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The Most Important Judge at the Show
Tony Arduino

The Most Important Judge at the Show

by John Brading SCOA Judges’ Education Committee

When we enter our dogs in Conformation events, one of the most important considerations in choosing the events to enter is the judge. Does the judge know what they’re doing with our breed?  How much experience does the judge have in evaluating our breed? Will the judge be able to fairly and even-handedly compare our dog(s) to the other dogs in the ring?  Who mentored the judge in preparation for his/her application to judge our breed? All of these factors are really critical to truly fully understand our breed.

After all, our breed is unique in so many ways—the long head with the divergent planes, the unusual topline, the thick skin, the wiry single-layer coat, the heavy bone, the trotting gait, etc.  To adequately judge our breed, all of these traits are so important and must be closely examined and fully understood.

So, who is the most important judge?  The breed judge? The group judge?  The best in show judge? These are the people who award the championship points.  Their placements create the “breed points” or “all-breed points” that are utilized to establish the rankings. These rankings bring attention to your dog.  These rankings, the ribbons, and the awards all create the buzz about your dog.

So, who is it?  Who’s the most important judge?

You are. Ribbons, points, trophies, and rankings are not what’s important.  What’s important is the quality of the dogs.  Whether the judges are able to judge and place the dogs properly, doesn’t really matter in the big picture.  Dog shows are meant to be for the evaluation of breeding stock. The breeders, owners, and handlers are the ones who ultimately make the decisions about breeding.  These decisions should never be made based on which dog has the most wins, most points, or highest rankings.

Breeders, owners, and handlers must be fervent students of the breed. Before showing and/or breeding individuals should know everything they can about the breed. We should take advantage of all learning opportunities available.  If there are seminars, we should go. If there are events with significant entries—in the ring or in the field—we should make every effort to be there.  We may learn more as spectators than we can as a competitor simply because the pressure is off. We should observe other breeds—similar or dissimilar. By looking at other breeds it may cement in our minds what makes a Spinone a Spinone.

We should seek out others in the breed who can act as mentors.  Sometimes there’s a lot to be learned by just being in a group of breeders and listening to them. Whether they intend to teach you or not, they will often talk about their own dogs or their impressions of others’ dogs.

Bottom line…when in the ring showing or outside of the ring watching or sitting at home watching the big show on TV, whether it is your intention to breed or just to show, you should be judging. You should be judging every dog in the ring. When you have an opportunity, you should examine the parentage of every dog in the ring. The only way to learn is to observe, to listen, to watch closely, to study, to discuss. And while you’re at it, keep in mind that you should be judging your own dog. Your dog is not perfect.  None of them are. If you can’t turn an objective eye on your own dog and compare it to the others, you have no business breeding anything.

So, as the old saying goes, “You be the judge.”  It’s the only way to be a part of the preservation of this wonderful breed for the future.

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