Success in Showdogs

A Bit More of This and a Whole Lot More of That.

By Richard G. ("Rick”) Beauchamp | June 18, 2012

Show judges

The gang’s all here! From left to right, the weekend’s judges: Mareth Kipp, Judy Brown, Rick Beauchamp, Linda Riedel, husband Fred Riedel, and our guide Nikko. Photo Fred Riedel.

China’s National General Kennel Club

The National General Kennel Club of China (one of four "official” registries in that country) suffered some unfortunate publicity in recent months in regard to caring for its judges. This has created trepidation on the part of some of our judges in respect to accepting appointments to judge in China.

Thus it was that those of us who were invited to judge for the NGKC embarked on the journey with a bit of reluctance. I am happy to report that without exception our experience was exemplary. Great hospitality, four-star hotel accommodations, fine dogs to judge and nothing to even indicate a lack of security.

The April panel was comprised of Mareth Kipp, Linda Riedel, Judith Brown and me. We unanimously agreed there was high quality and some depth to be found in Goldens, Siberian Huskies and Chow Chows. And, while depth may have been lacking, quality specimens in a good many of the other breeds gave us all well-rounded finals to select from.

A significant number of our choices for top honors had been bred there in China and while the dogs were of American descent it proves that the Chinese are learning what to do with the quality they bring in. Stop to think, dog shows are only 10 years old in China. They are making excellent progress.

The thrill of a lifetime for some of the judges was being able to stay on and tour the Great Wall of China for the first time — awe-inspiring to say the least. Personally speaking, the visit to the Giant Panda Reserve in Chengdu was something I have wanted to do since I began my world travels. China deserves our greatest thanks for the remarkable job it is doing in saving this endangered species for the entire world to enjoy. 
If you possibly can arrange a trip to China do so — you will marvel at its wonders.

"Out of the ashes...”

We are far more apt to read about the decline in quality of one of our breeds than we are of its resurgence. It is a given that any breed is subject to cyclical highs and lows but it does seem there is that occasional breed that has tumbled from lofty places to the degree that there seems no hope of finding light at the end of the tunnel.

Yet breed stalwarts persevere and even though they labor in what appears to be a barren field, they somehow manage to overcome the lack of breeding choices. They almost single-handedly not only revive a breed but also take it to heights never before reached. 

It was not too long ago when it seemed there was little hope for the Weimaraner to regain its stature as a breed. Even when a really outstanding dog did come along, suitable mates of the same caliber were so rare that the dog would pass through its time with little impact. Weimaraner diehards, however, did not give up and like the mythical phoenix out of the breed’s ashes has risen a generation of quality that does the concept of the breed great justice.

Weimaraner fanciers are not alone, of course; take a look at the remarkable job breeders of  Affenpinschers, Boston Terriers, Irish Water Spaniels and French Bulldogs have done. If you haven’t observed the huge rise in quality in these breeds it’s because you haven’t looked. And mark my words, quietly and with little ballyhoo, the American Water Spaniel could well climb toward its long-overdue acclaim in the not-too-distant future.

Pointers, one of the Sporting Group’s true classics, are making a resurgence with dogs and bitches that are not just good but truly outstanding. Longtime mainstays in the breed have persevered and their efforts are paying off in spades. As one tours the country, having a quality Pointer appear in Group competition is becoming far less the exception and frequently the norm.

Canine health issues

In England, The Kennel Club’s decision to rescind the Best of Breed awards of certain "high profile” breeds at Crufts this year due to health impairment has caused an international brouhaha unlike any we’ve seen in many, many years. These decisions to deny awards were made not by the judge of the day but by a veterinarian called in especially to make these "reevaluations.” 

If a veterinarian for reasons of health impairment eliminates dogs from further competition, it is the veterinarian who is making the final decision on which dogs can be declared winners. Why then put knowledgeable and experienced judges through a long day of making decisions only to give someone else the final word? 

If The Kennel Club has greater faith in veterinarians than it does in the judges it trains there are only two avenues of recourse: either the veterinarians should be made to judge all TKC shows or only dogs that have been pre-examined by a selected veterinarian should be allowed to compete at TKC shows.

That veterinarians typically have far less regard for a breed standard than they do for general issues of health goes without saying. Their sole responsibility is the health of dogs. However, I staunchly believe today’s responsible breeders take on a twofold job — producing healthy dogs whose conformation adheres to the dictates of their respective standards.  

Unless the quality of judging has drastically changed in the few years since I have judged in the UK, I can see no need nor value in having the veterinary cadre replace the opinion of our qualified judges there or here in the US.

A judge is only able to discern problems that are visible to the eye or detected by hand. If we are to expect part of the judging process to include genetic or non-visible issues we begin to open a Pandora’s box of problems leading to assumption and hearsay.

The Hound Classic

Show Chairmen Lou Guerrero and Hank Nave of the Western Hound Association of Southern California, along with their incomparable show committees, put on a gem of a Group show nestled in one of Orange County’s most beautiful locations. Lush green mountains surround the Oak Canyon Private Park and weather there is rarely anything other than what is expected of Southern California.

They say it takes one to know one and the WHA’s show chairmen are longtime and highly successful Hound enthusiasts who know what it takes to be considered a top-class Hound judge.  Those who have earned that reputation are the individuals you are most apt to see presiding at this great two-day event.

We all like to see the big winners that are written and talked about so frequently but breed diehards also want to see what is going on within their breed. Top Specials competition and in-depth quality within the classes allow spectators to evaluate the state of the breed and that is exactly what they are able to do at this classic event. Definitely not to be missed!

Is it a "game” or a "sport”?

We hear our passion for purebred dogs alternately referred to as a "game” and a "sport.” In many cases those who staunchly adhere to ours being a sport and not a game seem to have equated the latter with something shady or perhaps somewhat tainted.

On the other hand those who see purebred dogs as a game are usually the exhibitors who have a highly competitive sense and who understand that in order to come out on top one must be clever, knowing what to do, how to do it and when to do it. They are looking out for their dog’s best chances in the win department. 

I have found those most apt to refer to ours as a sport are likely to be breeders who show their dogs and participate in shows as a comparative albeit competitive event. They seem to be more concerned with opinions that reflect their abilities as breeders.

This is not to say they don’t care about winning a Best in Show at Westminster or some such. To the contrary, they’d love it and take great pride in what their breeding program has accomplished.

"Playing the game” is not exclusive to the amateur or the professional. Those who call ours so are apt to be of a highly competitive bent — winning the game and trying to figure out how to do so occupy a good portion of their time. 

There are among us those who while considering themselves amateur are among the cleverest of strategists. And if a competitor aspires to be at the top of the game one had better be clever about how, when and where to show. (Why would someone be so foolish as to travel a great distance to show under a judge who has proven not to appreciate the competitor’s dog?)

Does this imply the latter allow their desire to win to overcome principles and honesty? In my opinion, this happens rarely. Nor does it preclude their appreciation of quality.

Whether we call it a game or a sport I think what is really being spoken of is true sportsmanship. I know of extremely competitive individuals who are as clever about showing their dogs to high rankings as could be asked for and who are, at the same time, totally dedicated to excellence.  They are seldom seen exhibiting anything less. They are good at their game and are at the same time among our most highly regarded exponents of good sportsmanship — modest in success, gracious in defeat.

Poor sportsmanship is indefensible in any case — but among those considering themselves professionals it is absolutely unforgivable. To overlook poor sportsmanship by saying, "Oh well, that’s just Tom (or Sally or Rachel) — he/she has a temper problem,” is just as unpardonable. If someone wants to be considered a professional they should act the part.


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