Page 66 - ShowSight - November 2019
P. 66

                From Excellent to poor what’s your take on rating ... BY WALTER SOMMERFELT continued
use different systems and procedures. Often in numerous cases the breed standards themselves may differ from country to country so it is important to review the individual standard for the breed in the country in which you will be officiating.
Many countries and I believe all FCI countries use a rating sys- tem whereby the winning dog must be rated excellent to receive the points or certificate. For me this is a very difficult application to understand and apply fairly in the evaluation process of judg- ing dogs. In my over 34 years of judging I have seen many, many, good to very good specimens of their breed. Something I am sure many judges will agree with me on is there are very, very, few dogs that in my opinion reach the level of near perfection and a rating of “excellent”.
When I think about the early history of our sport not only here in the States but also around the globe, I believe there was a time when “Excellent” was indeed the proper term. When you look back at the early history of our sport the shows started as a way for the breeders and stockmen of the times to get together for the com- parison and evaluation of their breeding stock. At that time these people were truly trying to improve their stock while learning from one another. Those early shows were not as defined by classes, breed, groups, and Best in Show at the same level they are today.
The early shows were smaller but there were larger entries in spe- cific breeds so rating the winner as excellent was probably accurate for those times. However, times change and sometimes people are not willing to change with them.
The very word “excellent” to me describes superiority, first-class, the best of the best, perfection, and so on. When I put that in the context of judging dogs, I would say it means extremely close to exemplifying the standard for the breed. I wonder how many exhib- its really fit that category? Understanding the term “Beauty is in the > eye of the beholder” I am sure it will vary amongst all of us.
What I do believe is that there are a great number of specimens that most agree are in the Very Good and Good categories and dis- play the proper type, soundness and presentation to showcase their breed to a high standard. As judges we often see exhibits that are truly above average and very deserving of their wins and going on to become Champions. These specimens on any given day can com- pete in the show ring while also contributing to the future of the breed in a breeding program. Most of the time they have numerous virtues as called for in the standard, but many also have an area or two of weaknesses that needs improvement. After all, as breeders we should be working toward the perfect example of our breed, and correcting these faults is part of the process of achieving our goals.
I think that rating a dog good to very good by any judge would make most breeders and exhibitors happy. I also believe it is a more honest evaluation of the specimens being presented. When I have asked “why must they be rated excellent to get the points?” the reply is usually “that’s just the way it’s always been”. I think the FCI and those countries that use this evaluation are not doing the breeders especially the newer ones any favors. Think about it. If you were new to the sport and were just told your dog was “excellent” would you find it necessary to try to improve on it? Would you expect to win all the time? After all Excellent is the best of the best. Or would you rather get an honest and fair evaluation of your exhibit? What will the reaction be when at the next show the judge just says “Good” for the same exhibit? Which judge was right?
In most of the countries I have visited overall sportsmanship is outstanding and most judges and fellow exhibitors are treated with respect and honor. On the very rare occasion when I have witnessed an unhappy exhibitor it is when they do not hear the word “excel- lent” when evaluating their dog. In a few cases I have had the han- dler just take the dog and leave the ring because they were unhappy with a rating of good or very good and therefore understood they would not be winning any points. If the rating system was accurate and the winners could still receive the points without needing to be rated excellent many a breeder or exhibitor might look closer at their dogs and their individual breeding program and work toward improvement.
I cannot imagine how today’s AKC exhibitors and handlers would react if the judge had to say “excellent” to be awarded the points and they heard good or very good from the judge. Wow! Just imagine the reactions on the internet and Facebook being stated about the judges.
As judges there are rare occasions (thankfully very few) that the judge may withhold first place, winners or reserve or even the breed. These situations are difficult judgement calls that must be made at that moment and dictated by what they see in front of them. In some case an immature exhibit or a poorly groomed and out of con- dition specimen may be presented and although on that day may not deserve the win it is possible that at a later date with maturity and hard work along with proper conditioning it may develop into a deserving specimen.
There are also those occasions when the exhibit is just having a bad day. I had a class of two sporting dogs earlier this year in which I withheld the first-place ribbon. Both dogs were worthy represen- tatives of their breed but both dogs failed to ever bring their tails up from between their legs. I explained to the handlers that I was withholding first place because they were exhibiting a breed in >
64 • ShowSight Magazine, noveMber 2019

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