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by Beverly Vics


Judging Best Of Breed at National Specialties and classes of 100 dogs, Beverly Vics’s method of individually showcasing every dog judged brings rave reviews.


It is a very prestigious honor to be invited to judge any National Specialty, especially to judge Best of Breed. I have judged Best of Breed at several National Specialties as well as Pre-National Specialties, many of which have had class entries of well over 50 dogs, some were more than 100 dogs.


Mrs. Vics Judging Best Of Breed at Westminster Kennel ClubNational Specialties are the place to show off your dog. Whether it’s a new puppy for the sweepstakes, your treasured Veteran or a currently campaigned Grand Champion. It’s the place to see dogs and have your dog be seen.   Exhibiting in the Best of Breed class at a National Specialty is about having your dog on the “be seen” side.


When judging Best of Breed at a National Specialty I judge all the entrants in catalog order, and initially, with only one dog in the ring at a time. I want to give each exhibitor a chance to showcase their Champion and give myself as well as the ringside spectators, the best opportunity to see each dog presented individually. This allows the exhibitor an opportunity to present his dog to me and to the spectators without the distraction of other dogs in the ring.


I have observed Best of Breed at National Specialties many times, as well as having exhibited in the class more times than I can remember. When watching from ringside, if there are many dogs in the ring, I am not always focusing on the dog that is being presented at the moment. I can be easily distracted to focus on a dog waiting for his “turn” rather than on the one that is “up”. Perhaps it’s a friend’s dog, or one I am interested in using for stud or from whom I would like to purchase a puppy. In any case, I am watching some dog other than the one being presented. I have had friends ask me after the judging, “Did you see ‘Ch So & So?’”  My answer has at times been “no, I missed him, I was watching my friend’s dog when that one did his individual."


Why Judge One Dog At A Time?

So one reason I judge one dog in the ring at a time is to offer the spectators an opportunity to see each dog equally, without the distraction of other dogs in the ring.  This also allows each exhibitor the opportunity showcase his dog to the spectators. The “spotlight” is ALL his.


Most of the judges I have seen judge large classes of Best of Breed dogs split the large class into several smaller classes of eight to ten dogs in each class. This seems to be the popular way of doing it; getting through several smaller classes, making a cut in each, then bringing back all the dogs who were the keepers in each individual cut.


This can create an unanticipated problem.  At one show I observed, the judge split the large Best of Breed class into six classes of ten each. The first class of ten that walked in was a beautiful class of Specials. Seven of those dogs made the cut. The judge then recorded those seven numbers for recall and brought in his second class of ten dogs. This second class of ten dogs was not nearly as strong as the first group of ten. Only three of these made the cut. The judge went through the rest of his groups keeping for recall, three to five from each class of ten. Now here’s my problem...of course this is only my opinion, but I thought the three dogs that did not make the cut in that first group of ten were considerably superior to several of the dogs who DID make the cut in the subsequent groups.


Judging Best Of Breed at National SpecialtiesI said to myself at that time “If I ever get an invitation to judge at a National Specialty, I don’t want to do that.” Other judges have told me that who makes the cut doesn’t really matter, as long as you wind up with the best dogs in the end. I don’t agree. As an exhibitor, if I wasn’t to win the breed under that judge at a National Specialty, did it matter to me that I made the cut? You bet it did. And to NOT make the first cut and have dogs of considerably lesser quality than mine make it because they were in a weaker group of ten would NOT make me happy!


When I was first invited to judge Best of Breed at a National Specialty, it was for my own breed. I did not want to have the possibility that my BEST dogs were all in the first group...and then have inferior dogs walk in with later groups. Of course if you keep seven dogs from your first group of ten, and the three you dismiss are still better than anything that comes in later, you COULD not keep any of those inferior dogs in subsequent cuts but, IMHO, if you wind up with only seven dogs out of the whole entry, that would be a slap in the face to the breed you have been so honored to judge. But if you were to keep all ten dogs in the first group because they are very good and that turns out to be your weakest cut because subsequent groups contain dogs that are ALL better than the first ten, better dogs get cut and lesser dogs made the keepers.


