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Things We Talk About, by Richard G. (Rick) Beauchamp
Posted on 05/11/2009 in Ringside Conversations.

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Richard G. (Rick) Beauchamp
Referring to the Standard
As individuals progress along in their careers as dog judges they begin to develop their own personal list of “must take” items. Things that run the gamut from little personal repair and clean-up kits on through to medicinal remedies and for the ladies invariably an extra pair of comfortable shoes.

Most judges also feel it is important to take along the official standard for every breed that they expect to judge on the day or the weekend. I know they are definitely musts for me.

A great many judges do refresh their memory of the standards during a flight for a distant show or in the car on arrival at a driving destination. For one thing, it most definitely helps to pass the time between being there in good time, having allowed time for mishaps en route and finding the venue, and showing one’s face too early at ringside. The latter can be a nuisance for the club officials who are busy enough getting the day’s show under way. And avoiding a too early ringside appearance also eliminates having to dodge the day’s too friendly exhibitor who feels no compunction in engaging the judge in conversation about their breed or worse, the dog they are currently showing.

There are times when I am judging that I may finish before some of the other judges on the panel and have the opportunity to sit and watch them do their assignments. While I was doing so at a recent show, the judge I was watching walked over to her table and appeared to be reading from the standard of the breed that was currently in the ring.

An exhibitor who was standing behind me had an interesting reaction to the judge’s referring to the standard. “You would think that a judge would know the standard by heart once he starts judging a breed,” the young lady said.

I am sure not everyone sees it as I do, but I give a judge all the credit in the world for referring to the standard rather than guessing at a particular question and doing the dog in question a disservice because of not being sure. I suppose it is best to know all the standards by heart, but just how many judges can honestly say they are able to quote every line of every standard of every breed recognized by the UKC? A few of the breeds perhaps, but all 364 of them? Please!
I always take the standards of the breeds I am scheduled to judge because I do like to review them while traveling or the evening before the show. I always have them handy in the ring with me as well and I assure you I have no hesitation whatsoever in referring to them if need be in the course of the day.

I can’t tell you how often those once-in-a-blue-moon situations have arisen at which I have drawn a complete blank. A dog appears that is of a color you have never seen before - acceptable or not? And those breeds that have specific restrictions on just how much white a dog can have on its feet and front in total. Better to guess and guess wrong, or to refer to the standard and be absolutely correct?

Then there are those standards that have size restrictions. One hypothetical standard might call for a disqualification for “over 15 inches” while another standard might say disqualify anything “15 inches and over”. The two are entirely different measurements, and if I were the exhibitor who had a dog who measured 15 inches on the button I would certainly want the judge to be absolutely sure of which disqualification applied to my dog.

There are some judges who might follow the oft quoted maxim, “if you aren’t sure just put the dog down at the end of the line.” That might satisfy the judge or at least get him out of a bind, but as in the case of the 15-inch on the button dog, it might mean being out of the ribbons when the dog could well have been the day’s winner.

Quite frankly, and were it up to me, I would have it a requirement that it be the show-giving club’s responsibility to have a complete set of breed standards in every ring being used on the day. If referring to the standard in the course of the day became more common practice I think there would be far less guessing and judging could do nothing but benefit the exhibitor.

Of course, judges should be completely familiar with the standards of the breeds they are judging - having to refer to the standard every few minutes while judging doesn’t inspire confidence in the individual’s knowledge of the breed, but for heavens sake, double checking an important point can certainly not be put down as not having knowledge of the breed.

When I prepare to judge a large or specialty show entry I like to read not only the club standard but that of the country of origin as well. I judge by the former but often a new standard or a standard revised somewhat from that of the country of origin can omit a seemingly insignificant point that in fact really helps to express the true essence of the breed.

The High Cost of Mediocrity
We hear the term “stud dog” used day in and day out in today’s dog game. I’ve known small breeders who will buy a young male dog for the express purpose of using him as a mate for his two bitches. The point in it all is to produce puppies, period.

The dog does in fact produce puppies for the owner, and his being a very ordinary dog produces puppies that are at the very least, we can hope, ordinary as well. This ordinary dog, father of the ordinary puppies, is then given the title “stud dog” when in fact all he really is nothing more than a producer of puppies.

Males that get the job of mating a bitch done quickly and easily are often referred to as “good stud dogs” as well. What the owner is referring to is the dog’s physical ability to perform the task. “Good stud dog” here has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the dog’s offspring.

So what is a Stud Dog? There’s only one kind of dog that deserves that title and only one kind of male dog that any breeder (particularly any small breeder) should ever consider using for breeding. It has been said many times and many ways over the years, but in the end I see a Stud Dog as a dog that, by merit of his genetic prepotency, has proven he is able to sire offspring whose quality alters the course of his breed in a positive manner.

If every person breeding a litter in the next 10 years were to select the dog described as the sire of each of their litters, I assure you the quality of purebred dogs in America would improve tenfold in less than 10 years.
What a simple way to upgrade all breeds. Too simple?

Odd Man Out
Recently I had the opportunity to visit with some longtime friends of mine back in Michigan - people who have been in dogs just about as long as I have, and I assure you that is a good long time. One of the points that came up in our discussion was that good old fashioned judging quality called Intestinal Fortitude - or to put it in the vernacular - guts, one of the most important qualities a judge must possess. It’s about having the courage to go ahead and do the right thing in spite of what every Tom, Dick and Harriett might be doing. How about at least once in a while giving the occasional dog that can really do something for a breed an even break? I’m talking about that one really correct dog in the lineup that all too often gets tossed out with the trash because it doesn’t look like “the rest.”

I can name you half a dozen instances I’ve observed recently that the “odd one” was out, and not because the dog was wrong. It was because the dog was, while entirely right, the only dog in its class that was really correct and therefore stood out like a sore thumb.

I really can’t blame the newer judges for not recognizing the lone really good one. In some breeds it has been so long and so rare that that a truly top-notch dog has come along that the newer person may never have seen a “great” in a particular breed. He has no point of reference.

I can’t, however, find it easy to forgive the veteran who really has seen the good ones and overlooks the rare one that comes along now in favor of going along with the current trend. This is not only a disservice to the breed but to the younger judges who really want to learn and haven’t had the long-standing opportunities that the veteran judge has had.

This article originally appeared in the May 2009 issue of BLOODLINES Dog Event News

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.