Gilberts' K-9 Seminars News & Review
Copyright (c) 2004-2009 Gilberts' K-9 Seminars
The above Article is Copyrighted (c) 2004-2009 Gilberts' K-9 Seminars.
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By Patricia H. Gilbert

I was participating in a discussion about breed standards and whether we can excuse a dog for a fault such as a long tail on a Rottweiler, a dog that is trimmed when its standard specifically calls out for no trimming and other issues. The person I was talking with maintained that I had “no call” to excuse a dog unless the standard states it is a DQ (disqualification). Furthermore she stated that as a judge, she would only pay attention to DQs and faults are faults regardless of what they are. She equates “eyes to be dark brown” and the dog has light eyes in the same category as a dog with a tail in a breed that states tail shall or must be docked, etc. How then did I feel I could excuse a dog as “not in accordance with the breed standard”?

My response was that way of thinking leads to generic judging. All dogs need to have the same features and should move in the same manner with tremendous reach and drive and wide open side gait, all four feet point in the same direction, etc. Not true! It is called breed type. I know. My husband Ed and I spend endless hours traveling and presenting seminars that debunk those myths based on breed type!

The “AKC Rules, Policies and Guidelines for Conformation Dog Show Judges” state: “(R) Withholding or Excusing Rules, Ch. 7, Section 15 authorizes judges to withhold any and all awards at any point in the judging process.… and you may excuse any dog for lack of merit. The decision is yours alone, based on the merits of the dog…”

Dogs were originally selected for their function. Nobody cared what they looked like. Then we selected features and started different breeds. Why then should we expect all breeds to have the same requirements? Then we started dog shows. Then we found we needed breed standards in order to judge one breed from another. Dog shows is one of the reason we have breed standards.

Study of each breed helps you prioritize what is important breed specifically. We must know the basic original purpose and function of the breed in order to understand what is important and essential in a breed. We judges must be breed specific in thought process, judging, withholding, excusing and awards.

We should know the breed standard and apply the words in context to that breed. Why do we have to have everything spelled out if we know the breed? I want the standards to tell me what the dog is and not what it isn't. Negative standards lead to fault judging.

Nigel Aubrey-Jones wrote something to the effect that breed standards were written by people who knew dogs and that it was simply a guideline for those who knew the breed. 

We judges should know the breed as defined by the standard – not just be able to parrot the standard. Better yet, we should apply our interpretation based on those standards. It is our job to uphold the standard given to us by the Parent Clubs.

I read words from people, some of them judges, who do not understand the functional aspect of the breeds. Docking and cropping in many breeds is a functional issue. The push to ban this comes from a strong Animal Rights (AR) position. We judges must not play into the AR agenda or there will be no dogs for us to judge.

While many of us live in urban and suburban areas, many of us don't.  I have heard "Who cares? I don't hunt. My dog doesn't need to be docked."

Many people still do hunt and they do want and need docked dogs. Some people rely on what they hunt for food and livelihood. Their dogs work along side and help in the process.

There are many dogs out there that actually work for a meal guarding, protecting, getting rid of vermin, herding, drafting, carting, sledding, search and rescue, therapy, and so much more.

Different breeds have different functions. Some of these functions are very serious and some are fancy.

A study of the Rottweiler tells us the docked tail is a functional issue. The Parent Club very strongly stands on the side that it is a docked breed. That makes it a huge priority and therefore a natural tail is "not in accordance with the breed standard". A secondary issue when the standard does not describe an undocked tail, what is a proper natural tail in the breed?

A light eye may be an esthetic or functional issue. If the breed standard says must have dark eyes and aesthetics are all important in that breed, then back to end of the line. If it is a functional issue, then that dog should be “excused as not in accordance with the breed standard”.

If another breed says "tails shall be docked" because the tails are easily damaged through heavy briar patches, then the natural tailed dog should be dismissed as "not in accordance with the breed standard". While if the standard says “may be docked” then both a docked or a natural tail are equally acceptable.

My point is, when you know the breeds you judge, hopefully you begin to think breed specifically. What is correct and important in one breed means nothing in another breed.

It is our jobs as judges to know what those differences are, prioritize in accordance with the breed standards and the Parent Clubs' wishes and judge as demanded by them. That is our responsibility. Anything less from us is a great disservice to the breed.