What is that judge looking at exactly?


Written by Ty Lumley

With all the second guessing of the decisions made inside the many many conformation show rings we are involved with as a community I feel the general public has some common misconceptions that need clearing up. There are five key points each judge must look at when evaluating any individual dog in the ring. TYPE, BALANCE, STYLE, SOUNDNESS and CONDITION.

The first category and most important is TYPE, meaning does this dog I’m looking at fit the BREED TYPE of the breed I’m evaluating. Does this individual specimen fit the 5 categories that determine breed type, BREED CHARACTER, HEAD/EXPRESSION, SILHOUETTE, COAT and MOVEMENT. Does this dog have the breed character of
The breed I’m judging, does it have the head that it supposed to have, does it have the proper silhouette, does its coat for what’s called for and does this dog move like it’s supposed to according to the breed standard. This is first on the list and very important simply because if the dog doesn’t pass this first small test and does not fit the breed type it really doesn’t matter how well it performs or how balanced it is. If it doesn’t fit the TYPE it’s going to be difficult to win over dogs that do.

Second in the list is BALANCE, also very important for breeds that call for balance in proportion and movement. the term balance refers to symmetry and proportion. The dog should appear to have balance from left to right and front to back. The weight of the dog should be distributed equally and every element of the dog should be of similar proportion. If the dog is bulky and massive in the front it should also be as bulky and massive in the rear.

Third on the list is STYLE, and is overlooked by many on the sidelines watching the show. The judge is not looking for a certain style or his preferred style in the ring and this is where most get tripped up. There are an acceptable range of styles within every single breed of dog, and it’s the judges job it look at and determine if the individual fits that acceptable range. Sometimes with breeds bred for a purpose judges will go with the style that closely resembles that of the purpose built dogs of old so as to preserve the original look of that breed, where as with companion breeds and designer breeds the intended look or style is leaned on a bit more in the ring.

Next on the list is SOUNDNESS, another confusing term for most of us. Soundness refers to having correct structure and movement according to that particular breed type. The breed standard comes into play heavily at this point, as we are looking for correct structure and movement as described by that breeds individual standard. There is no generic build or movement that is SOUND for all breeds, this is determined by wether or not the dog possesses the structure and movement specific to its breed.

Finally the CONDITION of the dog itself comes into play, and not just of the dog is overweight or underweight but other things like cleanliness and upkeep as well. The judge is looking at wether or not the dog is clean, are the toe nails clipped, does it have tear stains, does the dog look overweight or underweight. This key is fairly self explanatory and most of the community understands the condition of your dog is important but on occasion judges still see long toenails and dirty dogs in the ring.

Most info for this post was provided by THE NICHOLAS GUIDE TO DOG JUDGING written by Anne Katherine Nicholas


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