Is winning under the “best” judges really that important to some people…….and is it really that important at all? And what qualifies a judge to be considered one of the best judges? And then I guess the next question could be, “And who says so?”
Maybe you’re just happy that your dog wins at all and it doesn’t really matter who he won under. He’s got his fifteen points, including both his majors and now he’s entitled to be called a champion. “Who cares who he won under anyway?” you might ask.
Sometimes when you see an advertisement on a dog, the owner will list the names of the judges that their dog has won under. Many times you will see them use words like, my dog won under the “renowned, well respected, knowledgeable” judge, “so and so.” In certain peoples eyes winning under certain “prestigious” judges are more important than all their dogs other wins combined. It’s like winning under these judges has more clout than winning under the less known judges. If the prestigious judge likes him, then their dog has to be a superstar because the “superstar” judge likes their dog enough to award him the winning points.
Years ago, it wasn’t unheard of seeing back to back show week-ends where some of the most well respected judges in the breed were judging the big five point major shows. Their names drew the largest entries. It was rare to see them judge an All Breed show because they were booked solid judging the Specialty shows. The Specialty clubs were sure to vote these judges in knowing that they would attract the breeders and exhibitors and therefore bring in the big entries making more money for their club.
When I wasn’t getting a dog ready to go into the ring, I delighted in just sitting to watch some of these judges “do their thing” in the ring. Make no mistake about it, when you have a judge that really knows a quality dog and puts up that quality dog and you see consistency in this judge’s winner’s class, you are getting a free education on the standard of the breed. I love watching them. I learn so much by observing them.
So if you win under this knowledgeable type of judge where an entry was large, you know that you just got the stamp of approval by someone who understands this breeds structure, movement and temperament. So when someone says they have won under this type of judge it is a complement to their dog and their breeding program.
I think it’s wonderful to see some of the so called great judges of yesterday still judging today. It’s interesting to me to see the same judges that I respected many years ago, still judge the same way today. Just take a look at some of the judges that have judged the Best of Breed National Specialty Show and how many times that they have judged it. Does it mean that they are the best judges in the country? I don’t know, but they have certainly won the respect of their peers. They must be doing something right…….or has it become a popularity contest as some people have suggested? How about other less known judges getting this assignment? Would they do just as good of a job? Would they pull a large entry? Are we voting our judges in on their knowledge or their popularity?
It’s funny when someone is deciding to enter under a certain judge that they’ve never shown under before, they might ask their friends what type of dog does this judge like? Are there judges that have a certain type? Should they have a certain type? You would think that they all are judging to the standard. But in this writer’s opinion, many judges do have a certain type that they put up time and time again. Some judges are very drawn to a beautiful standing dog with all the trimmings……plush dark pigmented coat, beautiful heads, great top line, etc. They want “pretty” dogs! Then there are the judges that in order to win under them, your dog better be a “mover!” They want the shoulders and the reach, the driving rears that get under themselves and follow through. Ideally, you want a judge that looks for the whole package.
If you’ve followed what the different judges like and you’ve seen that they’ve put up a particular type of dog over and over again, it is the wise exhibitor that brings that type of dog into that judges ring. It wouldn’t make too much sense to bring a pretty standing dog that can’t move out of his own way to a judge that places a lot of importance on movement. The same can be said for a judge that demands a beautiful looking dog and you show a good moving dog that lacks the important breed type of our standard.
In your eyes does a judge become the best judge because he put up your dog? Who knows, you might show under him/her again with another dog and your dog doesn’t win. Has your good thoughts about this judge changed? Is he still the best judge or has he now become a crook?
And what about the lesser known judges? Are they any less knowledgeable than the better known judges? How about the new judges just starting out? Breeders and exhibitors sometimes make too early of a judgment about new judges. They may be too quick to criticize and point a finger at the new judge. I think these judges have to be given a chance to proof to their critics just what they can do in the middle of the ring. In my opinion, showing consistency in what it is that they like can certainly improve their chances of getting further assignments.
I remember a few years ago showing at one of our futurities. I was sitting with three long standing and respected judges and one of them being one of the most popular judges in our breed. Just listening to them share their stories was fascinating. You can be sure that these judges know about which dogs have won where and under which judges they did that winning. They sounded like a bunch of little old ladies talking about the latest gossip. They'd see a crowd pleasing dog enter the ring and first thing you heard was. "Oh I remember that dog, I gave him his first major." The next judge not to be outdone, would add, "Yeah, well when he was shown under me, I gave him Best Puppy at the National." Then the third judge would pipe in with "I gave him Maturity Victor" at last years National! So be rest assured that the judges "in the know" know what's going on around the country in the show dog arena. They live and breathe dogs.
I believe that the best judges are the judges that judge with passion and conviction. They absolutely love what they do and it shows. He is the judge that has the knowledge and understanding of the standard, and he is the one that uses this knowledge and understanding when he judges! I believe what makes a good judge a good judge is one that judges with some sort of consistency. He’s one that when I watch him that I can follow what he’s doing. I can tell by looking at his winner’s class just what it is that he likes. I think that these are the types of judges that get asked time and time again to judge the different Specialty shows. They have control of their ring. They know what it is that they are looking for and so do the exhibitors that show under them. Then armed with this knowledge the exhibitor knows that he’s bringing the judge what he asks for and is willing to accept this judge’s critique of his animal. You showed up. You brought him what he likes. He made his assessment. And whether you win or lose, you know that your dog just got the best chance of winning because your dog represented what this judge’s interpretation of the German Shepherd Breed standard is. So yes, winning under the best judges in the country is extremely rewarding because you can be assured that your dog has to be a good one to turn this judge’s head! But do some people attach too much importance winning under the best judges?
So what does it mean if your dog didn’t win under the so-called “best” judges in the country? Absolutely nothing unless it means something to you to do so! In your eyes, your dog made his championship no matter who awarded him his points. No one is going to take it away from him. You got what you wanted and it doesn’t matter to you how you got there…..just as long as you got there.
From the book: "Dog Eat Dog: A Very Human Book About Dogs and Dog Shows"....Following World War II, ownership of dogs in America particularly purebreds skyrocketed. The American Kennel Club (long established as the epitome of canine registries and events-licensing organizations), registers millions of dogs and sanctions thousands of championship and titling events each year. People involved in the sport of breeding and showing dogs often lead lives of total immersion in their canine activities. This book offers entertaining insight into that unique world. As casual participants, the Sterns (Jane & Michael Stern's Image of Pop Culture, LJ 10/15/92) enlisted the aid of longtime Bullmastiff breeder Mimi Einstein and followed her through one year of activities, including the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club show and the Bullmastiff National Specialty. We go on the roller coaster ride of breeding and handling decisions and longstanding rivalries. An enchanting romp through the dog show circuit that will entertain anyone who has even the most remote interest in show dogs.
My rating: knowledge and understanding of the standard: (4), applying that knowledge: (4)