Why I love a Non-Sporting Group Dog

The Showsight Editorial Team wanted to find out why the Non-Sporting community loves their breed and group. Here are some insights on what it’s like to love, show, and breed a member of this eclectic group.

  1. Where do you live? How many years in dogs? How many as
    a judge?
  2. Do you have any hobbies or interests apart from dogs?
  3. How were you first introduced to the Non-Sporting breeds?
  4. Have you bred any influential sires or dams?
  5. Did you handle any memorable show dogs?
  6. The Non-Sporting Group is the most diverse. How do you prioritize the essentials for each breed?
  7. What are some of the challenges that come with judging the Non-Sporting breeds?
  8. How important is presentation and “showmanship” in the Non-Sporting Group?
  9. Are any breeds in better shape than they were 25 years ago? Any that are worse off?
  10. What effect has popularity (or the lack thereof) had on the Non-Sporting breeds?
  11. Do you have any advice to share with new judges of the Non-Sporting Group?
  12. Is there a funny story you’d like to share about your experiences judging the Non-Sporting breeds?

Deborah Barrett

I am a “military brat,” now living in Hoover, Alabama, which is near Birmingham. I have been in some aspect of dogs all my life but, after we married, my husband and I did our research and he preferred Chows—a fabulous breed! I showed our first (pet) Chow in 1982 and became a permit judge for them 15
years ago.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from dogs? I do full-coverage cross-stitch (the super-detailed kind that takes years to complete), and I was a voice major back-in-the-day. Now, with COVID, choirs can’t meet in person and, so far, I have submitted over 50 pieces and guide tracks for various virtual choirs and composers around the world.

How was I first introduced to the Non-Sporting breeds? After serving in so many positions for my local Birmingham Kennel Club and working with the Chow Chow Club Inc. in several capacities, I naturally started judging; first with my breed and then I moved on through the Group. It gives me great joy to be a perpetual student of dogs!

Have I bred any influential sires or dams? I co-bred and handled some Chows that did well at our National and the associated shows, and at regional specialties, but I was never a hugely successful breeder. My co-breeder buddy and I have had to be very selective, since our circumstances have dictated that we could only have a few litters.

Did I handle any memorable show dogs? I generally only handled dogs that I owned or co-owned. And although I know it isn’t a popular stance with some, I made the decision to mostly quit exhibiting when I chose to begin judging.

The Non-Sporting Group is the most diverse. How do I prioritize the essentials for each breed? I love that the different breeds in this Group were meant to do so many different tasks. I especially enjoy thinking about correct, sound movement, since it generally reflects the structure of the dog. The proper, stilted gait of my Chows would be quite different when compared to the shuffling, rolling gait of a Bulldog, which would be so distinct from the clean, effortless gait of a Dalmatian, which contrasts with a springy, proud Poodle gait, and so on.

What are some of the challenges that come with judging the Non-Sporting breeds? I just retired from being a computer programmer/analyst, so I think about my brain loading a program for each breed when it comes into my ring. Because there’s so much variety within the Group, I try to take a few seconds to “reset” to the next breed template in my head; beyond gait, there’s balance, headpieces, substance and size, toplines and tail carriage, angles, feet, temperament and breed attitude… click, click, click, click. And I do prioritize varying attributes differently by breed. If I am observing how many exhibits in a breed seem to be commonly lacking in a particular trait that might be difficult to achieve—and somebody is showing a nice exhibit that has what I think the breed needs—I would like to reward that. As an example, if I’m thinking as a breeder, “While I do appreciate a gorgeous head, I also know in this breed that you can put a lovely head on a dog in one generation, but it’s harder to find and keep a good front, for instance…” I might be more likely to use a dog with an adequate, but plain headpiece, yet with a terrific front assembly. If the standard doesn’t have a point system for evaluation, judges have to decide for themselves how they want to weigh the varying characteristics of each breed; and, what one breeder or judge cannot tolerate varies as well. If you tend to be a detail person, and if you aren’t careful, you can drive yourself mentally crazy, juggling all of the components! In the end, ideally, you don’t want a dog looking like it was put together by a committee. Even if it has many exemplary traits, everything needs to flow to present an appealing package as a whole. And sometimes, inexplicably, a dog might actually use itself better than its components can reveal.

How important is presentation and “showmanship” in the Non-Sporting Group? I try to see the inherent good qualities of the dog standing in front of me. Some dogs are lucky enough to have a skillful handler with them, and some are not. Yet we still have only about two minutes per dog—so you have to look fast! That said, I have seen evidence myself that a talented handler, whether a pro or an owner, can really make a huge difference, particularly if they have done their homework and know what to point out. Although, as I’ve already mentioned, some breeds inherently are not supposed to be as “showy” as others, and I don’t want to overlook them. Likewise, I am sure to carefully look at low-entry breeds. They have paid their entry fee like everybody else and I am happy to find and reward some breeds that we don’t see as much, when I think they are exceptional.

Are any breeds in better or worse shape than they were 25 years ago? Off the top of my head, I’ve seen some admirable Boston Terriers recently, superior Cotons (though, of course, they weren’t with the AKC 25 years ago), and I’ve also rewarded some
commendable Shar-Pei. I hate to point out any Non-Sporting breeds that are worse off. It’s tempting to look longingly back at the good old days—as breeders “fix” one thing they might also set-in something less desirable. This was always true. It’s always been an ongoing effort to preserve and improve what you have; and throughout all the breeds, various traits cycle, waxing and waning in popularity.

What effect has popularity (or the lack thereof) had on the Non-Sporting breeds? You might get a ring full of a popular breed with fewer outstanding individuals to find than you might think. This is particularly true of the flavor-of-the-moment breeds, with which some folks might just want to quickly cash in on popularity. Then, of course, there’s less genetic diversity available with low-entry breeds, but I know their breeders are going all over the world to try to alleviate this problem. Regardless of breed popularity, the capable and dedicated breeders are the lifeblood of every breed.

