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Your Attention, Please!
Posted on 09/19/2007 in Ringside Conversations.

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Richard G. (Rick) Beauchamp
There is no doubt that I can speak for many judges when it comes to wondering what exhibitors are watching while they stand outside the ring waiting for their breed to be judged. I do know that they are looking at what goes on in the ring, but I wonder what it is they are actually seeing?

The reason that I wonder is because once some of these same exhibitors enter my ring, it would appear that they have no idea what occurred in the class before or the many classes before that.

Most, if not all judges use their preferred ring procedure for every single class that they judge breed after breed. Granted, there may be an occasional shift due to lack of shade or some other unanticipated problem but by and large the judge will use his same procedures and patterns the whole day through.

This is why I find it so amazing that the exhibitor (and I’m not talking about the first-time novice here) has no clue as to where to set up his dog or in what direction the dog should be moved. Especially perplexing is asking the exhibitor to move his dog “straight down and back” only to have the exhibitor say, “In a triangle?” Now it would be my guess that if I wanted the dog to move in a triangle, I would say, “Please move your dog in a triangle.”

The judge is not trying to trick the exhibitor; he only wants him to follow directions. I can assure you that paying attention to what the judge has been doing the day long and following suit not only saves time, it saves wear and tear on the judge’s nerves.

Give the Devil His Due
A breed standard applies to every dog shown within its confines. It calls for many specifics, and judges must abide by its edicts. That said, common sense would tell you that not every judge who reads that standard would interpret it in exactly the same way. And even if the interpretation were the same between two judges, each will have his or her personal priorities while still remaining within the framework of the given standard.

Every dog shown differs from the next in some way. Dog “A” is better in front, Dog “B” better in head. It is here where the judge’s personal priorities might well come into play, it being hard for the one judge to overlook a less than adequate front while the other finds head characteristics the deciding factor.

Some exhibitors are astute enough to observe where a judge’s priorities lie. Others, well you have to wonder. If they are not looking into the ring to see what the judge’s procedure is, you would think that they are trying to observe the judge’s like and dislikes.

I can remember well back when I was showing dogs (back in prehistoric days), getting to ringside early enough to observe the judge I was to show under. Breed made little difference; I wanted to see what seemed to be important to the judge. It was common practice to do so then, and it was often a pretty good indicator of just where any one of us would end up in the final countdown.

One judge might make showmanship the final criteria. Another might do it all on type standing, forgiving minor flaws of movement. To another, topline was the end all and be all. Breeders and exhibitors allow themselves preferences and priorities. It should come as no surprise that judges have them as well.

What point is there in bringing a dog to a judge whose history proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that he or she can not abide by the flaws your dog might have? To do so and then go off in a huff because you didn’t win seems not to make a whole lot of sense.

Picture This
A photograph arrived in the mail the other day. It was accompanied by letter in which the exhibitor explained she had been negligent in sending the photo to me in that it was taken “a while back” (a while back as in eight months a while back!) when I gave the dog some insignificant win at Faraway K.C. This was followed with a blow-by-blow of every breath the dog had taken since that fateful day and a list of begats dating back to every famous dog the breed had ever produced. Not to be overlooked of course was an excruciatingly detailed account of every show the dog had since entered.

I glanced at my upcoming schedule and, surprise of all surprises, I was to judge that breed in that same area in two weeks! And another surprise when I got to the show - said dog and exhibitor were there, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed! As she entered the ring, I got a sly wink and knowing look.

Please, if you are going to send a judge a photo of your dog, requested or not, have it be within some reasonable time of the win. Not all judges were born yesterday, and some may even suspect an ulterior motive in your photo’s late (but timely) arrival!

Flattery Gets You Everywhere (Some of the Time!)
And on the subject of letters and photographs, I got the most wonderful letter in the mail the other day. The sender praised my ability to judge her breed to the heavens. “Brilliant, intuitive, honest, noble, courteous, efficient” and on and on and on. She brought up points of my character that I was completely unaware that I had ever possessed - that anyone that I had ever known had possessed for that matter. I must say I was flattered beyond all description and thought seriously about raising my judging fee a dollar or two.

