I’m on my way to the dog show when suddenly the blur
of another van speeds past my windshield. “You
blank, blank maniac” I think to myself. Glancing at
the clock I realize I have under-estimated the time,
and need to get moving or I could miss judging. Like
any die-hard exhibitor, I begin flying down the
expressway at 75mph until another van, just cruising
along in the left lane, slows me down and boxes me
in. “You blank blank idiot, did you get your license
in your breakfast cereal?” I think to myself. I
finely make it to the show and the judge places my
beautiful dog reserve. What could that blank, blank
judge be thinking?
The natural progression from breeder-owner-handler to
judge has become yet another learning experience.
The following are just a few of the many insights I
have come to learn.
The barometer we as exhibitors appear to use when
evaluating a judge seems to be our dog’s placement.
Just like we evaluate other drivers; the ones that
go faster then us are maniacs, and the ones that are
slower are idiots.
There can only be consistency in judging if there is
consistency in the entry. Quality judging only comes
from an entry of quality dogs.
You just went winners after the judge moved your dog
down and back, or sent the winners class around the
ring. Did you win because your dog was good moving?
Perhaps, or maybe it was just procedural. In the
winners class the judge must move the dog they are
going to select to ensure it isn’t lame.
When a judge has the privilege of evaluating quality
dogs there are still trade offs. The beautiful
headed dog with great presence and side gait, but
could have a better rear. The big statuesque dog
with outstanding color that commands attention, but
the head planes are off and his eye is slightly
round. Then there is the smooth polished dog with a
good back, correct eye and beautiful expression, but
a bad front and a bit round in the back-skull. All
have excellence, but all have faults that add up to
more then a few flaws. All may deserve to, but only
one can win.
Judges may have classes where they discover two,
three, or even four high quality dogs in the class.
Unfortunately, the exhibitors whose dogs place
second, third and fourth usually think the judge
doesn’t like their dogs. Or in a class of mediocrity
the winner may mistakenly believe the judge thinks
of the dog as a quality dog.
As much as ones judging focuses on virtues, lack of
virtue and faults do come into play.
It is easy to put up a QUALITY dog that is trained,
in good condition, correct weight, coat, and is
groomed and bathed. It is just as frustrating for
the judge, as it is for the exhibitor, if a QUALITY
dog’s performance is so poor it hinders it from
winning. A dog that is DIRTY, under or overweight,
out of coat, has sores or calluses, has scars that
are more than honorable or very long un-kept nails
will rarely win. The impression the judge is left
with is less than positive, not to mention the
residue which maybe left on his or her hands.
You learn who your real friends are. If they chose
to show to you and they lose, and nothing changes,
then they are your real friends.
I believe most judges are passionate about their
job. Judges want to be proud of the dogs they select.
Within the privacy of their own minds, a good judge
whether they admit it or not, will review,
reassesses, and possibly change their mind about
some of their judging decisions.
The exhibitors say the problem with the sport is
poor judging, and that the judges lack education and knowledge of
the standard. I hear from judges the problem with
the sport is a lack of quality and general
mediocrity within the breeds. The breeders and
exhibitors lack mentors and education. Perhaps
there’s truth on both sides?
Although we are all talking the same language of
“dog,” interpretations of the language seem to
extend beyond a different dialect. Some people speak
of fronts referring to legs, pasterns and feet. Then
others may be referring to upper arm and shoulders,
yet others are referring to neck-set and or
fore-chests. And then there are some of us that
define fronts as the collection of all the prior.
To my ears, the word sound or soundness is the most
misused word in dogs. To my knowledge, it is not in
the content of any breed standard. Yet, many people
mistakenly refer to soundness as being synonymous
with movement. Buildings and tables are sound, but
they do not move. Webster defines soundness as
sturdy, whole, complete, without defect. We have all
seen unremarkable dogs which are balanced, with a
straight front and straight rear that are sound
standing. These dogs may or may not converge on the
down and back and almost always lack reach and drive
when viewed from the side.
What if ALL Great Dane breeders, exhibitors and
handlers spoke as much of balance, symmetry and
proportions as they do “type”? And then if ALL Great
Dane judges spoke as much of “type” as much as they
do balance, symmetry and proportions? Would there be
a positive impact on the quality of the breed and
I have come to believe the breeder-judges are the
guardians of our breed.
I hear about the lack of quality in the judging of
our dogs. I then have to wonder why are the same”
bad judges” hired over and over again?
My concluding statement may be of most interest. Yes
there is politics in judging dogs.
Like the candidates on a ballot a judge has no
control over which dogs are shown to him or her, and
a judge is thrilled when there’s a good one.
Good luck at the shows, and remember the left lane
is for passing.