Richard "Rick" Beauchamp, AKC Judge for all Sporting and Non-Sporting Breeds. He's a Cocker, Boxer, and Bichon Authority!
Mr. Beauchamp is approved for all Sporting Breeds, AnatolShep, Boxer, Dobe, Grt Dane, Jack Russell, Cavalier, KC Spans, Havanese, Poodle Toy, Am Esk Dog, Bichon, Boston, Bulldog, Shar-pei, Chow, Fr Bull, Lhasa, Lowchen, Poodle, Tib Ter, WC-Pembroke, JS, BIS, Group 1.
Interview by Sandra Murray, © TheJudgesPlace Meet The Judge Columnist - August 2002. See what this Judge has to say...
Rick was the publisher of Kennel Review Magazine, organizer of the precedent-setting Tournament of Champions held in Detroit, motivating force behind recognition of the Bichon and the Miniature Bull Terrier, international judge, magazine columnist and author of several outstanding books.
SM: It’s inevitable that breeds will evolve and change somewhat as new generations of breeders take charge. How can the essence - or true breed type - be maintained?
RGB: Well, I think that the first thing that you have to understand is that there is a difference between breed progress and a breed evolving and changing a breed. In the seminar that I do, I use the analogy of a man [who] buys a sport coat and takes it to a tailor in order to have the sleeves shortened and to have it fit better. What he’s done there is progress from something that was O.K. to something that is splendid. Now, if he were to take that same sport coat that he bought and say to the tailor, “Make this into a tuxedo jacket”, that’s a change! This is the thing that the mentors in the breed and the educators in the breed have to really stress. Yes, we want our breeds to get better as we go along, but we don’t want to change them. I think that our obsession with Groups and Best in Shows, judges and breeders are forgiving of major deviations from what is correct in the breed - in order to get that dog that has the flash and glamour to be able to win a Group, to win a Best in Show.
SM: Like a Chow Chow with reach and drive?
RGB: Exactly, yes, exactly. I don’t think that people pay enough attention to the breed masters. When I say the breed masters, I mean those people who over a long period of time have bred quality dogs. I don’t care about whether they were number one [in the ratings], but over a continuing period of time, they have consistently bred dogs of a kind -- of a kind -- not this one this time and that one the next time. See, I think one of the big mistakes that the aspiring judges make is that the first person they go to is the handler, and they say, “I’ve got to learn what this Cairn Terrier is all about”. “Show me a good one.” Well, which dog do you think the handler is going to show them? The one that handler is currently showing which doesn’t look anything like the last one and won’t look anything like the next one! So, those are the problems that you face and why I feel that those in that responsible position of educating have to really stress what is important to the breed. They must say, “You cannot go this far, because then you will begin change the breed”. The only people who can protect a breed are the breeders who have had long- term experience. It’s as simple as that.
SM: You’ve done international judging and attended several World Congresses for the Bichon Frise. In your opinion, how would our dogs and their breeders benefit from more international dialog and cooperation?
RGB: I think that the first thing that they have to do is not enter into these Congresses -- or whatever you might want to call them -- with the intention of deciding upon international standards, because that is never going to happen. I think the first thing that people have to do in breeds is determine what is the essence of this breed. In your country you want them a little bit bigger and that country you want them a little bit smaller, or whatever, and that’s not really the essence of the breed. You don’t want it to be a giant, and you don’t want it to be a dwarf. For instance, take Bichons. In England they prefer them to be considerably smaller than our dogs. But even there, some of the dogs that are smaller are on the larger end of smaller, and some of our dogs which are normally bigger by [ England’s] standard are at the smaller end of it [ the scale]. So, in Bichons, in Corgis, in Pekinese, in many breeds, a good one bred in Ireland or Australia or England, or in the U.S. - if it’s really a good one, if it has the essence of the breed - it can win anywhere.
So, I think a lot of people go into these congresses and they want “our standard is the best, and if we’re going to change the standard, we should change it to ours!”. Or if you say, “I think we should change the standard to say it [the dog] can only be ten inches”. [You respond} “Oh, no! We don’t want ten inches. We want twelve!” So you can’t get into that. We wrote kind of an international description of the Bichon, and we said the ideal Bichon ranges internationally between ten and eleven and a half inches with the ideal, internationally, being right in the middle of that. So that when we have congresses, we’re not arguing about anything. We’re trying to determine what it is we need and what you in Australia might be able to provide for us. Our best Corgis - where do they come from? Everywhere! The top-winning Corgi in England was bred in the northwest part of the United States. Some of the top-winning Corgis here in the U.S. came from Australia and New Zealand, and so on and so on. I think that is standing by the essence of the breed and not worrying about the minutiae.
SM: Championships are much more difficult to earn in Britain and the F.C.I. countries. What might we do in the U.S. to eliminate “cheap championships”?
