Interview with 2022 AKC National Championship Toy Group Judge Jeff Bazell
Can you describe your reaction to receiving an invitation to judge the Non-Sporting Group at the AKC National Championship Presented by Royal Canin?
Jeff Bazell: When I received the invitation to judge the Toy Group at the 2022 AKC National Championship, I was so honored and thrilled. The week after entries closed I was sitting in traffic imagining which dogs might walk into my ring that evening.
What were you thinking or feeling moments before you stepped into the center of the Non-Sporting Group ring?
Jeff Bazell: I was really hoping to see a nice mix of seasoned travelers that I might have judged before and some newcomers to me. Standing at the end of the tunnel as the dogs entered the ring, I was granted my wish.
How challenging was this assignment? Can you share your selection process?
Jeff Bazell: Wow, I had dogs I’ve given Groups and nice Specialties leave my ring in the first cut. I think exhibitors know it’s nothing personal to walk from my ring in a cut; if not, they need to understand that. Every day can produce different results in the handler/dog bond, where they are in their relationship to get great results show after show, busy weekend after busy weekend. And, dogs have mood changes and anxieties exactly like their handlers. These are challenges where top handlers, either professional or owner, work each and every day to extract the best, not only out of their dogs but from themselves as well.
The producers and crew of the “show” portion of this weekend were great to work with; kind, caring, and patient are just a few of the things that should be said. They asked that we name the winners in reverse order, contradictory to our normal policy, and that’s the way I am going to remember my placements for you.
Do you have a word or two about your Group winner? About the dogs that placed?
The young man handling the most remarkable Toy Fox Terrier I have personally ever judged did a splendid job. Looking smart and grinning like a Cheshire Cat the whole time, he led the beautifully made and dead-sound dog right into my eye and refused to leave. This is a dog I hope to be describing years from now. I don’t believe I’ve ever placed a Toy Fox in a regular Group before (maybe a beautiful red and white bitch once and obviously she was quite memorable), but certainly never in a Group like this one as it was solid quality all the way down.
Third in the Group went to one of the nicest Chinese Cresteds. This is one of those dogs that people wanting to judge the breed should study. Beautifully balanced front to rear and without over-moving. The dog free-stacked and looked up at his breeder/owner/handler but looked down his face at me just like a great Afghan Hound. For me, he meets the Standard with great proportions of leg-to-body and length of body. Though his flashy markings are not in the Standard, they sure don’t hinder him as he moves around you. His foot-timing is spot-on and his handler knows how to move with him as one piece.
I had not judged the Shih Tzu before and I was so impressed. From a team of top professionals who also breed beautiful dogs, this dog is a show stopper. After my hands went under the dog’s coat, the luxurious texture, fully double and heavy in density, I found bone and substance, just the right spring of rib, and dead-on proportions. Gilbert Kahn and Peggy Hoag taught me this breed and I think they both would have found this dog remarkable. Of course, he was presented with pride and perfection.
There are dogs that I can describe like I am going over them as I chat. I remember them and they are etched in my mind for their beautiful type. Yep, that’s this Havanese. I had him once before and found him so appealing. This time, I went in to chink the gaps in my memory and found him so correct to the Standard and beautifully sound—his coat texture, his gentle rise in topline (so lacking in the breed right now), his straight legs, his shorter upper arm, and his balanced reach and drive. He was handled beautifully by a beaming lady who knows what she has on the end of her lead and allows him to do his job. I awarded the best of a wonderful Group to this handsome dog.
There were so many other very notable dogs that I was proud to acknowledge in my final cut. They all had maturity, type, and breed-typical movement in common and I thank them for their entries and their trust in me as a breeder of Toys.