Category Archives: Breed Judging

Happy New Year!

The two winners (and half-siblings), sacked out

The two winners (and half-siblings), sacked out

 

I had hoped to pepper this post with lots of fun candid photos from the show, but apparently that little flashing SD card symbol on my camera DID mean something.  Who knew?

Do y’all remember that iPod commercial where the guy is walking casually down the street listening to tunes, but his reflection in the windows behind him is dancing madly?  That’s me at work this morning.

This weekend was one of those that is like premium crack to us dog show junkies, the kind that keeps us riding high and filling out entry forms right and left for months.  Saphira went into the weekend with 4 single points; she came out of it with 12 points and both majors.  And she’s only been shown six times!

Even better than the result (yes, there are things that are better than winning) is the joy of taking this dog into the ring.  She is a natural showgirl.  She free-stacks like a beast, she wags her tail, gives ears, plays cutely during the “down time,” and absolutely dares the judge not to pick her.  You can’t train that kind of charisma into a dog;  either they have it or they don’t.  And this girl has it — in spades!  If the wonderful comments I received from folks outside the ring are any indication, she gathered quite a fan club for herself.

I am so, SO grateful to Cheryl Black for giving me this opportunity to co-own and show this lovely bitch.  Her future is looking mighty bright!

Congratulations as well to:

  • Kristle Dougherty, for finishing Saphira’s half-brother Panda this weekend.  He is her first Cardigan bred-by Champion out of her first Cardigan litter, and I expect we’ll see him back out in the Specials ring once he’s finished growing up.  Meanwhile, he gets to relax at home while his litter brother comes out to play.
  • Liz Lewis on Collin’s two Best of Breeds over the weekend.
  • Eliza Denoux on going Winners Dog on Sunday with Filbert.
  • and finally, to Cheryl Black, for breeding or co-breeding all of the final winning line-up (Breed, Opposite, BOWs and Selects) both days.

What a terrific way to usher in 2013, guys!

New Point Schedule for 2012

If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve already seen this, but the new AKC point schedule, effective 5/16/12, has some changes for Cardigans in Division 1, which now encompasses the six New England states, but NOT New York.  I suspect that it’s that division realignment that is primarily responsible for the change in numbers.

Frankly, I’ve been surprised for a while now that our numbers haven’t gone up because, at least in Maine and Massachusetts where I primarily show, we have majors A LOT.  However, friends in New York have reported that they have a very hard time finding majors.  In the western part of the state, it’s nearly impossible.

 

So, the new Division 1 point schedule looks like this:

1 point:  2-2  (same as before)

2 points:  4-4  (same as before

3 points:  6-5 (1 more dog than before)

4 points:  7-8 (1 more dog and 1 more bitch than before)

5 points:  8-12  (1 more bitch than before)

 

Meanwhile, in New York, which is now grouped with New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware in Division 2:

1 point:  2-2 (same as the 2011 Division 1 numbers)

2 points:  3-4  (1 less dog than 2011 Division 1 numbers)

3 points:  4-5  (1 less dog than 2011 Division 1 numbers)

4 points:  5-6  (1 less dog and 1 less bitch than 2011 Division 1 numbers)

5 points:  8-8  (3 less bitches than the 2011 Division 1 numbers)

 

I should mention that, for whatever reason, AKC does not have the new point schedule up yet under, you know, where it says Point Schedule.  For right now it’s still buried in the 2011 Statistics report, viewable here:  http://images.akc.org/pdf/events/2011AnnualStatistics.pdf .  The point schedules start around page 150.  There are also statistics by breed and by group of title winners in 2011, divided by conformation, obedience, tracking Rally, etc.  It’s pretty interesting, if numbers are your type of thing.

Judge-Mental

I’ve had a couple of judging experiences recently that have set me to wondering about just when it’s time to write to the AKC about a particular judge.  I’m not talking about my opinion differing from the judge’s; that’s bound to happen, and probably more often than not.  In that case, you make a note in your show record (you are keeping those, right?) and don’t enter that dog under that judge again.  Simple enough.