Do I have any advice to share with new judges of the Non-Sporting Group? Keep in mind that different breeds need a different approach. Several of the standards in this Group mention their delightful temperament as a hallmark of the breed, but about half of the breeds in this Group are naturally, perhaps, not going to be effusively reveling in your exam—and might not even deign to glance your way. Their standards might allude to it with words like “aloof/discerning” with Chows, “reserved/independent” like the Shibas, “stand-offish/snobbish” with the Shar-Pei, perhaps “cautious” with the Finnish Spitz, “chary/aloof” with Lhasas, and even the charming little Tibetan Spaniel is “aloof with strangers.” Several others’ standards mention some flavor of “wary of strangers” or “cautious” or even “slightly conservative.” I’m not trying to point out all of them, but clearly, there are plenty and I hope you can love them for what they are. Naturally, you aren’t rewarding aggressive or failure-to-examine shyness (and I have met sparkling show dogs in all of these breeds), but do try to recall what a typical attitude for each breed might be, and give them grace accordingly. Savor the opportunity to witness these living works of art, which many people have labored to prepare for you!

Is there a funny story I’d like to share about my experiences judging the Non-Sporting breeds? I can’t think of one as I, myself, was judging. But once, I had a little Chow bitch that did a lot of winning with a scowling headpiece that looked just like her dad’s. (As another exhibitor put it, she moved like a little girl proud of her ruffly dress and patent shoes; she did have kind of a snotty attitude.) My co-breeder friend was in the ring with her and, accidentally, dropped the lead. This bitch went on around the ring perfectly and, when she got to the judge, she hit her stack and favored him with a glance. She then looked back at my friend who was catching up. She knew her job and did it, and we still laugh about it. Sure, she won!

Kenneth Berg

I live in Moraga, California, 20 miles from downtown San Francisco. As I was winding down my consulting engineering practice, I started winding up my second career of judging purebred dogs.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from dogs? More than I have time for. Live opera, symphony, jazz, theater, movies, politics, and hanging with our five grandkids.

How was I first introduced to the Non-Sporting breeds? I’ve lived with purebred dogs all my life; Scotties and Boxers, until I married Eva. We, shortly thereafter, had to add a dog to our lives. I wanted a Scottie and Eva wanted a German Shepherd. We compromised on a Dalmatian, our introduction to the Non-Sporting breeds. I started my judging odyssey with a single breed, the Dalmatian, in 1990, and I now judge Groups I, IV, V, and VI.

Have I bred any influential sires or dams? We bred and exhibited the No. 1 Dalmatian in 1991, 1992, and 1993. In addition to a spectacular show career, he remains an important producer in the breed. We’ve bred and exhibited many other nationally ranked dogs and bitches, and bred and co-owned the #8 all-time brood bitch.

Did I handle any memorable show dogs? During our many years of exhibiting, I was forced into the ring on only two rather unsuccessful occasions. My wife, Eva, was the handler. I was the
bucket boy.

The Non-Sporting Group is the most diverse. How do I prioritize the essentials for each breed? Like all judging, the Standard is the blueprint by which each exhibit is measured, and each breed has its own unique priorities that define breed type. The diversity in the Non-Sporting Group does not change this basic criteria, but amplifies it. Obviously, the features of the Bulldog are not compared to the Poodle, but each to its Standard.

What are some of the challenges that come with judging the Non-Sporting breeds? Judging Non-Sporting breeds is no different from judging any other Group of breeds. The judge needs to be able to switch gears to keep in mind the priorities of each breed that create breed type. Judging the Non-Sporting Group presents unique challenges because within the Group are breeds with breathtaking beauty, functional utility, exquisite grooming, unique gait, and specified outline. The judge must take care not to become overwhelmed with one feature so as to evaluate each breed in accordance with its Standard.

How important is presentation and “showmanship” in the Non-Sporting Group? Our job is to evaluate breeding stock. Therefore, at the breed level, I attempt to look beyond less than perfect handling and grooming to analyze the merits of the dog itself. At the Group level, presentation is of greater importance. Some breeds require specific grooming, gait, attitude, and showmanship, and that is all taken into consideration in determining the placements.

Are any breeds in better or worse shape than they were 25 years ago? In any given year, I have seen excellence in almost all of the Non-Sporting breeds, somewhere in the country. Conversely, in some portions of the country, I have had difficulty in selecting four quality placements. So, my response is that on any given dog show day, some breeds are better off and others, less so. I think that, in general, there have been fewer shows over time where the Non-Sporting Group was the strongest of the seven Groups.

What effect has popularity (or the lack thereof) had on the Non-Sporting breeds? I am not aware of any instance when an increase in popularity had a positive effect on a breed. In my breed, the Dalmatian, the popularity of the 101 Dalmatian movies had an extremely negative effect. There was over-breeding nationwide to satisfy the burgeoning demand, with genetic problems and temperaments ignored. In other Non-Sporting breeds, disqualifying colors are marketed by unscrupulous breeders who are eager to make a fast buck. While these problems are of great importance and significance to the ethical breeder, I don’t believe they materially impact the show ring.

Do I have any advice to share with new judges of the Non-Sporting Group? For judges considering entering the Non-Sporting Group, my advice is: Delay and Defer. This Group is, in my opinion, the most difficult of the seven Groups to master due to the extreme diversity in size, coat, structure, heads, and function. Unlike other Groups, where breeds can be grouped by similarities, almost every Non-Sporting breed is dramatically unique. Therefore, a judge can benefit from gaining expertise and experience in the other six Groups, where there is more similarity to some of the Non-Sporting Breeds than within the Non-Sporting Group itself. The Non-Sporting breeds can logically be included with other Spitz breeds, Sporting breeds, Toy breeds, and Working breeds. For example, the Poodle has a sporting heritage. The Dalmatian has a working function and is similar in make and shape to many Sporting breeds.

Of course, as a breeder-judge, one starts their judging career with their own breed. I started with judging the Dalmatian, and continued through the Non-Sporting Group; a process that took 12 years. Eva, with AKC’s permission, went from the Dalmatian to the German Shorthaired Pointer and proceeded through the Sporting Group, and then tackled the Non-Sporting Group; a much more logical and easier path.

