Editor's Page: "Showable" Versus "Show Quality"

Why are so many people trying to find loopholes in their standards to show dogs that have no business being in the ring?

By Allan Reznik | Posted: September 17, 2014 1 p.m. PST

Allan Reznik Editor
Photo courtesy Julie Lynn Mueller.

Surely the first lesson we learned when we got into dogs was that good sportsmanship is the glue that holds the fancy together. It embodies such principles as fair play, polite behavior and respect for our fellow competitors and the judges. Implicit in demonstrating sportsmanship is observance of the rules.  And breed standards form part of our rules. So why are so many people trying to find loopholes in their standards to show dogs that have no business being in the ring?

As rules are meant to do, our standards tell us the make and shape of the breed representatives we should aspire to produce and present in the show ring. No club wants to put on a merely adequate show, no self-respecting judge would be satisfied doing a passable job of evaluating the day’s entries and no breeder or owner should want to exhibit a dog lacking fundamental type for its breed. Yet I hear more and more exhibitors defending a mediocre dog by insisting its faults are merely "undesirable” in the standard.  "It’s not a DQ!” they will argue.  Do we really need to make faults disqualifications before some people take them seriously and place a dog of average quality—though probably "finishable” these days—in a pet home?

There used to be a huge difference between "showable” and "show quality.” No one expected any bitch to whelp a litter brimming with show prospects. We were thrilled to have one or two promising puppies to run on.

It is no coincidence that our glut of midweek shows, with their smaller entries and easy majors, have also lowered expectations and cheapened many a win. I see incorrect outlines, generic movement, mismarks and other significant faults displayed in dogs that would not have been shown 20 years ago. Today they defeat their littermates that have even less to offer the breed. For some people, picking up that easy major is probably worth taking a Wednesday off work and entering half the kennel.  So long as poor dogs with lots of holes don’t have a disqualifying fault, and everything is finishable, a lot of mediocre breeders put championship titles on their mediocre dogs.

But to what end? Why would anyone want these dogs to reproduce and perpetuate their mediocrity for future generations? Because there are buyers even less knowledgeable than some breeders?

Years ago, strong entries forced us all to step up our game and show only our best. If that incentive no longer exists, it may fall to our judges to demonstrate by their placements that they refuse to settle for finishable, second best, barely passable dogs. If we must live with small entries at smaller shows, let’s make them the highest-quality smaller shows we can, with worthy dogs being selected by well-informed, confident judges for meaningful wins.


From the September 2014 issue of Dogs in Review magazine. Subscribe to receive 12 months of Dogs in Review magazine, or call 1-888-738-2665 to purchase a single copy.


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L   Monroe, New York

1/14/2016 4:42:22 PM

I totally agree. In the climate today, there really isn't a dog or bitch that can't be finished if you are willing to play the game and spend the cash. I see dogs with top lines that are non existent or bad bites or less than stellar movement get placed. I do blame the people showing these dogs, the breeders who encourage them, and to a large extent the judges. There is entirely too much politics that decides the winners, rather than the quality and conformation of the dog. It is the face holding the leash, not the dog on the end of it that determines the winners. I am not saying all judges do this or it happens at every show, but having the right handler or just a handler in general, can get a dog a title. It is time for people to be realistic about their dogs. It does cheapen the title when it has become something that doesn't require more than perseverance, some clever entries, or paying the right handler to achieve. I enjoy showing and try to take it all in stride but it is very disheartening at times. I really would rather have a few less shows, bigger entries and judges that stop looking that wrong end of the leash. Let the quality of the dogs speak for itself and maybe the breeders, owners, and handlers will step up their game and stop finishing anything just for the sake of having the title. Our breeds deserve better.

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Charlotte   Newton, Massachusetts

1/13/2016 9:50:56 AM

Well said, Alan. It is very sad to see the level of competition in some breeds decline. We have fewer people breeding in many breeds and that does not help. More dogs and more competition forces the competitive to improve what they are doing.

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Virginia   Lake Charles, Louisiana

1/13/2016 8:05:49 AM

This is unfortunately true in my breed leading to short-backed dogs who don't meet the ratio given in our standard. Our breed is getting to talk also, looking more like heavy boned Springers or white Goldens

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Brenda   Aurora, Colorado

1/13/2016 7:42:35 AM

We call them "point makers". Judges rarely reward a point-maker unless the ring is filled with them to the exclusion of all else. Mediocrity has no place in a show ring or a breeding program. Mediocrity will only beget mediocrity and worse. I will say that more judges need to be willing to withhold placements to those who fill the ring with mediocrity...and worse. Those who believe mediocrity brings some sort of vigor to any breed are not breeders, they are puppy makers.

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