Fri, 04/28/2023 - 10:27pm

Decisions, Decisions

From breeders to judges, the choices we make set the course of the sport

According to Corporate Wellness magazine, “Effective decision-making is a valuable skill in any workplace, no matter your job. Having the capability to make good and quick decisions can help you become more productive because it helps you to save time and make better use of resources.” 

Our dog-show community makes many decisions every day that affect winners, breeding programs and our future. These decisions should not be made lightly.

This same magazine identifies these five steps to good decision-making: 

Step 1: Identify Your Goal.

Step 2: Gather Information for Weighing Your Options.

Step 3: Consider the Consequences.

Step 4: Make Your Decision. 

Step 5: Evaluate Your Decision. 

According to religious leader Thomas Monson, “The decisions we make determine the destiny that we reach. In every decision that we make we are choosing certain paths for our lives, and the paths that we choose lead us to our destination. If we want to reach our desired destination, then we must make decisions that will lead us to that destination.” 

Although I don’t believe our decisions affect our destiny — because, as the Encyclopedia Britannica says, “Destiny, sometimes referred to as fate (from Latin fatum ‘decree, prediction, destiny, fate’), is a predetermined course of events. It may be conceived as a predetermined future, whether in general or of an individual — I will agree that our decisions result in certain results. (If you believe in FATE, you believe that your destiny has been already set. The concept of free will disagrees with that.) 

Everything that happens in our community starts with the breeders. There is no doubt in my mind that breeders are the backbone of everything that is important about what we do. To quote one of my favorite people, Pat Trotter, “When a judge makes a decision in the show ring it is temporary. When a breeder makes a decision, it is in the gene pool forever!” 

Not only is that true, but it should be framed and hung up over every whelping box. We see it at every show. Poor heads and bites, upright, straight shoulders, poor rear angulation resulting in incorrect movement are not the results of “Nurture.” They are the results of “Nature,” or breeding! Breeding without conformation knowledge or researching health conditions in the pedigrees will destroy a breed faster than poor judging or handling — and it is more permanent.  

Breeders have to decide whether to breed to the latest fad that is winning or to do their research and breed to strengthen virtues and improve weaknesses in their breed. For true breeders, this is a no-brainer — and a lifelong pursuit. And just as being a breeder can bring a great deal of happiness and satisfaction, breeding is the most difficult and heartbreaking aspect of our community. Although I have bred champions in three different breeds, I was never an extremely successful breeder because the bitch that was to be my foundation came down with pyometra — and in those days it was spay her or lose her. It broke my heart. This is one of the reasons I have so much respect for those who consistently breed high-quality, healthy animals in spite of the many obstacles that often occur. Kudos! 

The true goal of all breeders is to have their pups wind up in loving, forever homes. If things work out wonderfully, the new “owners” of these pups decide to show their dog — or participate in another venue. Whether the owner shows the dog herself or uses a professional handler is another decision that many make. The first thing that must be considered is what is the ultimate goal. In the long run, it may wind up costing less money to employ a quality professional handler, but that might not offer as much personal satisfaction as showing your own dog. A lot of this depends on whether the owner is physically and emotionally able to show the dog. 

Once the decision is made as to WHO is going to show the dog, the next question is HOW. By that I mean will the dog go on the road with a handler or be brought to the show by the owner. If the owner is going to show the dog, then that is one less decision to be made. How many shows and at what distance will we travel to show? Will the dog be groomed to “fit in” with all the other entries, or will it be true to the standard? (That is not always the same thing.) I think all these decisions depend on the most important one: What is our goal in showing our dog? Remember, dogs also need time to be allowed to just be dogs. 

While I think breeders are the backbone of our breeds, I do believe that judges are the custodians of the breeds. Decisions made by judges may have a direct impact on whether a breed will follow the latest trend or fad or if it will remain true to its standard. That is one reason a win under one judge may be more prestigious and important than under another. 

It is inherent in the job description that dog-show judges make decisions all day. It is what we have been assigned to do. Not only do we have to make decisions, but we have to make them quickly — and under pressure (if you care about making the right decisions). 

According to“When making a decision under pressure, it is critical to eliminate as much irrelevant detail as possible. If a detail is not immediately relevant to the situation, it should be set aside so that you can get to the core of the issue and focus on what needs to be done.” To my mind, those “irrelevant details” are things like what will my winner look like in the group, what will people think about this decision, and ABSOLUTELY NOT will this get me more assignments!   

Judges need to care about the breeds we are judging — or don’t judge them! I absolutely do not want this article to be another call for judges to withhold more often rather than just point a finger and move on, but inevitably, these decisions need to be made.

Not long ago, I was in this position again. I was judging an entry of three Sporting dogs: one class dog and two class bitches. To my mind, all three were pretty poor quality and certainly not good representatives of their breed. 

Remember, when a judge awards Winners ribbons, he is stating that he believes this dog is worthy of championship points. I again considered withholding, but it was apparent that these exhibitors were very new to our community, and very excited about showing their dogs. Against my better judgment, my mind said, “What the hell, it is only one point,” so I pointed my finger and handed out the purple ribbon.

I prayed that I would not hear those terrible words, “Thank you, that finished him.” This is usually followed by, “I would like to have a picture taken.” I have had that happen before, and all I could think of was where were there two judges who awarded two majors to this dog? And yet, I am aware of the fact that I have been known to withhold more often than most judges — and I did not want to drive new exhibitors away. To be honest, if these dogs were shown by professionals, I would have withheld.

I understand that what I just said is not fair or correct, but that is how it is. So, did I now make these exhibitors think they had good show dogs? Would it have been better to withhold and explain to them why? Would that have led them to wanting to get a better dog — or to say to hell with this? Remember, not everyone wants to have more than one dog in the household. These are very difficult decisions for a judge to make, and they have to be made quickly and under pressure.  

I am often amazed at how a few judges are aware of which dogs have won their recent national specialties or Bests in Show. I don’t have that kind of memory. I am happy for anyone who has had a great win, but it really doesn’t mean any more than that to me. I have always believed that I am judging the dogs in front of me on that day, and nothing else should matter.  

So, many times I have walked into a group or Best in Show ring to find that there are many dogs there that I have previously awarded group wins or Bests in Show. I have also had judges say to me — I presume innocently — how much they love such-and-such dog in the group. I am in my happiest place when I am in a ring surrounded by quality dogs presented beautifully and in great condition. I know I put extra pressure on myself when there are multiple dogs in the ring that I love, and I know I can’t put all of them up. I just keep telling myself, “Let the dogs decide.” And that is what I try to do. 

So, we all have our decisions to make, but it all starts with those made by our wonderful breeders. I pray that they make the correct decisions, and that handlers and judges will back them up by respecting what they have done. 

What do you think?



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