Is there a funny story I’d like to share about my experiences judging the Non-Sporting breeds? At an undisclosed location in the distant past, I was judging a very strong night-time Non-Sporting Group, complete with breed introductions under the spotlight. A primary contender for Group honors, an anonymous white dog, proudly entered the ring with his handler, free-stacked, and shook his body from head to tail. To the horror of the spectators, the dog was obscured by a cloud of white…

Dr. Joyce Dandridge

©Dean Lake Photography

I live in Washington, DC. My parents had Chows Chows, so I have been in dogs all my life. I have shown in Conformation and Obedience for over 32 years. I started judging in 2006.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from dogs? I love to travel around the world and continue to tackle a bucket list of places to visit. I have spent entire summers in Italy, Germany, and the Scandinavian countries as well as some African countries. One of my most memorable was spending a month traveling Egypt, and another was spending two weeks at the Iditarod where I actually flew to a few of the checkpoints and talked to the mushers about their dogs.

How was I first introduced to the Non-Sporting breeds? I exhibited my own Chows Chows in Conformation and Obedience, and noticed other breeds in the Group. The many differences immediately struck my interest. and I began to talk to breeders about their breed’s purpose and appearance. As a history lover, I am always fascinated when I hear the history of the different breeds and how they originated. There may be a few similarities in the Group, but there are many distinct differences.

Have I bred any influential sires or dams? Yes, I have bred and shown winners at specialties and at Westminster.

The Non-Sporting Group is the most diverse. How do I prioritize the essentials for each breed? This is a diverse Group and the differences are vast. As a judge, I take the time to learn the history of the breed because their job descriptions can be an assortment of duties. There are few common characteristics from breed to breed in the Group, and personality traits differ. Some are more active than others, so a judge must have an idea of their purpose to determine their fitness; for example, the Dalmatian and Shiba Inu.

What are some of the challenges that come with judging the Non-Sporting breeds? You can’t generalize about this Group. Some breeds are small, like the Boston Terrier and the Bichon Frise, whereas others are larger like the Chow Chow and the Chinese Shar-Pei. One breed, the Xoloitzcuintli, is hairless or can be short-coated, and some are full of coat like the Tibetan Terrier and the Lhasa Apso. There is variety in a few of the breeds, which means that they are judged by the breed standard, yet differ in size; for example, the American Eskimo Dog (Toy, Miniature, Standard), the Poodle (Miniature and Standard in this Group and Toy in the Toy Group), and the Xoloitzcuintli (Toy, Miniature, Standard). Acceptable ear sets, and ear shapes and sizes also differ in this Group. Movement differs, with some breeds expected to move faster than others, so the judge can see specifics in the gait and topline. For example, the stilted gait in the Chow Chow, which should not be allowed to run around the ring.

How important is presentation and “showmanship” in the Non-Sporting Group? Certainly, the breed should be presented at its best advantage. However, in my opinion, showmanship itself does not take precedence over conformation.

Are any breeds in better or worse shape than they were 25 years ago? I think the Chinese Shar-Pei bitches are exceptional today. In the breed overall, they have become more square-bodied and compact, with correct toplines for the breed. I see beautiful movement, with strong fronts and rears, which shows an excellent side gait. In addition, for over 25 years, their temperaments have greatly improved. There are, however, a few breeds in this Group that I feel are losing their toplines as specifically stated in the standard. I am also finding a couple of square-in-profile breeds that are too long in body and short on leg.

What effect has popularity (or the lack thereof) had on the Non-Sporting breeds? I would like to see more young people showing breeds in this Group. Possibly lesser known breeds in this Group would get more exposure if featuring them at dog shows and other events would happen. It certainly would develop an interest.

Do I have any advice to share with new judges of the Non-Sporting Group? Take the time to learn the breed history. Attend national specialties, if possible. These give you an opportunity to meet and talk, informally, with some of the top breeders from across the country and from abroad. I even attend them after I have received regular judging status on a breed. I find judging involves a continuous learning process. Over the years, I have developed friendships with mentors from other breeds and have felt very comfortable calling them if I have questions. I find breeders are delighted to share information about their specific breed, if you as a judge show a real interest. I also take every opportunity that I can to do kennel visits, which give me valuable one-on-one contact with a breeder/mentor. I find that the details I receive from these visits are priceless. Finally, I would say, “Love what you do and appreciate the uniqueness of the breeds in this Group.”

Grace Fritz

Grace Fritz is from Stilwell, Kansas, and has raised Chinese Shar-Pei since 1984. She earned the last Chinese Shar-Pei Club of America’s Breeder of the Year title and has had several dogs and bitches receive CSPCA Register of Merit awards. She has bred Number One breed-ranked Chinese Shar-Pei in both horsecoat and brushcoat. Grace is a former President of the Chinese Shar-Pei Club of America and Judge Education Committee member. Grace has been an AKC judge since 2001, and is currently licensed for the Non-Sporting Group, Working Group, and Terrier Group as well as many Toy, Sporting and Hound Breeds. She is also licensed to judge Junior Showmanship and Best in Show. She enjoys learning about new breeds and actively works to improve her skills and depth of knowledge in each breed. In addition to Shar-Pei, she has owned dogs in the Toy, Working, Terrier, and Hound Groups, and has titled dogs through CDX in Obedience Trials. She is a retired Special Education Teacher.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from dogs? I enjoy going to estate sales. During this past summer, I took up an old interest and began swimming. I swim three to four miles a week.

How was I first introduced to the Non-Sporting breeds? I got my first Chinese Shar-Pei in 1984. I was lucky at specialties, early on, and stuck with it.

Have I bred any influential sires or dams? I bred several Register of Merit sires and dams. I have owned a few females that I consider to be outstanding producers in the breed.

Did I handle any memorable show dogs? I handled many dogs that were memorable to me! My best results came by sending dogs with handlers who could attend more shows and earn rankings.

