This month our editors reached out to AKC Non-Sporting Group Judges to share their insights, trends, and highlights of what they are seeing in and out of the rings. We asked each the following interview questions:
- Where do you live? What is your occupation? How many years in dogs?
- What is your original breed? Did you handle dogs professionally?
- How many years have you been judging the Non-Sporting breeds? The Group?
- Are there specific challenges presented to judges by the diversity within this Group?
- Does a Non-Sporting breed’s historic purpose play a role in your selection process?
- How important is breed-specific presentation among the Non-Sporting breeds? Breed-specific conditioning?
- Have you noticed any trends among Non-Sporting breeds that cause concern? Any that have impressed?
- What are your thoughts about revising breed standards to address health issues? To address coat colors and patterns?
- Which Non-Sporting breeds have made the greatest strides in overall quality? Which breeds still need work?
- Does it seem that entries are rising or declining among the Non-Sporting breeds?
- What advice would you give to breeders and exhibitors of Non-Sporting dogs?
- Would you encourage exhibitors to compete in companion and performance events?
- What advice would you offer to aspiring Non-Sporting Group judges?
- What’s the most memorable moment you’ve ever experienced judging the Non-Sporting Group?
- And for a bit of humor, what’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened in your Non-Sporting Group ring?
Anne Savory Bolus
I live with my husband, David, also a multi-Group AKC judge, along with our two dogs, a 15-year-old Border Terrier bitch and an eight-year-old Pembroke Welsh Corgi in Harrison, Tennessee. I am retired from being a teacher in England, an AKC professional handler, and I spent 20 years working as an Executive Field Representative for AKC. I have been involved in purebred dogs for 58 years.
My original breed here in the U.S.A. was Irish Setters. I handled professionally for several years and was a licensed AKC handler from 1970 to 1984 when I joined AKC.
I have been judging the Non-Sporting breeds for nine years starting with Poodles, since I already judged the Toy Group, and have been approved to judge the Group for six years.
Are there specific challenges presented to judges by the diversity within this Group? Absolutely. Due to the diversity within the Group and the purposes for which they were bred and used.
Does a Non-Sporting breed’s historic purpose play a role in my selection process? Of course. I consider whether a certain breed would be capable to do its job today. The breed Standard is there to be followed and learned from.
How important is breed-specific presentation and conditioning among the Non-Sporting breeds? I think specific breed presentation and conditioning are both very important. For example, a Dalmatian must be fit enough to work as a coach dog by having an enduring gait which is efficient and smooth as well as a powerful drive from the rear.
Have I noticed any trends that cause concern or have impressed? I feel that sometimes some of the dogs I judge are lacking in basic proper proportion, such as the square in profile, which is needed and important for that particular breed.
What are my thoughts about revising breed standards to address health issues, coat colors, and patterns? I feel that health issues are the responsibility of each parent club and there are some that have already done a great deal to encourage testing in various problems. More clubs whose membership wants to do more in this regard should be encouraged. In some breeds where there are patterns which are not completely addressed in the standard, I think these details should be explained clearly to be of help to judges who have not been made aware of any problem. I have found that some of the more knowledgeable and concerned members of some clubs do address these issues in seminars, but more help could be given by showing examples with color and markings described in detail.
Which Non-Sporting breeds have made the greatest strides in overall quality or still need work? The breeds which I feel are in good shape at the present time are Poodles, Bichon Frises, Shiba Inus, and Tibetan Terriers. There are others that I feel need work to be more competitive; French Bulldogs, Bulldogs, Chow-Chows and Chinese Shar-Pei.
Does it seem that entries are rising or declining among the Non-Sporting breeds? I don’t think that entries are declining or rising in these breeds at the moment.
What advice would I give to breeders and exhibitors of Non-Sporting dogs? Just be careful in your breeding as much as you can. Study how the get have turned out as mature animals and don’t ever breed to the top winners just because they have reached that height.
Would I encourage exhibitors to compete in companion and performance events? I think it would depend on the breed and the individual dog, I would not encourage or discourage it for every dog.
