Editor's note: long-time Sammy breeder-exhibitor posed these questions in her 2006 column for TheDogPress.com and they are more pertinent today than ever before. Judges, let us hear from you!
Are Dog Show Judges The Problem?
Are You Part of the Problem With Dog Shows?
Are You willing to be Part of the Solution?
by Gini Addamo
It used to be that the purpose of dog shows was to showcase your best breeding stock but it seems that shows today have become so political and so money oriented that the dogs have gotten lost in the shuffle.
I believe it is reasonable for all
dog show exhibitors to have the expectation that their entry will get an unbiased assessment by the
judge based on their breed standard. Any exhibitor has the right to expect that
their entry has an equal chance of going Best of Breed whether it is a
class dog or a Special. The AKC Judges Guide tells
judges they should, “Always judge dogs solely on the basis of their condition
as they are presented in the ring on show day.” (emphasis AKC). The
judge is responsible for judging dogs by the AKC breed standard. (emphasis mine)
In most cases, entry fees are the
same for all dogs entered. The judging guide does not state that puppy class or
novice class are to receive less consideration than other classes or that those
winners are not
eligible for Best of Breed. In fact, no where does the judging guide state that the
Winner’s Dog/Bitch shall receive less consideration for the award of Best of
In theory, since a dog show judge’s
duty is to select the best representative of the breeds exhibited to them, you
would expect a dog show to be an equal opportunity sport. Every exhibitor should feel confident that they are getting a fair shake, but
are they? With the above facts in mind:
Are you a judge who, if you
disagree with a breed standard, will not hesitate to award your personal
preference? Just two
having a preference for a
specific color and rarely putting up other equally allowed colors.
ignoring the breed standard
for minimum/maximum heights, "all other things being equal."
If you answered “yes” or
hesitated, wrestling with your conscience, you are part
of the problem.
Judges should set their personal preferences aside
if they don't accurately reflect that breed standard. The breed standard is a rule
not a guideline. If the standard states that there is no color preference,
no dog show judge has a right to assert his/her preference for color. The exhibitors paid
for equal assessment according to the AKC Breed Standard.
Judges should not penalize dogs for
size if the dog is in standard. Statements like, “I prefer them
bigger” (who cares?) is fine as long as the “bigger” is equal or better
according to the breed standard. Too often, that is not the case. For
example, if a Samoyed looks to be the same size as an American Eskimo, that
probably means that you have a Samoyed bitch at the bottom size for Samoyed bitches
which is 19” and the top for the American Eskimo male is
19”. Both are correct, neither should be penalized just because you dislike one
end of the standard more than the other. Know your breed and judge that breed to
that standard. It can change the genetic direction of a breed when judges insert their personal preferences.
Are you a judge who believes you
have the right to override the exhibitor's right to decide what is best for
their dog or breed by withholding the award the dog deserves? In other words you
have a dog/bitch that should win BOB, but you have decided that the dog is too
young, too old, the owner too novice, etc., etc. to go to the group?
If you have ever done that, you are part of the
Whatever might happen in the Group should not be
of any concern to the breed judge. The breed judge is supposed to award BOB to
the best dog. No dog show judge should deny a deserved Best Of Breed award due to the judge’s personal speculations on
whether the best dog is ready for the Group
ring. Judges who insert their personal feelings as to who might look better in the
Group actually change the outcome because the Group judge is deprived of
actually judging the best dogs.
Are you a judge who knows or has
strong suspicions that a dog has been groomed illegally and you ignore it?
Examples might be wigs in poodles or over trimming in the Golden Retriever and
Judges have the obligation to
investigate any suspicions they may have. The AKC judges' guidelines state, “In
reviewing a class, avoid excessive rearranging of a dog's coat, whistling,
gesturing or baiting. However, do not hesitate to feel out a suspected fault
beneath a highly groomed coat.” Over grooming has become epidemic. Almost
everything in a breed ring today is “sculpted”. A friend of mine recently
relayed a phone called she received from a friend who is a Field Rep.
The Field Rep. asked, “what the %&*#@ is going on with Newfoundlands? She was
very angry and said, “They all look like cookie cutters in the ring!!” Frankly,
I don’t know why breeders and handlers make more work for themselves;
clipping, spraying, teasing, dying, etc. If judges would not
reward this kind of grooming, it would cease. In this case, judges are
clearly the problem.
Are you a judge that faults a dog
based on your speculation of what the dogs height, bite, or color might be
later? The Guideline states, “Give
absolutely no consideration to what a dog's quality may be at some future time,
or what a dog's condition might have been were it not for some disease or
Are you a judge who, regardless of
the quality of competition, always puts up the ranked dog even though it may not
be the best on that day? If yes, you are part of the
problem. Please stop it! This common
practice is a total disservice to exhibitors and to the sport of purebred dogs!
You are fooling no one, ringside knows what is happening and just as important
to the future of the sport, Show Committee members know. But then
they too are part of the problem, allowing assignment swapping and favors
I have heard some lame excuses for
this. One is they do it out of respect for the dog’s show record. They do it
because of all the money spent on advertising. IF there is a better dog,
please do the ethical thing and award that dog what it deserves on that day.
That is a dog show judge’s only duty - to the breed, to the owner, to a
vigilant ringside, and to the sport.
Are you a judge that will not put
up a dog unless it “asks” for it? Not all breeds are the bubbly, crowd
pleasing, free stacking stars that “ask” for it. Several standards state that
the breed is reserved/conservative with strangers or when out of their
territory. (Judges are strangers!) Some of those breeds are Rottweilers,
Kuvaszok, Samoyeds, Clumber Spaniels, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Caanan Dogs and
Anatolian Shepherds. The Rottweiler standard specifically warns judges not to
penalize dogs that are aloof or reserved, “as this reflects the accepted
character of the breed.” The Mastiff standard states, “Judges should also beware
of putting a premium on showiness.” If there have been a few dogs in one of
these breeds that were exceptions to the standard’s description, that is all it
is, an exception.
The rest of the breed should not be judged
or compared to
the “exceptions”. Since the “exceptions” are not displaying the typical
character/demeanor as described in the “breed standard” some might consider that
in itself a fault. Judges should be mindful of the breed standards and the
descriptions of character and temperament. Frankly, I’m tired of hearing, “well,
it is a ‘show”. Unfortunately, it is that kind of thinking that has
turned the purpose and priorities of dog shows (including the character and
temperament of some breeds) upside down. As an experienced breeder, would
you select the dog that “asks for it” over the dog that has the best
overall qualities of the breed you hope to improve upon or at least, not damage?
If you answered “NO” to the above
questions, most of us probably already know who you are and appreciate your
dedication to our breeds and more importantly to our breed standards. It takes
an honorable and ethical person to set aside personal feelings and reward the
exhibitor what they deserve on that day.
TheJudgesPlace.com EST 2005 © Jul 2006
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