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CONSISTENT JUDGING
Posted on 06/22/2006 in Ringside Conversations.

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Richard G. (Rick) Beauchamp
Consistent. It’s what exhibitors want a judge to be. Right?

Perhaps.

Unfortunately, I think there are some misconceptions as to what the word consistent really means. I am afraid in the minds of many exhibitors a consistent judge is one who puts up their dog the first time it is shown under that judge and then forever more. This, in spite of what the dog looks and acts like, or what the existing competition might be on any given day in the future.

A Best of Breed or any other win is rarely given a dog or bitch that is so vastly superior to all others of its kind that it should never be defeated. Occasionally this does happen. We have had those few greats in dog show history who disprove the rule by their exceptional quality that there is no such thing as a perfect specimen. Actually, these rare few aren’t actually perfect either but they come closer to perfection than what we have or expect to see.

“Talk about inconsistent! He gave me the Group last week and today we were dumped in the breed.” If I have heard one exhibitor say it, I’ve heard at least a hundred. Aside from the fact the word “dumped” is inappropriately applied to any decision other than a win there are other factors which bear consideration.

First, what happens one day often has little or nothing to do with what may happen on the next. Dog judging presents too many variables to ever rely upon what has occurred previously to factor into one’s decisions.

Comparing what happens in group competition to what occurs in breed competition is futile. They have nothing to do with each other. A dog can be the most superior example of its own breed present in a given group and yet when placed among members of its own breed, that same dog could be near the end of the line in that particular competition.

Let’s face it, we have all heard the statement, “This one will have trouble getting out of the Breed, but when it does there will be a lot of Group and Best In Show wins waiting.” One need not be a rocket scientist to understand the reason behind the statement is usually that the dog in discussion lacks breed type but has great charisma.

A judge’s responsibility is to put up the dog he or she feels is the best, on the day at the moment. Loyalty has no place in the ring outside of the judge’s need to remain true to the demands of the Breed Standard. A popular and very close to all-breed status judge said it all when she stated, “I just put up a dog, I don’t marry it!”

So then, what is consistent judging?

In days of old (when Hector was a pup and all that) we would spend considerable time prior to our scheduled time of judging observing a judge we had not shown under previously just to see what he or she was generally attracted to. Was it charisma, soundness, type? And if it was type, was type interpreted to mean head alone or was it a certain overall balance and proportion?

More than once I went into the ring knowing full well that my only shot at winning was in the outside chance the dog that might appeal most to the judge was having a bad day. This, because the judge at hand had consistently shown he or she leaned toward the typiest, or showiest or what have you.

We would not be surprised or upset if the judge followed suit. Actually we were pleased. It let us know that the judge had definite preferences and if the style of dog the judge preferred was a good one it would stand a much better than average chance of winning. It allowed us to know what kind of dog to bring to that judge the next time he or she judged.

Of course there have always been those judges whose “preference” is the dog that has done the most winning. Perhaps a safe way to go but when there are a good number of top winners in the ring at one time, what then are the deciding factors? It’s always a crap shoot with these fellows so you might as well be in there if your dog is a known winner because it is anyone’s guess as to who might be pointed to.

I feel quite certain it will come as a complete shock to some exhibitors that judges can and do have personal preferences, and that these preferences have nothing to do with interpreting the standard incorrectly.

Breeders and exhibitors seem able to make allowances for different interpretations of the standard. I can cite any number of cases in which two outstanding breeders in the same breed differ significantly in what they consider the ideal look. Not different “types”, but different variations on what is perceived as the ideal. (I still resolutely stand by my belief that there is only one type - the correct one. I base this belief upon the fact that I know of no standard that says a dog can look like this or on the other hand, like something entirely different.)

If it is possible for breeders to envision something in a slightly different manner, would this not apply to how a judge sees the dogs before him or her? It is very possible, even probable that there can be two dogs in the ring of overall equal quality (that is they both meet the requirements of the standard fairly equally), but they may well be far from duplicates of each other. One dog may be a little better here, the other dog a little better there. Mind you, both dogs fulfill the demands of their standard quite well.

Which dog will win? This will depend upon several factors, not the least of which are the judge’s priorities - those things that hold a slightly higher place in his or her mind than what might take prominence in the mind of a different judge. It could be the dog’s showmanship, its eye color, its bloom at the moment. In reality all things being equal, it may have far less to do with which dog is best than it does with which dog has the most of what is important to the judge officiating on the day.

Unfortunately there is an underlying notion that the dog that has won the most should win the most - always. This is only realistic when, in fact, the dog at hand is, without question, the best dog in the breed at a given time. Not only must it be the best dog in the breed but it must also pass every preference test of the judges licensed to pass upon that breed. This is seldom the case.

I can recall with great clarity an article written some time back by a rather prominent exhibitor complaining of the prejudice of judges against the dogs holding or in pursuit of breed win records. The contention of the writer was that the marvelous dogs that had acquired such records were looked upon with disfavor by some judges and that this should not be so. The inference however was that if a dog were good enough to win all it had, was not the dog entitled to win everything? And unless the dog did in fact win everything it could only be due to prejudicial treatment by the judge.

Certainly an interesting but highly unrealistic concept of what occurs in the ring.

On the other hand it should be clearly understood that all this is not to indicate a belief in the theory that “anything goes.” I have always been adamantly opposed to what I have heard some judges espouse as there being no real right or wrong in any judge’s decisions.

Nonsense!

There is a right and wrong. Right is when a judge has the best dogs at the front of the line and the poor dogs at the end of the line. Although Judge A and Judge B might differ in which dog they place first, the decisions should only be reached from among the best of what is present. To place a dog of inferior quality over one that is truly superior totally contradicts what the judges unquestionable responsibility is.

There are times when a judge is forced to abandon consistency in that there are no quality dogs of the style he or she prefers present in the ring. There are other times when clearly the best dog in the ring is of a style other than what the judge really prefers. No good judge is going to honor a poor dog of the style he or she likes over a far superior one of yet another style.

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, In