The Non-Sporting Group is the most diverse. How do I prioritize the essentials for each breed? It is a diverse Group. It is important to remember the distinguishing characteristics of each breed, and which unique features attract people to the breed. I am glad I learned Non-Sporting breeds first as I feel like it “keys you in” on type—and being able to find that quickly.

What are some of the challenges that come with judging the Non-Sporting breeds? The challenges in judging this Group have to do with the diversity. Some breeds have so much detail in their type as compared to dogs in some of the other Groups. Also, they display different movement, temperament, and showmanship. I always say that judging this Group is like switching gears, as the criteria changes so often as you proceed through the Group.

How important is presentation and “showmanship” in the Non-Sporting Group? Presentation is more important in some breeds than in others. I try to have realistic expectations on breeds as to showmanship, and not penalize those breeds that are not
natural showmen.

Are any breeds in better shape or worse than they were 25 years ago? An interesting part of judging is to observe the changes in quality of different breeds. Some years, the quality is deep in certain breeds and then it falls off. Of course, this is also due to the number of dogs being shown in that breed. Recently, I think I have been impressed with entries in Bichons, Dalmatians, Shibas, and
French Bulldogs.

What effect has popularity (or the lack thereof) had on the Non-Sporting breeds? There are several nice Non-Sporting breeds that have become somewhat rare at all-breed shows. It is disappointing to see the numbers decline. I am always happy to see a good example of these breeds.

Do I have any advice to share with new judges of the Non-Sporting Group? I would advise new judges to talk to as many mentors as possible. I find that when I have multiple sources, invariably, one person shares information in a way that “clicks” with me. New judges should be ready to learn the nuances of breed type in this Group. Non-Sporting is anything but generic!

Nancy Smith Hafner

I’ve lived in the small town of Tuscumbia, Alabama, for the last 33 years. I moved here in 1987 from Nashville, Tennessee, when I sold my Boarding Kennel & Groom Shop. I purchased my first Miniature Poodle in 1969, a brown bitch, for a pet. I went to my first dog show with a Brown Miniature puppy that I bred; and he earned Reserve Winners Dog. I attended my first Poodle Club of America National in June of 1975 and came home with two placement ribbons. I continue breeding, and I show my Miniature Poodles. I’ve loved the competition and showing my own dogs. I was approved to judge my first show in January 1998… my breed, POODLES. I was elected to judge the 2000 Poodle National for the
Miniature Variety.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from dogs? YES, I love to paint in watercolors and oil. I love to garden, cook, sew, and I do lots of crafts. I travel, shop, and just live life to the fullest.

My most favorite hobby is raising Poodle puppies; watching them get on their feet, walking backwards, sleeping in the food bowl… getting on a lead… their first shows…

How was I first introduced to the Non-Sporting breeds? Back in the days of BIG hair, I had to go to the beauty shop to have what was called a “comb out.” The owner had a Brown Miniature Poodle that kept all us ladies entertained while at the shop. So, when my husband took a job in Nashville, I left Minneapolis to move to Franklin, Tennessee. I gave up my banking life, and got a Brown Poodle to keep me company. That is what started my life as I know it today.

I started with Miniature Poodles in the mid-1970s, and have bred 77 Miniature Champions. We’ve had, over the years, several in the Top-10, winning in both Dogs and Bitches.

The Non-Sporting Group wasn’t as big then as it is today. However, the Poodles were always strong competition in the Non-Sporting Group, along with Dalmatians, Keeshonden, Bulldogs, and Lhasas.

Have I bred any influential sires or dams? We have several APOGEE DAKTARI / DAKTARI APOGEE Miniature Poodles listed in “Poodles In America.” We refer to this as THE
GREEN BOOKS!

I bred my last litter of Miniatures in the mid-1990s. From the late ‘70s thru the mid-’90s, my partner, A. Monroe McIntyre, and I were top breeder/owner-handlers. HE did most of the showing of the Specials. In all these years, we had one or two in the Top-10 in Black or Brown Miniature Poodles in the Non-Sporting Group. Remember, we didn’t have a large number of shows. We had one day at one site and then we moved to the next show for one day only. Majors required GREATER NUMBERS, like doubled for 3-point majors. We had Poodle Magazine that came out once a month. We had Kennel Review, which was an all-breed magazine. LIFE was much different in the world of dog shows in those
early years.

Did I handle any memorable show dogs? YES, I showed Ch. Daktari Apogee Jarvis, a Black Miniature dog that became a Top-Producing Dog as was his sire, Ch Daktari Apogee Dakota.

The Non-Sporting Group is the most diverse. How do I prioritize the essentials for each breed? Each breed has its purpose as to what they were bred to do and, in Non-Sporting, it’s very different. It’s your responsibility to understand their breed history and to understand their construction and movement. I find it enjoyable to judge all the differences in one Group. With many of the low entry breeds, you may NEVER see a major entry, as those breeds are in pockets around the country and are not at every dog show.

What are some of the challenges that come with judging the Non-Sporting breeds? All the different sizes in the Group.

How important is presentation and “showmanship” in the Non-Sporting Group? They all move differently, but without their true showmanship and presentation, it’s not the breed they are representing in the Non-Sporting Group.

Are any breeds in better shape or worse than they were 25 years ago? I feel all breeds are in better shape because of the health testing that is done in each breed.

What effect has popularity (or the lack thereof) had on the Non-Sporting breeds? Poodles have ALWAYS been a popular breed in the Non-Sporting Group. At the moment, I feel French Bulldogs are one of the more popular breeds in Non-Sporting Groups. It seems everyone wants one. So, you will see everything registered as a French Bulldog; some are outstanding, and some, not so much.

Do I have any advice to share with new judges of the Non-Sporting Group? Observe as many shows in different areas while you are learning to judge a new breed. Attend as many Nationals and Specialties as possible. Today, we have many tools for learning; Judges Institutes, Canine College, Seminars, Nationals, and lots of mentors who are willing to help you learn about their breed.

Bill Lee

I live in Colorado with my wife, Pam. I have been involved in the sport of showing dogs for 41 years. I began judging in 2001.

