavy bodies and short legs redistribute extra weight which is seen in feet turning in, turning out, set back, moving closely, and open hocks. Movement is simply falling forward meaning the dog placing the feet beneath the body at a center point of gravity. Stacking a dog to improve top line may cause a dog to re-set itself over and over. A common mistake.
Examples of exaggeration: Bull Mastiff: should be 60% Mastiff and 40% Bulldog. The standard addresses overdone bulldog characteristics, yet in some overdone heads, the eyes are hidden in wrinkles and strongly suggest Shar Pei characteristics. Some “lippy” Saint Bernard’s developed a “fat fleshy” mouth incorrect for the breed. Unnoticed, this is the beginning of loss of breed type. Australian Shepherds become coarse and appear as Bernese with cut off tails. Again, a breed type change. Add that to their narrowing back skull and longer muzzles, the eye and ear placement changes and the sweet expression is lost. Some Great Danes have excessive fluttering flews.
These slight changes sneak up on breeders. It’s called “kennel blindness”. In a search to add virtues, we lose type. More isn’t always better and there is a stopping point. It’s a short distance between true type and excessiveness.
Do you stay for Groups and Best in Show? Observing the BIS ring, if the Great Dane and the Australian Shepherd are the same size, one of them is wrong. If the Malamute and Samoyed are the same size, perhaps one should be a BITCH Malamute and the other a DOG Samoyed. If the Maltese and the Pug in Group are the same size, one is wrong. Granted, many top winning dogs push the envelope and bitches can have a tough time in competition at that level, but good judges will find a stand-out bitch that holds true to her breed type.
Judges may forgive a fault to award an outstanding dog over a mediocre one. If there is no DQ, judges may use a dog larger than desirable in preference to a lesser one of desired size. That is a judge’s call and is called “prioritizing” but exaggeration ignored destroys breed type quickly.
Education is imperative, yet how many of the dogs in the ring reflect “perfection?” Therefore, judges must consider the severity of a fault according to the breed standard and make an unbiased decision weighing both virtues and faults against each other. No judge should get lost in small “pieces” and lose the entire dog in the process. Neither should a judge take a breed they are familiar with and judge another breed using the same criteria he/she applies to their own breed.
It’s important to realize many ringside observers know the breed as well as, if not better, than the presiding judge. Judges make mistakes. Unintentional mistakes during a learning curve is understood and forgiven.
Deliberate choices based on a dog’s ranking in a point system do NOT go unnoticed. Most people just want a fair shot! They want consideration given to their entry. Unfortunately, some losers, rather than accept responsibility for bad handling, conditioning, or presentation, rationalize their loss by saying the judge favors handlers.
In closing, a piece of advice, to win, your dog must be READY, mentally and physically and if it starts winning, keep going! If another exhibitor has a “hot prospect”, continue to show your dog so your competitor finishes quickly. Not only is that good sportsmanship but it saves you both a lot of money and miles. Judges cannot make choices if you stand outside the ring. Some dogs win by simply SHOWING UP!
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