What advice would I offer to aspiring Non-Sporting Group judges? When you begin to study each breed make sure you learn the history behind each one. Where was a certain breed originated and for what purpose? Why is it a certain size and why does it have a different temperament from other breeds? There is a lot to learn and discover.
The most memorable moment I’ve ever experienced judging the Non-Sporting Group? Without a doubt, it would have to be judging the Group at the Westminster show in 2017. There were so many beautiful dogs in the ring and I was so pleased to award first to an outstanding Miniature Poodle bitch that I had never judged previously in the competition. She was so very deserving and I was completely happy with my choice. The other three placements were beautiful too and I was pleased to place them in such a good company.
The funniest thing that’s ever happened in my Non-Sporting Group ring? I can’t think of anything that was really funny, but these breeds certainly can be entertaining and a lot of fun. I love to judge the Group and always find some real quality and appreciate clean and well-groomed animals that have correct temperaments.
We live in New Jersey in the warm months and Florida as soon as the weather gets chilly. I am an executive recruiter, filling senior-level positions for Fortune 500 companies. My breed is Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers; I’ve been involved with the breed since 1968. Under our Shandalee banner, we’ve bred 82 champions and counting, a BIS winner, multiple top-ranked Wheatens, Specialty and Group winners and placers, performance and therapy dogs, and three of the Top Producers in the breed.
Wheatens are my original breed, not counting a well-bred Mini Poodle that was our very first pet. I have never handled professionally, but handled almost all our dogs myself, proudly finishing them primarily from the Bred-By class.
I was approved for Bichons and Poodles in 2008 and completed the Group in 2015.
Are there specific challenges presented to judges by the diversity within this Group? Because the Group is so diverse, each breed has to be carefully studied individually, rather than, say, the Sporting dogs where there are similarities between the subsets like the spaniels, the pointing breeds, the setters, the retrievers, etc.
Does a Non-Sporting breed’s historic purpose play a role in my selection process? Every breed’s historic purpose is important in order to determine whether this dog can do what it was bred to do.
How important is breed-specific presentation and conditioning among the Non-Sporting breeds? Presentation and, in particular, conditioning, play a role. After all, it is a dog show. Miss America wouldn’t walk down the runway with a tattered gown and knots in her hair, and this translates to the conformation ring as well. Presentation and handling are more cosmetic than structural, and a judge should make some allowance for the newbie owner-handler whose grooming and/or handling skills are not yet refined. With the breed Standard as the blueprint, judges should be evaluating breeding stock, not grooming ability, although in breeds like Poodles, grooming definitely plays an important part. Muscle tone, healthy coat, proper weight, clean teeth, and breed-specific temperament all factor into conditioning and are determining factors as to whether the dog could do its job.
Have I noticed any trends that cause concern or have impressed? Several trends of concern come to mind. In Bulldogs and Bichons, oversize is still an issue. Variation in type in Frenchies still persists. Overall quality in Mini Poodles is on the rise and feet are notably more correct than in the past. However, many Toys are down in pastern with flat feet that need to be improved. Tibetan Terriers often lack the large, snowshoe foot the breed requires. Conversely, Tibetan Spaniels are more consistent in breed type than in prior years and temperaments are steadier. Chows are tending more toward square, although the desired stilted gait is a rarity. I see more quality and consistency in Shar-Pei as the years go by. In Standard Poodles, there are a number of quality exhibits being shown, and specifically, underjaw and feet have improved as befitting a Sporting dog in the field. There have been some lovely standard Xolos being shown and the smaller sizes are improving. Boston Terriers still need improvement in heads and toplines, but more and more exhibits are correctly square in outline.
What are my thoughts about revising breed standards to address health issues, coat colors, and patterns? Opening up a breed Standard can be like opening Pandora’s box, and should be evaluated for each breed on a risk/reward basis. Health issues—other than such obvious concerns as entropion, ectropion—are really not the purview of the judge and best left to the veterinary professionals. Color and pattern criteria should be clearly addressed in the Standard and may need to be revisited to keep the breed true to its type and purpose.
