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‘S/He Loves My Dog!’ – Really? I Only Judged the Dog for 2-1/2 Minutes

Golden Retriever dog in purple lavender field


How often have you heard your friends, acquaintances, and fellow competitors say “S/He loves my dog!” in reference to a win (or wins) your dog received from a particular judge? What were your thoughts after hearing this?

Hopefully, you had some positive thoughts along the lines of:
  • I’m glad the dog did well in tough competition.
  • Good for <insert owner/breeder/exhibitor’s name>.
  • It seems other judges have found the dog worthy as well.
  • Peer breeders and owners find the dog to have wonderful breed type and be correctly structured, with movement according to the Breed Standard.

What other thoughts came to your mind? Did you ask the commenter what the win was? At which show(s)? What was the total entry in their Breed or Group? Had the judge awarded the dog multiple times at higher levels?

As a fellow exhibitor, the answers to some of those questions may be intimidating. The exhibitor may be questioning the worth of their exhibit(s) in the same quality of Breed or Group company.

Did you happen to think about what the awarding judge (or other judges) would think when they heard “S/He loves my dog?” What thoughts do you think ran through the listening judge’s mind? Please indulge me as I attempt to give some examples and perspective.


Do I ‘Know’ Your Dog?

Do I know your dog? I mean, do I really “know” it? Only you and/or your family know your dog. I got to spend 2-1/2 minutes in a Breed ring or Group ring evaluating your dog against the Breed Standard and prioritizing it among the dogs present that day. That hardly qualifies me as knowing your dog.

I don’t know that your dog likes to come to your bed last thing at night and first thing in the morning, gently resting his head on you so that you can scratch behind his ears. I don’t know that your dog won’t play with the flying disc, but takes the squeaker out of every toy he’s had. I don’t know that you feed him kibble with two tablespoons of canned food and warm water on top. Oh, and that you make him sit before putting the food bowl down for him to eat.

I don’t know that he likes to sleep in his crate, rather than his soft and generous round bed, while you are working in your home office. I don’t know that the sound of his lead and collar being taken off the lead rack sends him zooming to you, tail wagging his whole body, ready for a walk or a car ride. I don’t “know” your dog. How could I love it?


Situational ‘Love’

I may remember judging your dog a couple of times before, but I don’t always remember the awards it received. You see, your dog was one among many. It may not have had the quality and presence that would make me remember it for years to come. By the way, those dogs have been few and far between in my 47 years in the sport—maybe one dog every two or three years. Does that mean I “love” your dog? OR…

You’ve shown your dog to me several times in Group competition and I’ve pinned it each time. Did you take a good look at the depth of quality in each Group when you showed your dog to me? Truthfully, could your dog have been bested by Dog XYZ had XYZ been competing in the same Group? Was your dog worthy among the competition that day, or do I “love” your dog? OR…

Your dog was awarded National Specialty championship points by me when you showed that year. As a Special, I pinned the dog in a Group. At a Regional Specialty of your breed, the dog was shown once again to me and received a Select. Do I “love” your dog? OR…

I’ve awarded your dog a couple of Group Ones and you have traveled across the country to show under me at a small show with less than 500 dogs entered, and moreover, less than 50 dogs entered in all the breeds within your dog’s Group. Did you think that your dog would still be the best exhibit in that Group on that day? Did you think that I would give you another Group One? Your dog was pinned Group Three that day because that’s where I felt it ranked in quality against the other dogs present. Do I “love” your dog?

This last example is perhaps the most difficult for me to understand. Just because your dog was pinned Group One by me on two occasions means that I was judging dogs on the day. How did your dog compare to its Breed Standard, and were the other dogs present better, in my opinion, in comparison to their respective Standards than yours? Do you think about how you are putting the judge and other exhibitors on the spot by “following” him/her around the country in search of another Group One or BIS? It’s very easy nowadays for your competitors to get an instant record of your dog’s wins, at which shows, and under which judges.

You see, I don’t “love” your dog. I’m just doing the best I can to interpret the Breed Standards the way the parent clubs have instructed, and prioritizing placements based on those Standards along with what is before me to adjudicate on the day.

In a world where superlatives such as “love,” “awesome,” and “the best” have become commonplace and have had their respective meanings severely diluted, can we think about what we’re saying and meaning?

Judge X gave Fido a Group One at ABC show.” Your competitors will know soon enough who the competition was, how many dogs were entered, and whether Judge X has awarded Fido before. Judge X saw your dog for 2-1/2 minutes… how can that judge “love” your dog?

I may remember judging your dog a couple of times before, but I don’t always remember the awards it received. You see, your dog was one among many. It may not have had the quality and presence that would make me remember it for years to come.