Success in Show Dogs: Thoughts About the New Year

Westminster review, AKC Board of Directors meeting and other observations of 2013 so far.

Personally speaking, 2013 began with a chug instead of a bang. While the Show Dogs of the Year Awards Dinner and Westminster Kennel Club sallied forth with their usual aplomb, I sat in the San Francisco airport, forced to endure the consequences of the “blizzard of ’13,” which in fact just barely took place within the confines of the area most traversed by those on hand for all the canine activities.

Both events were covered in last month’s issue, but word must be made of Westminster Kennel Club’s attempt to add class dog competition to the event, and then split the Breed and Group judging into two locations. Although a few areas require improvements in future years, it was a resounding success.

Without a doubt the dogs that have been winning and winning and winning for several years are more than worthy of every accolade that they get. The many fans they’ve acquired through their campaigns accompany their appearance at Westminster. They’ve earned all the loyalty acquired, and they are in great part what has always made Westminster what it is. But you have to admit that when a new superstar-to-be steps forward to challenge the veterans, it does move you just a bit closer to the edge of your seat. WKC not only raised the level of excitement but also made it seem all the more accessible to the average exhibitor. To hope, even imagine winning Best in Show at the Garden with a virtually unknown dog is the fantasy of every breeder, exhibitor or professional who shows there. And this year it all but happened.

The seven-dog lineup was as good as one could ask for, and for the host of Affenpinscher ‘Banana Joe’ fans, it couldn’t have been a more deserving decision. Watching the plucky little showman score the coveted BIS award and witnessing Old English Sheepdog Bugaboo’s Picture Perfect progress from the classes and then top the Herding Group to go on to Reserve BIS is exactly the stuff of which show dog dreams are made.


The AKC Board of Directors Meeting

It is often difficult to determine just where the AKC stands with respect to its judges. On the one hand there are the ever-changing approval processes aimed at elevating the excellence of the organization’s judges. At the same time there are those steps the AKC takes, even if not intentional, that undermine the respect and authority due its judges if they are to officiate with authority.

Highlights from the February AKC Board of Directors meeting include an announcement that, effective July 1, 2013, an asterisk will be placed alongside the names of all provisional/permit judges in the premium lists and judging programs. This apparently applies to both first-time judges and as it is understood here to any judge with a new provisional/permit breed. Foremost in my mind would be the question as to how much confidence this puts in the minds of exhibitors for the judge of the day. Ignore the fact that a judge may have been judging 25 or 30 years; for all intents and purposes he is again a rank novice on the day he passes judgment with that “beginner” beside his name.

It also leads to the question that so many veteran judges have asked in recent years: When does a judge become a judge? That is, how long does it take for a judge to prove that he or she is able to judge well? It appears that regardless of how many years or how many breeds an individual has judged for the AKC, when it comes to a new breed, knowledge and experience have little bearing on the status of the individual. He or she moves back to beginner status for the next new breed. This is not unlike hanging a notice on the door of a practicing physician which states that the individual has only provisional status to practice in one respect or another. Speaking for myself, that would be exactly one respect too many for me to gamble on. Some argue that there is merit in indicating the provisional status of the first-time applicant. However, indicating that the long-time judge is now some sort of beginner does nothing but demean his experience and ability.

If I recollect correctly, the asterisk policy was employed previously in the late ’60s or early ’70s. The policy was discarded because it was determined to be detrimental. The asterisk policy was used only for new judges. Regular-status judges applying for new breeds were then no longer subject to the system.

A new ruling also indicates that AKC Delegates and members of the AKC Board of Directors will appear in separate respective listings in the AKC Judges Directory. One can only wonder what warrants this listing, and no reasons that come to mind have anything to do with proficiency in judging. Being a delegate is a praiseworthy service indeed, and serving as an AKC Board member is a position of great responsibility, but why either role merits special listing as a judge escapes me.

Does this separate listing have anything to do with the fact that neither charges a fee for their services? I asked this question of an individual currently serving as a delegate. The response was that there was certainly interest among show-giving clubs for this reason. Saving money in these times of economic hardship in the world of purebred dogs has merit, but one would think that the last thing members of these two highly respected categories would want to know is that the criterion for being invited to judge was based on the fact that their services came free of charge.

Expense is of great concern to show-giving clubs. However, economically employing the judges who are invited to officiate would make more sense than concentrating on the small amount saved by judges not charging a fee. Many show clusters seem to prefer to pay the airlines their exorbitant plane fares rather than having the clubs work together to best use the judges already brought in for the first day or two of the cluster. It is not uncommon to see whole groups of judges depart after their first or second day of judging a cluster only to see an entirely new wave arrive to replace them. And then the scenario repeats itself again another day or two later. The airlines and their partners are the only winners in this situation. But of course the operative words here are “having clubs work together.”


Other Observations of 2013

Visiting and Permit Judges. Notice has been served that the policy regarding visiting judges has been amended to approve them to judge a Group even though they are not eligible to judge all the breeds in that Group, as long as they are eligible to judge a certain percentage of breeds in that Group at the time they are first approved. We can only wonder why this policy has not been extended to our own judges, who we are constantly told by our leadership are among the best if not the best in the world.

It is important to stop and consider just how individuals become authorized to judge in various countries of the world. It can range from extremely well thought-out educational systems to something as uncomplicated as “in return for services rendered.”

It also appears the requirement that a permit judge be observed has been eased. If there has been no AKC Field Rep to observe the permit judge after six such assignments, that judge will be advanced to regular status. Hmmmmm.

Life as an Introvert. I just finished reading Susan Cain’s New York Times bestseller Quiet — The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. Cain’s documented observations give heart to those who might be inclined to think long and hard before “holding forth.” Those having been handicapped or blessed (depending on the point of view) as introverts will find confirmation in their belief that unending chatter may rob an individual of an education. Those obsessed with verbally proving how much they know seem totally unconcerned with how much they have yet to learn.

New Advertising. A couple of enterprising young brothers from the Midwest have developed a process by which they are able to print advertising on each and every individual sheet of a roll of toilet tissue. Can’t you just see it now in the restrooms of show venues across the country?

Many Thanks. In closing, many thanks for all the positive comments on my “Understanding MinPin Movement” column that appeared in the February issue. As a reminder, sound and stylish are to be admired, but on their own they do not constitute breed type. There is so much more to it all than that. Just ask the long-time successful breeder.  


From the April 2013 issue of Dogs in Review magazine. Purchase the April 2013 digital back issue or subscribe to receive 12 months of Dogs in Review magazine.

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