Which Non-Sporting breeds have made the greatest strides in overall quality or still need work? Almost every breed can use better fronts, and the Non-Sporting breeds are no exception. Overall, I have seen no sharp downturn in any Non-Sporting breed, and the breeders collectively deserve credit for continuing to strive for the betterment of their individual breeds.
Does it seem that entries are rising or declining among the Non-Sporting breeds? With perhaps Standard Poodles and Frenchies being the exception, entries are down in this Group as in so
What advice would I give to breeders and exhibitors of Non-Sporting dogs? My best advice is to strive to breed to your Breed Standard, not necessarily to the dog that’s winning. No dog throws his blue ribbons in with his sperm and fads in a breed come and go. It’s up to each breeder/ exhibitor to have a clear vision of what the Standard requires, and steer his/her breeding program to align with that vision. Know what the state of the breed is now, where it’s headed and then selectively breed those dogs that will keep to that type and that vision. Study pedigrees and find a mentor, preferably one with a history in the breed, to guide you.
Would I encourage exhibitors to compete in companion and performance events? Absolutely! Dogs that are well made will excel in performance and companion events, attesting to the dog’s mental and physical ability to function as more than just a showing machine.
What advice would I offer to aspiring Non-Sporting Group judges? Study the Standards, know the history of these diverse breeds and what they were bred to do, find several mentors, and ask lots of questions. Appreciate the diversity of this terrific group of dogs!
Elaine J. Lessig
Elaine J. Lessig, of Clinton, New Jersey, did not realize how much her life would change when she acquired her first Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in 1987. She has since produced champions in all four colors and both sexes. She has also put Obedience, Canine Good Citizen and CKCSC/USA titles on her dogs. Among her proudest achievements are two Group winners, two Best in Show Specialty winners, Best of Opposite Sex at the American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club National Specialty, at the Westminster Kennel Club and a Best of Opposite Sex and Best Bred-by-Exhibitor at the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship on bitches she bred and owns.
In 1991, Mrs. Lessig was the first Cavalier breeder to attain judging status strictly from her breed. She has judged at AKC, CKCSC, English, Irish, Swedish, Chinese, Korean, Thai and Canadian (among other international shows), and is approved to judge Best in Show, the Sporting, Toy and Non-Sporting Groups, and Standard Manchester Terriers. Mrs. Lessig has judged the American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club National Specialty and those of other breeds as well.
Mrs. Lessig is president of the Meadowlands Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club and serves as president and show chairman for the Delaware Water Gap Kennel Club.
Mrs. Lessig and her husband, Dr. Marvin Lessig, have been married over 50 years. They have the pleasure of sharing their lives with the “Roi L” Cavaliers.
I live in the quaint river town of Clinton, New Jersey, in the rolling hills between the Somerset Hills KC and Bucks County KC show sites. My world beyond dogs has always included antiquing, interior design, and fashion. Among my treasures is an extensive collection of vintage clothing and hats which is displayed in my costume room. I also host an online video series, Closet Confidential.
Traversing the nearby rolling hills on foot, Yin Yoga, and working out regularly occupy my time too.
I have had Cavalier King Charles Spaniels since 1987. I began showing them in AKC and The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club, USA (the breed’s registry prior to recognition in 1996) in 1988. In 1996, I attained champion judging status with the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club. In 1999, I became the first breeder judge to receive AKC judging approval with Cavaliers as a first breed. Additionally, I own and breed English Toy Spaniels in both varieties.
I have been approved to judge the Group since October 2009.
Are there specific challenges presented to judges by the diversity within this Group? Judging the Non-Sporting Group is much like judging the Toy Group. Each is a boutique item that requires you to know all the inventory very well.
Does a Non-Sporting breed’s historic purpose play a role in my selection process? Every breed’s historic purpose is always relevant. Form follows function.
How important is breed-specific presentation and conditioning among the Non-Sporting breeds? Breed-specific is paramount in any breed’s presentation and conditioning. To put is simply, it is the line of division that must always be present. It is this very definition that is required.
Have I noticed any trends among Non-Sporting breeds that cause concern or have impressed? We are always concerned when a breed becomes so popular that health concerns are not addressed. On the other end, when a low entry breed increases its numbers and quality, that is impressive.
