Judging Outside The Ring

by Janelle Smedley

It is often said that a good judge will never fault judge. They should instead be assessing the positive attributes of the exhibits brought to them in the show ring. I agree with this as well and wonder why we do not hold ourselves to the same standards outside of the ring. How many times have you listened to spectators and other exhibitors make disparaging remarks about the quality of dogs being presented? Perhaps you are guilty of this personally. I have found myself falling into this negative way of thinking and I plan on holding myself to a higher standard in the future. As far as I can tell there is nothing beneficial in this behavior for anyone in the sport.

Why does anyone find themselves in this situation? I think there are a number of reasons. People are poor losers, have a grudge against the owner of a particular dog or maybe want to appear as if they are well educated about their breed’s important qualities. It would benefit the entire fancy if each one of us looked for these negative traits in ourselves and pledged to rise above our petty behaviors. I am not saying we must love everything about every dog we see. They may not be a type that you appreciate but someone saw something there and felt it was worthy of being shown. It is not for anyone else to decide if it is worthy of being shown except for the judge in the ring. Our standard has no disqualifications except for missing testicles and only a few stated faults. It was written specifically to help us look for the positive and prized traits that make the English Toy Spaniel a unique treasure.

If I think about it there is not one exhibit I have ever seen that did not have positive qualities. Perhaps they have a poor topline but a beautiful expression that you can admire. Maybe the head is not your cup of tea but they have soundness and lovely movement. Sometimes the thing that might strike me is the wonderful temperament and lovely way of showing themselves. All of these positive traits are things that our breed needs and so it behooves us to notice when they appear. Even if you do not have good feelings about their owner, remember the pride you feel about your own dogs and know that they have the same feelings. You do not have to include these dogs in your breeding program but you can still appreciate the qualities they possess.

Take the pledge with me to refrain from negative talk outside the ring. Find the positive in every exhibit you see and find out how it might open your eyes to new possibilities. I am not proposing we turn a blind eye to the faults in the dogs around us. Instead I would like to see a balance, notice the faults but praise the virtues. Above all show respect for others and as our mothers always told us, “treat others the way you would like to be treated”.

CREDIT:This article first appeared in the English Toy Spaniel breed column in the September 2012 issue of the AKC Gazette and is reprinted with permission. To view the Gazette online, go to www.akc.org/publications