by   David Hancock

I recently spent a few hours watching the terrier-judging at a local country show, held at a hunt kennels, and usually supported by those who use dogs as opposed to those who just own them. The terrier judge was terrier-man to a nearby hunt and knew more about terriers than I do, but I wondered if he knew enough about being a judge, and there is a difference. Knowledge comes first of course but a judge needs a technique, a comprehensive system, if he's going to succeed. This judge took his duties seriously enough and was remarkably tolerant of the largely unschooled entry. But his only physical examination consisted of 'spanning' the exhibits for size of chest and his only consideration of movement was in studying the terriers parading, in a circle, around the perimeter of the ring. When I act as a judge I aim to select future breeding stock, am most anxious to identify faults but reward soundness, keen to spot good mouths - the 'bite' especially, to judge movement, particularly when the exhibit is 'going away' and then walking back towards me, and am forever seeking weatherproof coats. Working dogs have to move economically, last a long day, tolerate adverse weather and have the anatomy that allows them best to succeed in their appointed role.

A few days after attending this show, I came across some of my old judge's notes, from which I spoke to the exhibitors, in the 'Best-in-Show' class, of an emergent terrier breed, after asking them to gather together to hear my justification of my placements. I wanted them to hear my reasons for the order of placement I had just decided. My words would have gone something like this: "Thank you for inviting me to assess your breed today, I saw some excellent dogs, some very worthy ones and sadly a few faulty dogs and here is why I placed them in the order I did today: Overall, I was looking for soundness, a physique that could support a hard day's work and the  identification of future breeding material, free of limiting faults, including temperament. My winners had the right build, good movement, sound temperament and were well-jacketed. Far too many of the entry had limited extension in the front movement, caused by upright shoulders, this is a vital feature in earth-dogs. Two exhibits shouldn't be bred from: one had a luxating patella and was hopping or 'carrying a leg' and the other had a woefully overshot jaw. A couple were too wide in front with too much 'spread' and one was too straight at stifle, limiting drive from the back. Most of the entry could do a good job in the field. Thank you, any questions - I'm happy to enlarge on those words, if need be."

I believe that every exhibitor has a right to know why his dog has been placed; judges should be willing to 'face their audience'. But the fault that concerned me the most, both at the show I judged and the one I attended recently, was the prevalence of upright shoulders - and I know that this is a huge problem in KC show rings too.  For me, the first point of real quality in a dog lies in clean sloping shoulders. Well-placed shoulders give a perfect base for a correct head carriage. They provide too the balance between the length of the neck and the length of the back, preventing those disagreeable dips in topline that mar the whole appearance of a dog. I have learnt, over the years, to start any judgement of the shoulders by considering the position of the elbow. If the elbow is too far forward, then the dog is pulling itself along, not pushing itself along, not capitalising on the drive from the hocks, thighs and loins. In his video on the packhounds, Capt Ronnie Wallace stated that the shoulders are controlled by the elbow. He is worth heeding.

It is only when the scapula and the humerus are of the right length and correctly placed that a dog can achieve the desired length of stride and freedom in his front action. Sighthounds can have their upper arms 20% longer than their scapulae. In terrier breeds they tend to be equal in length. Dogs with no forward extension are nearly always handicapped by upright shoulders and short steep upper arms. A dog of quality must have sloping shoulders and compatible upper arms to produce a good length of neck, a firm topline without dips, the right length of back and free movement on the forehand. For a working terrier, the slope of the shoulders affects not just movement over ground but movement under ground, where flexibility in the forequarters is really tested.

When working terriers are being judged in the ring, it is a huge advantage having a terrier-man from a local hunt acting as the judge. But if that terrier-man, however knowledgeable, doesn't follow a set pattern - examining set of shoulders, soundness of the mouth, angle of stifle, rib cage width, density of coat and condition of feet, then the correctness of movement, especially extension fore and aft, then his knowledge is wasted and the exhibitors not fully served. Every judge too should explain the placements to the exhibitors afterwards - they matter too!