Interview with Carrie Chase – 2023 WKC Dog Show Breed Judge
What does it mean to be invited to judge at this year’s historic Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show?
Carrie Chase: Judging the Westminster Kennel Club show has a special meaning beyond being the “ultimate” breed assignment in American dog showing—which it is! When I received the invitation, it took my breath away. I felt honored, especially as a non-professional whose dogs and dog showing are truly a hobby for me, and one I began as an adult with no dog sport background.
The “special meaning” is related to my late friend and mentor, Samuel Lawrence. Sam owned a number of record-setting dogs that earned 777 all-breed Bests in Show and won multiple Groups at Westminster, and his Wire Fox Terrier CH Registry’s Lonesome Dove won Best in Show at Westminster in 1992. A Pembroke Welsh Corgi dog that I bred, CH Hum’nbird Keepn Up’Pearances, owned by Sam and Marion, won the Herding Group at Westminster in 2004.
This year, I wore a hummingbird pin that Sam gave me, a remembrance of our friendship and, to me, his goal to participate in the ultimate show, Westminster, and win. I thought of Sam often during my assignment—from ensuring that judging makes sense to the spectators, to finding the best dogs for the right reasons. It is about the dog, the Breed Standard, and nothing else.
Can you share your thoughts on your various Breed assignments? Please be specific.
Carrie Chase: I was thrilled with the quality of the dogs shown to me. After the show, many people congratulated me on the dogs I sent to the Group, saying it was the strongest Herding Group in many years. I would agree and was thrilled that five of my eight Breed winners made the cut and two were placed.
One of the finalists, the Norwegian Buhund, was a younger dog exuding self-confidence, true Northern Spitz type, and moving effortlessly around the ring. His dark, oval eyes were smiling and his personality was magnetic. All in the entry were excellent examples representing their low entry breed.
The Border Collie competition was stiff and my Breed winner was a medium-sized dog of exquisite breed type, proper 10 to 9 body proportions, moderate bone, and a hard, muscular body. He covered the ground efficiently with symmetrical front reach and rear drive. He was pushed hard by the Select Dog, but on the day I felt he seemed to display a bit more “ability to suddenly change speed and direction” as called for in the Standard.
In the Cardigan Welsh Corgi entry, quality was outstanding. The Breed winner, who made the Group cut, is an outstanding individual who I feel represents an ideal Cardigan type. He has correct overall size, length, and substance. His topline was level and finished in a gentle slope to his properly carried tail. He moved smoothly and efficiently. His front was lovely with proper wrap and prosternum. He showed the dog world that a Cardigan can be stylish and beautiful!
The Bouvier des Flandres Breed winner was a stunning stallion type of dog who I found out is also a working dog and Herding Champion. He epitomized great strength, with an impressive head with bold expression, strong muscular yet arched neck, short and broad back, well-muscled loin, and wide rump. His back was absolutely quiet on the move, and move he did—free, bold and proud per the Standard. I especially appreciated his hard, working condition. He was eventually awarded Group 2 behind the Australian Shepherd.
The Shetland Sheepdog entry was wonderful. I was so pleased the breeders brought such a quality entry to Westminster. The fancy places great emphasis on head type and my goal as a judge is to respect breeders’ priorities to the best of my ability. But the breed is also a herding dog and, as such, structure is vitally important—the dog must be able to do his job in the field.The Breed winner was a dog of outstanding quality who captures those attributes ideally, with a long, blunt wedge head, beautifully shaped and placed eyes, small, high-set ears, and deep, well-developed underjaw.
His well-placed shoulders were smooth, his brisket reaching to the elbow, and his croup sloped gradually to his tail of proper length. His coat and condition were immaculate. His movement demonstrated the effortless speed called for in the Standard. I was so pleased for his owner-handler when he was awarded Group 3 by Tom Coen, who is one of the most (if not the most) respected Sheltie breeders and experts in this country.
My own breed, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, was very well represented at Westminster. Several of the entries have had great Specialty success. The winner, who was in the cut during the Group judging, is a red and white bitch with a beautiful head, illustrating the required equilateral triangle from ears to nose, and proper chiseling under her dark, oval eye. She has correct, moderately long body length, good substance with proper oval bone and feet, and a firm topline which she held on the move. She moved cleanly in all directions and stood well over her front. The BOS male, a beautifully headed red and white dog, was close up on her, but I selected the bitch for her outline which I felt was slightly longer; so more correct per our Standard. Kudos to the breeder/owner-handlers of these excellent individuals.
Now that it’s over, what are your thoughts on the 2023 show year? Any thoughts on the year ahead?
Carrie Chase: Overall, the Herding Group is very strong this year and I expect the campaigned dogs will continue to do show ring battle for the top spots. But most shows will continue to have fewer entries than in years past. The numbers of truly campaigned dogs will continue to shrink. The “legacy” owners (backers such as Sam and Marion Lawrence) are few and far between anymore. Our sport, like the world, is changing, but the wins are exciting, as are the new Champions that make the scene every year.