Interview with Working Group Judge Shilon Bedford
My husband, David, and I have raised Alaskan Malamutes under the Black Ice name since the early 1980s. They are best-known for producing top-working sled dogs that were equally competitive in the show ring. I judge the Working Group, most of the Toy Group, and several Non-Sporting breeds. I have had the honor of judging the Alaskan Malamute National Specialty on three occasions.
Where do I live? How many years as a judge?
Shilon Bedford: My husband and I live in the country near New Germany, Minnesota. I have been judging since 1999.
What is my original breed? What is/was my kennel name?
Shilon Bedford: We raised Alaskan Malamutes for 35 years under the prefix, Black Ice.
Can I list a few of the notable dogs I’ve bred?
Shilon Bedford: Recently, eight of our dogs were accepted into the Alaskan Malamute Working Dog Hall of Fame. Most notable were CAN CH Black Ice’s Shear Force WTDX WWPDX (Attla) and CH Black Ice’s High Speed Chase WLDX WTDX WWPDX (Chase). Both were lead dogs that were amazing, hard-working dogs. Riding on a sled behind either of those boys was a great joy. You knew you were in for an extraordinary experience.
What are the qualities I most admire in the Working breeds?
Shilon Bedford: All dog breeds were bred for a purpose, whether it was to perform a specific task or to please their owner as a companion. But nothing is more exciting than watching dogs instinctively perform at a high level. Knowing the task each breed was bred for brings a unique perspective to evaluating these breeds.
Have I judged any Working Group Specialties?
Shilon Bedford: I have judged Specialties for seven of the Working breeds, some on multiple occasions. I have also judged Specialties in eight countries.
Do I find that size, proportion, and substance are correct in most Working breeds?
Shilon Bedford: I don’t question a standard’s description of the ideal size, proportion or substance. Parent clubs have set those standards based on history and knowledge of the breed’s function. Many of the standards give a range, which permits variation without excess, and I think this speaks to the value placed on each of those aspects.
Is breed-specific presentation important to me as a judge? Examples?
Shilon Bedford: Most Working breeds are shown stacked. This is fine for a “first look” evaluation of a dog, but I do like to see a dog set itself up. When they do this, I have a better picture of how balanced they are. This brings to mind how important it is for a handler to work with their dog so that the dog learns to settle and present itself. Recently, the trend in handling is to constantly feed the dog to keep their attention. However, this is a horrible distraction to the presentation of the dog.
What are my thoughts on cropping/docking the Working breeds?
Shilon Bedford: Every dog must receive an objective, breed-specific examination. Once all dogs have been examined, my duty is to place the dogs based on the specifics of the standard and to weigh whether any fault or deviation is serious enough to affect the function of the dog.
Are the Working breeds in good shape overall? Any concerns?
Shilon Bedford: I believe that the Working breeds are in very good shape. The Group is always highly competitive and a challenge, and it is a joy to judge so many fine examples of the breeds.
How do today’s exhibits compare with the Working Dogs of the past?
Shilon Bedford: Many breeds have strong, high-quality dogs in the ring today. I think the greatest improvements have been in the more recently recognized breeds. To be competitive among the Working breeds, breeders need to know their standard and how to make improvements, and in some cases, maintain what they have. Competition can make you a better breeder, and I love when I see that.
Why are the Working breeds so admired as family companions?
Shilon Bedford: A really good Working dog exhibits a willingness to please, which makes them excellent family dogs.
Just for laughs, do I have a funny story I can share about my experiences judging the Working Group?
Shilon Bedford: Sorry to say, I do not.