Success in Showdogs

Breed, Group and Best in Show: Why They Are Judged Differently

By Richard G. ("Rick") Beauchamp | September 25, 2013

Breed Judging
While judging the breed differs from Group and Best in Show, the point in all judging is to find the best dogs.

It's surprising how many people do not realize that the manner in which breed classes are judged differs significantly from how Group and Best in Show winners are chosen. The point in both cases is of course to find the best dogs, but the route taken by which final decisions are made is somewhat more complex in Group selection and Best in Show. What follows is not to say that every individual who officiates approaches his task in exactly the same manner, nor does it imply his priorities are exactly the same as someone else's, but in the end and without exception, all decisions made by judges are governed by the respective standard of each breed.


The Breed Classes

The judge of the breed classes begins his day by appraising each class from Puppy to Open in the same manner. Based upon his knowledge of the standard, the judge selects the individual dog best representing that ideal picture he carries in his mind and which he feels could best be utilized as breeding stock.

Some breeds have disqualifications that if present automatically remove a dog from competition. Other breed standards carry statements similar to that of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that reads, "Specimens where the coat has been altered by trimming, clipping or by artificial means, shall be so severely penalized as to be effectively eliminated from competition."

Also more and more standards today deal with tails and docking. The AKC does not want parent clubs to make calls for docking or allowing natural tails in normally docked breeds to be listed as disqualifications. A good number of parent clubs are opposed to allowing natural tails in their breed and have been very clear about this in their correspondence to judges. In cases of this nature, it becomes the judge's responsibility to determine if in fact the eliminating fault actually exists and proceed accordingly by making notations in the judges book that the dog is being excused (not disqualified) and the reason for the excusal.

When the winners from each class return, the judge repeats his evaluation in the same manner — he chooses the dog from among the class winners that most closely represents his interpretation of the standard. The choice could as easily be from the 6-9 Puppy Class as it could be from Open. Needless to say the puppy will not be as mature as the Open Class winner, but the puppy is as it should be for the class it is in. The same procedure is followed for the bitch classes.

The champions then enter for consideration. However, it must be remembered that the Winners Dog, Winners Bitch and champion competitors all stand on equal ground as far as their eligibility for the Best of Breed award. What a dog has previously won and what it may accomplish in the future are not considerations. The only matter of consequence is the dog's value to the breed.

There are times in which the entire entry is a great disappointment in regard to quality. How does a judge find his way out of such a dilemma? To put it in as simple terms as possible, one might look at the scenario as one in which the dogs present in the ring at that moment are the last specimens of the breed that exist. Which among them would be most likely to aid the breed back to its best state? In some cases the best of the lot may be a far cry from ideal, but remember, all the judge has to choose from are those that stand before him. On some occasions the dog chosen to be first in its class might even emerge as Best of Breed. Remember, all the judge has is what stands before him at the moment.


Group and Best in Show Judging

In parade the day's Best of Breed winners. We hope that the judges were able to send forth dogs that they felt well represented their respective breeds. Let us assume that each and every judge was able to send forth from the breed ring a dog that left little to be desired. No dog is perfect, but there are some that truly excel in all the elements of breed type: breed character, silhouette, head, movement and coat.

It becomes the judge's duty to select from the vast array of breeds which dog most deserves to be placed in Group or Best in Show. In reality the question becomes which is it, the top-quality Peke or the outstanding German Shepherd, that should be given top honors? Is there a real answer to that question?

It is often said that judging Groups and Best in Show are the easiest parts of the day. I find that true as long as the individual is willing to be satisfied with simply making his selections from the dogs that have gained their reputation by merit of what someone else has decided. There are others, however, who wish to make their decisions based upon how well they know a breed and how the dogs standing before them compare to the very best that have come before in their breed.

There are many sporting events in which the outcomes are decided by the interpretation of excellence of the individuals competing rather than by crossing a finish line or defeating an opponent. Purebred dog competition is such an event. Although opinions rendered are subjective in sports of this kind, the individuals rendering them come to the table with sufficient background and enough knowledge to assess quality of performance and the degree of difficulty involved in accomplishing certain elements of the event.


Degree of Difficulty

Degree of difficulty is not a frequently used term in the dog fancier's lexicon, but it is one that plays or can play an important part in making fine-line decisions. Often a judge is blessed with final lineups comprised of multiple top-class dogs. Here the question is, which dog is more difficult to breed, dog A or dog B? Some breeds have had hundreds, perhaps thousands of superior-quality representatives, while in other, more complex breeds, true excellence has been hard to achieve through the years. Obviously when an accomplishment of this nature occurs, it is certainly something worth considering. This calls upon long-time personal involvement with many breeds. The experience puts the veteran dog person at a distinct advantage, while the aspiring newcomer, whose in-depth experience lies solely within a breed, a family or a single variety Group, might be severely hampered.

As an aside, I would like to recommend here that upon being given approval to judge a breed or a Group, the aspiring judge must realize he has then just begun his journey. It takes no great talent to simply point. However, it takes many years and many dogs to be able to point with insight.


The Exhibitor

Perhaps the explanation I've given might help exhibitors who find it difficult to understand why they might win one time under a judge and lose the next time. A dog can easily win Best of Breed or even the Group on one occasion under a judge, and then win nothing at all the next time under the same judge. In most situations, the competition changes from show to show, and while a dog may well be the brightest star present at one event, its luster may be diminished by another competitor at the next show.

The nonsense that dog shows are now social events and that a dog's value as breeding stock is no longer of great importance as it once was is pure and simple balderdash. A dance is a social event, as is a cocktail party. Those attending may well have a wonderful time at a dog show, but the art of breeding purebred dogs is far more involved than having a party. 


From the September 2013 issue of Dogs in Review magazine. Purchase the September 2013 digital back issue or subscribe to receive 12 months of Dogs in Review magazine.


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