Interview with Herding Group Judge Janina Laurin
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a judge?
Janina Laurin: I live in Connecticut and was born into a dog show family, first with German Shepherd Dogs (GSD) and, very quickly thereafter, Belgian Tervuren. My judging endeavors began in 1999 with my own breed and has progressed to the full Herding Group, BIS, Juniors, and about 20 Working breeds as well as a Non-Sporting breed. Hopefully, the Working Group will be finished soon, and I would like a few more Non-Sporting and a couple Toys that I enjoy.
What is my original breed? What is/was my kennel name?
Janina Laurin: While we initially owned German Shepherds and did compete at specialties, we are Belgian Tervuren breeders since the early 1960s under the Chateau Blanc kennel name.
Can I list a few of the notable dogs I’ve bred? Any performance or parent club titles?
Janina Laurin: The kennel has bred over 200 champions and is very proud of our multi-generational BAR (ROM equivalent) 26 dogs and bitches on a breeding program that is small but carefully thought-out. Among them are Ch./Ch. Tracker, Specialty/Group Placers, BIS/National Specialty Dogs and Bitches, Perfect 200 scoring Obedience Champions in the US and Canada, and an Agility Champion in Canada and the US. There are several notable dogs through the years; Ch. Lancer de Chateau Blanc, BIS Ch. Yuma de Chateau Blanc, BIS Ch. Ovation de Chateau Blanc, BIS Ch. Chateau Blanc’s Blue Bayou, Dual Ch. Group-Winning Ch. Chateau Blanc’s Gold Reserve, RBIS Ch. Chateau Blanc’s Olivier, and several others which became successful in Breed and Performance at the highest levels with their owners.
What are the qualities I most admire in the Herding breeds?
Janina Laurin: Intelligence, unquestionable loyalty, and four good legs. They should look uniquely like their breeds and never be mistaken for each other.
Have I judged any Herding Group Specialties?
Janina Laurin: I’ve judged the Nationals of all four Belgian breeds (Tervuren several times, Sheepdog, Malinois, and Laekenois), Bouvier, GSDs, Shetland Sheepdogs, and Collies.
Do I find that size, proportion, and substance are correct in most Herding breeds?
Janina Laurin: Yes, for the most part. In some cases, they are getting too large and away from their original intent, and in some others they tend to trend too small. I find these are trends that wax and wane over time.
Is breed-specific presentation important to me as a judge? Can I offer some examples?
Janina Laurin: Absolutely. What could be more beautiful than a Belgian freely standing, observing and alert, or a German Shepherd self-stacked, nobly alert, or a Border Collie showing “its eye” by being keenly aware, where you can envision any of them being able to do what they were meant to do if asked?
What about breed-specific movement? Do I demand this from Herding Dogs?
Janina Laurin: I’m not sure we can demand anything in the ring, but breed-specific movement is important. The dogs meant to tirelessly work a flock or herd (more or less trotting dogs) or do general farm work had to be sound. Those that were or are gatherers or “bosses,” like Border Collies or Cattle Dogs, need specific movement to also perform soundly. I think we can safely say that none of the Herding breeds should be moved excessively fast. They wouldn’t last half a day if they had to work at breakneck speed.
Are the Herding breeds in good shape overall? Any concerns?
Janina Laurin: Yes, I think they in fairly good shape, particularly when people actually come out to show and there are larger entries. This varies regionally, of course. In the newer, developing breeds, some work on consistency needs to continue, and in some of our older established breeds there has been some complacency or laziness in maintaining top quality.
In my opinion, how do today’s exhibits compare with the Herding Dogs of the past?
Janina Laurin: I’m not sure we can make that comparison. The times, the large kennels, and the absolute passion… it’s a different focus now, or so it seems. I think we can still find many superior and very good dogs, but the knock-out, take your breath away, deep competition on a regular basis is more elusive.
Why do I think Herding Dogs can often become outstanding Show Dogs?
Janina Laurin: AH! I actually think it is difficult to have top show dogs in the Herding Group break out of the Group into Top 10 or 20 All-Breeds, for example, unless they come from a few well-backed breeds. That being said, Herding breeds are among the most devoted and willing to please breeds, and the handler (owner or professional) who creates that bond with an excellent specimen can certainly take it to the top.
Just for laughs, do I have a funny story that I can share about my experiences judging the Herding Group?
Janina Laurin: It’s always enjoyable judging the Herding breeds. I guess the latest experience was when a young special, whose owner wasn’t quite as experienced, decided he’d much rather shake hands endlessly with me than have his mouth opened to see his bite. It was fun, though I shouldn’t have kept laughing. It got done, and he was the happiest dog I had in the ring all day.