Success in Show Dogs: What Would You Do?

By Richard G. (“Rick”) Beauchamp | Posted: September 11, 2012, 6 p.m. EDT

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Irish Terrier

Irish Terrier, Ch. Tralee's Rowdy Red, is a classic example of the AKC breed standard's description. Rowdy Red is pictured winning Best in Show at Queensboro Kennel Club, October 29, 1983, under Robert Reedy, handled by Robert A. Fisher for owner, the late Edward B. Jenner.

It's amazing how old books, those that you've owned and looked at time and time again over the years, hold gems that were always there but never made them apparent. That is until the third, fourth, or even 10th reading, and then — voilà — a new stroke of genius magically appears!

I have a book collection that I have to be very careful getting into because once I begin my hunt for a certain reference or passage, I come upon something in an entirely different direction, and then when I remind myself to look at the clock, hours have gone by. How is it that names like Ashmont, Dalziel, Stonehenge, Horner, Lyons and Spira still after all these years — centuries? — keep us fascinated?

While looking for something of an entirely different nature, I came upon something the late Tom Horner wrote in Take Them Around Please: The Art of Judging Dogs (David and Charles, 1975). He writes of watching a judge decide between two Irish Terriers in a lineup. One of the dogs was oversized, a bit coarse and lacking body, and although making no errors in movement was not well handled or presented.

The other dog was indeed a picture: small and of ideal conformation, moving well and presented as if he were ready for a Best in Show award.

What would you do? Well, aside from the fact that it is impossible to really judge dogs that are not standing there before you, it is interesting to note the opinion of the judge of the day. He chose the oversized dog.

His reasons were that the dog, although not a particularly good one, was much more the typical Irish Terrier with the racy outline and masculinity one looks for in a male of the breed. (As a side note, the defining "racy outline," to which Horner refers has become increasingly more difficult to find in our rings here in North America.)

The other dog, while giving a smashing appearance, was too small and too cobby, pretty as all get out, trimmed to a fare-thee-well but way-off Irish Terrier type. The judge was right. It would have been entirely wrong to put up an atypical dog.

The breeder and judge must also avoid the dog that at first glance, regardless of how impressive, puts him in mind of another breed! The American Cocker-like Springer, the "black Irish Setter" (Gordon Setter), the Pembroke-like Cardigan Corgi, the Lakeland Terrier in Welsh clothing, the Bichon Frise like Havanese — these are all examples of the kind that may well be unquestionably pleasing to the eye — but wrong!


Most of the Best

It should come as no surprise to our readership, and I have gone on record time and time again in saying "the best dog in the lineup is the dog that has the most of the best." However, should someone not be clear in my meaning, "most of the best" is meant to be understood as most of the best type characteristics, the things that collectively make a dog look and act like its own breed and no other.

Standing a bit east-west in front is not what we want in a Boxer, but it is far less damning a fault than the dog that stands perfectly straight in front but is long in body and lacks the breed's defining head characteristics. A rank novice should be able to spot the east-west front, but it takes someone who really knows and understands the breed to recognize nuances of what mark an outstanding Boxer.

The judge and the breeder must learn to differentiate between a well-made dog and a dog of great type. A mixed breed, even a purebred dog, can be a very handsome, healthy, well-put- together dog but lacking in the type characteristics that define him as a quality specimen of a particular breed.

An example of this that I gave many, many years ago that was often referred to was a case in which the internationally acknowledged greatest Lhasa Apso ever born appears in a very mediocre Tibetan Terrier Best of Breed lineup. The Tibetan Terriers are recognizable as such but have little else to redeem them. The Lhasa is breathtaking in every respect. What should be done?

No matter how wonderful a specimen of his breed the Lhasa might be, he lacks the type characteristics that would define him as a quality member of the Tibetan Terrier breed. Beauty, soundness, perfect condition and presentation, showmanship — he has everything you might want in a show dog with the exception of Tibetan Terrier type. The dog should not even be placed.

As one's study of correct breed type for any given breed progresses, it becomes evident that some characteristics that are assumed to be a part of breed type are, in reality, fads and in some cases not even mentioned in the breed standard. It can be color in some instances; there is nothing in the Tibetan Terrier or Havanese standard that even hints at black-and-white being a preferred color yet it is not unusual to hear observers muse about how exciting it would be had a very nice cream dog been born black-and-white.

Look at the coat-draped-to- the-floor American Cocker whose standard quite specifically reads, "(Coat) not so excessively as to hide the Cocker Spaniel's true lines and movement or affect his appearance and function as a moderately coated sporting dog." Have you seen one of those lately or if you have seen one in the ring, have you seen it in the Winners Circle?


Cattle Breeding Principles

A great deal has been written about the breeding principles behind modern dairy cattle. While breeders of outstanding herds have much of value to say it must be remembered that while they, too, look for good type their definition of good type is governed by practicality — their aim: a family of cows that consistently produces high milk yield. The fact that an individual or their herd is the most attractive in the area is immaterial if in fact it doesn't produce.

Some dog breeders have the opportunity to test the fact that their dogs are able to perform in a manner for which the respective breed was created. Judges' decisions cannot be tested in that same respect at the time they are being judged in the conformation ring.

Dog judges base their decisions on theory. That is, the closer the dog being judged adheres to the type characteristics as described in the standard, the more apt he is to be able to perform, or if not a performance breed as in the decorative breeds, to function by providing visual pleasure of a certain kind to an owner.

In addition, unlike the dairy cow breeder our aim as judges and breeders is not for a kennel or winners circle made up of consistently and nicely made animals carrying no glaring faults, but rather one of producing the one-in-a-million "perfect" dog. We are aiming for the best possible individual in a breed.

Naturally if all dogs in our kennel or winners lineup are consistently great no sane breeder and judge will complain, but we have not yet arrived at the point that we will have to spend much time worrying about that.


From the September 2012 issue of Dogs In Review magazine. Purchase the September 2012 digital back issue or subscribe to receive 12 months of Dogs In Review magazine.

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Andy   Stamford, Connecticut

10/17/2013 8:07:50 AM

Reading the author's remarks, I only wish that in quoting Judge Horner, that he would acknowledge a "Dog" man in contrast to a politician. Having seen in the breed ring this past weekend a judge put up a dog with a major breed standard fault, whose redeeming qualities were not sufficient to over look this element, brings to question, why we all talk and write so passionately about the concerns of judging, and then turn our back when stepping in the voting booth, be it for WD, BOB or BIG

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