But what about when the judge is visibly struggling to carry out his/her judging assignment, due to either physical or mental limitations?  In one situation I’ve encountered recently, my friend’s breed was judged by a gentleman for whom standing was an obviously taxing effort.  He struggled to stand and walk with two canes, and leaned heavily on the table while the exhibitors attempted to set their dogs up for examination.  On several occasions, he leaned one or both of his canes against the table and subsequently knocked them over while trying to examine the dogs, startling them.  Also, his weight more than once caused the table to shift and slide while a dog was on it.  This gentleman had to sit between each dog, and sometimes while he was judging the dog on the down and back and/or on the go-around.

Now, I’m as guilty as the next person about not doing enough table-training and proofing, but that is A LOT to ask a dog to take in stride.  I was not showing to this particular judge myself, but I know that it was not a good experience for my friend with her dog.  Had it been me, I honestly think I would have had to pull my dog and been out the entry fee for that day.

In another instance, I was in the ring with a judge who was visibly confused about what class, even what sex she was judging.  Her several fuzzy moments culminated in her trying to put up dogs for both Best of Breed and Best Opposite, a situation that she resolved, when it was pointed out to her, by simply pointing to Winner’s Bitch for BOS over an obviously much more deserving bitch Special.

No one wants to be “that exhibitor” who runs around whining to the AKC rep or writing letters every other minute, and I don’t think anyone wants to see a long and creditable judging career tarnished by such finger-pointing, but at what point is enough enough?  Until the AKC receives multiple complaints about a particular judge, they are not going to suspend or revoke privileges — because they don’t even know there’s a problem!  Since we, as the exhibitor, are the ones affected by a judge’s inability to do the job, isn’t it incumbent upon us to notify the powers-that-be when there is a problem?

I did not notify anyone in either of these instances because, as I said, no one wants to be that person.  But having read an account of a similar situation that occurred this past weekend with one of these judges, I kind of wish I had.  Perhaps if I — and others — had done so, other exhibitors would not have had to deal with this unfortunate set of events.

What do you all think?  Is it enough to just make a note to yourself not to enter under a particular judge, or do you think it’s our duty to help maintain the integrity of the judging process (however much you feel there is to begin with)?

Pondering the Age Question

“He did great as a puppy, but then I had to put him away for a while. I hope his front/rear/topline/body-part-of-choice comes back!”

“Yeah, so-and-so had this pretty red puppy that she finished really quickly, then we never saw it again.”

“I don’t know. I put his majors on him really quickly, but I’ve been chasing these last four points forever.”

 

Sound familiar?  I hear these and similar comments from dog show exhibitors time and again, across all breeds.  Someone takes a promising puppy into the 6-9 month class, does well — maybe even finishes — and the dog is never seen or heard from again.  Maybe because it has moved on to a “forever home,” maybe because he or she is back at the kennel performing reproductive duties.  Maybe you see a photo in a Bulletin ad, but often times they are just a name in a catalog and pedigree.  Which is too bad; I mean, wouldn’t you like to see how those dogs turned out?

I know I sure would.  Why?  Because evaluating breeding stock before it fully matures is speculative investing at best, and Magic 8-Ball-asking at its worst.  And yet, by awarding Championship certificates to dogs under the age of 9 months, the AKC is saying it has full confidence that you can do just that.

Now granted, I don’t believe our reputable breeders are breeding their 9 month-old dogs and bitches willy-nilly.  I also don’t believe that good, knowledgeable breeders are basing their breeding decisions on a piece of paper that says “Champion.”  But how many people ARE swayed by that prefix in front of a dog’s name?  The puppy-buying public sure is, because the stated purpose of conformation showing is to determine the best in breeding stock, and with that CH designation comes the not-unreasonable expectation that the breeding stock in question is indeed of superior quality.

