Several years ago, there was an outcry from exhibitors about Judges checking the bites and possibly helping to spread disease from one exhibit to another. As a result, it was suggested by the AKC and the fancy, in general, to have the handler/exhibitor show the bite to the judge. I just like most judges adopted the policy and changed our examination routine to allow for the change.
What all judges discovered was that most exhibitors either do not know how to show the bite properly or have not spent any time teaching their charges how to allow it to be done. What is now common to see in the ring is what I call “Wrestle Mania” where the handler and the dog have the battle to see who will win.
So over time, I adapted my bite examination routine so that I have the exhibitor show me the bite as soon as they come in the ring if they are a class of one or I go from dog to dog in the class before moving them around as a group except in the case of table breeds where I do them on the table at the end of my examination. I have found that by doing it this way when the dog is set up for examination the hands-on part goes much better.
However, I will never understand why exhibitors and their charges don't practice this vital part of the examination process. First, you need to know your standard and what it calls for. Is it front only? Full Dentition, Front and sides? Thumb exam only? Or Full Front and Sides and opening of the mouth? If you are showing the breed you need to know it. At the same time if you are the judge, it is also your responsibility to know what is required of each breed. If the breed only requires the front, you should not be digging around in the dog's mouth and looking for more than what is called for in the standard. I have seen judges that upset the exhibit and the exhibitor when they go looking deeper and some dogs especially puppies don't handle it well.
Showing the bite to the judge is very much routine to most seasoned veterans but amazingly there are still a lot of people that don't do it properly. Along with knowing what is called for you need to remember you are showing the bite to the judge and not yourself, get your head out of the way, and make it easy for the judge to examine it.
If you are a new exhibitor or a seasoned veteran start when they are young, so they learn it's no big deal. I know many people don't like visiting the dentist and having them dig around in our mouths, but we do it anyway. Your dog is no different and just needs to learn it is not going to kill him.
Ramps and Tables:
I must admit I am a huge fan of the Ramp and wish many more breeds would start to use it. I am 6’1” tall and there are many times when I feel the exhibit being examined is a little intimidated by this tall stranger coming over him or her.
Currently, 8 breeds must be judged on a ramp, and another 25 that are considered "Ramp Optional" breeds. I simply do not understand why many more breeds are not ramped optional. So many more breeds would look better during examination by being on a ramp.
When most of us train and evaluate our young puppies, we usually start with stacking them on the grooming table or the training blocks. They learn to stand still this way and if it were to continue in the ring as they grow, I think many exhibits would stand better and not make the examination process as difficult as possible. Another plus is it brings the dog up to a height that is easier to examine for the judge and can often give him or her a better perspective on the exhibit being examined. The dog is only on the ramp for a few seconds so I cannot see why it is not an advantage.
When a dog is judged on a ramp or a table it is also easier on the judges that bend over a significant number of times during a day’s judging and that does take a toll on their backs and other body parts.
One thing I would remind exhibitors when setting up their dog on a table or ramp. You should set your dog as close to the front of the table or ramp and as close to the judge's side of the table so that it is in the perfect place for the judge to examine it without having to reach back or across the table or ramp to examine it. I know it's easier for you to set it close to you but remember you want the judge to be able to give it the best examination possible.
Ramps are a great resource, let us use them more.
Those darn toenails?
As a breeder and exhibitor, I know that maintaining a dog's nails can be an ongoing battle with some dogs. Some people use Grinders while others use the clip or cut tools. Most of us start the nail care process with our puppies when they are just a few days to a few weeks old. When we do them regularly, usually once a week it is a simple and quick process that most of our dogs tolerate easily. However, when you do not maintain a schedule, you will end up in a battle with some of the more difficult dogs.
I find that in most breeds people are very good about maintaining nice, clean, short nails. Doberman exhibitors in particular are excellent when it comes to maintaining a dog's nails. Yet, in any case, some exhibitors allow a dog's nails to grow so long you can hear them clicking on the matting as they are moved in the ring. Some are so long that they start to look like talons on a bird of prey.
Can you imagine how painful it must be for the dogs when their nails are not maintained? Imagine if you let your toenails grow several inches past the end of your toes. They would most naturally push up against your shoes and back into your toes causing you great pain. Think about your dog and take the time each week to maintain their nails. As a judge when I see long nails and hear them clicking on the mat the message, I receive is that the exhibitor is not taking care of the exhibit and is not concerned with overall health and conditioning. There is much more to presenting your dog than a bath and good grooming. Clean teeth, short nails, and proper exercise to keep the athletic body toned is a huge part of your overall presentation.
All dog owners even those that never show need to learn to maintain their dog's nails. I know we spend time with each puppy buyer at the time of pick up to be sure they know how to grind or clip nails and tell them it is an important part of the care of their new puppy. We also state that keeping nails short will stop scratching up their floors and carpets.
Too many shows?
There will always be a debate with regards to the question, are there too many shows?
This past weekend I had the pleasure to judge for the Clarksville Tennessee Kennel Club at a small two-day event being held in their local community. It was a very nice small show with a large number of not only owner-handlers but a large group of fairly local exhibitors. The entry was on the small side probably in part because there were also 14 other shows being held on the same weekend throughout the country with several within a 5 to 6-hour drive of the Clarksville location.
The average entry at these 14 shows was around 800 dogs with Clarksville being the smallest with 417 and Baltimore County the largest with 1300. Six of these were part of clusters of three or four days with the other 8 being two-day local shows. These smaller local clubs that stay home in their territory would truly benefit from being able to offer three days to their exhibitors. By lowering their cost per day expenses and catering to their local area it could be the difference between profit and loss for these clubs.
Except for a very few handlers I find most exhibitors and judges would prefer to have more of the two and three-day models as opposed to the big 4-5 day and longer circuits.
Summer shows and venues:
We are getting into the heart of the summer and numerous outdoor show seasons. Remember it is very important to keep yourself hydrated as well as your dogs. It is during this time of year when we hear of heatstroke and other tragedies to people and dogs. Be prepared and be sure to carry extra fans, Ice, Water, and other items to keep your dogs as well as yourself cared for.
Clubs need to be sure to have proper tenting and ventilation, as well as an emergency plan, should threatening weather show up unexpectedly.
Have a safe, and successful summer of shows.