This article was first published in the November 2016 issue of Showsight and is reprinted here with the kind permission of the author.
Greetings everyone! My name is David Miller, aka Jean-David Laplanche. Do not let the two names startle you, however. I have extensive family and relations in France, therefore my French name is used in legal documents such as my passport. And, no, I am not in a witness protection program! I live in Mentor, Ohio, but am across the sea on many occasions for judging and visiting family and friends.
I am the retired Department Chairperson for World Languages for a school system east of Cleveland, Ohio. In addition, I am a freelance photographer whose pictures have been published in many international publications. Just check out my Facebook page, of course, under the French name to access some of my pictures.
The Non-Sporting Group is probably one of the most eclectic Groups we have in the American Kennel Club. After pursuing the Hound Group (my original breed being Salukis), I wanted a challenge. I set my sights upon the Non-Sporting breeds since I wanted to have a complete change of perspective as well as a diversity of priorities to focus upon. The Non-Sporting Group challenges the judge to center upon many breed-specific attributes that cross a spectrum of diversity, i.e., a Bulldog versus a Dalmatian. This certainly challenges the eye and, I believe, stimulates a judge to sharpen their mental acuity of their craft. The movement of the Keeshond is definitely, and specifically, different of that of a Standard Poodle. A vast palette of differences makes this Group a wonderful Group to judge.
The historical decisions for placing some of the breeds in this Group are somewhat blurry. The rhyme and reason for placing the dogs in this Group do not seem to follow a specific pattern regarding working style, coat, morphological styles, size, and origin. Therefore, as stated above, it is eclectic. Some people have advanced the argument that it is a dumping ground for certain breeds that one may be uncertain which Group they should be attributed to. My reasoning and observation dictates that the Group exists because it exists. No more conjecture than that! But what a historical and enriching Group it is, indeed.
There is an immense and proven aspect of quality in this Group. Many of the breeds are heralded in the Best in Show ring and are rewarded on many occasions in the Best in Show ring. Everything in this Group is governed by type as it is in the other Groups. I was fortunate enough to give a seminar in India, taking Rick Beauchamp’s lecture on Solving the Mysteries of Breed Type, and expounding upon precepts regarding type. This has profoundly influenced my view of judging.
Where is the plethora of breed type more evident than in this particular Group? Talking about breed character, a foundation of type is the Poodle; a great example. Not only are you judging structure, coat and all other attributes, but you are judging if the specimen is “Poodley,” a component of this breed’s type. Movement, another foundation of breed type, is emphasized with the unencumbered movement of the Bulldog. The movement of the Keeshond is definitely, and specifically, different from that of a Standard Poodle. Silhouette: Can the judge discern the differences between the Boston, Bulldog, French Bulldog, Chow Chow, and Lhasa Apso, to name some of the brachycephalic breeds in this Group? Head, a specific proponent of breed type, is evidenced in all members of this Group, notably with French Bulldogs, Boston Terriers and Bulldogs. Coat, of course, an important element of breed type, adorns the members of this Group. A Lhasa whose coat is not heavy, straight and hard, which does not fall back into place when lifted, robs from type. Patterning of the coat in the Lowchen in any trim other than the specified trim is a disqualification and would deny it the type the standard specifies. With the examples cited above, we see the complexity of this Group and the vast playing field this Group has to offer. It is not an easy Group upon which to judge. You must understand and be aware of the intrinsic particularities of this diverse Group. Also, please, if I have omitted a breed in this discussion, it was not intentionally done. Constraints of time to get this article done are the sole culprits.
There are gender differences written in specific standards in this Group. Bitches will not hold these differences to the degree that males will. We all must be cognizant of the cited differences we see, such as in the Bulldog and Frenchie standards.
There is some movement away from type occurring in the Non-Sporting breeds, which concern me. I will only reference two breeds here.
First, we need to pay attention to the silhouette of the French Bulldog. A Frenchie with a flat topline suffers from a lack of type. I am witnessing this in some specimens. I am also witnessing this in specimens that are placing in the Group. My opinion is that the specimen lacks type in regards to the wording of the standard.
Secondly, I am worried about the length of the Dalmatian as of late. The standard specifically states: “The overall length of the body from the forechest to the buttocks is approximately equal to the height at the withers.” I am experiencing specimens in the ring which are long in loin, not in the ribcage. Please allow me an exaggeration. If it takes me an hour to walk from the head to the tail, something is wrong. The established fact is that the length of many breeds should be in the ribcage, not the loin. Years ago when I handled Dalmatians, breeders would boast that you could place a glass of water on the topline. The longer in body, the more a topline will either sag, or not retain a modicum of being level.
On the whole, I believe breeders need to pay attention to feet. There seems to be a concern for feet being either splayed or spread out to the point of not following the standard in a decisive way. Feet are important
in any breed, being a significant form of support. Bad feet will effect movement to a large degree. Breeders need to place a little more emphasis on this fact.
My advice to a new exhibitor in this Group as well as others is this; if you have a good dog, show it yourself. It will usually, and hopefully, win. You need to be persistent and determined. Yes, there are days you will lose for whatever reason. That is life. However, if you are showing a good representative of the breed, the chances of winning are heightened. The day I witness that this is not the case is the day I will be discouraged from the sport as a whole. Know the standard, inside and out, of the breed you are showing. This is the only way to know the attributes and shortcomings of the breed you are breeding. Talk to the established people in your breed, not just the ones who are winning, but the breeders who have had a consistent string of good to great dogs. Their knowledge will be invaluable.
My advice to all in relation to this Group or any other Group is this, “Know the standard.” I believe it was Percy Roberts who stated; “The standard is the blueprint, the breeder is the builder, and the judge is the building inspector.” There is so much to know, so much to consider in the show ring. Especially in this rich, rewarding Group designated as the Non-Sporting Group.