When you walk your dog around the show ring, the judge is
comparing your dog to the Breed standard. That is to say how well you dog compares
to the description for the dog’s breed. The judge will physically inspect your
dog with his hands, so it is important that your dog is used to being handled.
The judge looks at
- Balance: overall appropriate proportions in size
- Eyes: colour, size, shape
- Ears: shape, length, position
- Head: shape
- Muzzle: shape, length
- Whiskers: thickness
- Teeth: kind of bite (e.g. level or scissors bites)
- Tail: how it arches and sets (e.g. how high or low)
- Shoulders: bone, muscle
- Legs: muscles, stance, proportionality
- Coat: texture, length
- Colour: accepted breed colours
So, Have you been asked to judge a novelty or fun dog show at a
church fete or local show?
Below are a few tips to help you on your first time as a
The number one rule of judging any dog show. Do not ask the entrants to walk their dogs around the ring in continuous circles. Dogs get bored (as do the contestants) of continuously treading the same ground. A bored dog does not "show" well in the ring. and you risk upsetting the entrants.
Ask the organiser to ensure that the grass is short for the show. Whilst some shows are held on recreation areas that are regularly cut, some are held on fields that have recently had a crop harvested, so have hard stubble sticking up. It is important that the grass is of a short length so that small breeds of dogs can comfortably walk whilst you judge their movement - and you can't if they are jumping over hard agricultural stubble.
You should see the dog move at a good speed for that size of
dog. The ring Steward should separate the dogs by size - with small dogs at the
front of the line and larger dogs at the back of the line. Let the small dogs
walk round first at a speed that is right for that breed, then let the larger
dogs walk so that they can move at a faster speed. If the ring is big enough
then you can set the larger dogs off before the smaller ones have completed the
Where a class has a high number of entrants for the size of ring, the option is to either
- Split the class into two, hold 2 heats and then bring the best 6 from both heats into the final class
- Ask the Steward to line the dogs up from largest to smallest. Split the class into half, and then ask the small half to walk around the ring whilst the large dogs stay at the edge of the ring. Pick out dogs that you confidentially would not chose and ask those to leave the ring. Then ask the larger dogs to come forward whilst the remaining smaller dogs stay at the edge of the ring. Again, pick out dogs that you confidentially would not chose and ask those to leave the ring.
You should now have a class size that is appropriate for the size of ring that you are being asked to work in.
Please do not let the dogs walk round and round the ring
whilst you make your mind up. Walk them around once, and then ask individual
ones to walk directly across the ring and back as you select your finalists.
Best rescue should be chosen by more than just the look of
Best rescue is judged on the condition of the dog, the background story of why it was put out to rescue, along with the rescue/healing process by the new owner. But the Judge must also consider how quickly the new owner turned the dog into a socialised pet dog as much as the background story and condition.
All these classes are where the Judge is supposed to judge
the person handling the dog, and the persons relationship with the handled dog - and not the dog itself.
Does the dog flow well with the Handler, or is the handler
yanking the dog in different directions.
Best Veteran Class
The veteran class should not be judged solely by the age of the dog, with the oldest dog instantly winning.
Also consider two special rosettes for the veteran class. Give the Special rosettes to the oldest dog and oldest bitch in the class.
There are two main criteria you are looking for when judging
1. Conformation and movement
Is the dog well balanced while standing and on the
move? You want to see a dog that flows effortlessly round the ring with a
nice reach of neck, good top line (no humps, bumps or dips in its back),
nicely laid back shoulders, good turn of stifle (knee joints) and well let
down hocks which all contribute to good, sound movement. To a discerning
eye any deviation from these points becomes apparent the moment the dog sets off
at a relaxed trot round the ring. For example, upright shoulders make the
dog's front end appear stiff and lack of turn of stifle on its rear legs give
it a 'chopstick' back end movement. The emphasis is on 'flow' from the tip
of its nose to the end of its tail.
There are, of course, exceptions to this rule with some
breeds, e.g. Pekingese who are supposed to have a 'rolling gait' or
Greyhound/Whippet type breeds whose top line is not level to the tail, but
slopes down to its tail from the pin bones (hips).
The dog's general condition should also be taken into
account, e.g. is the dog too fat/thin; is it well-muscled /
flabby; is its coat in good condition/dull AND does it have a nice
temperament? (These factors should also apply in Novelty classes.)
The Kennel Club sell a very informative dvd on the subject,
which covers details one couldn't possibly do without going into reams of
2. Breed type
This takes a lot longer to master than general
conformation. Each breed has a certain look which differentiates it from
another breed (obvious examples - a German Shepherd does not have a short
muzzle like a Pug, Dachshunds do not have the same leg length as Border
Terriers) and each breed has a standard to which it supposed to conform as
closely as possible. There are over 180 breeds recognised by the Kennel
Club and all have specific desirable features. Obviously, it's impossible
to remember all the finer details but if you want to judge the dogs entered
under you with some competence it is advisable to do a bit of homework, at
least on the more popular breeds, before your judging appointment. An
excellent reference is The Kennel Club's book “Illustrated Breed Standards”
When judging the Novelty section most class descriptions are
self-explanatory. However, if there is a 'Best Rescue/Re-homed' class it
is nice to ask each exhibitor for a short synopsis of the circumstances which
led to its rescue/re-homing. And try to make each class fun!
A few DOs and DON'Ts when judging:
DO arrive at the venue in plenty of time to discuss the
ring layout with your Steward. It's important to ensure the table is not
placed in such a way that the sun shines directly into your or the dogs' eyes.
DO give each dog the same time and consideration when
judging them. Even though they may be the ugliest specimen you've seen on
four legs, they are still probably their owners much-loved pet.
DO be gentle when handling the dogs and examining their
teeth for correct scissor bite dentition (especially young
puppies). NB. It is not considered necessary to examine the teeth of
undershot breeds, e.g. boxers, bulldogs, pugs.
DO be courteous to each exhibitor.
DON'T give Fido a place in his class just because he
belongs to the show organizer's great granddaughter or your best friend.
DON'T hang around chatting to your steward or people by the
ringside once the class you're judging has entered the ring with their dogs
standing waiting for you to begin, especially on a hot day.
DON'T ask entrants to continuously walk around the ring whilst you make your mind up!
Lastly, DO relax and enjoy your day and try to ensure
exhibitors and their dogs do too!
(Please note these tips are for general guidance
only. Many excellent books have been written by experienced judges on the
subject which cover the art of judging in much greater detail.)
Or you can view the Kennel Club's own Guide for Judges and Stewards by clicking on the book