DO JUDGES NOW NEED AN ADVANCED GROOMING DEGREE?
By Pat Gilbert
Consider this article as a warning to all exhibitors who fake their dogs contrary to the rules and regulations. The hot topic of over grooming, especially in the coated breeds, and faking is actively being discussed in the judging community.
It is not a new topic but I believe this time many things will be done. The judging community is up in arms. The judges are going to do something about all the artificial enhancements on dogs we pass judgment on weekend after weekend. Many judges feel it is time to make a statement and withhold awards with explanations to the offending exhibitors. The offending grooming is contrary to the breed standard. The judges have had enough and care too much about the breeds to let it continue.
One judge said he was examining an entry of Shelties and an otherwise good exhibit had a coat so full of hair spray it stood off the body like porcupine quills. He was unable to asses the important feature of coat and texture. He awarded the entry third in a class of three.
Another judge was seriously upset with the scissoring off the tips of guard hair in breeds such as Pomeranians, Keeshonden, Samoyeds and many other double coated breeds. It is impossible to assess correct coat properties once the guard hairs are removed to create a more sculpted look. So, no guard hairs = incorrect for the standard = no ribbons and no points.
Numerous judges are discussing dyeing and coloring, painting, and chalk. All of these judges are disgusted with how things have gotten out of hand.
When a dog comes off the table after examination and the judge’s hands are white, or brown, or black, and the dog shakes himself off in a rainbow cloud, the judges say enough and you are history. This also holds true for breeds judged on the ground.
Ed and I had our nice little grooming area set up at a show. Some woman came along and dropped her Min Pin on our grooming table and said “I’ll only be here for a few minutes, while I color my dog”. Excuse me!!! I told her first of all she was not welcome to use my table for an illegal act and second of all we were judges and were going to report her. She looked at me and said you aren’t judging so who cares. I told her I judged her breed and had a phenomenal memory. That still didn’t scare her. What are we coming to in the dog show world?
What a dilemma and what to do as a judge! One breed I am involved with is Afghan Hounds and it is sometimes over the top for grooming. The breed standard specifically states “shown in its natural state; the coat is not clipped or trimmed”. The words hold true for many breeds.
I judged an otherwise really good Afghan Hound with a very badly clipped in saddle. It was done with a #7 blade and you could have snapped a chalk line. The poor woman was trying so hard to get it all together and was proud as punch as she ran a crooked line. I did not place her but I did not embarrass her publicly with being excused. I asked her to stay and then talked with her. She had no idea. No one ever told her anything except her dog should have a saddle with short hair. She took it to a professional groomer to get the look. She now corresponds with me and sent me photos of a finally natural Afghan Hound.
So, how do judges learn about proper grooming? Through words? Words are not good enough for many judges with no grooming experience.
Many judges were never professional groomers or Master Groomers. Many come from short coated breeds. They go to judge's education and breed seminars. They absorb the essence of each breed and learn to apply it. Yet in all my years and many judges seminars, rarely has an actual grooming and presentation seminar been given for the breed. Yes, some parents clubs do touch on it but still how is the judging community to know?
I don't know if judges’ education for each breed will ever get it solved particularly when many on the committees are repeat offenders. The icons in the breed do it. How does the judging community learn? Do the judges get a crash course for grooming all breeds when specialist handlers exist?
Then it is “Monkey See, Monkey Do, Monkey Get in Trouble Too” and the poor novice gets the full brunt of the judge's ire.
What do judges do? Withhold? At what level? Do they excuse from the ring as "not in accordance with the breed standard"? Do they penalize the novice exhibitor of a badly trimmed dog and reward a more professionally put down dog? I wish I had answers. My first instinct is to penalize if it is so obvious and badly done. Yes, I have excused animals for alteration as "not in accordance with the standard".
Those judges who were professional groomers are to hold the exhibits up to what standard? If it was my standard, then few would be left to compete. I can tell by looking at an animal what products and tools were used to get the look. So, the professionally done objectionable to me dogs are excused as well?
Then there is the issue of colored dogs. We can do nothing as judges unless it comes off on our hands. Of course, we can suspect and not award it. But this could lead to penalizing a dog that is proper for its breed. Dogs have been penalized improperly, because true rich color is not often seen in certain breeds.
My answer is to do what they do in Europe. AKC could take a hair sample and test it. I would make it random testing on the part of AKC and in addition a judge could also decide who also gets tested. Maybe a competitor could call a color on a dog in the same manner an exhibitor can call a measure on a dog. The testing is done in a lab and if the exhibit was altered then all rewards are removed from that show and the exhibitor is fined and/or suspended.
One judged plucked a hair on an obviously dyed exhibit looked the exhibitor in the eye and put the hair in his pocket. He did manage to scare that person. He now has a reputation and people are very careful with what they show him.
What about the show booths and glossy ads in many magazines (including the AKC Gazette) for coat color enhancing products, pigment enhancers and enhancing enhancers just to enhance?
I say let them have their show booths but only to sell legal products. Pigment and mood enhancers are not legal to name many products in full display at any show. Offenders should be fined by AKC. A hole in the offenders weekly income and bank account will make them behave.
Magazines should not take ads for products contrary to the rules and regulations. As to the AKC Gazette, is it do as I say, not as I do? Shame on them!
What then are judges left with when they sort through all the faking and remove from consideration the objectionable grooming? Does the judge throw out otherwise great dogs for a manmade problem and put up another that excels in mediocrity? I don't know of any easy answers to make our decision process better.
What happened to being able to just judge dogs with proper breed specific presentations?
I do know that judges are going to be more careful, more observant and a whole lot less tolerant.
In the end though, the fakers may fool the judges. What have they gained besides a few awards? Ultimately the truth is in the whelping box and with faking nobody wins. As Meg Callea, Dog Show Photographer and Tramac Dalmatian Breeder, said “Anyone can groom an outline – The difficulty is in breeding one.”