A Judges Perspective

(Learning is a process, not an event. An effective teaching experience combines the written and the interactive, refined by live observation.

As chairman of the DPCA Judges Education Committee I have a responsibility to inform the fancy of, in lay terms, how a judge interprets the Standard to select a winning Dobe.

I think it is important each fancier take the time to read the official Standard for the Doberman Pinscher. The Standard is available on the AKC and DPCA web sites.)

The judge’s first impression is the overall dog. Our Doberman handlers are some of the best in the world. They can make almost any dog look perfect in a stack, even to an experienced judge. The judge has only two and a half minutes to look at each dog so the well-presented dog has the advantage. Look for a square dog of medium size that is balanced. Does he have as much leg as depth of body? Is he deep to the elbows? Do his front angles match his rear angles? Is the length of the neck in proportion to the body and the head? Does his head look long but is it in proportion to the rest of the dog? Does he have heavy bone? Determine if the dog is powerful, elegant, alert, determined, muscular, and noble and is he compactly built. Many dogs have longer underlines than toplines. This can be caused by a straight upper arm which may cause a dog to look longer in length (more rectangular) than he actually is.

Having finished the initial observation, move the dogs in a group. Is anyone limping? Search for a fluid, powerful efficient gait that is balanced. Balance is very important and means that the gait generated by the rear drive is compatible with an equally angulated front to produce enough reach so the rear foot lands in the same spot as the front foot of the opposite side. Is the topline straight and smooth and does it hold while gaiting. Does the dog appear square or is it long in back or short in leg? Does it lack body? Check the tail carriage, it should be only slightly above the horizontal. Is the gaiting carriage proud?

Next is the individual examination where condition, attitude and show training come into play. Now is the time to reconfirm your initial side view impression with the overall dog. Approach the front; look at the head, breadth and depth of chest, and size and color of markings. Are the legs muscular and sinewy with heavy bone? Are the feet cat like? Place the head between your hands and look at expression. Is he stable, alert and confident? Feel the underjaw. Is the line from the skull to the muzzle unbroken and is it wedge shaped? Note the eyes for correct placement, shape, color and size. Are the ears set high? Is the skull too wide or too narrow, or just right? Looking from the side, view parallel planes and check for a slight stop, and depth of muzzle. Is the muzzle strong? Common deviations are snippy, pointy muzzles lacking underjaw, narrow heads that are not wedge shaped and round and/or light eyes.

The hands on examination is next. Check for muscle tone, placement and width of shoulders, snugness of elbows to body, and coat texture. Then, look at the rear, checking turn of stifle, equal length of upper and lower thigh, slightly rounded muscular croup, perpendicular hocks, and tailset. Look for a muscular rear, both on the inside and the outside of the legs, with parallel hocks set wide enough, where the front feet are seen just inside the rear feet. Is the rear cow hocked or bowed? Is the width of the hips equal to the width of the rib cage and shoulders? Is the dog slab sided (lack of rib spring) or barrel ribbed (too wide)? Are pasterns firm and almost perpendicular to the ground? Common deviations would be: shoulders that are set too far forward, straight shoulders, short upper arms, straight upper arms, lack of angulation – front or rear, long lower thigh, flat croup, high tail set, long loin, and lack of muscle in the upper thigh either on the inside or outside, as well as lack of muscle on the lower thigh.

The handler shows the mouth, or, if necessary, the judge opens the mouth. Count the teeth in groups, noting 42 correctly placed, strongly developed, white, teeth. The first group is the six incisors, the next group is the four canines (2 on each side, 1 upper, 1 lower) followed by the four premolars on the bottom and top of each side and the final group is the two top molars and three molars on the bottom of each side. Four or more missing teeth are a disqualification. The bite is checked. It should be a true scissors bite. Check to see if the bite is level, over or undershot. Overshot more than 3/16 inch and undershot more than 1/8 inch are disqualifications. Deviations are level bites, extra premolars, missing incisors, premolars and/or back molars, and poor occlusion.

Ask the handler to move the dog down and back on a loose lead, at a moderate pace. Watch the dog going around assessing side movement. Coming and going check for legs moving in a straight line. In the sound mover, the front legs are an extension of the shoulder and gradually converge towards the center as speed increases. Common deviations are moving too wide in front, too close in rear, side-winding, paddling, high stepping, loose elbows, flipping pasterns, and other inefficient gaits that prevent the dog from tireless, ground covering movement. Many times dogs do not move as well as they could because they are not in condition or are poorly trained. It is also difficult to evaluate a dog that is looking up at his handler or sniffing the ground. The well-conditioned and trained dog moves in a straight line down and back, with drive and determination. Many handlers cause their dogs to move inefficiently by using a tight lead. The dog on a loose lead moves best.

At the end of the down and back ask the handler to show the dog in a free stacked. Here is where the temperament and attitude meet with the judge’s toughest evaluation. In the free stack look for a dog who stands his ground confidently. As the judge moves around him he may flick an ear or turn his head to see who is there, but he remains calm and composed. The dog should be aware of the judge moving around him and not just fixed on the liver. At this point, you can see where he naturally puts his feet. The true topline, tailset, head and neck carriage are apparent. Put a lot of stock in dogs that exude energy, are alert and show fearlessness.

Upon completion of individual examinations, the final group is determined. If the class is eight or more, place the dogs in their tentative order. Then you move the class once or twice around and watch them stop. At this point, you can do another down and back with the top contenders, watching carefully how they stop. Then place the class. Many times exhibitors ask why the last down and back didn’t result in a change of placement. The reason is, in the final analysis, he moves well enough to confirm his win.

This is what a judge does in two and a half minutes in front of a partisan audience. No one ever said it was easy. Common sense indicates all judges have a specialty breed. All knowledge of other breeds is acquired knowledge, sometimes in the face of angry exhibitors.

What does this say about exhibiting purebred dogs? There is no perfect dog. The one picked at a particular show is the dog closest to the standard the judge has pictured in his mind of the ideal Doberman. A judge can only judge what is presented to him. The exhibitor must be patient. If he has a good dog, his time will come.

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