Books of Knowledge
Posted on 05/22/2006 in Ringside Conversations.
Richard G. (Rick) Beauchamp
Most UKC judges come from the breeders’ ranks, and in my opinion, there couldn’t be a better place for an aspiring judge to come from. There is absolutely no one more experienced at evaluating dogs on the basis of type than the breeder. In effect, the breeder begins judging with his first litter. (Which of this litter of six is the best puppy? Which is second best? Which, if any, have no redeeming virtues?) These are questions every breeder must ask, and they are exactly the same questions every judge must ask himself of every class he passes upon.
The longer a person breeds and watches puppies grow and mature, the more proficient he will be in evaluating what stands before him. That said, few judges aspire to judge only one breed. Those who find judging enjoyable and realize they do a good job at it want to go on to other breeds.
The hands-on experience, of course, is best, but we can not expect someone to have bred and raised every single breed they might want to become proficient in judging. At that rate, most people would be lapsing into senility before they came anywhere near being able to judge more than a handful of breeds.
How then, do people become multi-breed judges? The key to learning any breed is research. Through the years, I have made it a practice to clip and save articles from dog newspapers and magazines that deal with breed type and soundness, and movement as they relate to a specific breed. After the articles have been read, with important passages highlighted, I file the articles alphabetically by breed. At first there is a general file for each letter of the alphabet, but as soon as I have acquired sufficient material on a single breed, I give that breed its own individual folder. I also include pictures of outstanding dogs in this file.
Breed standards can and do differ from country to country, but that said, all valuable information is kept regardless of country and/or standard. You will find there is always at least some single tidbit of information that applies to the breed, irrespective of which country the article was written in. Often, these articles from the foreign press bring to mind facts that have been obscured in the breed’s development here at home.
Important Breed Books
I also have an extensive library compiled over the years of which probably 90% are single breed books. Not the “how to raise and train” variety, but the books that deal with the origin and history of a breed and those that have a good section on understanding breed type and/or a discussion of the various points of the standard.
I treasure a first edition copy of Dr. E. S. Montgomery’s “The Bull Terrier” which he authored in 1946. It is a primer in understanding the unique type characteristics of the Bull Terrier. Mary Crane’s classic, “The Great Pyrenees”, written for the Great Pyrenees Club of America in 1949, is another that probes deeply into the components of breed type. The two books may seem far removed from what one might want to know about, let us say, the APBT or the Toy Fox Terrier, but what they say transcends their own breeds and is applicable to one’s study of any other breed.
Frau Stockman’s “My Life With Boxers”, originally written in Germany decades ago, can tell you more about the purpose of the breed than any book I have ever read. Mary Roslin Williams’ brilliant “Advanced Labrador Breeding” is a must for anyone who ever intends to judge the breed or for that matter, any other sporting breed. The authors’ uncomplicated understanding of the essence of type and their unique ability to bring its components together in a few simple words are the kinds of things that stick with you when you are in the ring trying to make fine line decisions.
I think of these breeder-authors as great artists because what they have accomplished with pen and whelping box is not unlike the great masters who had an exquisite sense of color, line and balance and were able to project this unique ability onto canvas. The outstanding dogs these master breeder-authors produced were the canvas of their artistic abilities, and their books are, in effect, printed images of not only the great dogs they bred, but also permanent records of how these artistic triumphs were achieved. How fortunate we are to have these records. Can you imagine having had autobiographical records of how Michelangelo, Gauguin, or da Vinci conceived and executed their timeless works?
There are three other breed books, written in far distant parts of the world by individuals in vastly different breeds which I would consider textbooks for the aspiring judge. I find myself going back to them time and time again. This compelling trio is comprised of John A. Vlasto’s consummate “The Pekingese” (first published in 1923 in England as “The Popular Pekingese”). The second is Cam Milward’s incredibly educational “Grenpark Fox Terriers” (published in Australia in 1989), and more currently Cindy Cooke’s gifted “The New Scottish Terrier”, published here in America within the last few years.
What I find particularly noteworthy in these three books written by different individuals about three different breeds is they all tell the same important tale! Type, as described in the respective breed standards, is illustrated and explained in terms simple enough for the novice, but also detailed enough to provide a learning experience for the seasoned judge and fancier.
The Bottom Line
Breed character, an important element of good judging, is given great emphasis – “a Peke is not a Peke unless it conducts itself like a Peke,” says Vlasto. Personality and the manner in which a dog moves must reflect the original concept of the breed.
Milward states, “Breed Type and Character I see as being almost synonymous. I have heard people describe it as being the life and expression of the eye, mobility of the ears, tail carriage, correct construction - it is all of these and more - remember it is all the ‘collective’ peculiarities.” The generic qualities that create the great show dog are of little consequence in these works, and had little or no meaning to the authors if the “added extra attractions” were not attributes of the dog who closely respected the demands of its standard.
While the knowledgeable know that meeting all the requirements of a breed standard sets a nearly unachievable course, neither breeder nor judge should compromise the need to achieve it. Milward puts it so well when he says, “If you quit climbing Mt. Everest 100 feet short of the peak, then you haven’t climbed Mt. Everest. Do you then say Mt. Everest doesn’t exist, (or it) should be lowered in height or the climb made easier? What satisfaction is (there) in such ploys? Surely it is the very challenge of degree of difficulty which makes its attainment all the sweeter.”
Cooke, in “The New Scottish Terrier”, illustrates how important points in a breed’s original standard can be distorted by time and misunderstanding. The Scottie’s original breed standard asked for “a level jaw”, while the modern standard allows “a level bite.” Vastly different situations. Cooke goes on to say history indicates the change came about as a result of a misunderstanding of the original requirement.
The things I have mentioned may seem to be small details, but they are details that give those of us from outside of a breed information that can help making our decisions in the ring. You might compare reading these books to using a driver’s manual written by a qualified and experienced driver. They both give you the “how-to’s” and are able to because they have done it themselves.
There are some breeds that have a great number of books (some good, some not-so-good), and others that really require some diligent searching to come by. It is important, however, that the aspiring judge spend some time looking through a book before it is purchased. A great deal of money can be spent on books and good ones are well worth the investment but do not waste money on books that do not add to your already existing knowledge storehouse on the specific breed or breeds you are studying.
The More General Resources
This is not all meant to indicate that books of a more general nature are of no value. This is not so. No dog library should call itself complete without a copy of Rachel Page Elliott’s “Dogsteps” on the shelf. “Dogsteps” is a primer on correct movement, and will prove to be a ready reference for one’s entire judging career when those odd situations arise in the movement department that you may not have run into previously.
A good many aspiring and seasoned judges have found value in my book, “Solving the Mysteries of Breed Type.” The book explains how type is defined and how to apply its components to any breed the student attempts to learn.
Two other books I can highly recommend have nothing at all to do with dogs but a whole lot to do with good judging. The titles are: the very hard to find, “Elements of Livestock Judging” by W.W. Smith, and the more easily located, “Dairy Cattle Judging Techniques” by George Trimberger. Both books deal with the qualities a good judge (of anything!) must possess and are monumentally valuable in learning to make sound, objective decisions.
The information contained in Mr. Beauchamp’s “Solving the Mystery of Breed Type” series that appeared in BLOODLINES, can be found in his book, Solving the Mystery of Breed Type, published by Doral Publishing, Inc.