The Exhibitor's Responsiblity, by Rick Beauchamp
Posted on 09/23/2009 in Ringside Conversations.
Richard G. (Rick) Beauchamp
Evidently my article in the May issue of BLOODLINES touched a nerve on the parts of readers across the country - especially the section of that article entitled “Odd Man Out”. The number of notes and e-mails I have received since the publication of that issue have convinced me that exhibitors across the country are experiencing disappointment in successfully campaigning dogs that they believe are of high quality but not conforming to the popular “norm”.
I wish that I could provide magic panaceas that would enlighten all who judge as to what is actually right as opposed to what is currently popular. In many cases, color, size, and the many other superficial characteristics may well enhance a dog or a breed but are no substitute for real quality.
Exhibitors may have to adjust their goals in the win department to exhibiting their dogs to judges who have proven over time that they do in fact have a good grasp on what a respective breed should be as opposed to what it has become. There is really no other way that what is correct will get its due.
All this, however, does not eliminate the exhibitor’s responsibilities to his breed. Everyone who shows dogs obviously likes what they are showing and has high hopes when it comes to winning. But because we have a particular fondness for the dogs we own and show, we can become blinded to just where they stand in the spectrum of quality.
Like the knowledgeable judge, the knowledgeable and objective exhibitor should be able to look down the line at his competition and know exactly where his dog belongs. Not where he would like his dog to be placed but where the dog’s quality merits a position.
This is an extremely difficult ability to master because we not only have to overcome our subjective evaluation of the dog we sincerely care for but also we must get by the perfectly understandable desire to win. In plain and simple words, the exhibitor must have as much knowledge of the breed as the judge before he the exhibitor can legitimately cry “foul” when his dog does not win.
Knowing that the competition you face may exceed that of the dog you are showing doesn’t mean that you give up and make no attempt to present your dog at its best. On the contrary - you are in the ring to win and you are obligated to do everything possible to present your dog in the best light possible. Even though you are there to win, you should also be clever enough to know when you are correctly placed, whether that is first or last.
Winning when you shouldn’t does not ameliorate a bad day’s job of judging. Take your win and be happy, but do not rationalize that just because your dog won over better competition makes the outcome correct. I’ve sat and listened to individuals complain on and on about how bad a job of judging was being done until their dog won something and then suddenly the decision was taken as the word of the Almighty. I’m not advocating running around telling everyone present that you didn’t deserve the win, I’m simply stating that it is your responsibility to know when and where you deserve to win. I have digressed a bit but I wanted to emphasize the importance of understanding what your breed standard asks for and knowing where you legitimately belong in the competition.
Every time a new litter is whelped, or another class of dogs enters the show ring, the ability to select the best is called upon. There are a myriad of things to consider in making selections, but the smart fancier, whether breeder, exhibitor, or judge, has developed certain abilities that will assist him immeasurably in rising to the task.
Every purebred breed of dogs that exists has definitive characteristics. They are all contained in the written in the standard of the breed, or if in some cases they may not be specifically described within the standard, the words used in the standard make implications that properly applied allow the reader to get the answers he needs. What the word pictures created by the well-written breed standard tell the reader is where the dog he is looking at adheres or departs from the ideal.
This all sounds simple enough but standards ask for many things. For the uneducated it all may seem as unfathomable as looking at the disassembled parts of a guided missile. Where would one start to put all these seemingly unrelated parts together to emerge with a correctly made finished product?
Those who have followed my writing through the years know that I am a firm believer in taking the proper steps to educate. So many of the lectures and seminars we attend to learn about a breed describe all the parts in detail but never impress what the finished product should look like.
I firmly believe that the most important thing to learn about any breed is its correct silhouette. The silhouette identifies the breed for us. It is the first thing that brings breed recognition, and the more correct the silhouette is the more apt the respective dog is to being correct.
Therefore, as I have gone in great detail to explain in my book, Solving the Mysteries of Breed Type, learning to recognize the correct silhouette of a breed is the most basic step in understanding a given breed. Think of the silhouette as that which draws a line around everything the breed should be.
Accompanying this article is an illustration of a generic dog (Breed X) for which I have also listed ideal proportions. It diagrams the information you should have to fully understand what constitutes the ideal specimen of this breed and when a like diagram is created for any breed it conveys the same information. The knowledge this drawing imparts is the knowledge a student needs before he can quickly recognize the ideal from the lesser dog of a breed.
What You Need To Know
The dimensions you must have of Dog X or of any breed in order to arrive at the correct silhouette are as follows:
A to B (forechest to buttocks) = length of body
C to D (top of shoulder to ground) = height
C to E (top of shoulder to bottom of chest) = depth of body
E to D (elbow to ground) = length of leg
C to F (top of shoulder to set on of tail) = length of back
C to G (top of shoulder to occiput) = length of neck
H to J (tip of muzzle to occiput) = length of head
H to I (tip of muzzle to stop) = length of muzzle
I to J (stop to occiput) = length of skull
What the breed standard for Breed X calls for is as follows:
A to B (forechest to buttocks) = length of body is 1/4 longer than -
C to D (top of shoulder to ground)
C to E (top of shoulder to bottom of chest) = depth of body is 1/2 the distance C-D
E to D (elbow to ground) = length of leg is also 1/2 the distance of C-D
C to F (top of shoulder to set on of tail) = length of back is 1/4 less than C-D
C to G (top of shoulder to occiput) = length of neck is 1/3 the length of A-B
H to J (tip of muzzle to occiput) = length of head
H to I (tip of muzzle to stop) = length of muzzle 3/8 of H - J
I to J (stop to occiput) = length of skull 5/8 of H-J
The importance of knowing and committing this information to memory is that in order for the silhouette of Dog X or a dog of any breed to be correct, the parts within that silhouette must themselves be pretty close to correct. In the simplest terms possible, the dog that has all the parts with the right proportions, and whose parts relate to each other correctly, has the greatest chance of being a quality specimen.
Does it not follow that this is the information that should be the first step in recognizing the quality dog? Once it is understood what the end product should be it can be easier to detect where inconsistencies lie and follow through to see how serious those inconsistencies are and what steps if any may be taken to correct them.
This information gives the judge the opportunity to evaluate just how serious a given departure might be in respect to the breed at hand. It also gives the breeder the information he needs to correct the problem in the next generation of his breeding program. An example is one I’ve used in the past in which a breeder mistakes the problem in his dogs as too much length of body, when in fact the problem really lies in shortness of leg.
Not every standard gives us all the information that we need to create the correct silhouette for a breed but there are ways to seek out this information elsewhere and we will look into the many ways this can be done in upcoming columns
Richard G. (Rick) Beauchamp has been successfully involved in practically every facet of purebred dogs: breeding, exhibiting, publishing, writing. He is the author of numerous breed and all breed books including the best-selling Solving the Mysteries of Breed Type and Breeding Dogs for Dummies. He has judged all breeds throughout the world and was one of the United Kennel Club's first all breed judges.