GOOD JUDGES SPEAK DOG
E. Katie Gammill, Showring Editor / September 2010
Breed Standards are the dog in writing... Dog show judges know balance, symmetry, fronts and rears, are described but not always EXPLAINED!" This AKC Group Judge speaks dog for other judges and for breeders.
In MY day, we breeder/exhibitors were captive audiences at bench shows. To fill the long hours, we discussed and examined many breeds. Few stay for Best in Show today with our “show and go” attitude.
Whether breeding, showing or judging, everyone wants to do it right and we can still learn a lot from those ringside discussions.
TheDogPlace is a venue for real dog people. The editor and her staff are doing a “kick-ass” job. For many, it takes the place of congregating after a show. We are in such a rush today, sometimes it
works to just sit down at the computer and STUDY. I wish I had drawings for some of the things we talk about here, maybe someone out there can volunteer!
My column “Preferred
Breed Type” grew legs. Published in October 2008, it is “still
walking”. Published in year books, magazines, and newsletters
world wide, it seems to have reflected what many people are
thinking. That article traveled far beyond our expectations.
Editor’s note: It
was one of our most requested reprints.
It’s getting harder to study winners and know what to take to a judge today.
Still, the great sport of dogs is dwindling. WHY? The economy, inept judges, advertising budgets, and increasing expenses contribute to lower entries. It’s getting harder to study winners and know what to take to a judge today. This “crap shoot” causes long time exhibitors to leave the sport in droves and newcomers don’t stay as long. We have “instant experts” in both fields and our breeds reflect the consequences.
The Breed Standard is for Breeding Stock! A breed standard is the ideal dog in writing. In the early days, Judges awarded “breeding stock” and honored them. Today’s exhibitors often are confused by the winners. Some change their breeding program to reflect that which is popular at the moment. Other die hard breeders enjoy an occasional win under a knowledgeable judge but everyone agrees that our sport is losing “seasoned judges” who contributed greatly to our sport.
It’s as though some of the new judges have forgotten they are supposed to put forward the next generation’s BEST BREEDING STOCK. It isn’t about ratings or one’s popularity. The reason we have judges is to judge dogs. As the wisdom of the older judge fades into the past, today’s mind set seems to be “if it wins, it must be good.” That is wrong headed. If it isn’t about judging breeding stock anymore, what is it about? The AKC encourages newcomers to our sport, but they need to take time to learn from the older wise ones.
Most standards describe body shape, top-lines, and breed specific movement. Using these tools, one can sort puppies at eight weeks. If puppy has it, it will remain. If it doesn’t, chances are it won’t grow it. Keeping dogs for a single virtue is like eating a pickle. You never know which way it will squirt.
Breeders dedicate their lives to breed excellence only to find their dogs look “different” and are ignored. A newcomer purchases a dog fitting the standard, only to find it looks different in the ring. If judging is really according to the breed standards, then that couldn’t happen. If we aren’t on the same page (of the standard), why breed at all? Should judging reflect breeder preferences? NO!
Hands On or “Property Classes” are a bone of contention. Several dogs are brought in. Mentors analyze as follows. “This is the eye you want, this is the ear set you want, this is the coat texture, this is the foot, this is the size, this is the expression, and guess what? Each virtue is on a DIFFERENT exhibit! Is it any wonder judges put too much emphasis on “pieces” and are unable to see the dog as a whole?
Type and Soundness? There’s something I call TYPE CHANGE. It occurs when the concentration of an obvious fault becomes so dominant that it appears as a virtue! If you don’t believe this, look at over angulated rears, size, coats, and bone. And have you noticed the heads in some breeds? Changing skull length may change peripheral vision and in turn, affect temperament. Slight nuances differentiate many breeds. Those virtues deserve respect.
The word “balance” is questionable. A bad front and bad rear working in unison is not correct. . It can just be an excuse for lack of knowledge. True, our common goal should be a symmetrical dog (no one thing out of place) so if anything “sticks out” on the dog, it usually is incorrect because it is an exaggeration and that is not balance or symmetry. Good dogs “fill the eye”. The balance should be between “type and soundness”. They depend upon each other. When in doubt, go with TYPE.
If the length from the nose to the occipital bone is the same length as from the occipital bone to the withers, the legs are where they should be.
Symmetry? Visualize the legs beneath the dog. On many breeds, if the length from the nose to the occipital bone is the same length as from the occipital bone to the withers, the legs are where they should be. YEP! Even on the bulldog. Check it out.
Front and Rear Assembly. Many dogs that feel good under your hands but don’t have proper reach when moving need ½ inch more leg so they can open their shoulder. When the leg is short, they open from the elbow. Some with good fronts don’t follow through behind because the legs must grab the ground quickly to keep up with the front. Dogs are stretched to fix top lines and faulty angles. Try this. Lift the hock toward the ischium (butt bone) and if the bones touch, this indicates the stifle and lower thigh are the same length. The result is the ideal perpendicular and parallel hocks. Any deviation will affect the croup drop, and in turn, affects tail set.
That song “The thigh bone connects to the knee bone, the knee bone connects to the ankle bone etc., says it all. Any adjustment in a dog's shoulder triggers a compensating rear adjustment and visa versa.
So are breeders addressing faults today or adjusting to them? Do judges choose winners on “pieces” rather than the entire animal? Should judges just judge dogs and let breeders worry about type nuances? Ah, questions demanding answers.
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