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Interview with Frank Kane – 2023 WKC Dog Show Sporting Group Judge

Frank Kane, the 2023 WKC Dog Show Sporting Group Judge


Interview with Frank Kane – 2023 WKC Dog Show Sporting Group Judge

Can you describe your reaction to receiving an invitation to judge the Sporting Group at this year’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show?

Frank Kane: Of course, I was thrilled to receive the invitation, but as the COVID pandemic took hold of the world, it became clear that my visit to Westminster would be postponed for two years—but it was certainly worth waiting for.


What does it mean to judge a Group at this historic show?

Frank Kane: First of all, it is a great honor for any judge, but for an overseas judge, that is a special privilege and I was humbled by it. I must thank the President, and all of the Westminster team, for my invitation and I congratulate them on their teamwork, which produced such a wonderful and memorable event.


In your opinion, how does this show differ from other AKC events?

Frank Kane: Obviously, Westminster carries the reputation as the most well-known show to the general public of the USA and it has long been the tradition to have it generously broadcast on television. It provides the general public with a window onto the show world. When it was staged at Madison Square Garden in the center of New York, it drew a huge public audience to fill the arena—and the atmosphere was amazing. The enthusiasm of the American public for their favorite dogs is tremendous. In recent years, the AKC event in Florida in December has captured some of that same spirit. It has the capacity for more dogs and the Group finals are wonderfully staged and televised.


What were you thinking or feeling moments before you stepped into the center of the Group ring?

Frank Kane: Well, I hoped I wasn’t going to fall flat on my face! Getting into the ring is always the most stressful part for me. Once the dogs start to come in, I relax and let my eye take over.


Was there a heightened energy coming from the dog and handler teams? Did you feel the energy of the spectators?

Frank Kane: I’m sure the handlers have a few butterflies when they are on such a prestigious stage, but most of them are professional handlers and are accustomed to the big arena. The center court of Flushing Meadows was, for me, a wonderful venue in which to judge, as I have been a keen tennis player since childhood, and now, I can say that I have stood on the center court where so many tennis legends have stood before. The center court is a huge stadium and much bigger than Madison Square Garden, and this year, the first time at this location, the stadium was not full, but nevertheless, there was much audience participation in the applause for the favorite dogs.


How challenging was this assignment? Can you share your selection process?

Frank Kane: The main challenge was the time constraint: over 30 dogs to judge in around 45 minutes, plus the innovation of breaks in the judging for advertising. As a fellow judge suggested, “Judge by your instinct.” So, I cut down on the amount of movement and mentally shortlisted the dogs which filled the eye both standing and on the move. It is very important for me that the dog holds it shape and moves in a breed-typical fashion. To be honest, I would have liked a little more time to enjoy the dogs and, in a big Group like this, I might have liked to add another two to my shortlist.


Do you have a word or two about your Group winner? About the dogs that placed?

Frank Kane: My winner, the beautiful English Setter bitch, filled the eye with her carriage, free-striding movement, and perfect lashing tail action, the hallmark of a good setter. She was pressed all the way by a great favorite of mine, the Irish Water Spaniel, which won the National Breed show under me and has won a Group previously for me. I just felt that the English Setter had that extra sparkle on the night.

In third spot, the black and white Pointer bitch, who is curvy in her lines and went stylishly using her tail, is full of quality and type. For fourth spot, the Brittany might have been a surprise, as the American standard is quite different to what we have in Europe, but I felt he filled your standard very well, was in great form, and with brisk, spectacular movement. He was pressed for this place by the Field Spaniel, so correct in type and full of quality.

I would have loved to have included in the cut the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever; he was all I wanted in type and construction but he was very unsettled by the occasion and didn’t do himself justice on the move. My other choice would have been the Welsh Springer Spaniel bitch, feminine and typey, and with a beautiful coat and color.


There is no other show quite like Westminster. Is there anything you’d like to say on behalf of the Westminster Kennel Club and its members?

Frank Kane: The entire weekend was memorable for the location, the atmosphere, the hospitality, and the details which went into the organization of such a huge event. It was so interesting to see behind the scenes and to be a part of it.


Are there specific ways in which this show furthers the cause of purebred dogs?

Frank Kane: Getting television coverage for the dog show world is a huge opportunity to educate the general public and to open their eyes to what dog showing and dog breeding is really about. Having watched the television programs, I’m impressed that the coverage did many good things for the dog world. Perhaps there is an opportunity for some guidance on choosing the right breed and making the public aware of the responsibilities of good dog ownership.


Now that your assignment is complete, what does Westminster mean to you personally?

Frank Kane: I feel that Westminster brings a sense of theater in staging the show and engenders its own special magic. For me, the experience of judging a Group ranks alongside my judging of Best in Show at Crufts in 2012: two pinnacles of my judging career.