Balanced Judging
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 product!

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 looking for.

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!