And when that CH came out of the puppy class, that’s not always the case.

I think it’s a given that AKC is not going to raise the age of eligibility to compete in dog shows.  And I have no doubt that there would be a hell of an out-cry against it if they were to consider making such a change.  How many breeders really have the time and the resources and the number of slots in their house or kennel to raise a puppy not to 6 months to see how it is turning out, but to 18 months?  Or 24 months?  Damn few.  It would mean fewer litters raised, which means fewer litters registered.

Which means less money for AKC.

So what the heck do I want, anyway?  Why am I rambling on about this on my blog?  I mean, my house has plenty of glass — Magnum’s first two majors and half of his points came out of the 6-9 class, so who am I to throw stones?  Why should I complain about a system that allowed me those points?

Honestly?  I’m not sure.  Maybe I’m uncomfortable when I hear puppy buyers congratulating themselves on their champion-pedigreed pup, without any clear understanding of how much — or how little — that title may mean.  The longer I’m involved in conformation, the less meaning I’m assigning to the title, even though I’ve finally just earned one.  What matters is the dog, not the letters in front of its name.  I guess it’s my hope that, as we educate people about purebred dogs in general and our breed in particular, we’re passing on the knowledge to make informed evaluations about the health and soundness of the product they’re buying, and not just pointing to ribbons and certificates on the wall as proof that we are producing quality.

What do you all think?  Are you A-okay with awarding championships to puppies?  Am I just over-thinking the issue to give myself something to worry about?  Sound off in the comments;  I’d really like to know where you all come down on this, because I think it’s an issue worth some discussion.

 

What a Weekend!

I know I’ve complained long and hard about the show venue in Fitchburg, MA, and my feelings about the building itself remain the same, but we sure had a good weekend there!  Magnum finished his championship (pending AKC confirmation) with a 5-point major and a BOB over 6 Specials; then, he followed that up with another BOB in his first appearance as a Special and earned a 5-point major toward his Grand Championship.  Way to gain some momentum, blue dog!

Unlike some show weekends, the success was spread around over the four days.  Complete results were as follows:

Friday:

  • WD:  Telltail Jeweltone Paws for Cause, owned by Cheryl Black (4-point Major)
  • Reserve WD: Sunkissed Tricks or Treats, owned by Sarah Davis
  • WB/BOS:  Kingscourt An Element of Summer, bred/owned by Linda Fowler and co-owned by Dave Stacco (4-point Major)
  • Reserve WB/BOS: Jeweltone Telltail Cross Your Paws, owned by Cheryl Black
  • Best of Breed:  CH Blue Wagn Dragnet’s Joe Friday, bred/owned by Lucybell Roessiger
  • Select Male:  CH Danzig Draig Dyson of Kingscourt, owned by Linda Fowler
This finished Grand Championships for both Dyson and Friday.  Way to go, guys!!
Saturday:
  • WD:  Hagaren Regent Black Star (“Ollie“), bred by Kate Roberson and co-owned by her and Brian Kazakoff (4-point Major)
  • Reserve WD:  Telltail Jeweltone Paws for Cause
  • WB:  Hagaren My Funny Valentine, bred by Kate Roberson and co-owned by Jim & Kathy Kazakoff (4-point Major)
  • Reserve WB/BOS:  Jeweltone Telltail Cross Your Paws
  • Best of Breed:  CH Cornerstone’s It’s All About Me At Burhill, owned by Dave Stacco
  • Select Male:  GCH Blackdales Kiss of the Dragon, bred by Cheryl Black and co-owned by her and Liz Lewis
  • Select Bitch:  CH Benever’s Waitin On A Woman, bred/owned by Carol Kasabian
Sunday:
  • WD/Best of Breed:  Magnum (5-point Major)
  • Reserve WD:  Ollie
  • WB/BOS:  Blackdale’s Mayhem at Midnight, bred by Cheryl Black and co-owned by her and Logan Davis
  • Reserve WB:  Xtacee Fade to Black @ Winddancer, bred by Kathy Schwabe and owned by Mary DeToma
  • Select Male:  GCH Blackdales Kiss of the Dragon
  • Select Bitch:  CH Benever’s Waitin On A Woman
Monday:
  • WD:  Kingscourt Robo Dragon, bred by Linda Fowler and co-owned by her and Annie Henshaw
  • Reserve WD:  Ollie
  • WB/BOS:  Jeweltone Telltail Cross Your Paws
  • Reserve WB:  Soper’s Amy at Benmore, owned by Gary & Susan Gilmore
  • Best of Breed:  Magnum
  • Select Male:  GCH Blackdales Kiss of the Dragon

