From the monthly column "Reality Check", by Alene Czeck. Originally printed in the August 2016 issue of ShowSight Magazine. Artwork by Daniel Cartier.
I find our Toy Dog judges have no clue as to how to examine the table dog. All of the groups, with the exception of Working, have dogs that are tabled—not just Toys.
Recently, I had taken my young Papillon—that had never been to a show—to our classes for experience. Since we teach conformation it is difficult to give our dogs a new outlook on judges. We felt fairly comfortable in entering him with limited experience. Mary Jo handled him; she put him on the table and set him up (you know the drill, fix one leg, then the other three move). Meanwhile, unbeknownst to her, the judge approached the table and promptly put both hands around the dog’s head, as to cuddle him, bent her head towards him and brought her face right up to him, talking sweet talk. The dog freaked out and tried to climb up Mary Jo’s arms—it was almost a disaster. She managed to get him under control, showed his bite and then the judge could then go over the rest of the dog. Without realizing that this experience had left its mark on the dog, we went ahead and tried to show him the next weekend.
It was another bad experience for us, but when we quickly explained to the judge what had happened previously she was extremely careful in her moves and he was able to be examined while held firmly. Of course he could not win anything, but he did get a little calmer. For the next set of shows he gradually improved as we explained to each judge what we were trying to accomplish. We also spent a lot of time walking around the shows having people touch him.
It is not over yet; I do not expect him to be really ready to show by himself for at least a few more months. How do I know? This is not the first time I have had a dog spooked by a judge. Right now he is over 3 months of shows and getting better, somewhat still afraid the judge will grab his head. Many of the judges commented that he was lovely on the ground and should be able to finish. I may go broke trying!
Years ago, I had a little bitch on the table. She set herself up and the judge came over to do the examination. All was going quite nicely, again I was ignoring the judge while trying to reset her legs, when I noticed him reaching under her tail and she yipped as her grabbed her you know what. I said to the judge, “This is a bitch, sir,” as I picked her up. No way would she let him touch her again and we were excused. It took me a year to relax her in the ring enough to try for her championship. I did succeed finally by not exhibiting her under men. Being a judge myself, many times I have done something similar. After hours of judging, you get a rhythm and after the boys are judged, the girls come in. Sure enough as I am checking the body of the girl my hand goes to under the tail and I comment, “Oops it’s a girl,” and we laugh. There is no need to continue to search and we go on. No harm done and the dog was fine with the exam.
Another instance happened when we were lined up for the judge to finally pick BOB and she came down the line slowly. But, she stooped over at each dog to get a closer look and the whole line went silly. We have been told that if we want to have a closer look at a small dog, have it or them placed back on the table. The dogs feel relaxed as they are table ready anyway. Hovering over them while on the floor makes them sense they are being attacked from above.
What should you do when approaching a table dog? First, act like it is a floor dog, by that I mean just naturally walk up to the table, don’t creep or seem to be anxious. I have had many judges come right to the table with no fanfare. My dogs were ready. If you come to the front and put your hands out to go over them, hold them palms up under the chin. Actually, since the AKC has instructed us to not examine the bites, I stop before I get to the table and ask to see the bite. I was amazed at the time not wasted in trying to reset the dog after examining the bite halfway through the exam. The exhibitors also agreed it was better to show the bite first and then set up the dog. As each new exhibitor set up on the table, they had the bite ready for me.
Never put your hands over the head of a table dog, as they will think it is an eagle or some animal coming after them. Keep your hands on the side and go through your regular exam.
Usually judges gradually drift to the side of the table to check on testicles. A quick touch and you will know all is there. Do not grab them, it naturally upsets them. This is really meant for some exhibits that express nervousness. You as the judge can tell which ones are not quite ready; the handler should have his/her dog well trained.