Interview with Sporting Group Judge Sidney Marx
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a judge?
I live in Mesa, Arizona, with my wife, Shelly, and our Beagle and Irish Setter. My family and I have had a dog for as long as I can remember, and I went to my first dog show with my first Irish Setter in 1963. I was approved as a judge in 1974.
What is my original breed? What is/was my kennel name?
My original breed is the Irish Setter. My kennel name was Windscent.
Can I list a few of the notable dogs I’ve bred? Any performance or field titles?
Probably the best dog I bred was CH Windscent Don Quixote (Irish Setter). My most notable Irish Setter was CH Bayberry Sonnet who was bred by Bill and Patsy Brooks. I also bred English Springers and Beagles that completed their championships. I did not compete in performance events.
How important are Performance and Companion titles in a Sporting Dog?
I think any activity that allows a dog to show its capabilities is important, and performance events certainly do this for a Sporting breed. Field titles truly show that a dog is capable of doing what his breed is meant to do. The relationship built between dog and handler in these events is truly something special.
Have I judged any Sporting Breed Specialties?
I have judged many Sporting breed specialties, including National Specialties for Irish Setters, Flat-Coated Retrievers, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, and Welsh Springer Spaniels in the United States, and the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever National in Canada. I have also judged Sporting Dog specialties in other countries.
Do I find that size, proportion, and substance are correct in most Sporting breeds?
I think size is correct in many breeds. Substance is lacking in some breeds, but perhaps this is on a regional basis. Unfortunately, proportions are an issue in too many breeds where we see the “long and low” silhouette becoming too predominant.
Is breed-specific expression important to me as a judge? Can I offer some examples?
Breed-specific expression is important in all breeds. For example, the English Cocker should have a “soft, melting, yet dignified, alert and intelligent” expression. A glaring or harsh expression would absolutely destroy the essence of this breed. The expression is also made up of the correct head planes, ear-set, and the size and shape of the eye. The expression is also an insight to the dog’s temperament.
What are my thoughts on the current grooming practices among the coated breeds?
Very simply, over-grooming is now the “norm” for almost all coated breeds, and in many instances, this has led to improper coat quality.
Are the Sporting breeds in good shape overall? Any concerns?
I think this varies greatly depending on the breed. Some, such as English Cockers, German Shorthaired Pointers, Welsh Springer Spaniels, and English Setters, are in relatively decent shape. Others are at the opposite end of the spectrum, and in a few instances, are far away from the essence of the breed. We are trying to “pretty up” breeds that may not necessarily have this as a component of the breed standard. They are in direct opposition to the function of the breed. Some breeds have lost substance while others have gone overboard in this area. Unfortunately, too many breeds are lacking in soundness.
In my opinion, how do today’s exhibits compare with the Sporting Dogs of the past?
It would be easy for me as part of the “get off my lawn” generation to say that the dogs of the past were better, but this would not necessarily be true. We have some very good dogs today, although we tend to go to extremes in grooming, angulation, and presentation. Perhaps the biggest downfall of today’s Sporting Dogs, compared to those of the past, is the inability to produce good fronts, strong rears, and balance.
Why do I think the Sporting breeds make up a large portion of the typical show’s entries?
In general, Sporting breeds have temperaments that fit well into a family environment. Additionally, they are versatile enough to engage with the family in many activities, from hunting and performance events to just being companions.
Just for laughs, do I have a funny story I can share about judging the Sporting Group?
To be honest, I was not the judge, but my wife had won the breed with her Flat-Coated Retriever in a large supported entry. When she was in the Group ring, a judge who was seated outside the ring was impressed with the dog and asked my wife to come over so that he could see it better. He asked her about the dog, and she began to tell him that he was a very good Flat-Coat and then pointed out a couple of areas that she would improve upon to make him perfect. She and her dog went on to win the Sporting Group, and lo and behold, who do you think was judging Best in Show? It was the same judge who had just heard her tell him about the dog’s shortcomings! She thought it was an educational opportunity for the judge, though I simmered outside the ring. She did not win Best in Show.