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Silence can in many cases, under many circumstances, be nothing less than a blessing.
Especially when judges and judging dogs are involved.
I know there at one stage came a message from the authorities with a request — or instruction — to judges not to discuss individual dogs during or between judging appointments.
Which of course for those of us with a burning interest in all breeds, where listening to confirmed experts’ reasons and excuses is considered of great value, doesn’t make a sensible option. The best place to learn or even share knowledge and wisdom is in the real setting — with live illustrations in front of you. Abstractions like type and quality are virtually impossible to explain and express properly without live animals in front of you.
But I think we all, if really involved in this sport for the right reasons, are sinners! But after a number of recent experiences, conversations with newly appointed judges for some low-entry breeds (including the groups), I realize that now, more than ever there is a need for permission to direct or help some of them. And even criticize them!
There have been occasions, in my opinion, when results both in breeds and groups have clearly indicated that no or very little competence is involved. In some cases, even interest …
And the fear is of course that by “blind leading blind,” some breeds by pure lack of knowledge and understanding will be led astray from what traditionally is considered accepted norms of deviations from standards.
So at times it can be seriously difficult to keep your mouth shut.
Then there are other times when a person comes up to you, commenting about faults or shortcomings of a dog that you are about to judge the next day or week! Very innocently. Apparently.
But then you realize there is a connection: Instead of actually saying anything bad about a specific dog, a question is frequently asked, like: Have you seen the head of that dog?
You of course try to ignore the comment, but maybe subconsciously you take an extra look at that head … So your “trends of thoughts” are definitely affected.
Just a few months ago, a guy came to me saying: “Have you seen that dog that X imported from Y? He’s got a horrible head.”
Then at the show, judging that dog I thought his head was excellent. So a phone call to the “influencer,” asking: “Where did you see this dog?” Well, it happened to be an ad, never in real life. Had just related to me what he had been told by a person just beaten by the dog!
I have been fortunate during my life to have friends with whom I could discuss anything without any risk of general broadcasting, which I actually have experienced myself when caught up in a discussion I have uttered a few spontaneous words. Opinions I in hindsight should have kept to myself! Or at least lowered my voice.
So many times have I noticed and actually confirmed what many will call a cliché:
“On the day” can be a valid argument.
Only last year a very attractive bitch was shown to me, very young and very immature!
I declared to a couple of “close” friends that I was rather disappointed — and gave the reasons for it. A year later the same bitch entered the ring looking spectacular — and she won.
Which naturally immediately was met by the remark: “But you don’t like her!” Which I corrected with: “Wasn’t impressed by her” — but on our next encounter she had improved beyond what even I would have believed possible!
I suppose we all have moments or occasions when we see a dog for the first time — maybe without any serious competition — and get carried away. And at one show in the middle of nowhere, I commented that I thought a particular dog was the best in the country at the time. A few weeks later met him again when he seemed completely uninspired and rather tired. So he lost!
And again being confronted with my own words. After explaining WHY — which was met with a sarcastic grin — I made my mind up: Never to share any impulsive thought with exhibitors. Maybe the solution is to install a five-second delay between brain and mouth?
It is actually very hard to rid yourself of habits or procedures that were mandatory in a previous country where you started off. We were originally told it was mandatory to give a verbal critique to the ringside — and at times even explain the written version to the exhibitors. But dealing with a lot of novice owners/handlers/breeders is a completely different kettle of fish than dealing with a bunch of professional handlers.
The novices are grateful for any help and advice, trying to LEARN, while of course the pros know more than most judges — the aim is to WIN! So if you don’t, who cares what that SOB thinks?
In many ways I understand both categories! But can still remember those exciting days when British Terrier experts came to judge in Scandinavia. Of course, winning was the icing on the cake, but the written critiques were extremely important. All published in the breed clubs’ magazines. And when any of these Icons complemented your grooming …
I know I keep repeating this story: A few years ago I asked a number of prominent breeders in this country when they last entered a dog show mainly to get the judge’s opinion.
None of them could remember, which is sad in so many ways, but it is in my opinion an indisputable fact that at most regular smaller dog shows in this country, the exhibitors know more about their breed than the judge. And maybe this is why we don’t experience the respect and admiration for judges in general as in days gone by when names like Rosenberg, Clarke, Kendrick, Heckman, Tongren, Roberts, etc., etc., made even the most hard core of professionals shake in their pants … (Based on hearsay, as I wasn’t here at that time.)
I consider myself an eternal student of any breed, who still on my way home after most shows ask myself if there were any “do-overs” or things I maybe should have done differently. Even in breeds where I have been seriously involved for some 60 years, there are always new issues appearing of things never previously experienced.
So my basic conclusion, as has been said so many times already: Judging dog will never be an exact science, but as long as you realize your own limitations and with an open mind evaluate new issues I think you’re on the right track !
The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know …
Until next time ...