I first became interested in Non-Sporting breeds while attending the Topeka KC dog show. I fell immediately in love with a white, fluffy, happy little dog in the Miscellaneous Class. I had to know more about the “Bichon Frise.” The search began to add this adorable little dog to our family. Needless to say, we have had Bichons in our home ever since.

The most notable Bichon we have shown was Ch. PawMark’s September Song, bred by Pauline Schlutz. She was a multiple Group winner. We also were fortunate to add a Tibetan Terrier, Ch. Plumpoint Here Comes Judge, to our household. He had just won Winners Dog at the first Tibetan Terrier National. He was also a multiple Group winner.

The Non-Sporting Group is the most diverse. How do I prioritize the essentials for each breed? The breeds in the Non-Sporting Group are, indeed, very diverse. Each breed standard has unique characteristics. So, each breed should be judged by its standard and not to the others in the ring. Because of the variety of sizes and builds of each breed, each dog should move accordingly—speed is not always the best way to show great movement.

One of the biggest challenges of judging the Non-Sporting dogs is staying on time. Some of the dogs are judged on the floor, but several are also examined on a table. Just recently, we also now have a few dogs that now go on the ramp. Dogs are not always cooperative on those platforms, so patience is very necessary. Another challenge is identifying the proper gait in this diverse Group. Some of the breed’s standards require a signifying gait.

How important is presentation and “showmanship” in the Non-Sporting Group? Proper presentation is necessary in order for the judge to evaluate the dog quickly, especially in a large class. Showmanship is the essence of what dog shows are all about. “Nailing” that free-stack coming into the judge is what can catch the attention of any judge.

What effect has popularity (or the lack thereof) had on the Non-Sporting breeds? Many of the Non-Sporting breeds have had ups and downs with popularity. Currently, French Bulldogs have large entries whereas other breeds have dropped off significantly. Some breeds are struggling to find points.

Do I have any advice to share with new judges of the Non-Sporting Group? The Non-Sporting Group is a fascinating group of dogs; from the very glamorous Standard Poodle to the very sturdy Bulldog. Each has its own purpose and a standard to guide the judge. Talking with breeders is a great way to refresh your knowledge of a breed.

Judy Murray

We live in Walkerton, Indiana. Our home is in a rural area of Marshall County and our closest town, Walkerton, has just one traffic light. Walkerton is about equal distance to Chicago or Indianapolis and 45 minutes south of the University of Notre Dame. I’ve been “in dogs” for 50-plus years and a judge for 27 years.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from dogs? Steve and I enjoy gardening and beekeeping. Our property is listed as a Certified Wildlife Habitat due to the various trees, flowering plants, pond, and a flowing creek as a water source for the critters, along with a woodland habitat area.

How was I first introduced to the Non-Sporting breeds? I found a Dalmatian running loose. I invited her into our back yard, and we ultimately named her Pepper because she was more black than white. At that time, I was a receptionist for Waggin’ Tail Kennel (in Louisville, Kentucky), owned by Clint and Joan Harris. When Joan was unable to attend shows with Clint, I went along to assist him. I loved everything about the shows. I fell in love with a white Bulldog bitch called Rosie that lived in the kennel. Clint had finished Rosie, but the owner never paid his bill so Rosie became a kennel pet. I remember Clint putting Rosie on a grooming table, and there he taught me what to look for in the Bulldog breed; both the good and the challenging areas.

Have I bred any influential sires or dams? I bred to, hopefully, get a bitch to carry forward in my breeding program.

Did I handle any memorable show dogs? No. I wasn’t a professional handler. However, I’ve taken dogs of friends into the Breed or Group ring. I remember taking a Chow Chow in the ring for Naomi Scott, and was promptly excused because the dog growled at the judge. Those were hard learning experiences.

The Non-Sporting Group is the most diverse. How do I prioritize the essentials for each breed? When I check into the hotel, the first thing I do is sit at the desk and review each AKC standard I’m scheduled to judge the following day. The first paragraph of the official breed standard gives the general appearance of an ideal dog. So, I refresh that standard in my mind’s eye, then I review the breed snapshots from the Dog Judges Association of America. This gives me a thumbnail review of each breed. So, hopefully, when I walk into the ring I will judge the way a breeder would.

What are some of the challenges that come with judging the Non-Sporting breeds? Most of my challenges relate to the area/location I judge. Having lived in the same area for many years, and knowing many of the exhibitors, some may choose to enter because they feel they might have a better chance of winning. Most have learned over the years that I judge the dog and not who’s holding the lead.

How important is presentation and “showmanship” in the Non-Sporting Group? If you want to win, presentation and showmanship are a plus. But once you examine the dog, what you feel under the coat may change your mind about your first impression. Form follows function. This is true in every breed.

Are any breeds in better or worse shape than they were 25 years ago? My observation is that Chinese Shar-Pei have fewer coat problems now. Breeders of Tibetan Spaniels have done a wonderful job; early on, the front legs were more than “slightly bowed” and I felt that some exhibits were short on leg or low to the ground. I no longer see this. I’m sure that anyone who has had their breed in a movie or a national advertising campaign has horror stories to tell. It’s the same with Dalmatians. Disney’s 101 Dalmatians movies ruined our breed for many years. Even today, when out walking my dog, I’ll hear from the public that Dalmatians have bad temperaments and are not good with children. This is simply because those so-called backyard breeders were not doing health or hearing tests (BAER), cutting costs to maximize profits at the expense of the breed.