What are my thoughts about revising breed standards to address health issues, coat colors and patterns? Coat colors and patterns are fair game for inclusion in standards. Health concerns require ethics and knowledge which need to be the job of parent club education.
Which Non-Sporting breeds have made the greatest strides in overall quality or still need work? Breed quality changes from year to year.
Does it seem that entries are rising or declining among the Non-Sporting breeds? In my recent experience, Non-Sporting entries are rising.
What advice would I give to breeders and exhibitors of Non-Sporting dogs? Anyone serious about their breed must have a thorough knowledge of their standard, history, health issues, conditioning, and presentation.
Would I encourage exhibitors to compete in companion and performance events? Yes! Totally. Enjoy your dogs in any way you can. Otherwise, why have them?
What advice would I offer to aspiring Non-Sporting Group judges? Learn each breed for its unique characteristics and those which it has in common with other breeds. Appreciate each of those. Viva la différence!
The most memorable moment I’ve ever experienced judging the Non-Sporting Group? The quality of the dogs in the Non-Sporting Group when I judged it at the American Kennel Club National Championship was stellar. What a challenge it was to make a cut of eight outstanding dogs when many more merited a pull. When the final eight circled the ring one last time, my heart was pounding. Then like a bolt of lightening, the ring lit up. My choices became clear. The placements were made.
The funniest thing that’s ever happened in my Non-Sporting Group ring? As it has for so many judges of this Group, I watched in shock as a “wiggy” flew off the head of a gorgeous Standard Poodle as it sailed around the ring. We all saw it happen. When the dogs stopped to get in line for individual examination, I walked over to the elephant in the room, gently picked it up, set it on a nearby ringside chair, and carried on. There was no need to embarrass the handler. The show must go on!
I live on the Florida Gulf Coast in Destin. I have been in dogs for over 50 years. Pugs are my original breed and I share my home with a little 10-year-old Pug bitch. My husband, Edward, and I handled professionally for about 15 years before we became judges. I have judged the Non-Sporting Group for about 25 years. I began judging in 1990.
Are there specific challenges presented to judges by the diversity within this Group? The Non-Sporting Group is very interesting because of the diversity. You must really study and apply all the very different standards. I base all of my judging on the breed standards. Exhibitors in this Group are very adept at the correct presentation for their breed.
What are my thoughts about revising breed standards to address health issues, coat colors and patterns? I feel all Parent Clubs have the responsibility for any standard revision. The Group as a whole has improved in the last decade. Newly accepted breeds require the most attention.
Does it seem that entries are rising or declining among the Non-Sporting breeds? As entries have declined and shows cancelled, we must all decide at which level we want to compete. Exhibitors enjoy companion and performance events, and I think entries will continue to increase.
The most memorable moment I’ve ever experienced judging the Non-Sporting Group? When judging Bulldogs in California, an exhibitor put his dog on the ramp and as he bent over to set him up, there was a loud rip and his pants tore. He was so embarrassed, but everyone was kind and helpful.
I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico (transplant from Washington, DC area). I am retired from the US Senate Staff, Washington, DC, as Director, Protocol and International Travel, and from the State of New Mexico as Director, Governor’s Council on Film and Media Industries. I am currently devoted to studying and judging dogs. I have been “in dogs” since 1971, which equates to 49 years.
My original breed is German Shepherd Dogs. I did not handle professionally.
How many years have I been judging the Non-Sporting breeds? I have judged the Non-Sporting Group since 2014. My first breed in the Group was Poodles, in 2003.
Are there specific challenges presented to judges by the diversity within this Group? Yes, absolutely! Because this Group is so diverse and interesting, it requires specialized study and understanding. Many of the breeds have little in common, but are unique unto themselves. Generalizations are not applicable when judging this Group.
Does a Non-Sporting breed’s historic purpose play a role in my selection process? Yes, always.
How important is breed-specific presentation and conditioning among the Non-Sporting breeds? It is extremely important for the handler to know and demonstrate breed-specific presentation and conditioning. It is equally necessary for the judge to know and expect both in the ring.
