How Fast Can He Go?
Ye Olde Dinosaur has been rather quiet lately due to the rigors of winter. In addition to lots of snow the weather has been so cold the snow can’t melt. We didn’t see above freezing for about a month. It’s almost forty today so I’m temporarily out of hibernation.
Like many of you I watched the Westminster Show last week. Over the years it’s undergone many changes. When I started showing the Garden offered regular classes from puppies to specials and most often featured a specialty type judge. The entries in Collies were always a major and the show was considered the “coming out” show for Eastern Collie puppies.
Most shows back then had all around judges doing the groups and judging many of the breeds with smaller entries. The popular breeds such as Collies often rated a specialist judge and the entries reflected this. Nowadays many clubs seem to let the judges be selected based on how many breeds they can handle and if they can also be used on next day’s show thus splitting expenses.
The Garden as usual had dogs I liked and some that I didn’t. The seven finalists at least let me pick both of the top winners. Many of the judges were dressed in a manner more appropriate to a Broadway opening or a cocktail party. One lady was so interested in her appearance and had her nose so far in the air, I’m not sure if she saw the dogs.
One of the other things I noticed was the speed at which most dogs were moved. They seemed to be flying as fast as their legs could go regardless of breed or function. The crowd and some judges may like it, but I question whether it’s correct. Dogs that are moved at top speed always make me wonder what they’re trying to hide. Different breeds and different dogs within each breed have speeds at which their movement looks best. Faster is not always better just as coatier is not always better.
Years ago at Hagerstown, MD I showed Jadene’s Breezalong under Phil Marsh who had already given him a major. We went BB from the classes to finish and on to second in the group under the same judge. The Group First went to Jane Kay with one of her lovely Dobermans. After the group she told me that I could have won the Group if I gaited my dog at a more lively pace. I told her that I moved him at what I considered his best speed. She reminded me that Phil Marsh was an ex-pro handler and liked to see the dogs really move as he did when he was showing. We next met Phil Marsh judging the Group at the big Trenton show and I put on the gas with Breezy. We won that Group and I guess I learned a lesson. It still would seem apropos to move a dog at his or her best speed, but if you find a judge with certain preferences, you’d better decide what makes sense.
As many of you know I deplore the practice of hand stacking a Collie. Indeed no matter what breed I judge when they go down and back I want a “natural” stop at the end. The Collie standard tells us excessive posing is not desirable and my dogs were trained to stand on the four good legs God gave them.
Years ago when I was exhibiting Ch. Gingeor Bellbrooke’s Choice in the classes, I showed under an old all-rounder from Washington, DC. He was a nice man and very likable, but we lost to a dog I though we should have beaten. After the show someone told me that sound or not he wanted the dogs to be hand stacked. Next time I showed under him I pretended I had a Boxer and we went Winners. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
You need to study judges and know their special little idiosyncrasies, but never lose sight of what is correct for our breed. You may have to give a bit if you want to win, but you shouldn’t be swayed from breeding the right kind of Collies. Moving faster than your dog can handle is generally a bad idea and hand stacking may appeal to some all-rounders, but not to the true Collie judge.
Judging is an interesting vocation and I like it when we have some variation. Having all judges who dress alike and handle the ring alike and like exactly the same thing can be boring. We all want to see the best specimen win particularly when we own it. If someone else has the winner, then obviously the judge is having a bad day, right? Over the years I showed under many judges who were having a bad day. Their efforts generally became more noteworthy as my placements improved.
Think About It!
p.s. It’s been such a fun winter , the main part of our pole barn collapsed on the 19th, the next day the refrigerator died and oh yes, we needed a new clothes dryer. Love those Michigan winters!