Getting to Know Your 2022 German Shepherd Dog National Specialty Judges – Michel Chaloux
Our judge for Males and Futurity/Maturity Bitches this year is Mr. Michel Chaloux, of Quebec, Canada.
Michel Chaloux was quite literally born into the sport of dogs and German Shepherds, as his father established their kennel program the same year he was born. Growing up with dogs allowed Michel to be immersed in German Shepherds in every aspect—breeding, handling, owning, and now judging as well. His family’s breeding program has included German, American, and Canadian bloodlines, and they were also involved in the Quebec branch of the North American Schutzund Association.
Though Michel was involved in all facets of the breed, handling was his primary interest and passion; finishing his first Canadian Champion in 1970 at only 15 years old, being the owner-handler of the first Canadian National Futurity Victor in 1974, handling the Canadian Grand Victor, Am. & Can. CH. Hermsdorf’s Eldorado, in 1981 (and later finishing him in the United States), as well as finishing more than 100 Champions and multiple Group Winners.
After attending his first US National in 1968, Michel expressed how he was “so impressed by all the dogs and the show, and that day I decided that I will become a judge and will judge the US National one day in my life.”
Michel Chaloux has certainly exceeded that goal, since 1993 he has been a well-respected international judge and has judged at the Canadian, US, and Mexican Nationals seven times in the last 15 years and is looking forward to judging the US National once again this year.
Like our other judges, being involved in the breed for his whole life, Michel has witnessed the transformation of the German Shepherd Dog. When asked about this, Michel noted that although the breed has improved in some respects, it is lacking in overall structural and proportional soundness:
“Though we have many dogs with great side gait, there are also many who have excessive rear angulation and insufficient front angulation; those dogs are not balanced and therefore cannot perform properly, like German Shepherd Dogs should… many dogs are out of proportion, long in loin, and need improvement in croup.”
The word “balance” is key in Michel’s understanding of the standard and his focus within the breed:
“I’m always looking for dogs with strong backs and good toplines, with no waste in motion and an elastic, effortless gait.” An “elastic, effortless gait” is surely not to be confused with over-angulation, as that consequently results in a disproportional and unbalanced dog.
Balance includes not only side gait, but soundness coming and going and proper proportions—each of these parts of the dog makes up the whole, balanced, final product. Additionally, Michel notes that in his opinion, the breed has made improvements in its beauty, pigmentation, and breed type in general, but could still use more help in overall secondary sex characteristics: “Many males look like females—lacking good, strong bones and substance, while many females are getting too big and look like males.”
Each of these aspects that Michel discussed—breed type, structural and mental soundness, proper size and secondary sex characteristics, and temperament—are expected to be prioritized while judging the 2022 National and have remained important to him during his time as a breeder, owner, handler, and judge.
Michel urges the importance of mentorship to the fancy, especially as it is something that has guided and influenced him during his time in the breed.
His father, Bernard, was his first mentor, and a foundational experience for him was traveling to Long Island, New York, with his father to breed a Ch. Hillgrove’s Emo daughter to Ch. Falco of Thunder-Rock in 1966. Michel was only 11 years old, and it was his first—but certainly not his last—time traveling to the US.
He later reminisces that “visiting the Barithaus Kennel in New York in 1971 to breed to Barithaus’ Bonanza and meeting Ed Barritt for the first time was an incredibly impactful experience for me as a young person. I consider Ed and my father to be my mentors in German Shepherds.”
A salient commonality between these two experiences is the fact that these trips Michel went on were for breeding purposes and he was learning from breeders. Michel adds to this when he expressed the importance for the fancy to “know and learn the history of the breed and listen to older breeders—they know much more than you think,” which is a beautiful statement considering Michel’s upbringing and early involvement in the sport.
Some of his most impactful experiences are because of older, experienced breeders and learning from them; it should not go unnoticed that his immersion in the sport of dogs stems from the breeding aspect and learning from his father, Ed Barritt, and many more.
Finally, when asked what it means to Michel to be judging with two fellow breed icons, he expressed deep honor and privilege: “My two fellow judges are my idols; they represent two of the most famous kennels in the United States and have the expertise of the German Shepherd Dog equaled by very, very few people. I know they will do a remarkable job, judging with ethics, rigor, and competence.”
What makes this comment even sweeter is the fact that the first Canadian National that Michel attended was when Lance of Fran-Jo went Grand Victor and was handled by Jim; this was one of Michel’s most impactful experiences as a young person in the breed, and I find it to be a truly heartwarming and “full-circle” moment that they are judging together at our 2022 National Specialty.
Thank you, Michel Chaloux, for taking the time to talk with me about your dedication to the breed and your interpretation of where the breed stands today, as well as your priorities while judging. I know I enjoyed every minute of this experience and I hope the fancy who reads this is instilled with a similar feeling.