Have I noticed any trends among Non-Sporting breeds that cause concern or have impressed? A trend that I dislike and correct in my ring is that faster is better. Each dog should move at the correct speed for his breed. The correct gait should be recognized and rewarded over a fast, flashy and often incorrect turn around the ring.
What are my thoughts about revising breed standards to address health issues, coat colors and patterns? I leave that to the Parent Clubs.
Which Non-Sporting breeds have made the greatest strides in overall quality or still need work? Xoloitzcuintli have improved noticeably. Some breeds are in good shape in one area and in need of work in another.
Does it seem that entries are rising or declining among the Non-Sporting breeds? I see the increase and decrease of entries in similar proportion to other Groups.
What advice would I give to breeders and exhibitors of Non-Sporting dogs? Study basic structure. Be familiar with canine terminology. Study your breed’s Standard. Present your dog in the best condition possible. Do your best to be honest in your appraisal of your own dog. Be aware of your dog’s virtues and make a point of presenting them to the judge. Judges are taught to weigh faults to the extent of the deviation, but to judge primarily on virtues.
To quote my late friend, Richard Beauchamp, “It can be just as serious a mistake to reward a dog for a lone virtue as it is for him to dismiss a dog for a single fault.”
Would I encourage exhibitors to compete in companion and performance events? Yes! Have fun in all venues.
What advice would I offer to aspiring Non-Sporting Group judges? Study, watch, study, watch. Seek out experts in every breed as mentors. Attend as many National Specialties as you can and participate in everything offered.
The most memorable moment I’ve ever experienced judging the Non-Sporting Group? My most memorable moments are sharing in the pride and excitement when a relatively new owner-handler earns a big win!
I live in Las Vegas, Nevada. where I relocated from California after my retirement. I am retired from management at a financial firm. I also worked for Jack Bradshaw Superintendent for 25 years in addition to my job at the financial firm where I had worked for 38 years. I have been in the Sport of Dogs for 55 years.
My only breed is Poodles. I never handled dogs professionally as I would have had to give the money back as I am really horrible at handling dogs.
I was approved to judge Poodles in 2001 and was approved for the Non-Sporting Group in 2010. During this time, you could apply for the breeds you owned, bred or showed. Because of that policy, I could only apply for Poodles. My next application I could only apply for one more breed. Once you were approved for those two breeds, you were able to apply for two more breeds, etc. It took a while to get that first Group, which is not a bad thing.
Are there specific challenges presented to judges by the diversity within this Group? No, I do not think it should be a challenge for any judge due to the diversity within this Group. If you have studied the breed and have good mentors you should be able to work through these “challenges” without a problem. Once you are approved for the Group it can sometimes prove difficult if a new breed is accepted into that Group, as usually you have not done the amount of studying you have done on the other breeds. The only requirement you have to get approved for that new breed is to pass an open book breed exam. Sometimes I think that is not fair to the breeders and exhibitors in that new breed. I think that the AKC should let you keep the Group, but you must complete some educational CEUs on that breed within, let’s say, one year’s time [in order] to keep that breed and that Group.
Does a Non-Sporting breed’s historic purpose play a role in my selection process? Definitely it does…form follows function. If you do not study the purpose for which that breed was established, how do you know what to judge for? I feel that when you enter the ring, you must have some idea of that history and judge according to the breed standard with the idea in your mind of the purpose of the breed. Even if it is Poodles, you must know the history of that breed, as originally it was bred to be a sporting dog to retrieve and hunt game for its master.
