Fri, 10/13/2023 - 11:29am

This and That

From withholding points to cheap champions, Sid Marx ruminates

I am very fortunate to have a select few friends who I use as “sounding boards” for my articles, and I always appreciate their feedback and suggestions. I consider two or three of them to be my “key” secret weapons, and we often have discussions about possible topics for an article. Their contributions are invaluable, and I can never thank each and every one of them enough. This article may sound like it is being written by that old fogey sitting on the front porch and yelling, “Get off my lawn.” So be it!

I have written before about judges withholding or not withholding ribbons and/or points. I don’t think all exhibitors understand how difficult a decision this is for a judge. No judge wants to withhold. The reason for withholding is simple — yet difficult. When a judge awards Winners or higher, he signs a form in which he states that he believes this dog is worthy of championship points. What should a judge do if he doesn’t think this? Many exhibitors complain about too many “cheap champions.” Then how can you denigrate a judge who takes his or her responsibility seriously, and whose integrity says to not award points just because the dogs are standing in front of you? I have withheld points before, and I hope to not ever have to do that again, but if that is the proper thing to do — to protect the breed — then I must do it. That is an important responsibility of a judge.

Awards can be withheld at any level: classes, Winners, Best of Breed or Select. As one judge said, “My criterion for withholding Select is if I can't see how the dog(s) in question could have earned its championship (in its current condition and behavior). I've only withheld Select two or three times over the years. One of them was a breed with a ¼-inch undershot DQ and it was quite close. Last weekend the (breed) judge (justifiably) withheld Reserve in a two-point dog class entry (five entered). He also gave a 1 and 3 in a poor bitch class. These were strong messages to the exhibitors, but I doubt they understood them. They were focused on their usual disappointment of not winning.”

So, what of those who never withhold? What is their reasoning? Is it because they don’t want to hurt people’s feelings? They don’t want to be criticized? If those are the reasons, either grow a thicker skin or don’t judge anymore, because whatever you do, there will be critics. When a judge withholds, the “instant experts” or long-term complainers uses phrases like Judge doesn’t know the standard or Is stupid or crooked or all three. Instead, why not try to see what the judge has seen — with an objective eye — and appreciate the fact that it took integrity for the judge to do this? Of course, over a three-day weekend, one judge might withhold or excuse and the other two simply hand out the ribbons. Who was correct? Which judge will be criticized?

Just as the dog in the ring who does not look like the others may be the correct dog, so the judge who does things differently might be the correct one. As one of my favorite people said, maybe a judge’s (especially the box checker’s) mantra should be the same as a doctor’s: “First — do no harm to the breed!”

Here's an example of an outside-the-ring expert who wants everyone on Facebook to know how much she knows. “Would love some info for Dachshunds if possible for (judges) in terms of what seems to be most important to them and if they truly understand Dachshund structure, i.e. front assembly — upper arm and shoulder blade and that the dog needs to keep its outline stacked on the move. Lifting in front and belly tapping in rear is a no-no. Movement should be powerful not lightweight. Thanks so much.” Sounds like this person should stop critiquing everyone else and get in the ring and judge herself. If you really want to help and protect your breed — stand in the middle of the ring and share your knowledge. It’s easy to criticize and demean others without knowing anything about them.

 

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Has the AKC — and the proliferation of shows — dumbed down our sport to the point where any dog can be finished if you are persistent enough or want to spend enough money? Is this really what we want? Do you think AKC or new exhibitors want to reverse this trend? It’s nice to want everyone to be happy, but can’t they be happy because the good dogs are winning and everyone is enjoying the relationship of showing their dog?

Are all wins the same? Certainly, there is a big difference in winning at a national specialty as compared to a small all-breed show. The points might be the same, but doesn’t the quality of the win also depend on the competition and the judge? No, I don’t believe all judges are equal, and so all wins are not. Count all your wins, but cherish those given to you by the judges you truly respect.

Some specialty clubs that hold their show within the same weekend as an all-breed will just use a judge who is on the all-breed panel rather than reach out for a breed specialist — to save money. Did the specialty club even contact a breeder-judge and ask about the fee? I am not saying there aren’t many multi-group judges who can do a very good job at specialties, but let’s give some of these breed specialists a chance also.

 

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A great friend of mine told me about one of the first times she showed an English Setter. It was to Jane Forsyth. As she was examining the setter, Jane asked my friend. “Who groomed this dog?” My friend said she had. To which Jane replied, “Go home and try again.” A judge certainly couldn’t say this today without all of social media being told about this terrible judge, and yet Jane’s words were the inspiration needed for my friend to improve! We can use more like Jane.

 

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Discussions keep coming up about the possible benefits of judges having to “rate” the dog based on an excellent-good-average-poor standard, and then having to verbally critique the dogs. I have had occasions to give verbal critiques while judging in Sweden, and although I see some value to it, there gets to be a point where a judge repeats the same words over and over again. In Europe, many of the exhibitors seemed to be sincerely interested in the judge’s comments. Would our exhibitors really want to hear the opinions, or just basically say, “Just give me my ribbon”?

 

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A very good judge brought this idea up to me for discussion: Why can’t Select or Award of Merit be awarded to a class dog (Winners)? Consider this: The judge puts Dog A (entered as a champion) up for Best of Breed, and Dog B (from the classes) as Best of Winners. In the judge’s mind, if Dog A were not there, she would easily give Best of Breed to Dog B. But according to the rules, she cannot award Select to the Winners Dog, and so gives Select to Dog C, who in her opinion is not nearly as good as Dog B. Why should Dog B not be eligible for the Grand Champion points as Select Dog?

Now take it a step further and consider this as a specialty show. Winners Dog or Winners Bitch is never given an Award of Merit (thus allowing more dogs to get a ribbon?). What if the judge has really had a difficult time going back and forth between the dog she gives Best of Breed and the Winners Dog? Doesn’t that dog deserve Select or an Award of Merit? Is it all about giving a ribbon to as many dogs as we can, or are we truly wanting our judges to show which dogs have the most quality?

What do you think?

 

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