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Interview with Wayne Cavanaugh – 2023 WKC Dog Show Breed Judge

Wayne Cavanaugh - 2023 WKC Dog Show Breed Judge, pictured at the show


Interview with Wayne Cavanaugh – 2023 WKC Dog Show Breed Judge

What does it mean to be invited to judge at this year’s historic Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show?

Wayne Cavanaugh: It is indeed an honor to be selected to judge the best dogs in the world on its most prestigious stage. It is an affirmation that a lifetime in the sport is considered worthy.


Can you share your thoughts on your various Breed assignments? Please be specific.

Wayne Cavanaugh: I was delighted with the breeds I was assigned and the depth of quality in every breed. I had never seen several of my Breed winners. Some that I’ve judged before didn’t have their best days, others never looked better. We judge them on the day. In my mind, the winners met two essential criteria: They are dogs I would use to start a breeding program; and they are dogs that fit the job at hand—breed type, function, and movement appropriate for the breed. As always with gundogs, I ask myself the question: I’m hungry, I have a single-barrel shotgun and one shell. Which dog am I taking with me?

I started with three excellent German Wirehaired Pointers, all looking as if they could go straight into the field and work all day. They were in beautiful, hard condition and excelled in symmetry of movement. Outlines, heads, and coats appropriate for the breed were evident, all wrapped in well-muscled, proper gundogs. Excellent quality throughout.

Irish Setters were well-represented. There were some variances in shape and size, but my focus remained on type, balance, good fronts, and a lack of exaggeration. There were at least three or four in both genders that really filled my eye. With type, balance, and good rich color in the contenders, my final selections were made on dogs that held their outline on the move with good hard toplines and ease of motion.

The Gordon Setter entry was full of quality. Great to see this breed, which has recently been designated to a “low-entry breed,” so well-represented. It was a pleasure to find outlines and substance appropriate for the breed in my winners. The Gordon Setter Standard is clear on proportions: approximately equal the height from the ground to the withers. I was thrilled to find correct proportions in my winners, which could not be mistaken for any other setter.

Irish Red and White Setters are a beautiful, unique gundog with a storied history that I followed in Ireland long before they were recognized here. I was looking for outlines, heads, color, and coat distinct from the other setters. There was a very good selection of athletes with correct silhouettes, heads, and brilliant clear islands of red color. The Standard is emphatic about judging this breed from a working standpoint and I was pleased to find a nice group of dogs that fit that description.

English Setters, like their Irish Setter cousins, were full of quality among some variations. It is not an overstatement to suggest that the rosettes could be shared on a different day in a different place. The winners may not necessarily have been cut from the same cloth, but all were excellent English Setters. Tendencies toward Irish Setter outlines must be cautioned; the best breeders have not yielded to fashion and have maintained the salient breed characteristics that set them apart from the other setters. Thanks to dedicated breeders for keeping the breed strong in the breed ring and in the field.

The German Shorthaired Pointer ring was chock-full of quality gundogs that were built to do the job. I start sorting GSPs by looking for dogs that are square or slightly longer than tall “with a short back, but standing over plenty of ground” and was pleased to find some excellent examples that met that template. The winners held their outline on the move and never disappointed in showing true breed type and character. Thrilled that this breed continues to thrive in focusing on type and working ability while resisting over-exaggeration while remaining vibrant and sound.


Now that it’s over, what are your thoughts on the 2023 show year? Any thoughts on the year ahead?

Wayne Cavanaugh: While no one knew what to expect at the new venue, the question was answered the minute the gates opened. Every detail was brilliantly thought-out and delivered. The site, and the way it was managed, was a huge hit. With WKC 2023 in the mirror, the rumors and ideas about next year’s date and venue began. While fun to guess, I suppose, one thing is for sure. Westminster has proven time and again that, wherever it is held, it is and always will be spectacular. Hats off to an incredible plan so beautifully executed. This year’s Westminster set the bar very high.

Wayne Cavanaugh