Dog Show Judges Use a Range of Techniques in Evaluating Dogs

Some dog show judges go over each dog very thoroughly, while others seem to do a more cursory exam, but what matters is that the final decisions are sound.

Judges develop individual techniques as they go about the process of evaluating dogs in the show ring. Exhibitors give each individual’s technique considerable leeway, within the boundaries of being sufficient. Exhibitors are generally tolerant of the technique as long as the end results are acceptable.

Dog show judges 1

These techniques range from a very cursory examination of the dog—perhaps just checking the bite and the necessary anatomy on a male, followed by a brief pat on the dog’s body—to a very involved inspection of seemingly almost every hair on the dog’s body.

The first type of evaluation is most often done by a judge who judges many breeds and who judges most weekends throughout the year; the latter method is more often done by the new, inexperienced breeder-judge.

Reactions to these methods by exhibitors are usually, in the case of the cursory examination, a criticism that the judge hardly touched the dog, while the “fine-tooth” examiner is viewed as not really understanding the breed. It appears that, in the eyes of some exhibitors, the method employed for individual examination of dogs is more important than making of the right decisions.

This is not to say that it is not essential to handle dogs when judging, particularly when judging the coated breeds. However, in the case of short-coated dogs, is it necessary to dwell on body structure after having checked the teeth, testicles, and the salient features of a particular breed’s body structure?

Dog Show Judges body 2

These different approaches can be seen in the judging of our breed, Dachshunds. Both situations occur when judging this breed. More time is needed to examine the structure of a longhair than to assess the structure of a smooth. With the longhair, the judge must get his hands under the coat to be certain that important structural features of this breed are correct. For example, a lack of forechest can be hidden by an abundance of coat covering this area. Similarly, a short keel can be disguised by a long coat. The length of ribbing is more difficult to ascertain unless it is actually felt by the examiner.

Good judges with a great wealth of experience develop an eye that enables them to sum up a dog instantly. This ability is generally more highly developed in the judge who judges more than one breed, and it is something that develops over time. However, some exhibitors seem to keenly focus on the money they paid to enter their dog in the show and expect to get their “money’s worth,” regardless of the dog’s quality. If the judge spends an acceptable amount of time prodding and poking her dog, standing back and hopefully admiring him, the exhibitor feels that she has had her money’s worth, and she is satisfied—win or lose.

Judges are expected to “go through the motions,” even when they know full well that the dog they are examining is not going to be among the top placements. It appears that in the eyes of many exhibitors, what is more important than the judge’s decisions is the manner in which he goes about making them.

For many very experienced judges who are licensed to judge many breeds and several groups, a seemingly cursory examination is all that is necessary for them to make a decision.

If a judge’s decisions are sound ones, does it really matter what method he or she uses to arrive at them?

Ann Gordon, Dachshund Club of America, from the February 2012 AKC Gazette