Do I have any advice to share with new judges of the Non-Sporting Group? I will focus on my original breed, the Dalmatian. My advice is to remember that a Dalmatian is a coaching breed. The AKC standard for General Appearance says: “The Dalmatian is a distinctively spotted dog; poised and alert; strong, muscular and active; free of shyness; intelligent in expression; symmetrical in outline; and without exaggeration or coarseness. The Dalmatian is capable of great endurance, combined with fair amount of speed. Deviations from the described ideal should be penalized in direct proportion to the degree of the deviation.” It does not say that only males should be strong and muscular. It does not refer to males as the only sex that is capable of great endurance combined with a fair amount of speed. It says that the Dalmatian is distinctively spotted; not hand-painted with a brush. Yes, spotting is the hallmark of the breed and 25% of the breed standard points. But some judges seem to forget the other 75%. Dalmatians are a movement breed and, if the shoulder blade is straight, and the upper arm is short and straight you’re going to see the movement of a Smooth Fox Terrier instead of the fluid movement of a coach dog. A Dalmatian should be built with the correct reach and drive to follow a carriage or horse for hours on uneven road conditions without breaking down. So, may I suggest that judges read the General Appearance paragraph again before judging the Dalmatian breed.

Is there a funny story I’d like to share about my experiences judging the Non-Sporting breeds? In July 1998, I was invited to judge a Dalmatian regional, and the all-breed National Capitol K.C. invited me to judge Standard Poodles that same weekend. I had goose bumps when a white Special came into the ring. This Poodle just screamed the Poodle Standard, so I gave him Breed. (This is really not a funny story because there were others in the ring that I had previously seen win Groups and BIS.) I had handlers talk about me, saying that I was new and I didn’t have a clue. However, I was very comfortable with my decision. I watched this young boy, “Christopher,” win and produce exquisite get. His name was Unique Reach For The Rainbow, and I believe that his owners, Unique Poodles, won the 2020 Non-Sporting Breeders of the Year.

JOHNNY SHOEMAKER

I live in Las Vegas, Nevada. I have been a judge since 2001, so that would be 20 years. I have been in the wonderful Sport of Dogs since 1966 when I got involved with Poodles. I had my first champion in 1969, a Miniature Poodle, sired by the top dog of the year, Champion Frederick of Rencroft, an English import handled by Mr. Frank Sabella. After Frank retired, the wonderful Barbara Humphries started handling for me and my partner Jack Heidinger. Other handlers who showed for me and Jack were Madeline Patterson, Don Rogers and Jeff Nokes, and Art Montoya. I had Miniatures from Kathy Poe’s Bar King line, Wildways line of Dorothy Hageman, Roy Prado’s Praver’s line, and Tom & Ann Stevenson’s Challendon lines, and Toys from Charline Averill’s Bragabout lines, and Standards from the Peppertree lines of Dorothy and Rudy Huck. I continue to own Poodles and have had champions in all three varieties for many years. I now have rescue Poodles, which are the loves of my life.

I worked for Jack Bradshaw Dog Shows for 25 years starting in 1976 until 2001. During those 25 years, I was able to see some great dogs in all breeds. I now judge the Sporting, Non-Sporting, and Toy Groups, and 24 Hound Breeds. I have judged in many countries such as China, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, Canada, and Mexico. I judged the Poodle Club of Canada and the Australian National and, in 2013 and 2016, I judged Best of Breed at Poodle Club of America. I have had the honor of judging four times at the AKC National Show and at the National Dog Show. In 2019, I had the honor of judging the Miniature Poodle variety at Poodle Club of America.

In addition to working with the Jack Bradshaw Dog Shows for 25 years, my professional life was spent in management positions at various financial firms since 1975.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from dogs? I love to collect movie memorabilia and I have spent a fortune on this endeavor. My house has a Roy Rogers and Dale Evans room with all things Roy and Dale and Trigger and Bullet and Gabby. I am not well!

How was I first introduced to the Non-Sporting breeds? I was introduced to the Non-Sporting breeds in 1966 when I got into dogs. Jack Heidinger was my partner and he raised Poodles under the High Hopes prefix, and he was my mentor until he passed away in 1989. Poodles were my only breed—and still are. My second breed was Bulldogs. This was because of Florence Savage, a great breeder, judge, and exhibitor of Bulldogs. She lived with a Bulldog all of her life. I would go to her place in Brentwood, California, every week, and she would go over the breed standard. She’d have other Bulldoggers come over and she would then evaluate the Bulldogs. I grew to love the breed—and still do.

Have I bred any influential sires or dams? No, I only bred every few years. But I did breed to many wonderful Poodle sires, as I usually only kept a bitch out of my litters.

Did I handle any memorable show dogs? No, handling is not my expertise. I am lousy at handling. However, Frank Sabella, Barbara Humphries, Jeff Nokes, Art Montoya, and Madeline Patterson did the job for me.

The Non-Sporting Group is the most diverse. How do I prioritize the essentials for each breed? The diversity of the Group is what is so good about the Non-Sporting Group. To prioritize the essentials for each breed you must understand the breed standard and what are some of the most important aspects of that breed. If you have studied the breed and have good mentors, you should be able to work through the essentials in each breed. I think that if you look at the General Appearance part of the breed standard, you can somewhat see where the essentials for each breed are located. Of course, they are discussed later in most of the breed standards. For instance, in the American Eskimo Dog standard, it states in the first sentence of the breed standard: “The American Eskimo Dog, a loving companion dog, presents a picture of strength and agility, alertness and beauty.” It continues with the description of the size, type, color, and the build and balance, substance, and gait. Where else can you look for the essentials, other than in the General Appearance section? I am, however, also saying that you need to get ideas of what are the essentials from your mentors and breeders. You need to look for the form and function of each breed, and prioritize the essentials for those breeds based on what they were bred for—and could they do the job? This is important for any judge to take into consideration in any breed they judge.

What are some of the challenges that come with judging the Non-Sporting breeds? I do think that some of the challenges in judging the Non-Sporting breeds is the diversity. We are also getting more breed standard changes in some of these breeds, which sometimes can be challenging. Each breed, in most cases, may look different in various parts of the country, as the breeders in some of these parts have different breeding programs. I am not saying so much that it is a challenge, but it is important for a judge to recognize this and not just think that these exhibits do not have quality. Judges should realize that just because you see “breed faults” many times, you should not think that this is good. You must judge what it says in the breed standards and not be afraid to withhold ribbons for lack of quality. My breed, Poodles, have a size disqualification in our breed standard for the Toy and Miniature sizes. You MUST MEASURE if you think that it is oversized. Otherwise, you are not judging our breed correctly and you are allowing oversized dogs to finish and, in most cases, they will continue to produce oversized puppies in their litters.

