Margaret (Peggy) Mickelson awarded Judging Legend 2006 as judged by judges, handlers, and exhibitors!
In which judged activity did you first compete? Obedience, Conformation, or
Mickelson: In conformation
About when was that and with what breed?
Mickelson: In the late 50s, German Shepherds
Did you owner handle or have you always used handlers?
Mickelson: Owner handled
What is/was your primary breed and how long were you involved?
Mickelson: First breed owned, German Shepherds – on and off from the late 50s until
now. First breed bred, Pembroke Welsh Corgis – 23 years
In what single area has that breed most improved?
Mickelson: Shepherds went through a period when many were dysplastic, and had really
overdone hindquarter assemblies: we’ve pretty much fixed both those
problems…well, we still have extreme rears but they are more sound now, and
certainly hips are much better.
What is the biggest problem you see in the breed today?
Mickelson: Shepherds are too handler oriented…that is really the biggest problem. As
for Pembrokes, they have made it more of a head breed instead of a little farm dog...people in the breed have forgotten how they should move (like a working dog).
Do you have a “personal” dog now and if so, what breed?
Mickelson: My OPD (own personal dog) right now is a German Shepherd bitch…here in the
midst of a houseful of Cavaliers.
Do you own other animals? If so, what?
Mickelson: My OPD, Cavaliers, and one cat.
Do you think the purebred dog is better today than it was 20 years ago? Why is that?
Mickelson: No. The same structural faults are in all breeds now, particularly the
short, straight upper arm and loss of prosternum…it’s gone in most breeds where
it used to be the norm to have it. Also judging is more generic now…both
breeders and judges have forgotten about breed hallmarks, if they ever knew what they were.
Which do you feel is more important in a breeding program, the dog or the bitch? Why?
Mickelson: Bitch…most people keep more bitches than dogs, so it is very important to
keep the best you can. You can go out to almost any stud dog, and if the litter
turns out to be a mistake, you can always use another dog next time. I was
taught that bitches are the foundation of a kennel (breeding program), and I
think that holds true today.
When considering a breeding, which do you look at first, pedigree or physical virtues?
Mickelson: Truthfully, I look at the pedigree…but then I look at the actual dogs, too.
In my own breedings, the pedigrees usually told what the dogs would be like, so
the two are about equal.
What is the single most important physical characteristic you look for in a dog?
Mickelson: Breed type. If you don’t think that’s physical, then correct movement for its breed.
In what field are/were you employed outside of dogs?
Mickelson: I worked as a paralegal before that term existed; then as an editor.
About how long have you been judging?
Mickelson: 28 years come this January.
How many breeds, groups, or classes are you currently approved for?
Mickelson: Two groups: Herding and Terrier (the specialists’ groups, I call them,
because they are the least generic, and have more “specialty” breeds than the
Do you plan to apply for more breeds/groups?
Mickelson: Not under the present system, which rewards dotting the i's and crossing
the t's, but has no way, nor is there any effort made, to measure years of
experience unless the judge applicant is famous...that lets me out! All that's
required now is the bare minimum, and it shows in the judging.
Which breed (or group) do you personally enjoy doing the most?
Mickelson: I enjoy judging German Shepherds more than anything else, but I have
favorite terrier breeds, and I really love judging top quality Collies. I love
most of my breeds, actually!
What is the most annoying thing exhibitors do?
Mickelson: I could make a list as long as your arm, but I’ll start with them not
knowing how to show their own dogs.
What is the most important thing exhibitors should do in your ring?
Mickelson: Two things: pay attention to what I tell them and second: use the whole ring.
Do you usually fly or drive to your assignments? Which do you prefer?
Mickelson: Depends on how far away they are. I like driving because I can take enough
clothes to cover any weather conditions! Also if I drive I can take a dog with
me for company.
Have you judged in another country, if so, where and which breeds?
Mickelson: Australia and Jamaica, where I judged all my breeds plus some I’m not
approved for; the U.K., where I gave CCs in both Kerry Blue and Skye Terriers;
and Israel, where I judged an American Staffordshire Terrier specialty show.
I've heard some comments about my judging in Canada, but I have never judged there!!!
Have you judged for another registry, if so, which one and which breeds?
Mickelson: For ASCA (Australian Shepherd Club of America), which were Aussies, of
course, and some time ago for ARBA, where I judged many breeds that are now AKC recognized but were not at the time.
What is the most inconsiderate thing a kennel club can do to its judges?
Mickelson: Put them in a hotel with no restaurant. They say “many places to eat within
walking distance,” but if it rains or is very cold and windy, most of us don’t really fancy taking a walk and will just skip dinner.
What is the nicest thing a kennel club can do for the judges?
Mickelson: Make sure we are picked up on time, both at the airport and at the hotel in
the morning to get to the show; give us a decent lunch; and don’t make us hunt
for whoever is going to pay us when we’re ready to leave! Also let us know ahead
of time the name and phone number of the hotel where we’ll be staying. It’s also
nice when the club cares that our stewards are capable…and THERE!!
What do you look at first when you turn to assess a class or group?
Mickelson: I look at the lineup and hope something standing there takes my breath
away... and sometimes it even happens--so I guess that would be breed type!
Do you evaluate puppies as puppies or as adults when selecting winners?
Mickelson: As puppies…it isn’t fair to expect them to look or behave like adults, and
in some cases, there are qualities that don’t have to be there until the dogs
are adults…so one must look at puppies as puppies.
Are you a Delegate. If so, does your club instruct or do you vote on your perception?
Mickelson: I am not a Delegate and wouldn't want to be one..
Are you comfortable with Breed Take-Away and the Reps new authority in that regard?
Mickelson: Definitely not. A Rep once criticized a choice I made because he didn't
like the dog's grooming. Does that qualify him to say "take the breed away?" Puhleeeeze!
What advice would you give aspiring judges?
Mickelson: Spend time (years) watching the breeds you want to judge, talk to breeders,
shut up and use your eyes and ears…get a mental picture of the head, of the dog
standing posed, and of the dog in motion…it takes time to do this—more than just
one seminar or even two, or sitting ringside at one specialty show.
Interview conducted by Barbara J. Andrews © TheJudgesPlace - September 2006
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