Advertising Faults and What's a Dog Show Judge Worth?

Inaccuracies in Dog Advertising and Determining the Value of a Dog Show Judge, from Success in Show Dogs, July 2011

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It’s impossible not to hear the conversations that take place around one’s ringside while judging. Some of what is overheard or observed in the course of a day can’t help but inspire a little note taking as one flies home after an assignment with the thought of a future column in mind.

Then too there are all those tidbits that readers have taken the time to send — some clipped from an unknown source by an unnamed author — with a “this would make a wonderful topic for a column” note attached.

In most cases the individual notes and messages don’t provide enough material for an entire column in themselves, but still the little scraps linger in my folder waiting for the opportune time to be addressed. Well, this is the time.

A sucker born every minute
“There’s a sucker born every minute” is a phrase most often attributed to the great American showman P.T. Barnum (1810-1891) despite the fact that Barnum himself refuted the honor his entire life. Whether or not it was Barnum himself who uttered the memorable words they have been quoted often enough through history to have become his and generally are taken to mean there will always be enough gullible people around to buy pretty much anything one might have to sell.

That certainly seems to be the case when it comes to some recent dog advertisements in dog magazines. If the dog has a fault, advertise it like it is the greatest virtue a dog of that breed could possibly possess.

“A colossus among dogs” sounds very impressive, but one shouldn’t get too carried away by the image particularly when it applies to a breed whose standard considers “big” to be the very last thing you’d want the breed to be!

“Speedy Gonzales” and “faster than a speeding bullet” certainly get the point across, but take care lest those words be describing a breed whose hallmark is a slow, deliberate and purposeful gait.

It seems preposterous that those of us in purebred dogs who claim to know all that can possibly be known about everything canine can be hoodwinked into believing the negatives are glowing virtues, but I’m afraid it’s true. We’ve seen more than one top winner whose real claim to fame is that clever advertising has convinced the “experts” that his faults are what are so good about him.

It does bring to mind the question that is so often asked and obviously so seldom heeded, “Have you read your breed standard lately?”

TMI!
Too much information! Ringside mentors whose responsibility it is to educate aspiring judges, or actually anyone desiring information, please stick to the issue as hand — education. The fact that the exhibitor of that lovely dog had a grandmother who sold guns to the Indians is really not information the average student needs to add to his breed portfolio. You may not particularly like Madame X, but let’s confine the critiques to her dogs. As Sgt. Joe Friday might have said on that ancient TV series Dragnet, “Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.”

Predictability in our Judges
“Predictability in our Judges” is the title of a wonderful column written by Janet Jackson, Yorkshire Terrier columnist for the AKC Gazette. Judges, I encourage you to hunt down a copy of the September 2005 issue of the Gazette for that article. Jackson makes many profound points but what I found particularly memorable was the following:

“Watch those dogs as if you were buying one for yourself. Pick out your type within the standard and stick to it. We want predictability in our judges, just as we want predictability in our dogs. Choose your type, and then go for the finer points of that type. Remember to judge the whole dog. It’s the coat, the head, the structure, the movement and the temperament that make up the best overall Yorkshire Terrier.”

If I were to change anything at all in what Jackson writes it would simply be to substitute “style” for the word “type.” Type is set by the standard and style is our interpretation of type. But the important point of the article is that true breeders want a dog show judge to have an opinion (based within the standard).

Selections made with no more predictability than the weather may well be great fun and may indeed give any and all dogs (good, bad and indifferent) a shot at winning, but choices of this kind do little for breed improvement.

Click here for part 2

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