My Time Spent with Spinoni
Tad Walden, Sweepstakes Judge 2019
Sweepstakes Judge 2019
I do want to thank you for inviting me to judge your event. As a long time field person, I have often admired Spinoni in the field. I have seen so many of them display passion and endurance at field events. I also have been impressed with what I see is a breed that is extremely patient and comfortable with people. It speaks to the temperament you are breeding and it should be admired by many other breeds.
As exhibitors or just by standers, you have a right to know what is going through my head as I am in the ring. Pointing is not really that much fun, but getting your hands on so many dogs in your breed was great experience.
First, I read, re-read, and read again your standard. I also spent time with your Judge’s Education materials and presentation that is available on your website. When I had questions or needed clarification, I reached out to approved Spinone judges, including those who have judged your national events before.
Secondly, when discussing standard elements with others I challenged certain interpretations and asked for factual examples. As with many standards, there is enough room for interpretation differences and an individual’s preference for definition meanings. Having chaired the Vizsla Club of America Illustrated Standard Committee, I know all too well the written definitions of words like robust, moderate, somewhat square, gentle, slight, etc.
I tried very hard to stay true to your written standard. Even when I noticed contradictory statements where it seemed acceptable to excuse or overlook an identified fault, my decision was to stay with what the standard called for.
My approach to the ring was to first let the dogs, and the handlers, get in the ring and relax and get settled. Although your Judges Education Presentation identifies that only 9% of your standard relates to movement, I used movement to get the cobwebs out of the way and get the dog and handler comfortable with the ring. This also gave me plenty of time to see if the dog maintained the topline profile as called for in your standard. I also needed to make sure I was judging movement as it is called for in your standard versus that of my own breed. I used a triangle because it gave me more visual to watch for the trot, ground cover, and topline configuration. I am sure I asked everyone to use a loose lead to see the dogs moving as the standard calls for. I placed little weight on single trotting as it is not mentioned in your standard, thus the triangle gave me more information about the dog.
Your Judge’s Education material references over and over the importance of the head. Personally, as a hunter and breeder/owner of sporting dogs I question that, but it is not my right to deviate from that when judging the breed. Thus, I started with the profile of the dog, but went directly to the head. Eye position, length of muzzle compared to back skull, strength of underjaw, roof-shaped oval skull, divergent planes, expression. This was my first time squatting and staring directly into a dog’s face in the ring. And, I can tell you that experience explains precisely why so many of you have fallen in love with this breed. I could have done this all day long. It was as if I could see directly into their souls and it brought great peace to me in the ring. I also can share that it created some difficulty for me as well. In my opinion, I noticed muzzles that were definitely shorter than the back skull, overall I saw many heads that I would not describe as long. And a few heads that I would not consider roof-shaped or oval. This impacted my placement of the dogs. I sometimes found myself struggling to ignore the muzzle length or skull shape, but forced myself back to your standard when I found myself drifting.
I then dug into your coats and skin. 19% of your standard covers coat, according to your Judges Education materials. If a judge digging into your dog’s coat and skin doesn’t make the dog move from the stack I am not sure what would move those dogs. I honestly do not remember a single dog moving when I was mining for coat texture and literally examining the skin. And many of these were young dogs! This speaks to the magnificent temperament of your breed, which you should never breed away from. I did notice some textures that were a different undercoat than what is called for in the standard, and this impacted my placements.
I then moved to the shoulders and checked the angles relative to the prosternum. I had marked six inches on my hand to determine if there was the desired 6” from the withers to the 11th vertebrae. Again, this is a specific requirement with no wiggle room, so I was literal in my interpretation. I then made sure there was a gradual rise to the loin and then the gentle rounding to the tailset.
From there I moved to the rear. The standard and Judge’s Education material speaks to cow hocks as being faulty. On the other hand I did read in the articles provided from the international commentary that this is sometimes overlooked. I chose not to overlook this and at points my placement was determined by something as simple as two dogs being fairly equal, but one dog being cow hocked.
I then stepped back and made sure I was paying close attention to the underline, which your standard and Judge’s Education material ask for. I have never seen underline being weighted as just as important as the topline, but some of your materials suggest so.
Other standard requirements like equal distance from ground to elbow and elbow to withers, chest dropped to elbows, short neck, rib extension, ear set and construction, minimal stop, minimal tuckup all were taken into consideration as I was refining the placements.
Ultimately, substantiality was important as there are various references to the robustness and substance of your breed in the standard. At points I knew no other way than to literally put my arms around the dog and really get a good feel for the substance. And, yes, it sure felt good, too.
Elements spattered throughout the entry that you should pay attention to, as far as I can determine, and based on your standard:
Heads are long. Not square. I felt I was seeing a lot of shorter muzzles.
Heads have divergent planes. I noticed some heads with the planes on the same parallel.
Strengthen up the hocks. This would be my most critical element of your breed.
A few examples of chest lacking and little substance.
When exhibiting, I would worry less about pulling the dog’s head up with the lead while standing. Your standard calls for a short neck. I did ask many to just drop the lead. Everything I have studied illustrates this breed in a natural standing position to best exemplify the standard. The examples in your education material are presented this way as well.
I am certain I am not the first person to walk away from your ring impressed with your breed. I often have commented to judges in the field about the strength of these dogs, and now I can proudly say I have touched it first-hand.
Thank you, again, for the honor to judge for your group. I sincerely mean it was an honor. Even more so after completing the event and having the ability to reflect on the breed and truly appreciate it.
Sweepstakes Judge 2019