Scoring One Dog At A Time

So again I said “Self, I will do it my way!” I decided I would bring each entrant into the ring individually. Judge him against the standard as I understand it and give each dog a score of one to ten. One being not bad enough to withhold on and ten being as perfect to the standard as a living animal can be. I keep a scoresheet on a clipboard face down on my judge’s table. My husband (or a trusted steward) sits right next to it so no one can see what numerical scores I give to which dogs. If my first ten dogs turn out to be the best of the entry, they all received deserved high scores. In other words, if all were in one group of ten, they would all be keepers. Judging the dog against the standard (not each other) and keeping the best in the group, the dog gets scored on his qualities, no matter where his armband number brings him into my ring.


This procedure also gives handlers who have been hired to handle more than one special an opportunity to personally show each of their dogs for the initial examination. They don’t have to ask to have the numbers separated into different “groups,” nor have to get any of their dogs “covered” by another handler unless two or more of their dogs should make the final cut. My method gives the handler a chance to show each of his dogs to the judge for the first time, thereby giving each dog the best opportunity to make the most of a first impression and actually make that first cut.


Each dog becomes the first dog in the “group,” fresh, not bored with the procedure, overheated from possible weather, or simply tired from waiting through the other nine in his group until it’s his turn. Each dog gets the exact same opportunity to be at his best.


My steward is instructed to bring each dog in and have the handler set him up in a particular place (sometimes that’s where the videographer has requested). I take my first overall look at the dog standing, examine him, move him up and back, and then all the way around to stand before me.  I mentally note an overall score for this dog, based on evaluating his strengths and weaknesses against the standard and then I send him around the ring and out the exit.  I go back to my table and write in my mentally noted score number next to his armband number on the sheet affixed to my clipboard.


Group Judge Beverly Vics Judges at National SpecialtiesMy steward brings the next dog in as I am writing the score for my previous dog so the procedure goes very smoothly. No time is lost as when I turn around from marking my scoresheet, my next dog is set up and ready for examination.  I am not concerned about the five or six seconds more it may take me. Ten seconds per dog at 100 dogs is only about 13 minutes extra. At a National Specialty, I should be taking more time so each dog can be carefully evaluated more thoroughly. And each handler has that showcase time to truly present the dog at its very best.


When I have completed individually examining all the entrants, we all take a lunch break. I sit with my husband (or trusted steward) and go over all the numbers. I consider the quality of the overall entry and what percentage justifies bringing back in, usually 30 to 40 percent of the entry. Depending on the overall quality and size of the entry, that could mean all dogs that scored an eight or higher would “make the cut.” I write the numbers of those dogs down for the ring stewards to post so the handlers will know which of their dogs made it through to the next round. I then go to lunch giving everyone plenty of time to have the dogs that make the cut ready to bring back into the ring.


You always run the risk that your whole entry will be scored a six or less.... or your whole entry is an eight or better... wow wouldn’t that be great!!  In either case, you decide what percentage of the whole entry warrants “making the cut” and then you keep the top scorers, lowering your “who comes back” score if you need to in order to make up that percentage. In one case, I brought back only tens, nines and eights. Another time, I only had two tens so had to bring back as low as sevens in order to make up a fair percentage of the whole entry. And, “no” the two tens did not wind up BOB & BOS. The initial scoring is only a first impression, examination, and observation.


Judging Them All - The Finer Points

After the break, I get deeper into the finer points of the standard, evaluating each of my keepers with a “fine tooth comb.” It’s as if on my first round I am Monet, the impressionist, but when each cut comes back in, I become Guiseppe Armani and get down to details. Now I am only looking at the dogs I consider to be the absolute best of the entry. I make a second cut if the number of entrants warrants it.  I then select my Awards of Merit, Select Dog and Select Bitch, Best of Winners, move BOB to the front of the line and BOS right behind him/her. Sometimes it’s BOS and then BOB to the front of the line. Always keep ‘em guessing!


I have always gotten positive feedback on my ring procedure from the exhibitors, spectators and stewards. If an exhibitor later wants to know what I thought of his dog, I can go back to my scores and tell him where I scored the dog. Then if he wants specifics, he should bring the dog back to me and I will look at it again and tell him why he received the particular score.


The only negative feedback I have received is that the exhibitor does not know which dogs made the cut until all dogs are individually examined. But, IMHO, we shouldn’t know who made the cut until all the dogs HAVE been examined.


How can you possibly know which are the BEST until you have examined them ALL, One Dog at a Time!


Related Article: Judging The Havanese EST 2005 2011

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