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Is it okay for dog show judges to let personal opinion affect their judging? What if their awards reflect personal preference instead of the Breed Standard?




by E. Katie Gammill, Exhibition Editor, Multi-Group AKC Judge


Dog show exhibitors and dog breeders all have opinions but this AKC judge says she’s expected to express hers according to the AKC breed standards.


Assessments and expectations of a judge, exhibitor or breeder have different degrees. Sportsmanship includes behavior, responses and repercussions. Asked how one could be successful, Dale Carnegie replied “I cannot tell you how to succeed. I can tell you how to fail. Try to please everyone!” Considering both sides of an issue can avoid grey areas.


Did you start with a “stellar” dog? Some exhibits “catch fire”, some don’t. A judge should give each exhibitor their allocated time in the ring and treat all with courtesy. How should exhibitors treat judges? Judges “put themselves out there” to judge at an exorbitant cost in both time and money that equals or exceeds the breeder’s investment. Most judges were breeders as well.


Does it improve a situation when losers stomp off and make remarks? The results of such behavior could trigger a ii bench show committee. Ringside judging by those not having examined the dog goes along with those watching who have not read their standard.


Should criticism be directed toward a judge who followed ring procedure, time restraints, prioritized the breed standard, disqualifications, marked the book correctly and relished the experience? It's only a dog show. When you don’t win, it isn’t life and death. Win and lose gracefully. It builds coping skills for the future.


Should judges continue to exhibit their own dog? Once one decides to be a judge, standing ringside with exhibitors may lead to personal criticism. By applying to judge, the applicant puts him/herself in this position and must make a personal choice. On the other hand, consider the officiating judge in the ring. If this judge, your friend, rewards your dog, although it may be the best one, some people may consider the win “political”. If the judge doesn’t reward your dog, the he/she may be considered inept. Therefore, despite the “right to show your dog”, is it the “right thing to do?”


Do standards change? No, type does. What is type change? It is when breeding a fault or virtue becomes so commonplace, it is eventually is considered a virtue. During the interim, breeders breeding to the standard produce dogs that appear “different” and their dogs may actually be penalized for their “correctness”.


Taking a standard piece by piece and asking does not allow evaluation of the dog as a whole. We must judge or breed for the dog in its “entirety” and judge to standard.


Some dogs are not correct to standard but may be “fixers”. Breeders need such dogs as they can improve breed type, pass on virtues and eliminate faults. However, it is NOT a judge’s responsibility to award wins for this reason. The judge’s job is to follow the standard. It is up to the breeders to comprehend that their breed needs this individual.


When one applies to judge, should they have some understanding of structure and corresponding movement? Shouldn’t they be able to identify body shape, top lines, breed specific movement? Often breeders at ringside know as much, if not more, than the officiating judge. It is important that a judge differentiates between breeds and judges each breed according to its own breed standard and not to place emphasis on virtues and faults with which they are more familiar.


Alternating all-around judges and specialty judges at Nationals could keep our breeds from falling off the cliff of good intentions. Breeds need to have balance between type and soundness, NOT front and rear! Adjusting one end to compliment another does not make a good dog. It results in a dog that does nothing wrong, but neither does it do anything right.


It’s sad we can’t discuss faults and virtues without offending someone. Having learned more from bad horses and dogs than good ones, I have a template of the standard burned in my mind and it greatly approaches the “greats” of any breed.


There are three types. #1. True breed type (the standard), #2. Preferred breed type (flavor of the month) #3. Hot damn! It wins! Who cares, breed more of them. What stage is your breed in?


Opinions, like arm pits are many and diversified but it is the glue that holds our sport together. Breeders are the people in the ditches attempting to produce the best of the best. Judging is as tough as breeding an outstanding dog but it is done in the public eye of opinion. Put yourself in that ring selecting the best of the best while others take measure of your expertise. Both the judge and exhibitor is entitled to courtesy and consideration.


The sport of dogs is supposed to be fun and losing or winning isn’t the end of the earth. It is the beginning of a journey.

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