Dateline Feb. 2009 by Fran Milteer/Staff
There are more husband and wife judging teams today than in the past, a tribute to our love for dogs and the sport. As the children grow up and start their own exciting lives, many parents find time for judging careers as a shared activity and service to the sport.
Meet Carolyn and David Alexander, both of whom are familiar with the other side of the ring as well as they have been breeding and exhibiting Bull Terriers under the Brigadoon prefix for nearly 30 years. Theirs is a careful, conservative breeding program that promotes beautiful, healthy Bull Terriers known for their wonderful temperaments and sound minds in sound bodies.
The Alexanders are long time members of the Bull Terrier Club of America, Barbary Coast BTC, Golden State BTC, Monterey Bay BTC, American Dog Show Judges, local kennel clubs and ADOA.
David has served as Bull Terrier Club Of America (BTCA) Treasurer and Genetics Chair for the BTCA Welfare Foundation. They are also long time volunteers and advocates for the Monterey County SPCA, and life members of the SPCA Auxiliary.
Carolyn is the Bull Terrier columnist for the AKC Gazette, Newsletter Editor for MBBTC, and Rescue Chair for MBBTC. She has also published BULL TERRIERS - A Complete Pet Owner's Manual, which is part of Barron’s educational series available at Barron’s and most book sellers.
Carolyn judges the Working Group, Bull Terriers, Miniature Bull Terriers, Best In Show, Conformation - Misc Breeds, Junior Showmanship - All Breeds and is in process of applying for some Toy breeds.
David judges the Terrier Group, Manchester Terriers (Toy), Best In Show, Conformation - Misc Breeds and is in process of applying for some Non Sporting breeds.
First we wanted to know how being judges affects them as a married duo and as judges. We then asked them individual questions about judging and it was a fascinating interview!
Since you are both judges we would like to know how this affects your relationship.
(David) "It has a very positive effect on our relationship. We enjoy discussing dogs, and are supportive of each others’ efforts. It’s very useful to be able to have frank discussions about dogs when you can trust the other person implicitly. We don't see everything exactly the same, but discussing things introduces perspectives that you might not otherwise encounter."
(Carolyn) "It’s great! We’re both very involved with dogs and dog shows and love sharing our experiences."
Do you travel together?
(David) "We like traveling together and now that I am retired we do that as much as we can. However, when only one of us is judging, the other very often has to stay home and take care of our dogs. Since we live in the country, we have somewhat limited availability of house sitters, but we usually manage."
(Carolyn) "Traveling together means we can sometimes add an extra day or two at our expense so we can see a little of the area. We’re celebrating our 30th anniversary this year and we really enjoy each others’ company. We are also independent enough to manage separate travel quite comfortably but being together is always better!"
Do you judge in the same places?
(David) "We have not judged a lot at the same shows, but this is often an attractive option for clubs since they save a little on hotel and transportation costs."
(Carolyn) "It varies. If an overseas assignment and we are not both judging, we both go anyway. We love going to new places and meeting new people, and we are excellent travelers. We tend to be very positive and flexible."
Please tell us what countries you have judged in and a little about the assignments?
"We have judged throughout the United States, in Canada, Holland, Scotland, Taiwan, China, Russia, Australia, and New Zealand. We have judged many times in China and several times in France, including judging the French National outside Paris. We have just been invited to judge in South Africa, joining the panel which will decide which dogs represent South Africa at AKC/Eukanuba."
United Kingdom: I have judged the BT specialty in Scotland and Mini Bulls, Lakeland and Manchester Terriers in the UK. Carolyn has judged a BT Championship show in England. Her entry was of extremely high quality, and many high quality dogs win nothing as there is only one CC winner in each sex (champions compete with non champions in UK). I have also judged Mini BT's, Lakelands, and Manchesters in England. My Manchester winner was the best example of the breed I have ever seen.
Russia: I judged an AmStaff Specialty (over a 100 entered) in Moscow in 2007 and the dogs were of high quality and all had wonderful temperaments. I also judged other terriers there including Lakeland, Skyes, and Yorkshire Terriers (they are part of the Terrier Group in FCI countries). You have to critique each dog at FCI shows, so it’s a long day. I judged these other terriers for Interra, which is an international terrier organization that has one show per year that moves from country to country.