How important is breed-specific presentation and conditioning among the Non-Sporting breeds? It think it is very important as there are parts of some of the Non-Sporting breeds that indicate specific disqualifications or faults such as the Chow Chow which states, “Edges of the lips black, tissues of the mouth mostly black, gums preferably black. A solid black mouth is ideal. The top surface and edges of the tongue a solid blue-black, the darker the better. Disqualifying Fault—The top surface or edges of the tongue red or pink or with one or more spots of red or pink” The Chinese Shar-Pei also has a disqualification such as the Chow Chow. You need to also know which breeds in the Non-Sporting Group must be on the ramp and those that are ramp optional. At the top of each of my breed standards for all Groups I indicate where that breed is to be examined, as most breeds do not have that in their breed standard. In the Non-Sporting Group, you must examine the Bulldog, Chinese Shar-Pei, Chow Chow and the Keeshonden on the ramp. Ramp optional is the Finnish Spitz. As for conditioning, I believe it is very important as some breeds state that the breed must be shown in its natural state. You can find a whole paragraph on presentation in the Coton De Tulear breed standard. It states, “The dog must be shown as naturally as is consistent with good grooming. His coat should be clean and free of mats. In mature specimens, the length of coat may cause it to fall to either side down the back but it should not appear to be artificially parted. The long, untrimmed head furnishings may fall forward over the eyes, or be brushed backward over the skull. The hair on the bottom of the feet and between the pads may be trimmed. Any other trimming or sculpting of the coat or any grooming which alters the natural appearance is to be severely penalized.” It also indicates in the Coton De Tulear breed standard that the puppy coat is much softer in texture than an adult coat. Judges should know this when they judge the breed, as it states in the General Appearance section that it is characterized by a natural long, white, dry, profuse, cotton-like coat. Let’s now address some of the Poodle coats—too much topknot and too much coat can sometimes make the dog look not balanced and square. Lots of the breeds use foreign substances, but most judges do not consider that in their decisions. I think the coats should be clear and not matted, but sometimes there is too much scissoring that shapes the dogs when actually the dog is not the shape it should be. Hands-on examination is necessary to discover that.
Have I noticed any trends among Non-Sporting breeds that cause concern or have impressed? I do think that some breeds need to work on the front assembly. Breeds such as Poodles, Bulldogs and French Bulldogs are some of the examples. Some Poodles have their front legs coming out of their necks and not from the highest point of the shoulder. I am also seeing more flat feet that are not well-arched and cushioned on thick, firm pads. Some Bulldogs and French Bulldogs do not have the “set wide apart” in their fronts, but have what I refer to as “fiddle fronts.” That is very concerning to me and I think the breeders need to work on this. I think that the Tibetan Spaniel has maintained a good front that states that “the bones of the forelegs are slightly bowed, but firm at shoulder.”
What are my thoughts about revising breed standards to address health issues, coat colors and patterns? I believe if the Parent Clubs want to address and revise their breed standards to address health issues, I think this is good not only for the breeders, but for the breed itself. The Bulldog standard was revised in 2016 to address various colors patterns such as the merle pattern as a disqualification. Most color disqualification goes back to health issues or the inter-breeding of that breed sometimes in the past that pops up every once in awhile that is not good for the health of that breed. To address this, the Parent Clubs need to react to these problems that can affect the health of our breeds not only for those breeds in the Non-Sporting Group, but for the other Groups.
Which Non-Sporting breeds have made the greatest strides in overall quality or still need work? I think that the Bichon Frise, since it was recognized back in 1988, has really done an outstanding job in not only improving the structure of the breed, but also the balance and unsound movement it had when it was first introduced to the fancy. I remember seeing the Bichons in the beginning of the breed where it was much more than 1/4 longer than the height at the withers. It also had a very soft outercoat and not a coarse or curly texture as it has today. The gait has also improved, as before it had more of a gait that looked like it took some effort to move. Breeders have done a great job on this breed as now most of the exhibitors show dogs that have a movement that at a trot is free, precise and effortless. I think the breeds that need help I have mentioned in the previous questions, but let’s face it, we must keep in mind form and function and the health of the breed and that should be foremost in the minds of the breeders.
Does it seem that entries are rising or declining among the Non-Sporting breeds? I think you are seeing more of a decline in the entries in the Non-Sporting breeds. First of all, this is true of most of the breeds nowadays. We used to have large entries in Poodles, but we are lucky if you can find a major—and even if you do, the amount needed for a major is severely reduced. I do not think this helps any breed if you can get a major by winning with six dogs there. There are some exceptions such as low-entry breeds, and this is understandable. We do not have any of the large kennels or the breeders like we did in the old days. What we need to concentrate on is breeding good dogs that meet the requirements of the breed as stated in the breed standard, and not to see how many championship titles you can earn.
