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Yesterday the wicket came out at the Labrador ring.  Not called for by

an exhibitor, rather the judge chose to use it.  This was an all breed

show the day after a supported entry, so there were quite a few

Labradors.  What was shocking was not only the results, but the


I was in the 12-18 month dog class and after we came in the judge went

to the table and spent a number of minutes looking at the standard.  I

could see what she was reading and noticed a picture of a nice looking

Labrador, quite typey, not a all-round type.  So I thought to

myself—good for her, at least she is checking rather than being unsure

of the standard and just guessing.  I also noticed she measured my dog

against her leg.

Beginning with the 12-18 month bitch class she measured.  Of the first

five dogs she wicketed, three were DQ'd.  The AKC rep was ringside

and a crowd gathered.  Of the next five bitches she measured at least

three of them should have been DQ'd, as the wicket bar did not

touch them.  But there wasn’t an obvious inch or two of daylight so

she just let it go and stopped excusing them.


A number of exhibitors pulled their bitches and did not show.  Some

exhibitors were outraged and others scared, it was not a pleasant

situation.  A discussion ensued that all breed shows were terrible, and

many Labrador people refuse to attend.  The whole experience was wild,

and made me think long and hard, and want to share those thoughts, as there

are two issues I feel we as Labradors breeders should consider.


First, we have a standard with a height disqualification.  We have had

it for 33 years.  While I know we all like to complain about it, it is

indeed our standard.  So unless we can manage to get it changed, it is

interesting that so many of us say we will only show at specialties

where there is no chance of dogs being measured.  Because watching

this judge measure bitches, clearly a huge majority of our Labradors

are undersized.  And I mean HUGE majority, like 80%.  We are flat out

ignoring our standard, it was shocking to see how far off we are.

Bitches I thought were normal sized were measured out.  So even if we

did away with the DQ, we would still have many undersized dogs.  I’m

curious how many breeders actually measure their dogs, because I think

they would be surprised at the results.


Let me just throw in a personal antidote:  I have worked hard on size

in my dogs.  It is not easy, but it does help keep my numbers down.  I

once had a well-respected breeder judge say to me—when you breed for

size and leg you will lose a lot. I found that interesting, but I

think to some degree she is right.  I see some breeders prioritizing

size and leg often at the expense of breed type.  It is much easier to

find the really beautiful, typey Labradors in a shorter, smaller

package.  This is so true my friends know the last few months I have

been saying—I give up.  We are going to start choosing the smaller,

shorter legged puppies (and we did in our last litter).  Scott and I

have placed many over the years because they just weren’t big enough,

and had begun to question those decisions.  The short ones often win,

and people continue to breed to those dogs.  So why focus on an issue

if few other people care? Is it true our breed would be better off if

we didn’t focus on height?  Are other qualities significantly more

important, even though height is actually a disqualification?  That

said it is also true we have a versatile breed and a size range should

be accepted.  We all know that.


Second, I am torn about the thought of never going to all breed shows.

Up here in the northwest we don’t have a choice, there are only two

AKC specialties within a ten hour drive, so we don’t have the options

those elsewhere do with specialties every weekend.  And I like going

to all breed shows.  I like watching other breeds and professional

handlers and groomers.  I like watching the group rings and all that

comes with that level of competition. Watching the best of the best is

educational, from handling skills to work ethic to professionalism in

and out of the ring, I am always inspired by the really good handlers

and the really good dogs.  A beautiful dog is a pleasure to witness

regardless of breed.


And frankly, I don’t often see terrible judging.  Maybe I go to the

bigger shows so the judges are more qualified, but I rarely see

terrible dogs winning.  And if you want to play the politics card, a

great breeder said to me many years ago—no one is more political than

an American breeder judge.  While I was taken aback at the time, there

is something to that.  I truly don’t believe most judges are

political, but they can only judge what we present them and if we

never bring our good dogs to all breed shows, how will they learn what

quality looks like?  And if we only bring our quality dogs untrained

and out of condition, how can we blame the judges when we don’t win?

If breeder judges are tolerant of lack of conditioning and handling

skills and don’t enforce disqualifications, is that a good thing?  I

know it helps to make the Labrador ring a fun and accepting place, but

I think all breed shows create checks and balances needed in every

breed, and they are what the dog fancy are all about.


Part of me believes these two things go hand in hand.  Like all of

you, I hate the reputation Labradors have at all breed shows.  It is

embarrassing and I’ve always believed unfair.  After yesterday I’m not

so sure.  If we as a breed refuse to hold ourselves to the same level

of professionalism expected in every other breed is it any wonder we

have lost respect?  Labradors are the greatest, most versatile breed

in the world, are healthy and presented naturally bybreeder/owner/handlers

who generally enjoy themselves.  Other breeds should aspire to be like our

ring, but somehow don't.  Should our standard include a height DQ?  Absolutely

not.  Should we work harder to get our dogs closer to the proper height?  I think

so.  A middle ground would be nice. 


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