Success in Show Dogs: What Would You Do?
Richard G. (“Rick”) Beauchamp |
Posted: September 11, 2012, 6 p.m. EDT
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
Give us your opinion on Success in Show Dogs: What Would You Do?
Login to get points for commenting or write your comment below
Get New Captcha