Thursday, April 23, 2015

T -- Teeth to Tail

Somewhere in between running around the ring and stacking, the judge will actually put hands on your dog. Minor faults (a bad topline or narrow chest, for example) can be disguised by grooming. A good judge, however, will discover those during a physical exam.

Before the exam a judge always greets the dogs. Each dog is allowed to sniff the judge and the judge usually gives a quick pat on the head to show that she is friendly. The judge starts the exam at the dog's head. She'll look at the eye shape and color, ear set, neckline, etc. and compare your dog to the breed standard. Depending on the size of your dog this is either done on the ground or on a table.

Showing Jedi's bite
Chances are the judge is also going to look at your dog's teeth. Each breed standard has different requirements for this. Some standards -- like the German shepherd's -- specify the number of teeth as well as their alignment (called the bite). This requires the handler to hold the dog's head and lift its lips, then open the mouth wide so the judge can see inside. Warning: Most dogs don't like this. If you're going to show your dog, it's a good idea to start practicing "showing the bite" early.

The judge then works her way down the body towards the tail. She touches the chest, feels the ribs and runs her fingers through the coat. To be honest, I'm not exactly sure what she's looking for at this point! Some judges are really focused and don't say much. Others are chatty, making small talk to both handler and the dog.

One thing that baffles non dog show people is checking the genitalia. Dogs in conformation must be intact. That means a judge must touch a dog's testicles to verify that both are present. Show dog owners desensitize their dogs to this exam early and most dogs don't even flinch. Unlike other dog sports, female dogs are allowed to be shown in season. Because of this, a handler should warn a judge beforehand so she can avoid getting a handful of yuck. (It happens!)

All in all, the exam takes about a minute. It usually ends with a "thank you" to the handler and a pat on the rump for the dog. And then it's time for more running! -- K

Tomorrow's Topic: Undesirables (Faults and DQ's)