Thursday, March 11, 2010


I always love reading judges critiques of dogs that they’ve judged. It gives me a visual in my mind of a dog that I never seen before. Or if I did see a dog at a show, it helps me to better understand what it was that the judge liked or didn’t like about a particular dog. I think critiques can be very valuable…….most of the time.

If you were to go on the German Shepherd Dog Club of America’s website and take a look at the dogs that are reviewed there, most of the time you’ll see their pictures, pedigree and many times a few critiques from different judges that had the opportunity to judge these beautiful animals. This is where it becomes very interesting is when you read critiques from DIFFERENT judges of the SAME dog.

Most of us will agree that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What one judge finds attractive may not be what another judge finds attractive. Some may like a plushy, pretty type of dog and another may like a hard, dry type of animal. It’s all in what the individual finds attractive. Neither is right or wrong. It’s just their preferences. It doesn’t say in the standard that a dog has to be plush in order to be pretty.

Now if a judge held in his hand the standard of the German Shepherd Dog while he judged, would there be any doubt as to what each dog should look like, and perform like? You see in this writer’s opinion, I don’t buy into what some people may say, “It’s all how the judge interprets the standard.” As I’ve already said, I can understand that different judges will find different things about a dog that makes him attractive. Again, we are talking about preference here. Preference and interpretation are two different things.

I do not believe that one judge can write a critique and say that his winner’s dog had a great lay back of shoulder and therefore, used his front very well. Then I’ll scroll down and read another judge say about the very same dog, that although he liked the overall package that this dog presented, he would have liked to have seen him have a better lay back of shoulder and this is why he gave him a reserve and not the winners dog. In my opinion, this is not an interpretation. This is not about preference. When it comes to the structure of the dog, either his bones are laid on correctly or they are not. It shouldn’t be up for discussion. Either he has it or he doesn’t. Right about now some of you may be saying maybe the dog wasn’t putting out for judge number two like he was for judge number one. Sure that can happen and it does. However, the bone structure doesn’t change from one show to the next. His attitude in the ring has nothing to do with his skeketal structure!

Many times the “newbie” (the person new to the breeding and showing of dogs) is highly influenced by what a judge does in the ring. If he wins under this judge, he believes his dog is a good one, when in reality the dog may be mediocre but does not have any disqualifying faults. It doesn’t mean that the judge particularly liked this dog. It means he judged him to the standard of the breed and that’s all.

Just when you think that you’ve begun to understand the structure, type and temperament of the breed, you may overhear other breeders saying something different from what you thought was correct. Are they right and you’re wrong? The only way to be sure is to know what the breed standard calls for as found on the German Shepherd Dogs Club of America’s website. That is the blueprint, if you will of what is correct for our breed.

Although the heading for my article is “Interpretation” I really dislike using that word when it comes to our breed standard. I can accept that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What one finds beautiful, someone else may not. What blows me away is when the word interpretation is used for the structure of our breed. I’ll read about someone saying that he judged the dog according to his interpretation of the breed. What does interpretation have to do with structure I ask? If the standard clearly states that the shoulder should have a certain degree of lay back, then there should not be any room open for discussion about it. Either the dog has it or he doesn’t. We’re not talking about what your eye finds appealing. We’re talking about the skeleton of the dog. There should not be any interpretation about it. What’s to interpret?

I guess you could call that my pet peeve……and following on the heels of that is when I see judges, pushing, mauling, feely, and touchy when they’re examining the dog. Unlike some grooming tactics and tricks a handler can use to cover up a dog minor appearance faults when he sets him up, there’s nothing you can do to alter a dog’s movement. If a dog is a good mover and a judge is a good judge, he can see it within several feet when that dog takes his first steps. Having a good eye is a trained eye. He’s very familiar with the breed’s movement. He’s either lived with it with his own dogs and probably has attended and observed this breed’s movement for years at the dog shows. I love showing under a judge that knows the proper structure of a dog. I might not always win under him, but I know that he has given my dog an educated look!

In this writer’s opinion, some judges shouldn’t even be judging. Just because a person has the necessary requirements to get his judges license, doesn’t mean he should! Again, in my opinion, some all breed judges (and some so called specialty judges) should never be licensed to judge the German Shepherd Dog. Anyone can put up a pretty dog. It takes the experienced eye of the dedicated student of the breed that knows and understands the proper structure of this breed. Without that knowledge, he should never set foot in the ring with the German Shepherd Dog. These types of judges set back our breed for generations to come by allowing dogs of inferior quality to attain their championships.

Again in my opinion, poor judging is a result of a judge’s poor UNDERSTANDING of this breeds standard. Without an educated eye, a poor specimen of the breed may be taking away the points and blue ribbon from the more deserving dog that that judge couldn’t and didn’t know how to recognize.

So interpretation has nothing to do with it in my opinion. It’s like saying the color black has many interpretations. No it doesn’t. Anything lighter is gray. And it’s the same for the dog. Either the dog has a good lay back of shoulder or he doesn’t. Either he has a good croup or it’s flat, steep, short, etc. In bone structure, there is no room for interpretation. It is what it is. Either you know the standard or you don’t.

I think before someone gets his license to judge our breed, he should be put to the test by several of this breeds top judges. Let him judge several shows and then get feedback from the knowledgeable judges that can give him advice and guidance about the proper structure, movement and temperament of this breed. Then once he “gets it”, then give him his license. A license should be viewed as a privilege and not something that just anyone who applies for it can get it. Who is that serving? Certainly not our breed!

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My rating: good judges: (4), uneducated judges: (1)

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