China: We have both judged in China where we are asked to judge all breeds. Thus far, there is no national organizing body there, so the shows are put on by regional all breed clubs. Usually there are only three classes for each breed / sex, those being Baby, Junior, and Open. Each class winner goes forward to compete against the other breeds for Group and BIS wins (e.g. Baby Group and Baby BIS). Some breeds are of very high quality (usually dogs imported from the USA or elsewhere), whereas others are of very poor quality. You can judge well over 200 dogs in a day, and entries are taken up to the last minute, so you never know which breeds you are judging, or how many, until they appear in the ring. Everyone wants a photo, so you can stand there for a couple of hours after judging while they take them.
France: We judged a Bull Breeds show where the only breeds were Bull Terriers, Mini BT's, AmStaffs and Staffies. Dogs were entered from various countries e.g. from Spain, Holland and Belgium as well as France. The organization of the show was quite casual, as the timing is very flexible in France (which is also true of the regular shows). We also judged at the French National just outside Paris. Carolyn judged the BT Specialty, and I judged AmStaff bitches (as there were too many entered to judge both sexes). With the other judge who did the males, I then judged the BOB.
Holland: We judged BT's at the 70th Anniversary Show of the Dutch BT Club. Again, because of the size of the entry and the need to do critiques, Carolyn judged the bitches and I judged the males. We then jointly picked the BIS. This show was run in conjunction with a new format of international team competition. Various European countries were asked to enter their best dogs in various classes, and a panel of judges awarded points (e.g. 12 points to the first, 11 to the second, etc) in each class, and the results tallied up across all classes. Competition was quite fierce!
Australia and New Zealand: These were BT Specialties similar to what we have in the USA. The entries were quite large (more than we have here) and the quality was quite high. We judged Mini BT's at these same shows, and each class winner from the BT and Mini BT sections compete against each other for best in show for each class. Quite unique. The standards usually won as they were in general of better quality. The Minis tend to be quite large (most call them Midis) due to the stud book being open and the Minis being bred to Standards (to help alleviate some genetic problems).
Individual Interview with Judge Carolyn Alexander.
IN GENERAL... What was your first breed? "I grew up with a Fox Terrier with the not-very-unique name of "Lady". Most of my young adult life was spent with a Pekinese named Thor, whom I adored beyond belief and several Afghans (mostly rescues)."
And your first show dog? "Before David, I had been to dog shows when I lived in Germany, and bought an Afghan for showing, but my first real show dog was a wonderfully sweet white Bull Terrier, we bought from Banbury. Sophie finished quickly and became our foundation bitch. Essentially, I married into Bull Terriers, but I love many breeds. I have come to recognize the joy that each individual breed and dog brings to those who love them."
Were you a professional handler? "David and I both are experienced in grooming, training and handling. When I was younger, I did a lot of handling of our dogs and helped show friends' Akitas, but not professionally."
Which dog did you enjoy showing and why? "I have several favorites that I loved to show...the first who comes to mind is CH Elizabeth Brown O'Brigadoon ROM was a spitfire, an energetic challenge. She was also the #1 colored BT bitch in 1990. She died in my arms at 13.5 years old. I loved every minute with her. I also loved showing CH PacRim Red Pepper O'Brigadoon ROM, CH Brigadoon Baronesse Essex and CH Brigadoon Evening Belladonna CGC. They are still alive and are 13, 5, and 9 respectively. All red & white bitches. All soft, sweet personalities, so pleased to go out and show for us."
Which dog was your top record holder, winner, or producer? "In addition to having the top colored female BT in 1990 and her daughter (CH Brigadoon Belle Starr ROM) in 1995, our top winner probably was Am & Can CH Brigadoon Black Pepper ROM, who was a 4 time Silverwood finalist. She was 3 times Best of Opposite Variety (i.e. best colored in this hemisphere). Currently our 22 month CH Brigadoon GoGo Boots ROM is working on some serious winning for only being shown 7 weekends."
We/Brigadoon won the first BTCA/AKC Breeders Cup. Over the years, we've had some brood bitch and stud dog wins. In 2007, we won the AKC Silver breeder medal. Considering our small, conservative breeding program, we've done well. Our real achievement is based in the wonderfully healthy and beautifully temperamented dogs we have produced.
When, and why did you decide to become a judge? "Several people including me encouraged David to judge. He has a really good eye, studies breeds carefully and is one of the most honorable people I know. It never occurred to me to judge. When the WA club asked me to judge a match, I turned it down. David encouraged me to try it once, so I thought about it for a day and changed my mind. Once I had judged, I decided if asked I'd try it one more time. After the second time, I realized that judging was a challenge that opened a new world for me."
