A skilled exhibitor, whether amateur or professional, examines a show prospect slowly and carefully, noting the positives and negatives.
If it is a coated breed, it would quickly be determined:
“Is there sufficient coat to help hide the obvious faults?”
A skilled judge of long experience has learned to “look through” hair to evaluate the structure underneath. What is genuine, and what has been knowingly and carefully constructed to perhaps “make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”?
My breed of choice is the Poodle, which offers a world of possibilities for exaggeration and deception. Our breed standard is very specific regarding coat and grooming. Each allowed clip for the show ring is clearly described as to the pattern, location, length, and placement of hair, shaven areas, and placement of elastic bands. And the breed standard makes it very clear that a dog in any type of clip other than those listed under coat shall be disqualified.
In Poodles, we find the phrase “the entire shaven foot is visible” in the description of all three allowed show trims. If the puff above either front or rear feet touches the floor or hides a view of the entire foot, one should lift the hair and will usually find paper-thin or splayed feet, a major fault.
It is unfortunate that many judges value an extreme length of hair in place of a curly naturally harsh texture or a corded coat. Extreme length offers a challenge to hold it in place and exhibitors frequently resort to using elastic bands, which the standard clearly states may only be used on the topknot, defined as the hair on the skull, from stop to occiput. In other words, if you find elastic bands behind the occiput or down the back of the neck, the dog should be excused from competition.
And how much hair is too much hair? A Poodle should appear elegant and active. It is difficult to appear elegant if one appears to be top-heavy and clearly out of balance. A number of years ago the AKC harshly criticized the excessive use of hairspray, and the extreme length of topknots disappeared. Then Poodles had much better balance. Today we are again finding Poodles wearing what would pass for an oversized iron helmet or an overly starched lace mantilla.
Styles and attitudes have drastically changed over the years. Judges have contributed to these changes by ignoring and rewarding practices adopted by exhibitors that would, if dog-show rules and the breed standard were followed, remove a dog from competition either by dismissal or disqualification.
Watch Mrs. James judge BIS at the Greater Miami Dog Club. Note the going-over she gives the Poodle at poodle at 2:19: