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Judges’ Questions & Answers

5.  Do you think that the exhibitors of today really understand the breed standard and what they are trying to produce?

JB: I think they try to but do not always succeed. I feel that “hands on” experience is lacking today. I started judging match meetings in the late 70’s when I was showing Irish Setters. They were informal affairs where you had to assess many breeds. Before I was passed to award CC’s I had to make up 2 Champions as well as my stewarding and open show judging. Now it is all about seminars and exams. There seems to be a general reluctance to seek advice from the older, experienced breeders and I think the breed is suffering because of this. To use the fashionable big winner just because he is winning is not good for the breed unless he is a pre-potent sire, as was Ch. Shargleam Blackcap. The pedigree should be as important as the dogs themselves and the knowledge of the preceding generations and any problems there may be. This is when it would be beneficial to seek advice. Many of the older exhibitors will probably have seen most of the dogs in a 5 generation pedigree. It should always be remembered that we are trying to improve the breed.

BJ: I think some do but in general the answer has to be no.  I feel that there are many people who rush to use the dog in fashion without any regard as to whether the dog suits the bitch in question.  I was once told that it is more important to use a dog that you like than a pedigree that you like.  At the end of the day one does not show paper.  Largely the owners of today are not stock people – they have not been brought up around stock.  I think that whereas people may read the standard they do not understand it and how it relates to the breed.

BP: Sadly no. I do not believe they understand the anatomy and physiology of their dogs under their jacket,  few understand how poor construction effect their dogs ability in so many ways. We as judges today are advised by the UK KC that obvious “health issues” must now be taken into account when judging. To me this includes in the Flatcoat, poorly constructed forequarters, bodies with incorrect ribcages & open coupling, also over angulated and poorly angulated hindquarters as all these put stress on limbs spines etc. 

VF:  I wonder if everybody understands its a dog to do a job of work and that’s what the breed standard is all about.

VJ: No, I do not think that the newer exhibitors of today understand the breed standard, they are clearly only really interested in winning at any cost, and rush to the latest top winner regardless of blood lines.  It will be interesting to see  how this progresses.

6. What is your general opinion on current presentation and handling of the breed and what changes if any have you seen over the years?

JB: Presentation varies. A correctly presented Flatcoat who is clean and has been tidied for the ring is a joy to see. Sadly, we are now seeing the Scandinavian style of presentation in the UK showring. All the hair is stripped out the front of the neck to the breastbone and tails are sculptured. A Flatcoat should look natural and attempts to glamorise the breed should be condemned. When judging in the UK I do penalise this sort of presentation.Handling also varies. Some handlers, especially the young ones who have come up through the ranks from junior handling, are excellent. The other extreme are handlers who seem to forget that they have a dog on the end of the lead and very little attention is given even when the dog is moving. I do sometimes wonder if owners watch their dogs when they are free running. That is the time to assess side movement and to watch them move away and come back. Observe the optimum speed for each dog when it looks its best and try and move it at that pace. Study the dog when it is free standing . This is what the judge is seeing.

BJ: Now that has improved about 500%!  Even I remember the days when the dogs just had the dirt knocked off them and were taken into the ring untrimmed and unbathed!  Read Flowers used to used a knife to get the excess hair out prior to going in the ring!  Nowadays all that has changed.  The presentation of Flatcoats is generally top class.  However I would say that the style of stripping down their necks which originated in Scandinavia and has trickled across to the UK should be nipped in the bud sharpish.  It is NOT the way to present a Flatcoat.  The handling side of things.  My advice to anyone would be watch the juniors – my goodness they are professional.  So many handlers ruin their dogs chances by letting it stand badly, or move round the ring with no sense of purpose.  Yes, we judges ARE judging the dogs but it does help if the dog is handled to advantage.  The junior handlers of today are super and should consider themselves fortunate to have had the benefit of the Young Kennel Club and all the other opportunities open to them.

BP: I am looking for sympathetic handling  which brings out the best in each individual dog. We are not there to judge the handler but the “Best Dog” to the breed standard for the “future of the breed”

VF: Over the years handling and presentation has improved on a showmanship basis, but again please remember that a well made dog must always go over the (showy flat catcher).

VJ: In the main presentation has improved, the majority look as if their coats have received a great deal of grooming, and they are clean and tangle free, teeth are clean and nails kept short, handling is not always good as many newer exhibitors lack rapport with their dog.   I abhor the stripped out look that is fashionable in some overseas countries, the neck feathering is there for a purpose, to protect the dog, when out working in heather or bramble.   The standard was laid down by those who were trying to evolve a moderate dog for use in the field

MS: The trend in presentation nowadays seems to be that of over trimming, particulary neck and fronts , this is how the Scandinavians trim their dogs and is being copied here.  .I personally would penalise excessive trimming in the U.K.as I feel it spoils the look of the dog Handling is all too often spoilt by the over use of tit bits.There is nothing worse than trying to go over a dog when it is greedy for food and it also spoils the expression.  Quite often we see a good dog over stretching its front to get a treat making it look very upright  in front and standing like a rocking horse.