The Training of the Eye
One of the greatest dangers facing dog judges when they begin is the flat catcher, a term that I understand originated in the equestrian world and was used to describe a horse that appeared superficially to be far better than it was in reality. In dogs, there are several factors that can contribute to this artificial appeal, one of the most common being the “showmanship” displayed by an extrovert dog who may have constructional failings. In terms of structure, we see many dogs in breeds that are basically generic in conformation (and for the purpose of this offering these are the breeds I refer to; obviously many breeds are quite different in their physical construction) that have long necks, upright shoulders, and short upper arms, creating a very straight forehand profile. Over-long necks and upright fronts, coupled with “attitude”, can give a dog a certain bearing and eye-catching quality and this is where some judges can be fooled. Often the lack of angulation in the front assembly is accompanied by excessive angulation of the rear, giving the dog a rather dramatic outline, which seems to be accepted by many despite its incorrectness. A dog that is necky and unbalanced in its angulation can appear taller and more impressive to the uninitiated than the correctly angulated and perfectly balanced competitor with the medium length of neck required by the Breed Standard. This is where it is essential that the formative eye is trained to recognize and focus on what is CORRECT. Often the dog that does not appear “flashy” at first glance may well be the best on the day and more faithful to Breed Type. Close inspection during the hands-on examination should enable judges to appreciate overall correctness and focus on it. Movement in the show ring is not just about how a dog carries itself, but how its skeleton and musculature enable it to cover the ground. The perfectly moderate dog, with complementary angulation of front and rear, will invariably display more reach and drive and cover the ground more effortlessly than the dog who appears “upstanding” by virtue of its constructional shortcomings. Over the years I am sure we have all used the expression “caught my eye as soon as he entered the ring”; let’s hope it did so for the right reasons.
Andrew H. Brace ©2023