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Gingersnap
09-16-2010, 11:16 AM
Pet Talk: How dog show judges pick the winner from the pack
Updated 2/2/2010 4:17 PM

By Sharon L. Peters, Special for USA TODAY
It's all so very hushed and elegant.

Perfectly groomed, perfectly behaved dogs and humans striding, gliding and prancing their way around the show ring. The audience riveted, silent.

Then someone in a beaded gown or tuxedo suddenly commands all attention. He or she issues a few requests, approaches a dog to study a turn of its ear, or does something mysterious with hands around flanks or other body parts, and in a heartbeat there's one winner and a several who are, well, not winners.

That instant decision-making by the judge after he or she has conducted a few explorations and commanded an extra trot around the ring has always bewildered me. Just what are they investigating or hoping to find? And is three seconds long enough to make that discovery?

I turned to veteran judge Desmond J. Murphy of Monroe, N.Y., a third-generation dog man who grew up among Whippets and Greyhounds and terriers at his family's breeding kennels, has been an AKC judge since 1976, and is now approved to judge 110 breeds. Murphy judged afghan hounds, Cavalier King Charles spaniels and English toy spaniels at the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship in Long Beach a few weeks back that airs Saturday on Animal Planet and Discovery Channel.

He graciously walked me through the basics.

First: Is it as easy as it looks for a judge to eye those incredibly wonderful specimens that compete in crème de la crème competitions and then, in just minutes, do that point-and-nod action that declares winners? Not at all, he acknowledges. It's usually fairly easy to quickly sort out which are the "top six or eight" in any class, he says. But then "it's like splitting hairs." You're considering the breed standards — the qualities like carriage and color and conformation the animals are bred to achieve. "Your mind is racing overtime," he says, adding "three of the greatest experts judging a particular class might conceivably all agree on the top three," but could disagree on which comes in first, second and third. "One might give more priority to the shape of the eye," for example.

So what's the final decider? It often boils down to a particular dog's "performance on a given day," he says. The judge is watching things like extension when the dog runs, its show-ring presence and its attitude — "there's an old expression, for example, about afghans, that an afghan should act like it owns the ground it walks on" — and things like that are always running through judges' heads, as well as hard-earned knowledge of the somewhat more subtle qualities prized in each breed. And in the end, some of the very best dogs sometimes just have a bad day. "Some go to 200 shows a year. A dog can't be at its peak each and every time."

Very interesting - more at the link.

USA Today (http://www.usatoday.com/life/lifestyle/pets/2010-02-02-pettalk03_ST_N.htm?csp=obinsite)

Gingersnap
09-16-2010, 09:11 PM
Bumping for woofs.

SaintLouieWoman
09-16-2010, 09:23 PM
They didn't put in the bit about the little pin that professional handlers usually wear in their lapels. First of all, the judges often look for that. Then there's the general reputation of the handler and of the kennel. That all counts.

I've said it before on the board, I consider dog show judging akin to figure skating judging---totally biased and subjective. It's the difference between an objective test in school and an essay. Beauty, or politics, is in the eyes of the beholder.

The last time I showed my Norwegian elkhound male was the time in Texas when the judge put a dog over him that obviously had hip dysplasia. The dog could barely walk around the ring. But he had a professional handler.

Gingersnap
09-16-2010, 09:48 PM
They didn't put in the bit about the little pin that professional handlers usually wear in their lapels. First of all, the judges often look for that. Then there's the general reputation of the handler and of the kennel. That all counts.

I've said it before on the board, I consider dog show judging akin to figure skating judging---totally biased and subjective. It's the difference between an objective test in school and an essay. Beauty, or politics, is in the eyes of the beholder.

The last time I showed my Norwegian elkhound male was the time in Texas when the judge put a dog over him that obviously had hip dysplasia. The dog could barely walk around the ring. But he had a professional handler.

There's a bias toward professional handlers but more dogs are winning today with owner-handlers. It is subjective but to be truthful, a lot of the dogs that make into the Champion circuit really are pretty much dead on breed standard. It's not like they are picking between pets or working dogs and confirmation animals.

In that way it is very similar to figure skating. Nobody at Nationals skates like your sister (or like me) - they are all almost perfect. It's a matter of style and who's "more" perfect that one day.