Name two people who influenced you then, and now as a judge. "We have been fortunate to make a lot of friends in dogs. We are influenced primarily by AKC guidance, then by several excellent judge's organizations to which we belong. I love to watch good judging. Sometimes at shows, I go and watch judging of a breed I know. Other times, I find a breed I feel is interesting and just go see what I can learn. Seems simplistic to say, but I love dogs and cats, and love to see a beautiful pure bred show."
Do you still own or breed dogs? "We do still breed, but we travel a lot and don't breed often. I am retired military, have =written a book at Barron's request (published in 2007), am an AKC Gazette Breed columnist and contribute articles to several dog magazines. We have a nice home on 5 acres on a hillside above the Salinas Valley in the Monterey, CA area, and the house and yard keep us busy."
Are foreign assignments of interest to you? "We love judging overseas! Before judging, I'd lived in and traveled widely in Europe and the Pacific and to a limited extent in N Africa. We've judged in UK, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Canada, etc. We've also judged twice in France, including the French National, which was a wonderful experience. I've judged 5 times in China and accompanied David when he judged in Russia."
Do you think the judge approval system is Okay today? "The system takes some learning and getting used to."
How do you feel about dress codes for handlers? judges? "I don't think there should be dress codes. Common sense should prevail. I'm there to judge dogs not the handlers' fashionable apparel. Most judges know that sensible, comfortable, professional clothing gives them credibility and helps them stand and concentrate for long periods. I just wish my crocks looked better. They are so comfortable!"
IN THE RING ... As a judge, what bugs you most? "I'm pretty easy going, so very little bothers me. However, I don't permit handler's changes unless I am informed. As a young judge, I used to see handlers outside the ring trying to size me up or possibly intimidate me. Life is too short not to try to do a good job and be fair. I want to do what I think is right, more than I care what others want me to do. I do hate to see a beautiful dog so badly handled that their virtue is totally lost on observers. And I think it is important to make showing fun for the dogs. Most exhibitors are great with their dogs and some dogs perhaps need a firm hand, but I love to see a happy, enthusiastic dog who looks at his exhibitor handler with love and respect."
When you look down the line, what draws your eye? Which do you look at first, type or movement? "I tend to first evaluate make and shape and then breed type and overall quality. Then the movement has to match the breed. Details then to be evaluated.
Should Showmanship and presentation be considered? "Showmanship and presentation are important elements, but in my ring, a well shown dog with real flaws is not liable to be placed above the superior quality dog, who is out with an inexperienced handler."
What advice would you give to today's aspiring handler? "Most professional handlers are helpful and caring. Many of them teach conformation classes. I know because I've gone to them and sent many of our co-owners to other handler's classes. Just watching them show can be a useful learning experience. I once traveled with a professional handler. What an experience! They work long hard hours! I have great respect for them and their contributions to our sport."
TheJudgesPlace would like to thank Carolyn and David for taking time out of their very busy lives to do such delightful and in-depth interviews.
Interview by Fran Milteer (VIP Mini-Bulls) & Staff
Individual Interview with Judge David Alexander
In which type of judged dog activity did you first compete? Obedience, Conformation, or Performance such as agility or field work? "Our backgrounds are principally that of owner handlers. We have great respect and admiration for those who do obedience and performance and several of our Bull Terriers with their owners are in obedience and agility, but we are not active ourselves. We are insistent that any pups we breed are enrolled in puppy socialization with their families and we even give a rebate for that participation."
About when was that and with what breed? "In 1982 we started showing Bull Terriers in conformation."
Did you owner handle? When did you begin to use handlers? "We have always handled our own dogs; its part of the pleasure we take from our involvement with purebred dogs. We have sought to improve the breed and are proud of our dogs, so we take pleasure in showing them ourselves."
What is/was your primary breed and how long were you involved? "We have been involved only with Bull Terriers since we started in 1982."
In what single area has that breed most improved? "You’d have to say heads, as most of the dogs shown today have heads that are much better than those of the 1980’s. However, we have also moved away from some health issues such as luxating patella and nephritis due to the testing and breeding practices of responsible breeders. Those conditions were of more concern then than now."