How important is presentation and “showmanship” in the Non-Sporting Group? I do think presentation and “showmanship” are important. The exhibitor needs to present their dog/bitch in ways that show them to their advantage. One should also be able to show their dog with the best showmanship of the dog and not the handler. If an exhibit has a great head and a great topline, and other virtues, that handler should show them off to the judge. Let’s face it, there are judges out there who need to have these virtues pointed out to them. For instance, in the Bulldog standard it states, “TOPLINE – There should be a slight fall in the back, close behind the shoulders (its lowest part), whence the spine should rise to the loins (the top of which should be higher than the top of the shoulders), thence curving again more suddenly to the tail, forming an arch (a very distinctive feature of the breed)…” etc. If your Bulldog has a great topline, the exhibitor should make sure the judge realizes that it is great. The same should be said about any of the Non-Sporting exhibits.

Are any breeds in better or worse shape than they were 25 years ago? I think the Tibetan Spaniel, the Bichon Frise, and the Schipperke have developed over the years and continue to be in good shape. I think the Tibetan Spaniel has maintained a good front, about which the standard states: “…the bones of the forearms are slightly bowed to allow the front feet to fall beneath the shoulders.” I think the Bichon Frise has, since it was recognized back in 1988, really done an outstanding job in not only improving the structure of the breed, but also the [lack of] balance and unsound movement it had when it was first introduced to the fancy. I remember seeing the Bichon, in the “beginning” of the breed, where it was much more than 1/4 longer than the height at the withers. It also had a very much softer outercoat and not coarse or curly texture as it should be. The gait has improved, as before it had more of a gait that looked like it took some effort to move. The Schipperke has maintained the appearance of “…a small, thickset, cobby, black, tailless dog, with a fox-like face. The dog is square in profile…” The unique silhouette with a distinctive coat (which includes a stand-out ruff, cape, and culottes) is a great attribute that the breed still maintains. I do think that some breeds need to work on the front assembly. Breeds such as Poodles, Bulldogs, and French Bulldogs are some of the examples. Some Poodles have their front legs coming out of their necks and not from the highest point of the shoulder. I am also continuing to see more flat feet, and they are not well-arched and cushioned on thick, firm pads. Some Bulldogs and French Bulldogs do not have the “set wide apart” fronts, but have, instead, what I refer to as a “fiddle front.” This is very concerning to me and I think the breeders need to work on this.

What effect has popularity (or the lack thereof) had on the Non-Sporting breeds? I think popularity (or the lack thereof) should not have any effect on any breed, including those in the Non-Sporting Group. Breeders should not breed by popularity nor should judges judge by popularity. There are some very good examples of breeds in the Non-Sporting Group that some judges do not reward. To be blunt, my opinion is that the reason they do this is because they do not know exactly what they are seeing. Some judges tend to put up the “top dog” in that Group and some tend to not recognize quality even if it bites them in the … Breeders should breed by the breed standards and try to understand pedigrees (which some breeders do not even recognize). They should not breed to the “top” dog or bitch just because it is winning.

Do I have any advice to share with new judges of the Non-Sporting Group? Yes, I do. Study your breed standards. Keep in touch with your mentors. Take advice when given. Judges make mistakes. Judge the dog and not their winning records. Make sure you walk out of the Group ring satisfied with your placements. Do not penalize a “top dog” just because it is a “top dog.” Be kind to the exhibitors. Have a good time judging the Non-Sporting Group.

Is there a funny story I’d like to share about my experiences judging the Non-Sporting breeds? I can remember one show, long ago, where I had a puppy Bulldog, and all he wanted to do was rollover and have fun. He did, however, make it down and back—before he laid down when he came back to me. He went around the ring on his own terms and made me and the people at ringside laugh a lot. Sweet puppy and that made my day.

Barbara (Bobbie) Wood

I live in Cranford, New Jersey, but when I was given my first Lhasa Apso in 1968, I lived in a New York City apartment. I bred my first litter in 1971 and, as I worked on Sesame Street at the time, my dog’s first show experience involved “lights, camera, action.” As a kid, I had been heavily involved with showing horses, hunters and jumpers, so when the owner of the stud dog suggested I try showing one of the pups, I thought it would be fun. After my first match show, I came home with three beautiful ribbons and I was hooked! That was 50 years ago and the passion has just gotten stronger as the years have passed. I decided that when I achieved my Breeder of Merit status from my parent club, The American Lhasa Apso Club, that I would have learned my breed well enough that it would be time to apply for judging approval. So, in 1981, I applied for my first breed; Lhasa Apsos, of course. That makes 40 years as a judge.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from dogs? My profession as a sound effects artist was creative, and I loved the challenge. I went to New York with the idea of working in theatre as a stage manager, but it soon became apparent that television was the media to pursue if you wanted steady employment. Working for ABC/Disney, I enjoyed being a part of shows like All My Children, Ryan’s Hope, One Life To Live, $20,000 Pyramid, Reasoner/Walters News, World News Tonight with Peter Jennings and, what started it all, Sesame Street and The Muppet Show! The biggest thrill of my TV career was winning four Emmy Awards for my work on All My Children. However, theater will always hold great interest and enjoyment for me.

How was I first introduced to the Non-Sporting breeds? When I started going to matches with my first Lhasa puppy, we were often promoted to the Group competition. I didn’t know what was going on, but we participated in every competition for which we were eligible! I spent a year just doing those matches, learning how to handle and learning about other breeds. Needless to say, at that time, I had no intention to ever judge and no idea where this passion would lead me!

Have I bred any influential sires or dams? Being alone and working full time did not allow me the privilege of being able to breed any time I wanted. I basically only bred a litter when I wanted a new puppy to show, so one litter a year was my average. I did breed a bitch who produced 10 champion get and about four males that attained ROM status, but breeding was on a very small scale and carefully planned.

