Interview with a Toy Group Judge Jeff Bazell
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a judge?
Jeff Bazell: I bred my first AKC registered litter while still a teenager living at home. I have been judging for over 30 years now and find it rewarding and relaxing, though the travel can be like falling down a rabbit hole. My husband, Jeff Kestner, and I live in southeastern Ohio in what is known as the Hocking Hills region.
What is my original breed? What is/was my kennel name?
Jeff Bazell: St Johns has been a registered kennel name since my maternal grandfather was breeding Coonhounds and Foxhounds in the mid 1930s along St John’s Creek in southern Ohio. My paternal grandmother was a well-known Chow breeder, dating back to the breed’s height of popularity in the late ‘40s. As a family, we have bred over 300 champions in six different breeds through the years.
Can I list a few of the notable dogs I’ve bred? Any performance or parent club titles?
Jeff Bazell: To separate the Brussels Griffon out of the mix, we currently have close to 150 AKC champions, with another 240 titles around the world. We also have proudly bred about 30 performance titlists in the US and another 10 worldwide. Some of our best have included Ch. St Johns the Dog Faced Boy, Ch. St Johns Your Name in Lights, Ch. St Johns Maximus, Ch. St Johns Isn’t She Precious, and Ch. Winterfell’s Almost An Angel at St John, in Griffons. A lovely pair of Landseer litter brothers named Ch. Michael’s Boat of St John and Ch. Admiral Jack of St John made an impact on the Newfoundland breed before we sold our remaining Newfoundlands in Europe. I’ve also had a long history with many sighthound breeds, but most especially Greyhounds through a long relationship with Judie Donaldson of Kingsmark fame.
Have I judged any Toy Breed Specialties?
Jeff Bazell: I have judged many Toy Specialties around the world and enjoyed each of the experiences, and I look forward to doing even more. I have judged Specialties for Shih Tzu, Italian Greyhounds, Pugs, Pomeranians, Poodles, Papillons, Maltese, Havanese, Cavaliers, Chinese Cresteds, Chihuahuas, Japanese Chin, and Griffons, of course, and I judged the first Russian Toy Specialty before they became AKC recognized.
Can I offer any advice to exhibitors regarding the presentation of these “table” breeds?
Jeff Bazell: My best advice to anyone entering a Toy ring is to be aware of what you have on your lead. DO NOT RUN WITH TOYS! Every Toy must be shown at a breed-specific pace that does not over-work or over-move the dog. Chinese Crested are, indeed, to move a bit faster, but not so fast that the legs fly all over the place and make an otherwise beautiful dog look awful. Allow your Toys to walk into and out of the ring. Never clutch them over your heart, as this will make them as anxious as you are. Introduce them to loud noises and large dogs before making your show entry. Toys should drip confidence almost to the extent of being obnoxious, if you really want a show dog. Do not over-correct a Toy or you will pay a price that will stay with them for years. When tabling a Toy, I much prefer picking them up and “dropping” them into position on the table in one smooth step. Many people try to re-position legs, and this usually makes things much worse than a simple one stroke maneuver of placing them from a floor stack to a table stack.
Some longtime exhibitors have “downsized” to Toys. In my opinion, has this had an impact on quality?
Jeff Bazell: I feel that downsizing to Toys from a Working, Sporting or Herding Breed can be quite helpful for understanding structure. All of my early Toy mentors said that if you hear a Toy judge going on and on about great movement, you know one thing for certain… they know nothing about Toy type. I agree with this wholeheartedly. Not so long ago, I had a woman approach me after judging some really nice Pekes. She’d beaten all the good ones that moved with the correct rolling gait and put up what she felt was the best mover. This dog had an exaggerated nose roll obstructing the nostrils, but it did move well, though with no roll at all, a breed characteristic. I am not saying to ignore movement, but if it is all you can see, perhaps stay with a breed that requires absolute soundness and ability to run all day.
Toy Breeds can require special care. Do I have any advice to offer breeders, exhibitors, and judges?
Jeff Bazell: Aside from some of the heavily coated dogs, I do not find that Toys require special care outside of simple things that we should all know innately. Do not drop them, they may break. Do not allow them to overheat or freeze, their size comes into play with both extremes of weather. And, do not overfeed them as you will dramatically shorten their lives.
In my opinion, how do today’s exhibits compare with the Toy Dogs of the past?
Jeff Bazell: I have been in and around Toy rings for my whole adult life and they have always been tough. Breed win records still stand from the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s in several Toy Breeds.
Why do I think Toy Dogs can become outstanding Show Dogs?
Jeff Bazell: A Toy Dog with spirit can be the very best of Show Dogs, but Toys can be dramatic, and push their handlers to the limit.
If I could share my life with only one Toy Breed, which would it be and why?
Jeff Bazell: I have shared my life at home with wonderful Griffons, and hopefully this love for the breed will continue for years. I have been fortunate to have judged many of the very best Toys that this country and Europe have exhibited for the last 30 years, and I have special memories of each of them; dogs that dripped with breed type and the details that make a Toy Dog a great one.