What is the biggest problem you see in the breed today? "Bull Terriers like many breeds, are facing the gestapo-like discrimination of BSL. We are all worried about BSL and Mandatory Spay Neuter laws and are working to defeat those who are subverting our rights to own dogs of our choosing. So the biggest issue is how to preserve our good temperaments and how to present this to the public at large."
Do you have a “personal” dog now and if so, what breed? "We have 3 beautiful girls who are our personal dogs... all Bull Terriers & they run together. Our oldest is thirteen, but she still gets up for the daily tennis ball ‘chase’. "
Do you own other animals? If so, what? "Carolyn would love to have a Siamese cat again someday, but we travel a lot and 3 dogs is about all we can manage comfortably. In the past, we have had as many as 5 BT living together along with our Persian cat, who lived to be 17 and died of cancer. Now we don’t keep any other animals, but there’s lot’s of deer, fox, coyote, and other critters out and about… around our place."
About how long have you been judging? "Since 1992"
How many breeds or groups are you currently approved for? "I judge the Terrier Group, AKC Miscellaneous breeds, and Best in Show."
Do you plan to apply for more breeds/groups? "I am currently working on gaining the qualifications necessary to apply for nine Non-Sporting breeds as the first step in being able to judge the Non-Sporting Group. In China, we judge so many Non Sporting dogs that I have spent the time learning about them and decided I should also seek qualification in the US."
What is the single most important physical characteristic you look for in a dog? "Every breed has to be judged with regard to the standard. Breed priorities are such that the importance of physical characteristics varies breed to breed."
Which breed (or group) do you personally enjoy doing the most? "I am a terrier person at heart, so I have a soft spot for all the breeds in that group. However, the more I am exposed to other breeds I am learning about, the more I enjoy them. I guess I just like dogs in general."
What do you look at first when you turn to assess a class or group? "Every breed can be assessed in terms of head, outline, coat, and temperament. At the outset, I try to assess the exhibits in terms of outline, meaning I want to get a feel for how they match up in the proportions and balance for that breed."
Do you evaluate puppies as puppies or as adults when selecting winners? "People who bring pups have paid their entry as has everyone else. They are evaluated as they are on that day against the standard. There’s an old saying ‘If you’re good enough, you’re old enough’. I have no problems putting young dogs to winners etc. if they are the best thing out there."
In what field are/were you employed outside of dogs? "After getting my degree in physics at the University of Glasgow, I went to work for IBM. While working in Toronto, I met and married Carolyn and moved to California, where I worked in communications and computers for many years. In 2008, I retired and started paying more attention to my golf game and traveling."
What is the most annoying thing exhibitors do? "Not listening and responding to requests made of them for positioning, or moving their dog."
What is the most important thing exhibitors should do? "Pay attention at all times to what the judge is doing and be ready to present your dog in the best possible light at all times, and never give up until the judge’s decision is made."
Do you most often fly or drive to your assignments; Which do you prefer? "We drive and fly to assignments. We share driving, so one of us can read and study breeds while the other is behind the wheel. I have a slight preference for flying, however. Having taken a number of flights to Europe and China these last couple years, I have had a lot of time to catch up on some reading. I use this time to study breed material and read a lot of books, mostly on finance, economics and recent history. "
Have you judged for another registry, if so, which one and which breeds? "We used to judge for the Rare Breed registry and the International organization, but that was before AKC implemented restrictions. More recently of course we have judged internationally, particularly in China where we are allowed to judge all breeds."
What is the most inconsiderate thing a kennel club can do for judges? "The most considerate thing is to ensure that judges’ transportation needs are personally taken care of by club members. We judged in Hawaii recently, and were met at the airport and delivered to our hotel by club members, as well as similarly being transported to and from the show site. We were able to establish a more personal relationship with the club and we were made to feel very welcome. Its part of the Aloha spirit I guess, but it makes it very special for judges."
What is the most appreciated thing a kennel club can do for the judges? "For me personally it is when a club takes the time to set up lunches and / or dinners with a more local flavor. For example, the Delaware Gap club in Maryland provided some of their local crab dishes at the luncheon. It makes things a little more special and is a big part of making travel worthwhile."
Are you a Delegate? If so, does your club instruct or do you vote on your perception? "I am not a delegate."
What advice would you give aspiring judges? "There is only one person you are going to be able to please with your decisions, and that is yourself. So make sure you know the breed you are judging, and just judge the dogs. So long as you do that, with no influence on your decision making other than choosing the dog that best matches the standard for the breed, you will have done your job and be able to live with yourself afterwards."
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