Interview with Non-Sporting Group Judge Rodney Herner
Rodney Herner: I live in Long Neck, Delaware. I have been an AKC approved judge since 1995. I am currently approved to judge the Hound, Toy, Terrier, and Non-Sporting Groups and Best in Show. I have had the honor of judging at the National Dog Show in Philadelphia, the Morris and Essex Kennel Club in 2010 and 2015, Montgomery County Kennel Club twice, and the Woofstock show in California. My international assignments include three assignments in China.
My original breed is the Toy Manchester Terrier. I bred my first champion in 1958. Since then I have finished over 50 champions under the kennel name Renreh. These included many Toy Group, Best in Show, and National Specialty Winners. Ch. Renreh Lorelei of Charmaron, bred by me and owned by Charles A.T O’Neill & Mari-Beth O’Neill, remains the only Toy Manchester to have won the Toy Group at Westminster. She was also a multiple Best in Show winner, a rare accomplishment for Toy Manchesters in the 1970s.
Over the years, I have held membership in many dog clubs. I served the American Manchester Terrier Club as President and as the Judges Education Chairman for 25 years. I served as President and Show Chairman of the Delaware Valley Toy Dog Fanciers Association. I am also a member of Morris & Essex Kennel Club and Devon Dog Show Assoc., Inc., the American Dog Show Judges, Inc., and the Dog Judges Association of America.
I now devote my time to judging and attending nationals and seminars of breeds that I already judge or plan to judge in the future. I live with my wife of 50 years and best friend, Marilyn. Although I have managed to stick to short-haired breeds at home, as a professional dog groomer of almost 60 years, I have a long background of working with all types of dog coats.
I have one son, Douglas, who resides in Manhattan and the Pocono Mountains area. I also have two grandchildren who, along with my wife, are the love of my life!
Can I list a few of the notable dogs I’ve bred? Any performance or parent club titles?
Rodney Herner: The most successful show dog I bred was Ch. Renreh Lorelei of Charmaron. Renreh, my kennel name, was my last name backwards, and the Charmaron was the kennel name used by Charles A.T. O’Neill of Doberman Pinscher fame who purchased “Lori” for his 11-year-old daughter, Mari-Beth. After a very successful run in Junior Showmanship, Mari-Beth started showing Lori in breed competition which resulted in not only breed wins from the classes, but also in numerous Group placings and wins. Lori went on to win numerous BIS wins under esteemed judges William Kendrick and Alva Rosenberg. Her most noted win was at the Westminster Kennel Club 1969 where she won Toy Group First under noted judge Anna Katherine Nicholas. She was also a BISS winner. My multiple Group winner, Ch. Renreh Diamond Jim, won the Toy Group at the prestigious Westchester KC under esteemed judge Ramona Van Court. I bred a total of five Group-winning Toy Manchesters, which was not an easy feat in the high quality Groups of the 1970s and ‘80s.
What are some of the qualities I most admire in the Non-Sporting Breeds?
Rodney Herner: The Non-Sporting Group is, in my mind, the most eclectic Group. Since there is such a wide variance of correct breed type between the Bulldog and the Standard Poodle, and the Chow Chow and the Xoloitzcuintli. The judge is required to study each standard in detail to fully understand what constitutes correct breed type and how it affects correct movement for that breed. Generic judging (which I totally do not approve of) will never get by with this Group.
Can I speak to the overall quality of the more popular Non-Sporting Breeds/Varieties; Bulldog, French Bulldog, and Standard & Miniature Poodles?
Rodney Herner: Over the years, there have been many Non-Sporting breeds that have become Best in Show winners as well as top-winning dogs. I find that when I judge the Non-Sporting Group today, I will often find a plethora of quality within the Group. Of the more popular breeds, I admire the quality of the Bichon Frise, Boston Terrier, Bulldog, Dalmatian, French Bulldog, and the Standard Poodle.
What about the overall quality of the more “vulnerable” breeds; Coton de Tulear, Finnish Spitz, Löwchen?
Rodney Herner: Some of the more “vulnerable” breeds with overall quality include the Coton de Tulear, Lhasa Apso, Schipperke, and the Tibetan Terrier.
Would I have any advice to impart to newer judges of the Non-Sporting Breeds who come from other Groups?
Rodney Herner: I would advise anyone who is considering an application to judge the Non-Sporting Group to be prepared for the diversity of this Group. Not only do you need to understand what correct breed type is for every breed, you must also totally recognize correct movement. You will understand what I mean when you apply for the Bulldog or Chow Chow, or most certainly, the Norwegian Lundehund, all which have unique, correct movement.
In my opinion, how do today’s exhibits compare with the Non-Sporting Dogs of the past?
Rodney Herner: I do feel that the breeders of today’s Non-Sporting breeds have achieved much in improving their exhibits over those of yesteryear. One must only look back at top winners of the past to recognize the differences in breed type as well as presentation. Most noticeable would be the Poodles, which are now square and artistically groomed! I could also mention the Bichon Frise whose grooming has beautifully evolved. These changes (or improvements, if you wish) do add to the glamor that sometimes makes the difference in the show ring.
If I could share my life with only one Non-Sporting Breed, which would it be and why?
Rodney Herner: Since I have lived most of my life with Toy Manchester Terriers and Doberman Pinschers, both very intelligent breeds, I would choose the Standard Poodle. Also, I have been a professional groomer for over 60 years and have had many Poodles as customers.