Congratulations to everyone!!  It was a good weekend, spent in good company.

Type versus Standard

This January 2009 article by AKC Judge E. Katie Gammill on “Preferred Breed Type” made the rounds on Facebook this morning, but I think it deserves some thought and discussion beyond a Facebook Status update.

I’ve only been on the Cardigan conformation scene for four years now, but that’s certainly been long enough to see in action just exactly what Ms. Gammill is talking about in her article.  A ringful of mediocre dogs, with one obvious standout who gets passed over because it looks different from the others.  The true shame, to me, is that this is not just observed in judging by the all-arounders, it’s almost expected of them.

Gammill:  “Observing other breeds, she remarks on the lack of neck, restricted front movement and the lack of rear follow through; we discuss “gay tails” and breed type variances. We watch faulty movement and see coats dragging the ground. Weak pasterns and sickle hocks complete the picture. She wonders what causes this to happen to functional dogs in such a short time. It seems the correct dogs have fallen victim to what one may refer to as the “Perfection of Mediocrity”.

Boy-oh-boy does that sentence apply perfectly to a lot of Cardigans in the ring today!!  Yet time and again you’ll see just such dogs awarded because they are big and flashy, lack any one single glaring fault, and they are “dripping in breed type.”

Gammill:  “A respected dog person of long standing approached me with this statement while at a seminar. “A judge CAN NOT GO WRONG by putting up winners conforming to the majority of the type of dogs in the ring on a given day.” My response was “Surely not!” 

This makes me wonder about the judging thought process.  One of two things has to be at work, here.  Either the judges who are choosing conformity are not familiar enough with the breed standard to know the difference, or they are more concerned with others’ opinions of their judging than in adhering to that standard.  If it is the first, then I have to disagree with Ms. Gammill’s assertion that “Judges Education is NOT at fault.”  To be honest, I think I’d prefer that the problem be one of education, because then it is more easily fixed.

If the second issue is more at the heart of the problem, then whom exactly is the conforming judge trying to impress?  Is it the other judges who are putting up type over form?  Or is it the breeders/exhibitors who are in the ring with those mediocre but “typey” dogs?  And are those exhibitors showing those dogs because they know they can win based on seeing similarly mediocre dogs rewarded, or are they the ones whose education is lacking?  At some point I think the entire issue becomes something of a Chicken vs. Egg circular debate.

Gammill:  “When judges say, “This must be what the breeders want as the ring is flooded with this type” it is detrimental to any breed. It IS NOT about “what breeders want.” Breeders and judges have a responsibility to breed and judge to standard.

Succinctly put, and so very, very true.

Gammill:  “Putting a breed back on track requires ETHICAL HANDLERS, DEDICATED BREEDERS, AN UNDERSTANDING OF BREED STANDARDS and KNOWLEDGEABLE JUDGES WITH THE COURAGE TO MAKE RESPONSIBLE SELECTIONS.

I couldn’t agree more.

So:  what can we, as a lone and lowly breeder/exhibitor do?  After all, the judge has the ultimate authority in the ring, and short of an act of congress, his decision will not be overturned, right?

While that’s true, and while there is little to be done about a single day’s judging, I do think there are things that we can do if we are prepared to think and act in the long term.

