AKC Gazette breed column: Bedlington Terriers — A judge’s perception of balance can depend on which side of the person’s brain is more dominant in processing information.
The brain is divided laterally into the right and left hemispheres. Theoretically, each hemisphere has a different way of processing information, making some people right-brain dominant and some people left-brain dominant.
Right-brain-dominant people are visual and process the whole picture before seeing the details. These people are typically creative in the way they think and more artistic in their abilities. Right-brain thinkers are subjective and focus on aesthetics. They process information in a varied order.
Left-brain-dominant individuals are more objective and process information in a linear order. They are verbal and see things in a more analytical or scientific way. Left-brain thinkers process information in details then put those details together as a whole.
A right-brain judge will instantly look at a Bedlington Terrier as a whole dog. She will see overall balance by focusing on images and patterns in the structure and outline. These judges have a tendency to take their time studying each dog down the line, processing information before individual examination on the table.
Once the entry is on the table, a right-brain judge starts to see specific details that make up the whole dog. Hands-on examination of these details may or may not confirm their first impression of a well-balanced dog. For example, the judge might start with the head, looking at length of muzzle (longer in jaw, shorter in skull), find no cheekiness, a small eye, and a low ear-set. If the dog has a short muzzle or a long, snipey muzzle, the head could be considered unbalanced. A large, round eye; wide, houndlike ear; or narrow “string ear” also throws the head off balance. The examination of details continues with the neck, shoulders, and front legs.
Right-brain judges are less likely to focus on hypothetical number values such as “45 degrees of shoulder layback.” They will focus more on sensory input and how well the neck flows into the shoulder layback and down to the front legs.
On a well-balanced front, the distance from the shoulder to the elbow should be the same distance as from the elbow to the ground. Following the body, Bedlingtons are slightly longer than tall. (They descend from the Otterhound, not the Basset Hound.) Too long in body, lack of sufficient tuck-up, and a flat topline are all incorrect.
On a balanced, well-angulated rear, the right-brain judge imagines a straight line from the point of buttocks to the ground, making sure the line passes in front of the toenails on the rear foot. A dog straight in the rear is as unbalanced as one who is overstretched past this imaginary line. These are some of the details in balance a right-brain judge might process after first seeing the dog as a whole.
A left-brain judge will not see the Bedlington as a whole upon first impression, instead concentrating on individual parts or details. There is less focus on balance until these details of the dog are examined on the table. Being more analytical, the left-brain judge will innately put more emphasis on numbers and measurements. For instance, the ear should be approximately three inches at greatest width, with its length reaching the corner of the mouth. But does the ear fit with the overall balance of the head? A left-brain judge needs these details before deciding.
The left-brain judge will look for a shoulder layback as close to their definition of good angulation—an important detail they will measure before continuing with the front. The same holds true for the angulation of the rear. She may also look at height in terms of inches before studying length of body, length of leg, and structural balance. Once the examination is complete, the left-brain judge processes these details and organizes the information as a whole. Overall balance of the Bedlington is found in the sum of all his parts.
The definition of a balanced dog is universal among breeders and judges. The perception of balance, however, depends on which side of the brain is more dominant in pragmatically processing the information. —L.F. (February 2015), Bedlington Terrier Club of America