RGB: That -- I really wouldn’t know how to answer, because we have so many shows now. So if your dog can’t lick the competition here, go over there where the big competition isn’t! You can finish your dog, because people who have mediocre dogs will all be there, and one of them has to win. I think that is the problem [that creates] cheap champions. The only people that can keep mediocrity from achieving championships is the judges. They’re the only ones.
SM: Which brings us to withholding winners’ ribbons. If I’m understanding you correctly, you’re advocating an increased, but judicious, use of withholding ribbons by judges.
SM: It has been advocated that we adopt the horse show system of classifying our dog shows as Class A, Class B, and so forth. Might that be a system you would consider feasible - that if a dog wins its championship at a Class A show, such a title would be more prestigious than a championship at a Class B show?
RGB: Theoretically, but I don’t think that American dog exhibitors would stand for that. For you to say that you have a Class B champion when as of last week, all of your dogs were Class A champions - it just wouldn’t fly. I think that’s what should be done, but I don’t think that you’d get it to fly.
You see, when we were showing, you either won the Group, or you didn’t win the Group. You didn’t take pictures and run pages of ads for a Group fourth. Now they want to give points to the dog that didn’t win at the National Specialty. You know, like the dog that went Reserve - he should get points. To me, you’ve either won or you haven’t won. “I didn’t win, but I got points.” That to me doesn’t make sense.
SM: So many in the fancy lament the passing of the benched shows, or at least the learning opportunities that such shows provided. Mentoring programs have been suggested as a solution. Describe how you envision a breed’s parent club establishing and executing such an ongoing mentoring project.
RGB: Well, we’re in a fix, because - it goes back to what I was just saying a little while ago - we want winning dogs. There was some brilliant articles written by some Finnish judges, and they appeared in English “Dog World”, about how changing movement changes type. People don’t get that. People don’t get that. You cannot have a dog with reach and drive - like you mentioned the Chow before. You cannot have a Chow that has reach and drive and flies around the ring without changing its construction. Construction is very much a part of type! So, I would say that in an ideal world, we would put less emphasis on breeding dogs to win and more emphasis on breeding correct dogs. I think that is something that has gotten pushed into the background. And then, our society doesn’t encourage authority or authorities. In the dog game everyone knows everything almost instantly. The element of success is no longer in breeding a fine animal but in winning. That’s the element of success. We worship youth, and we really don’t care what the old timers think.
Another problem that we have, too, is the “powers that be” - and I’m not going to say where they are - decide who knows, and they spend a significant amount of time, money, and space in establishing this fact. Then they send these people out to say what they want to say with no supervision whatsoever. So, if I happen to think I like my Cairns to be short-backed and high on leg, and I’m a dog authority, I can just go around and say that. Now that’s stretching it, but you understand what I mean. The question has to be asked of these people, do they teach what the student needs to know, or what they want the student to know? I think that sometimes our glorious leaders can do better than they do.
SM: We all know that without the funds to advertise extensively and to pay a top professional handler, many superb dogs simply never are known to the fancy at large. What can be done to “level the playing field” a bit for breeders and owners of limited means who have a “dynamite dog”?
RGB: I hear judges constantly blaming the ratings system and the magazines for the ruination of the dog game. But, let’s stop and think for a minute. Why do we hire our handlers? - to take our dog out and win with it! Do most of the handlers do that? Yes. O.K., when we send our dog’s picture to the magazine, we want them to put a nice picture in our ad and to say very nice words about our dog. Do they do that? In most cases, they really do. O.K., when we enter a dog at a show, we expect the judges to put up the best dog in the class at the moment, regardless of who is handling it. Do they do that? Not always. So, who’s not doing their job?!? I’m not making a blanket judgment of all judges, but we get “more bang for our buck” from the handler and from the magazine than we do from our judges, because until we run ads and until we put our dog with an expensive handler, it doesn’t win! Now, whose fault is that? Is that the handler’s fault? Is that the magazine’s fault? There’s only one person that stands in the middle of the ring and points that finger at one, two, three, and four. I think we need more responsibility in judging, I really, really do!
SM: Perhaps, because I come from a breed that isn’t a big winner either at the Group level or at Best in Show, anyway, I tend to show mainly at regional Specialties. This is because the judges at such shows are generally the more knowledgeable breeder-judges. Even if the judge is not a breeder of your specific breed, he or she cares deeply about the breed and is very knowledgeable about it. I find it is usually a waste of my time and money to exhibit at all-breed shows, because the judges are just not the quality to recognize what is on the end of the lead.
