by Dorothy Kendall, Orlane Lhasa Apsos
Every now and then one comes across a dog that has
a presence about him that makes him stand out above the others in his
Breed. Such a dog is seldom free of "faults", that ugly term,
and can easily be left out of the ribbons because of them. I've had
many beautiful dogs during my career in showing, some made it to the
top and others barely made their championships ... but one thing they
all had in common was Breed Type.
You could not mistake them for another breed, and to the degree they
had this "presence", they were winners through and through
despite their faults.
Along with the political correctness we now see creeping
into judging, we also see a vast mediocrity in the dogs themselves ...
correct little dogs, with correct little structures, and a correct lack
of faults (not that these are to be penalized, but is an absence of
fault the best way to find a great dog?).
There seems to be an abundance of judges interested
in "teaching" breeders what they should be breeding, rather
than "judging" the dogs themselves. While a strong ego is
important to being a good judge, might this not be taking things a bit
far? No judge can be conversant with every breed of dog, especially
if he/she hasn't lived intimately with
them for many years. Raising a few litters, making up a few top champions,
and judging a few specialties does not qualify anyone to consider themselves
"experts" in any breed.
There is something about raising litter after litter,
watching them mature, facing disappointment time and again, or being
surprised by an unexpected successful young dog, that will put things
in perspective. Only the breeder knows how difficult it is to consistently
reproduce a line of quality animals, all the judge sees is the finished
Only the breeder sees the near-misses and tries again,
while the judge only sees the one that made it, despite a fault. And
how easy to magnify that fault to the exclusion of all the other fine
qualities that make up a overall superior animal.
Breed specialists are sometimes “better”
at fault judging, while the “all-rounders” take a broader
view - but that's not news, is it? No matter how involved you've been
in a particular breed, if you've not had your hands on dozens of other
breeds many times, how can you hope to bring balance to an judging assignment?
Whether grooming or training, any opportunity to handle different breeds
on a consistent basis gives a broad perspective to what is ordinary,
and what is not. I'd suggest a part-time job in a grooming shop as an
excellent basis for learning to judge!
With the increased cost of exhibiting our dogs, travel, and veterinarian
fees, breeders are becoming more selective in their choice of judges
and shows ... and we see this in the lower entries at many formerly
large shows. Good judges continue to be in demand, and draw well, even
at the smaller shows. Exhibitors are keeping records more carefully
than in the past, and keen on soliciting advice about what judges are
We must remember that judges can only put up what we bring them, however
– if we insist on showing dogs that are mediocre, the judge is
hard pressed to find that “great” one. It’s up to
the breeders to work hard to present only their best for exhibition,
and not show everything just to build up a record and numbers. The Lhasa
Apso Breed has been fortunate to have some superb representatives in
the past few years, representing major changes for the better in a relatively
short time. Toplines are better, coats have never been more glorious,
and presentation is outstanding! This brings to mind the quote from
Marca Burns, the Scottish geneticist, who said “The measurement
of our success as a breeder does not depend on the quality of our best
specimens, but the improvement in the worst!”
Since there are no perfect dogs, we show what we have ... and I hope
we will be seeing those outstanding dogs in the ring. I also hope to
see judges not get hung up on some minor point and miss the overall
picture ... we need balance in our dogs as well as judging. May the
cream always rise to the top!