Menu toggle icon.
Menu toggle icon.

Cardigan Judging 101

Four Cardigan Welsh Corgis sitting in a red chair.

This article was originally published in Showsight Magazine, October 2017 issue.


Cardigan Judging 101

With so much controversy over the AKC judging approval process and the ongoing need to be “on your game” when evaluating a breed, perhaps it is time to go back to the basics and relook at what and how you’re performing your duties. Discussions with regular exhibitors and judges, both new and old, have revealed some trends that do not bode well with the proper examination and adjudication of the Cardigan Welsh Corgi. So let us look at some of the items that you should and should not be doing when it is time to give a fair and honest assessment of Cardigan Welsh Corgi, who, by design, have some unusual characteristics. Hopefully this will allow dog show judges to change a few bad habits and also help exhibitors determine which judges are properly performing their duties. It is no secret that word of mouth among exhibitors spreads very fast and can be detrimental to future entries. Show Chairmen, in particular, get their ears inundated with complaints of poor procedure resulting in less than adequate choices and quickly place a judge on the DNH (do not hire) list. Judges who really care should take heed.

Let us start right from the beginning. We are all aware that you have a limited amount of time to make your decisions and we also know that exhibitors are entitled to equal and fair time in the ring. On most occasions, the first dog in the ring will be a youngster. Please send them around the ring and let both the handler and the dog ease into the situation first. Do not ask the dogs to be placed immediately on the table and do not face the table directly into the on looking crowd. Both of these practices only help to increase the nervousness of both participants and really serve no purpose other than to skim 30 seconds or so off your time.

Hint: this isn’t impressing anyone and only discourages exhibitors. Next in the process, is the very disturbing practice of standing at, or very near, the table as the animal is being stacked upon it. Stop that! This doesn’t help anyone and if you can’t stand back and admire the silhouette of the Cardigan, or for that fact any table breed, because you don’t want to walk any more than you have to at the expense of the exhibitor, then perhaps it is time you look in the mirror and ask if this judge is really capable of doing 175 dogs in a day. The Cardigan’s unique outline must be evaluated from a slight distance in order to take in all the distinctions that a good example displays. You can quickly see the topline, croup, turn of stifle, length of neck, that most important depth of chest and many other features so your hands-on examination will solidify what your eyes have shown you. Step back fifteen or so feet, drink it in, look at the substance and then approach from a wide berth to the front with a pleasant “hello” so that both dog and handler feel welcomed. As you approach, you evaluate for a proper front assembly (a hallmark of this breed) and begin the hands-on exam.

We are not going to get into the exact hands-on procedure but a couple of points need to be discussed in order to refresh and educate some. When examining the bite, please think about what the Cardigan standard says: Teeth strong and regular. Scissors bite preferred; i.e., inner side of upper incisors fitting closely over outer side of lower incisors. Overshot, undershot or wry bite are serious faults. Nowhere does it state full dentition and therefore asking exhibitors to crank open the mouth so you can impress someone with your lack of knowledge of the breed serves no purpose. Some judges with backgrounds of some kind in dentistry etc., have stated that to look for a true wry bite, you need to see all the back teeth as well. This would be a very rare occasion and a seemly unnecessary tactic, for the most part. We won’t debate that here but if you suspect a problem as you perform the bite exam and want to see the side teeth by lifting the gums, feel free to do so. Obviously, the AKC and exhibitors are wanting to have handlers show the bite and not the judge, so take that into consideration. Be aware that the dog may not be accustomed to such an activity and may react accordingly (move about), this should not be held against the dog. The action of opening the mouth, as done with breeds like the German Shepherd, is unacceptable in Cardigans.

So now, you are prepared to see the dog on the ground. Obviously the best place to evaluate the expression of the dog once they have completed a down back to access those characteristics. When a judge immediately asks for a small circle, Cardigan exhibitors generally feel the judge isn’t giving proper credence to the movement of the breed. Yes, Cardigans can move with nice reach and drive and no, a small circle doesn’t allow for the breed to open up and truly show you what it can do. And while on that note, let’s mention the judge that insists you only walk with your dog. Now winning the race around the ring in a sprint isn’t correct for the breed, but merely going for a walk, most assuredly, will not allow for the dog to display the following as described in the standard.

“Gait: Free and smooth. Effortless. Viewed from the side, forelegs should reach well forward when moving at a trot, without much lift, in unison with driving action of hind legs. The correct shoulder assembly and well fitted elbows allow for a long free stride in front. Viewed from the front, legs do not move in exact parallel planes but incline slightly inward to compensate for shortness of leg and width of chest. Hind legs, when trotting, should reach well under body, move on a line with the forelegs, with the hocks turning neither in nor out and in one continuous motion drive powerfully behind, well beyond the set of the tail. Feet must travel parallel to the line of motion with no tendency to swing out, cross over or interfere with each other. Short choppy movement, rolling or high-stepping gait, close or overly wide coming or going, are incorrect. This is a herding dog which must have the agility, freedom of movement and endurance to do the work for which he was developed.”

That last sentence is extremely important to remember. Write it down a hundred times, tattoo it on your wrist, whatever you need to do to engrain that in your mind as you judge the Cardigan. Please let the exhibitor show the dog at a proper speed to display these endearing qualities. Watching a Cardigan with reach and drive is a pure pleasure to revel in, not doing so sends a very clear message that you as the judge do not think they have that ability and therefore do not care to see if they do.

A final last bug-a-boo that needs to be addressed. Once you have examined the dog on the table, do not reach down on an exhibit on the ground at any time. This is getting more and more common to see and is not in good practice with judging. These dogs are low and having someone reaching down, particularly from behind, can be very unnerving to them. Exhibitors encourage and respectfully request that you merely ask them to put the dog back on the table. It is greatly appreciated. This practice is requested in a number of other breeds and Cardigans deserve the same respect and process as those breeds do.

Now, this lesson could continue on in more detail but if you want to do the breed justice, consider a refresher course by attending the National Specialty Judges Education Program. However, refraining from what is called poor Cardigan judging procedures and changing a few of your “all arounder” habits, you will be better respected and performing your duties to the best of your ability.

A final word, please refer to the approved Cardigan Welsh Corgi Club of America standard for clarification of any point of the breed and if that still leaves you confused, then reach out to the Judging Education Committee members and allow them to assist in your concerns. No question is silly and if they can help even one judge to better understand this wonderful breed, then they have done their job as well. We want and deserve fair and consistent judging by anyone who steps into the middle of that ring and says, “Take them around please.”