RGB: They just don’t know. They really just don’t know the essence of what is really important in order [for a dog] to be a Cairn, or whatever the breed may be. I’m saying that we have some judges who really study and really want to do a good job every time. We all make mistakes. I’m not saying if you study hard, you’ll never make a mistake. My mentor, Bea Godsol, said, ”Unfortunately, we have to learn on the customers.” There’s no other place to learn how to judge. But the more often you judge, and the more often you judge a good sized entry of good dogs, you begin to learn what it is that is necessary to know about a breed.
SM: As a breeder-owner-handler, I would add to your comments that I will drive across the country to exhibit at a regional specialty under a judge who truly has knowledge about my breed.
RGB: O.K., I can certainly understand why you do this, but the unfortunate part of that is that people who want to know -- and normally only go to all-breed shows -- never get to see the really good dogs. Bull Terrier breeders are very much like you are. There are several breeds whose fanciers only show at regional specialties, and the people who judge them never get to see the really good dogs.
SM : Is there anything we can do about that?
RGB: For instance in Bichons, people who really care come to me and ask, “Now I see this dog who has won all these awards, and I see this other dog over here who has won quite a few things. Which is the right one?” I really have to be careful about the message I give. First, one has to really understand what the ideal is in your breed and then one also has to understand that there are dogs that fall to the left and dogs who fall to the right. You need, in many cases, both of those dogs to get to that mid-point. What I like to tell people is, “You don’t want to go any further than this, and you don’t want to go any further than that”. In this particular breed (Bichons), if I had to make a choice between only those two -- the long-legged, short-backed dog or the short-legged, long-backed dog. If I had to make a choice between only those two, I’d go with the long-legged dog, because the drag of the breed is in low and long. I base my decision on what the breed needs rather than my saying, “Oh, Tom Jones’ dog is no good, and the good one is over here”. I don’t think that gets your point across. A lot of people like Tom Jones, and, therefore, they’re going to love his dog.
SM: Pop question: Is A.K.C.’s current policy of approval and advancement of judges too strict, too stringent, too lenient, or just right?
RGB: It is as it is. A lot of people say - friends of mine say - that the American Kennel Club should give you five things to do or four things to do or whatever, and as long as you go to the seminar, read the book, ask the questions -- as long as you do these [required] things, that you should then have no problem getting the breed. Well, let’s face it. You can go and ask Nureyev about the ballet, and he can sit there and talk to you until he’s blue in the face, and you’re never going to excel in the ballet. See, I believe that there has to be some subjective decisions made. Do these qualifying things, but then have a panel or a couple of people or a breed mentor watch you do the breed. Now it’s very hard to get the right person to do that, because we all have our prejudices. Very few people are going to be able to sit at ringside and watch you pass on Bichons without wanting their own style of dog put up for winners. Very few people are able to say, “That’s not exactly the way that I would do it, but I can see what you were getting at, and it makes sense.”
They have changed the qualifications for judging here in the U.S. so many times, and it drives me crazy. So what am I supposed to do this time? Every time I go to fill out the form, it’s different. That form is no good anymore. Now should I spend a lot of money doing this or should I wait to find out how they’re going to change it? Constantly, as soon as they make a change, it lasts for about two or three months, and then you hear rumblings of “they’re going to revise this” or something. So, there’s no real answer for coming up with a system that will make for excellent judges. Quite frankly, we have so d-n many shows here in the U.S., somebody has to point their finger [at the winning dogs]. Who is going to be at all the shows? Experts? How many experts do you have [in a particular breed]? You could count them on one hand. That’s what I mean. So there has to be a certain number of what, in the writing world, we would call “half-writers”.
These judges do a competent job, but they’re not going to do anything brilliant. They’re not going to discover the next great dog. Somebody has to be the first person to put up the new great dog. It doesn’t start with a big record.
Each country has its own system, and some will say, “Oh, we should do like they do in Australia”, or “We should do like they do in Finland”. But each country has a system that works for its own set of circumstances. Like in Finland, they do a lot of personal work with people who apply [to be judges]. In fact, what they were telling me one time when I was over there, is they take a judging applicant to a different breed - not their own - and sit down with them. Then they ask, “Alright, what do you think? Tell me what you would do with this class” -- to see if they have an eye. [If they do have an eye] those judging prospects will be treated differently than the people who really don’t have an eye and will become half-judges. We can’t do that in this country, because the country is too big, there are too many shows and there are judges needed for all of them. You also have to understand that England, for example, by and large, concentrates on type. We concentrate on showmanship. So, when an English judge comes over here, in a whole lot of cases, ringside comments are “What is he/she doing?!? That dog can’t move out of its own way!” And when the Americans go over to England to judge, the Brits say, “That dog is hardly purebred! Just because he goes around the ring fast doesn’t mean he should win!”
SM: On behalf of TheJudgesPlace.com, we'd like to thank Rick for this wonderful interview.
Also see (2006 Interview by Fran Milteer)