By and For People Who Shape The Sport Of Dogs






Editor's note: long-time Sammy breeder-exhibitor posed these questions in her 2006 column for 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


Addamo Asks "Are (judges) part of the problem or willing to be part of the solution?"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 Breed.


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 examples are:

  1. having a preference for a specific color and rarely putting up other equally allowed colors.

  2. 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 problem.


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 Pomeranian, etc.


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 accident”


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 repaid.


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. 


Gini AddamoThe 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. EST 2005 Jul 2006

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