  • KNOW YOUR BREED STANDARD.  This sounds like kind of a “no shit!” sort of no-brainer, but if asked can you rattle off what your standard says about the head, the topline, the movement, what the serious faults vs. disqualifications are?  Unless you have a photographic memory, you probably don’t remember all of those things after reviewing the standard once or twice.  So read it more often!  Take it out every couple of weeks, pick a section or two, review it thoroughly a couple of times, and then look at your dogs and apply it to them.  Will every dog in your house conform perfectly to the standard for whatever feature you’re reviewing that day?  Of course not.  The perfect dog has yet to be born.  The fact that your dog has faults is not a cause for shame; not understanding and being aware of what those faults are is.  So read and re-read and RE-READ your standard.  If you’re expecting the judge in the ring to know and understand it, then you darn well better too.
  • TALK TO THE JUDGE.  This can be a very difficult thing for an exhibitor to do, especially in the immediate aftermath of what one feels is a poor judging decision.  But in the case of an egregious error I do think that it is important.  Goodness knows there are some judges out there who are in it for the sake of their egos, but I’m still optimistic enough to believe that the majority of judges want to do a good job.  Having said that, there are right ways and wrong ways to go about it.  First, take a deep breath and make sure your objections are based on the standard and not on your feelings at having lost to a dog you think is inferior to yours.  If you can point to a particular section in the standard that backs up your position, and can discuss that in a professional, non-emotional manner, then wait until the judge is finished with his/her assignment and then ask if you can speak with him/her.  Calmly state your position, be specific, and whatever the judge says in response, calmly thank the judge for his/her time and leave it at that.  Their verbal response to you isn’t important.  What they do with the information down the line is.
  • WORK WITH JUDGES EDUCATION.  While not everyone has the time and ability to serve on the national club’s Judges Ed committee, you can help them do their job.  When you see or experience a judge who has done a poor job interpreting the breed standard or, worse yet, has misinterpreted it altogether, let the committee know!  (And don’t wait until you yourself are the victim of incorrect judging; indeed, an accounting of the event from someone with no self-interest in the situation is that much more persuasive.)  Again, remove your emotions from the equation as much as possible.  Send the committee chair a letter and again, be specific.  Tell them when and where the show was, and be succinct in describing what you feel the judge did that was in error, referring to the standard to show how it supports your position.  Is your lone letter going to produce sweeping changes in the AKC’s approval of judges?  No.  But if more and more exhibitors do this, and go about it in the right way, then the voice of many can be a catalyst for change.
  • BE INVOLVED WITH YOUR LOCAL ALL-BREED CLUB.  Simply put, if it weren’t for local all-breed clubs, we wouldn’t have dog shows.  Many, many exhibitors enter and show dogs, but how many of those people are club members at home who actually work behind the scenes to pull one or more shows a year together?  Yes, clubs can be dens of drama and discord, and we all have things we’d like to do other than attend meetings and work on committees and count how many stewards we need and order tents and oh god who will work the pick-a-poop raffle…  The fact is, if SOMEONE doesn’t do these things, we stop having dog shows.  Period.  So get involved.  Join the club’s show committee.  Don’t like who the club usually hires for judges?  Be a part of the group who makes the hiring decisions.  If you don’t want to put in any work, stop criticizing those who do it.
  • VOTE WITH YOUR PURSE.  Yes, the effect of one person standing alone is negligible, but the more people who boycott a judge and refuse to give him/her an entry, the less likely clubs are to hire that person who diminishes the bottom line.

These issues are not specific to the Cardigan Welsh Corgi; they are endemic to the sport of showing dogs.  But while supremely frustrating and seemingly insurmountable, let’s not throw in the towel.  Nothing is accomplished by the person who picks up his toys and heads home in disgust, vowing to leave the sport and never darken a ring gate again.  Let’s roll up our sleeves and figure out what part each of us can play in a solution to the problems we know exist.