Interview with Non-Sporting Group Judge Gus Sinibaldi
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a judge?
Gus Sinibaldi: I live in Matthews, North Carolina, and have been showing dogs for nearly 25 years. I started riding and showing hunters and jumpers as an early teen, which really helped to develop my eye for structure, balance, and soundness—which I’ve carried forward. I have been judging for four years and am privileged to judge the Non-Sporting and Toy Groups.
What is my original breed? What is/was my kennel name?
Gus Sinibaldi: My original breed is the Bulldog. In 2010, I “downsized” to French Bulldogs while continuing to show a number of Bulldogs.
Can I list a few of the notable dogs I’ve bred? Any performance or parent club titles?
Gus Sinibaldi: I would call out four very special dogs. Bulldogs: “Gino” was CH Ironton Well Red. With local showing only and owner-handled, Gino won three all-breed Bests in Show and maintained a Top 5 national ranking. “Cagney” was CH Ironton Once Upon a Time. Cagney was also a multiple Group and all-breed Best in Show winner. French Bulldogs: “Ben” is GCH Ironton Ben There Done That. This major clown has literally stolen hearts all over the globe. He is a Top 20 dog, multiple Group winner, and reserve Best in Show winner. “Ellen” is GCHG Ironton Just Keep Swimming. Ellen has always been owner-handled and is a Best in Specialty, Reserve Best in Show and Multiple Group winner, and a Best in Sweeps National Specialty Veteran winner. But most of all, she is just our very special girl.
What are some of the qualities I most admire in the Non-Sporting Breeds?
Gus Sinibaldi: I admire and appreciate the diversity of the Non-Sporting Group. I am happy to have started my study in this Group as it has taught me to focus on all the unique qualities of a breed and not worry about comparing one to the other. Each breed is uniquely special on many levels. Words that describe temperaments of this Group include: Slightly conservative; cheerful; high degrees of intelligence; courageous; dignified; aloofness; happy; outgoing; lively; alert; regal; affectionate; energetic; air of distinction; curious; spirited; gay; sensitive; and tranquil. With the Non-Sporting Group you can describe temperament and never repeat a word twice.
Have I judged any Non-Sporting Breed/Group Specialties?
Can I speak to the overall quality of the more popular Non-Sporting Breeds/Varieties; Bulldog, French Bulldog, Standard & Miniature Poodles?
Gus Sinibaldi: There is deep quality in all of these breeds today. However, at a typical all-breed show, they may be found in various regions. I have had the opportunity to judge outstanding representatives of these breeds. This would be my opportunity to call-out the popularity of the French Bulldog. The number of “pet breeders” and “color breeders” is of great concern. Please make sure you can identify highly respected breeders and refer inquiries to them. Together, we can ensure that prospective buyers meet preservation breeders before getting into the hands of the fad color/coat puppy producers.
What about the overall quality of the more “vulnerable” breeds; Coton de Tulear, Finnish Spitz, Löwchen?
Gus Sinibaldi: I don’t know that I would use the word “vulnerable.” I have also seen outstanding quality in these breeds, coming from preservation breeders. My hope is that they continue to pay things forward in order for us to admire their breeds for decades to come.
Would I have any advice to impart to newer judges of the Non-Sporting Breeds who come from other Groups?
Gus Sinibaldi: To newer Non-Sporting judges, my first hope is that they already have mentors whom we would all call experts and someone they can continue to learn from. Judges, please stop saying that some Non-Sporting breeds are so hard to understand because they are so different from other breeds that you judge. To me, this may suggest that you haven’t spent enough time learning the unique qualities of these breeds. No, they are not the same as breeds coming from the Sporting or Herding Groups. This is what makes them unique. However, they are still a dog that must be sound and functional. Peculiar movement does not mean unsound. Make sure you know the difference. Education should never be about obtaining the minimal needed credits in order to apply for breeds—and then stop. The learning should never stop. Judge these breeds and go right back to your mentors frequently to discuss the entry. When it comes to hallmarks, know them and do not compromise. When I am torn between a few dogs that may not check all the boxes, I always ask myself: “Which dog, who has a compelling feature, would I first invite into a breeding program?”
In my opinion, how do today’s exhibits compare with the Non-Sporting Dogs of the past?
Gus Sinibaldi: Over the last 25 years I would say that the dogs are comparable in some cases, and in other cases they have gotten better. Breeders have to continue to make good decisions and remove their blinders. Many preservation breeders are unable to have more than 1-2 litters per year. However, do not forget to pay things forward when you find someone you can trust to do the right thing and to keep the breed moving ahead. It is the only way we will continue to see great dogs in the ring. Thank you, breeders, for all you do!
Why do I think Non-Sporting Dogs can become such outstanding Show Dogs?
Gus Sinibaldi: A Non-Sporting breed can be, and is, an outstanding and competitive show dog. They stand out with their unique attributes, style, and temperament. However, it must start with good conditioning, diet, and exercise if they want to look their very best.
A Non-Sporting breed can be, and is, an outstanding and competitive show dog. They stand out with their unique attributes, style, and temperament.
If I could share my life with only one Non-Sporting Breed, which would it be and why?
Gus Sinibaldi: Well, the French Bulldog, of course. They play hard and sleep hard. They are silly. They are clowns. They are lovers and are great to cuddle with. The next pick would have to be a Standard Poodle. I am convinced there is a human inside them.
Just for laughs, do I have a funny story that I can share about my experiences judging the Non-Sporting Group?
Gus Sinibaldi: Recently, I had a line-up of Bulldogs and I kept backing up to get the best view of them. Well, I backed up right onto the ramp, abruptly sat down (or fell down), and jumped up quickly as if the 50 people sitting ringside didn’t see. Who knows? Maybe I meant to do that.