Debby on..my dog’s betterPosted: February 27, 2009
The AKC column has been submitted to Cassandra. Other than a lunch date with Nate, later wine with Melissa, there’s no deadline today. There’s been something on my mind. A draft titled My Dog’s Better Than Your Dog, My Dog’s Better Than Yours has been sitting in admin for months. The subject has been on my mind awhile. Today I’ve got time to step onto my soapbox, as Harvey Milk did many times in his life.
Dogs. Well…what else did you expect to be on my mind? The title’s another clue, of course. More than likely I’ll step on toes. This is not my intent, but it may be a consequence of what I have to say. Perhaps soapbox etiquette…is there such a thing as etiquette on a soapbox…or is that counterproductive…dismisses bruised toes. I don’t know, but I’m going to step up, leaving the idea of possible injured toes behind. The subject is that important to me.
Fault judging is finding the faults of a dog and basing one’s opinion on those faults. It is easy to find faults; there’s no perfect dog. Fault judging is common among people with a bit of knowledge. It is far less common among judges, although there are some that fault judge. They are not good judges. Fault judging holds them back. From my point of view, there are several fundamental problems with fault judging. It isn’t balanced. It focuses on the negative. It places emphasis on what’s wrong, not on what’s right.
There is little skill required to fault judging. The skill lies in the ability to take the disemboweled, torn to pieces dog, put it back together and find the positives.
Forget that you don’t like the head on the dog that just beat your dog. Forget that your dog’s head may be better than the dog that just beat your dog. The judge probably didn’t like the head either, but determined the dog’s attributes deserved rewarding. Different judges have different judging styles, different areas of focus.
An all-rounder refers to a judge licensed to judge a large number of breeds, along with at least several groups. Very few all-rounders know breed type intimately. However they are (hopefully) experts in anatomy and movement. They have the continued opportunity to see dogs of various breeds in motion. They’ve had their hands on thousands upon thousands of dogs. They are often from the ranks of professional handling, giving them unparalleled experience with many, many breeds. Drawing from a vast skill set, the all-rounder generally rewards structure, movement and presentation.
A breeder-judge refers to the obvious. The judge is/was a breeder of that particular breed. Breeder-judges (hopefully) know the breed intimately. All judges have bred dogs at one point, so every all-rounder will fall into this category for at least one breed. Breeder-judges should recognize the minutia, that exquisite head others may not appreciate. Breeder-judges may place exaggerated emphasis on what they strive to achieve in their own breeding program. Breeder-judges should recognize various styles in the breed, the minutia.
There are a few – very few! – judges that combine the best of both. Anne Rogers Clark was is that category. I doubt there’s anyone in dogdom that would deny that statement. Her mother bred dogs and owned an exclusive grooming shop in the New York City area. Anne Hone Rogers (later Clark) was a professional handler, the first woman to pilot a dog to Best In Show at Westminster. A poodle, of course. In her lifetime, she bred Poodles, English Cocker Spaniels, Whippets, Norwich Terriers…and more I’m forgetting. A scholar all her life, she had vast experience and knowledge. When judging she paid attention to the ‘drags’ of a breed. “Drag’ referred to an undesired prevalent trait. She would not reward that dog, believing to continue such a trait was undesirable to the whole of the breed. Edd Biven, another all-rounder who knows our breed, will do the same thing. This is not the same as fault judging. It is making a statement about the direction a particular breed is headed.
Edd Biven recognizes the minutia of our breed, using that in his decision making. And so does Maxine Beam. Which brings up another soapbox subject. Maxine, never a breeder, is one of our breed’s greats. As a professional handler, she piloted the extraordinary Ch. Licos Kula La to his recording setting Best In Shows. Edd Biven was her assistant. These two judges know the minutia of our breed inside out. They also know dogs in general, proper construction, reach, drive, movement. Although each often makes a different decision that I would, I respect their decisions. I don’t care if Maxine goes back over my dog on the floor. I don’t care if she rechecks my dog’s bite by feel. Show dogs should be prepared. These days such a thing is viewed as challenging or strange. Twas not always so. I don’t care that each can be grumpy in the ring. I respect their knowledge. I respect their judgement.
There is a place in dog judging for all-rounders, breeder-judges and those that combine both. There is no place for fault judges. It isn’t balanced. It focuses on the negative. It places emphasis on what’s wrong, not on what’s right. Just as there’s no place for fault judging inside the ring, there’s really no place for fault judging outside the ring. It thwarts growth.
I challenge each of you to take your own knowledge, your own experience and find the attributes of each and every dog your dog competes against.