What advice would I give to breeders and exhibitors of Non-Sporting dogs? First of all, read the breed standard for your breed. Second, find good mentors who have experience in your breed. Listen to them. See what the pedigree of the stud dog and brood bitch looks like, and is that breeding what you need [in order] to produce good, healthy puppies and to improve the qualities of your dogs. Again, I repeat, read the breed standard and look at pedigrees! Listen to people who know the breed and think about what they say.
Would I encourage exhibitors to compete in companion and performance events? Yes, I would suggest that you get involved in the companion and performance events. One thing I would advise, especially for my breed, Poodles, is to finish your conformation title first and then go into the companion and performance events. I say that as my breed (and I believe other breeds in the Non-Sporting and other Groups) show differently if they are doing conformation and performance and companion events at the same time. I speak on that as I have seen this many times in the show ring when I
What advice would I offer to aspiring Non-Sporting Group judges? Take your time learning these breeds. Do not think that you need to apply for 12 breeds at one time. You may get the Group that way sooner, but how much are you learning about a breed and what kind of good judging will you do when you get approval? We as judges must do our homework when we are studying our breeds. We must do it for the breed, the breeders and for our Sport. Do not try to just get a Group just to get a Group. Study the breed. Study the breed and learn the breed standard. Speak to breed experts. Do a kennel visit, if possible. Take your time! That way when you walk into the Breed or Group ring, you will know what you are doing. The exhibitors will know also. That way you will get more assignments because the concerned exhibitors of the breed will know you have done your homework.
The most memorable moment I’ve ever experienced judging the Non-Sporting Group? I think it was at the Morris and Essex show when I did the Non-Sporting Group. I had so many great representatives of the breeds. I think of it today, and remember I most likely could have picked any of the breeds in that ring for a placement and not gone wrong. That was an ideal situation and I was able to experience it.
The funniest thing that’s ever happened in my Non-Sporting Group ring? I can remember at one show long ago I had a Bulldog that was a puppy and all he wanted to do was rollover and have fun. He did, however, make it down and back before he laid down when he came back to me. He went around the ring on his own terms and made me and the people at ringside laugh a lot. Sweet puppy and that made my day.
Once upon a time, long, long ago, dog shows were spirited events. Beginning in Victorian times, organized field events for gun (Sporting) dogs were leisure activities for the gentry in the countryside. It was the dog shows, however, that attracted large numbers of exhibitors and spectators to the urban centers where they were held. Their popularity grew. As it did, exhibitors with breeds that were “not sporting dogs” wanted to participate.
There begins the designation “non-sporting.” It was a way to group all the other breeds. When breeds were further grouped as Hounds, Working, Terriers, Toys and, finally, Herding, the Non-Sporting Group continued to be that Group that held all the other recognized breeds.
The Non-Sporting Group continues to include a broad assortment of breeds. Much like a great box of chocolates or the shops on Madison Avenue or Rodeo Drive, the Non-Sporting Group offers a wide variety of delights for every dog lover. Many present-day buzz words like “global,” “diverse,” and “complex” describe the Non-Sporting Group as it was and remains. They come from all over the world, share no common ancestors and are all different. This is the Group that mirrors our world.
Change is as much a dynamic of the dog world as it is in any other part of life. Some years there are strong contenders in some Groups and not in others. What makes this Group particularly exciting is that the door is wide open for any of the breeds. Who will show their heart out, be in top condition and make it out of the breed competition? Male or female, coated or not, the best dog wins in my ring.
All of us who breed, show, judge or simply love the world of purebred dogs recognize that change comes to us all. We are challenged by animal rights activists who disapprove of what we do. We are challenged by economic realities that make it difficult to find the time and money to pursue our passion. We are challenged by the difficulties we encounter in our efforts to breed beautiful, healthy dogs of excellent temperament. Yet, we soldier on, gathering strength along the way.
As a judge, one of my greatest pleasures is to welcome newcomers when they enter the ring. We all start somewhere. How easy it is to be kind. We can’t all win, but we can have a good experience which makes us enter again and again until we do.