Did I handle any memorable show dogs? Yes. First was MBIS, MBISS Ch. Anbara’s Hobgoblin, ROM whom I handled to his championship before he went to handler, Jean Lade, who showed him to the No. 1 Lhasa Apso, All-Systems in 1980 and ‘81.

Then there was BIS, MBISS Ch. Anbara Rimar Mary Puppins, CGC whom I campaigned for about three years. I showed her to Best in Show and, when she was an 11-year-old veteran, to Best in Specialty at our ALAC National Specialty. I finished BIS, BISS Ch. Anbara Rimar Grin N’Bear It, ROM who was then campaigned by Doug Holloway. My most-titled dog was Multiple Group-Winning, MBISS, MHIT Ch. Anbara Alasara Smart Aleck, CDX, RE, ARCHEX, CD-C2, CDX-C who was campaigned by Debbie Burke to Best in Specialty at our ALAC National Specialty, and was a Top Five Lhasa Apso. He has the distinction to be the only Lhasa to win both Best of Breed and High in Trial at our ALAC
National Specialty.

Maybe not a great conformation show dog, but my very first homebred Lhasa, Bo-Jangles, CD, was a regular on Sesame Street. He always looked like a Muppet and I loved him for 14 years.

The Non-Sporting Group is the most diverse. How do I prioritize the essentials for each breed? With such a diverse group, it is essential that you have a clear picture in your mind of the ideal example of each breed. In this way, when you step into the Group ring you can assess each dog standing in front of you by asking the question: “Does this dog conform to its breed standard?” We have so many different sizes and shapes in this Group that it is almost like a puzzle to figure it out. So, my first priority will always be breed type, followed by proper condition, and those specific characteristics that make the breed unique. We don’t want Frenchies with Boston heads and we don’t want Bostons with Frenchie toplines; no Shar-Pei with level toplines or Bulldogs long and low; and no Chow Chows moving like Poodles. It’s specifics all the way for each breed.

What are some of the challenges that come with judging the Non-Sporting breeds? The challenge will always be finding the best dog to represent the Group in the Best in Show lineup. This Group contains such a diversity of breeds—with each one possessing a whole different look and way of moving—that deep knowledge of each standard is essential. Which breeds are square, longer than tall, off-square, have free movement, stilted movement, heads and muzzles 1:2, 3:5, 1:1 ratios? Which dog represents his breed the best? It’s not a Group with just subtle differences from breed to breed, but with major differences in structure, balance, and movement. I truly love the challenge and get very excited to sort through each and every breed.

How important is presentation and “showmanship” in the Non-Sporting Group? I feel that presentation is very important in showing dogs. As an owner-handler for about 45 years, I would never take a dog into the ring that was not clean, conditioned properly, and groomed to the best of my ability. It shows respect for the sport, for the judge whose opinion you are seeking, and for your dog. As a judge, I have encountered dogs that were dirty, smelly and untrained, and I wondered why exhibitors would spend all the money and time to show a dog in that condition. This truly disappoints me. Showmanship differs depending on which breed you are evaluating. You certainly wouldn’t expect the showmanship of a Chow Chow to be the same as the showmanship of a Poodle. The showmanship needs to be breed-specific, which is dependent on the individual structural requirements of each breed. Not every breed is built to fly around the ring at a million miles an hour! So, while showmanship does enter into the equation when making a decision, it is not the most important thing!

Are any breeds in better shape or worse than they were 25 years ago? As a judge of this Group for about 24 years, the Group dynamics has changed through the years. Needless to say, Poodles do dominate this Group. They did when I was first approved to judge the Group and they still do today. However, the two points of concern in the Standard Poodle that I have noticed recently are that their feet lack the tightness they once had, and their front legs appear to be set under their necks instead of their withers. We have many low entry breeds, so it is hard to evaluate their progress in the Group. However, I must say I have judged a fabulous American Eskimo that consistently won the breed at the Garden for many years, and a Finnish Spitz that literally owned the ring. My breed, the Lhasa Apso, was once a powerhouse in the Group and is, sadly, now a low entry breed. I think the breed has become much more consistent in balance and type than it was 40 years ago, but I worry with so few in the ring that new judges will find it hard to develop a true understanding of the breed. I worry about that problem in all the low entry breeds. When I started judging, Dalmatians were one of the “key” breeds in the Group, and now their entries have dropped significantly! French Bulldogs and Chinese Shar-Pei entries have surged and the quality is very strong. Tibetan Spaniels have done a good job of maintaining true breed type, and they have a solid presence in the Group. I feel the Bichon Frise has become more consistent in type through the years, but I find heads have lost the equilateral triangle that the standard requests for proper expression. And I am bothered by the practice of using make-up to create
the halos.

Do I have any advice to share with new judges of the Non-Sporting Group? My advice to new judges would be to learn your new breeds thoroughly before going on to learn more breeds. I believe it takes much longer than three assignments to really become comfortable with a new breed, unless it is a breed with which you have extensive experience. Don’t go forward unless you feel very comfortable with the breeds you have. My goal was always to have the knowledge of every new breed match the knowledge that I had of my own breed. Talk to as many breeders as you can; they will all have good points to share on their breeds that will improve your understanding of them. I was so lucky to have had the knowledge of my friend, Wendell Sammet, who mentored me when I started judging Dalmatians. He would come and sit ringside whenever I had an assignment at a show that he was attending. He would watch and then, when I was finished, we would go off and talk about what I had done. He was always positive and informative, and I learned so much from those conversations. But in the end, judge the whole dog and don’t get hung up on individual parts.

Is there a funny story I’d like to share about my experiences judging the Non-Sporting breeds? Years ago, I was judging a lovely entry of Tibetan Terriers out in California. They are mostly a very happy breed and seem to enjoy meeting everybody. I got down to Winners Bitch and, on the last down and back, this beautiful bitch went down perfectly. But as she came back, when she got close to me, she turned into a projectile and leapt into my arms and—to my great surprise—I caught her. I laughed so hard and gave her back to her owner/handler. She won a well-deserved Winners Bitch. I just couldn’t resist her pure joy of the show ring.

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