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Finding beauty vs. fault judging

I would like to share some important advice. IMO its a critical philosophy for a successful breeder--don't fault judge. Train your eye to find beauty. If you are trying to learn, sit ringside next to the mentor who will point out the beautiful dogs, not the person who shows you the faults in the beautiful dogs. When you see that glorious Labrador, the one who makes your heart stop a little, teach yourself to note five good things before you find fault. If all your eye has been trained to see are faults, you may ultimately find yourself mired in mediocrity.

For me, one of the things that makes a quality dog stand out is a long neck flowing into well laid-back shoulders standing with its legs well underneath it’s body, meaning it has good length of upper arm. Those are really beautiful qualities and really hard to achieve. Sometimes that dog might have a little longer body, or not a stick-perfect topline, or any number of other minor faults. But to notice only the fault misses the big picture.

There are some judges and breeders with laser focus on a particular trait. Let’s say that fault is rear movement. I read an article years ago by Patricia Trotter that said if you want to see perfect, clean down and back movement, go to the terrier ring. They have upright fronts, and not much angulation. A breed or dog with more angulation may have more play in its movement coming and going, but it is also going to cover a lot more ground from the side. I find inevitably a fault judger/breeder will reward a moderate dog with little angulation and a stuffy neck. That is what they choose and show because they think it doesn’t have any faults. It is—as the late Maureen Gamble wrote about—the generic American show dog.

Someone commented on FB recently that when they choose a stud dog, they don’t tell anyone, because they’ll be told all the reasons why he is a bad choice. Really? That’s terrible! The aggressive presence of negative comments in social media today is not doing our breed any favors. People are almost afraid to breed or judge in the direction they personally feel is right for fear of public criticism. If that is truly the direction we are headed, I feel sorry for not just newcomers, but all exhibitors. Because who is being criticized the loudest? Dogs and breeders who win often, which in turn drives them off social media, giving the newbie access only to those with a bold social media presence.

So where does that leave a newcomer, or even a veteran exhibitor? What if you go to a show and see a beautiful dog that wins but your friends say it is no good because it has these faults? First, you need to trust the judge’s opinion. Most of them have been in the breed a long time and know what they are doing, or they wouldn’t be asked to judge. (Of course some are better than others, and some bring baggage to assignments, but usually that is obvious and a whole different discussion.) Ask yourself this—does the person criticizing the winner have a selfish reason to turn your opinion against that dog? Do you value their opinion more than the judge’s? Take negative comments with a grain of salt, try hard to look at the whole picture.

Again, it all comes back to teaching yourself to see quality. Everyone may like a different style of dog, that is clear and frankly is a great thing about our breed. We are fortunate to be able to find quality dogs that are big, small, heavy coated, short coated, high energy, laid back, etc, etc, all within our standard. Because of this, there is just no need to be openly critical of a dog that someone else may feel is absolutely perfect. I may prefer a big dog with plenty of leg, but it would be foolish of me not to see the quality in an outstanding little bitch with great structure and beautiful breed type. Beautiful—regardless of “style”— is hard to get! We succeed most with open minds, sometimes that means actually overlooking faults or failings. Breeding or judging dogs because of something they DON’T have will never produce the very best. It will just accentuate ok.

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