The exhibitor had enclosed a photo of what she explained was, “the best win I had ever had over the breed’s strongest competition of the decade, etc., etc.” I reread the part she wrote about how I was the only judge she ever wanted to ever show under ever again and then I looked at the photograph. A fine photograph of dog, handler and judge indeed, the only problem was that the judge pictured was not I!

Moral of the story: If you’re going to blow smoke, make sure it’s in the right direction.

The behavior and tactical blunders made by some involved with their dogs on which all the money is spent makes me wonder if the point of it all is simply to spend a lot of money? The advertising makes us lust to see the dog, but the actions of those involved with the dog inspires heading for the nearest exit when they appear in one’s ring.

Now we all know that a self-respecting judge will do his or her utmost to insure the best dog in a line up gets its just rewards. I doubt there are many, despite a burning and justifiable desire to do so, who would intentionally dismiss a deserving dog from consideration because of a previous bad experience with the individual showing the dog. However, (and I can not emphasize the importance of the however in this), there are many, many times when it is a matter of six to one and half dozen to the other as to which dog will go first and the other second.

And it’s not even a matter of that boring old saw of “all things being equal.” Rarely do you find dogs who are actually equal in the first place. It’s more apt to be a case of both dogs having their own virtues and shortcomings. In the end, the two come out with the same mental score but for entirely different reasons. Showmanship may not even make the decision in that both dogs excel in that respect, and I think falling back on the old cop-out, “the other dog out moved you on the day,” has proven itself just so much spiel.

A judge cannot stand in the ring debating until hell freezes over. Nor can the judge move the dogs until they or their handlers fall over from a coronary. The answer is actually that there is no real answer. It becomes a matter of personal choice; and, yes, in the end there are those occasions when it is simply about that - a matter of personal choice.

One of the exhibitors has long proven to be a sportsman (sportsperson?) of the highest order, accepting any and every decision with grace and appreciation. (Who knows, the person may go back to the set-up and kick holes through nine crates and all the help, but it’s out of the sight of the judge and spectators what they do there is their business.)

The other exhibitor is the one that makes even the most stalwart judge shudder when he or she realizes that the Darth Vader of the doggie set is entering the ring - a sorehead, a poor loser, the person of a thousand expressions, all of them sour. The one that glowers at the judge when the win is anything but first and does everything possible to indicate that, short of being dismissed from the ring.

Who do you think has earned the benefit of the doubt? (I’m hoping you didn’t have to spend too long on figuring that one out!)

A huge investment has been made in creating good will for both dogs, but which dog has the benefit of support from the person handling it? Good will does not end on the advertising page. It may begin there, but it is built on what happens in day-to-day real life in the ring.

Close decisions made on any day can be altered the next. It never ceases to amaze how little some exhibitors think about tomorrow. There are always occasions to come, and often judges are forced to make hard-pressed choices between dogs they really like because unfortunately only one can be first. Should all remain the same on another day the situation could easily be reversed, but I assure you when the exhibitor behaves like a petulant child, he or she has not engendered any good will. They have failed to support their own dog.

Speed Talking
You’ve heard of speed-reading? Well, some of our exhibitors it seems are blessed with speed talking. I’ve met some fast talkers in my life, but none so fast as the exhibitor who has something to tell you that he or she is certain will impress beyond all reason. It normally happens after you’ve given a dog a Best of Breed win and you’re scheduled to do the Group later on in the day. You grow especially wary when that win is over a nondescript entry of one or two.

The photographer enters the ring, and from the time the exhibitor picks up the dog and places it on the table you are given a biographical sketch of the person’s experience as a breeder, exhibitor and handler, their relationship to every known dog show celebrity who has ever graced a show ring and a full recount of every breed win, group placement and near Best In Show the dog has ever had.

I stand in total awe in the amount of information you are given in that miniscule period of time it has taken the exhibitor to lift the dog from the ground to the table. What, ten seconds? Amazing!

Could I have limped along through life (or at least through the upcoming Group) without all that information? Perhaps, but it’s my turn to give the devil his due. I’d barely be able to get out my name and address in so short a time span and here I’ve been updated on the history of the dog world according to Fluffy’s owner.

Wonders never cease, nor do today’s exhibitors.

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.