by Dana Cline

As a judge that travels most weekends of the month to many cities, I find myself participating in hours of great dog conversations along the way. The subject of this article is based on the many encounters I have had with “non” breeder judges of the Great Dane, their willingness to judge our breed better and their frustration over their shortcomings in understanding the Great Dane.

First I must say, as one might already realize, one's individual breed background, their individual priorities, mentors and tolerances all play roles in their final judgment of our breed. Focusing first on background and priorities, let’s investigate 2 to 3 breeds that any particular judge may come from and how it’s standard may influence ones decisions in the ring.

Example number one, the Brittany breeder: in the entire standard of this breed there is not one mention of any descriptive words lending to the beauty or elegance of the Brittany.
The entire standard builds an animal suited for extreme function, medium size and even penalizes any specimen to the point of debarring from competition those animals extreme in any degree.  The total sum of his parts giving preference to no individual characteristic makes a better Brittany.

Example number two, the Golden Retriever breeder: The Golden undeniably one of the most beautiful breeds of them all. Taken verbatim from the Golden standard “Overall appearance, balance, gait and purpose to be given more emphasis than any of his component parts.” Under faults “any departure from the described ideal shall be considered faulty to the degree to which it interferes with the breed’s purpose or is contrary to breed character.” Lastly from the illustrated standard “In judging, whether in the show ring or in the breeders eye, showmanship and superficial prettiness should never place a dog over another of definitely better structural quality. Nothing in the dog’s make up should be detrimental in any way to the performance of the breed’s intended function as a useful, companionable sporting dog.” Judges must always error in favor of function when appraising the Golden Retriever!

Example number three, the Doberman Pinscher breeder: Under general appearance, “elegant in appearance, of proud carriage, reflecting great nobility and temperament. Energetic, watchful, determined, alert, fearless, loyal and obedient. Under teeth, there are three separate disqualifications.

Now that we have some insight on our three potential judges and the backgrounds from which they come, let’s see where each might place his priorities based on their respective breeds. I believe it is fair to assume our Brittany judge comes to the table with an extreme sense for function and balance and less regard for beauty. His desire is to find the dog that is most functional and perhaps disregarding size and type as meaningful assets to our breed.

Our Golden Retriever judge, much like the Brittany judge has a great desire for function yet he is more mindful of overall type and breed characteristics, after all the ideal golden retriever is truly the combination of beauty and function, however always placing function before beauty in every instance. In this breed while function is held in highest regard, one can assume that any judge would be able to find a fine blend of both beauty and function. In my experiences in judging the Golden, I have found it to be a fairly easy accomplishment.

Our Doberman judge comes to us with a mind for strength of character, extreme showmanship “watchfulness”, little tolerance for ill behavior and perhaps a desire carried over for flawless dentition.

In my discussions with judges and their concerns about our breed, I always inquire of them, what they feel is the “Hallmark” of the Dane? What is their first and most critical impression? Where do their priorities lie and what will they or will they not tolerate in our breed. What any judge carries over from their respective breed may be a telltale sign of their ability to judge the Great Dane successfully and placing proper emphasis where it belongs. So now that they have made some form of commitment to their overall understanding of the Great Dane, I offer them my insight as a breeder and mentor;  it’s amazing how truly far apart any two individuals can be on any given breed. Just for fun here’s my list of priorities in assessing the Great Dane. Type is hallmark, it is the one and only defining characteristic of our breed and yes very strong emphasis is to be placed on correctness of head. A good Great Dane in any instance cannot have a bad head! Movement is secondary to type, indeed we wish for the entire package but in weighing the importance, type must always prevail. With varying degrees of soundness it is simply what qualifies any individual for the ”dance” but in every situation, artistry and technical merit will win the competition, especially so in a Great Dane. Equipped with a proper grasp and understanding, sorting any class first by type and breed characteristics followed by soundness will make the better Great Dane judge. All too often predisposed notions and carry-overs from other standards can greatly affect one’s ability to properly assess another breed. What is important to one breed is not necessarily so for another, even so in members of the same “group” i.e. working dogs, sporting dogs. I feel strongly that far too many judges tag the Great Dane as a true working dog, when in reality it is a dog of pleasure and aristocracy. In his day as a working dog, before evolving to what he stands for today, he was a Dane-like dog, much different than what we would recognize today.

I hope that I have offered you some insight by sharing this material with you. I think it would be practical and helpful for us all to investigate a judge’s background, especially so when we walk away from the competition bewildered and scratching our heads. Learning the background of the judge and perhaps understanding their origins in dogs may very well help you to understand why they did the job that they did. Judging is not at all an easy task, sticking to your priorities at all times and not wavering is much easier said then done. Each and every assignment and every new breed I judge brings with them new and different challenges. It pays to be informed, it never hurts, do your homework and you might find a better understanding and interpretation of someone’s views. Chances are you may not always agree but at the very least perhaps you’ll have a better insight, based on his background, what a particular judge may be searching for.








































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