Reflections on judging Dachshunds in Australia 2015

560564_106881419470378_1258112002_nFor a Breed Specialist judge there can be fewer higher honours than an invitation to judge at a prestigious overseas show and, for me, that honour came at the Novocastrian Dachshund Club’s 81st Championship show.

Maybe the sunshine helped, but the Aussies seem to have achieved a fabulous combination of having fun at a Championship show with competitive and sporting behaviour.

There are a few differences in the classification from what we are used to in the UK with classes for Baby Puppies (under 6 months) which I think makes for an interesting opportunity to bring out youngsters and get them used to a show environment in a low-pressure way. There are also “Neuter” classes which are judged separately from the main breed, but they also compete against each other for a Best Neuter in Show award. This struck me as being a good idea to enable exhibitors to showcase quality dogs that would otherwise be ineligible to compete.

UK exhibitors who have read my critiques will know that there are a few points from the Breed Standard that really make a difference to me and separate my winners from the rest. Firstly, temperament. Dachshunds should be “lively”, “courageous” and “good tempered”. They have to be able to live their lives as happy, well-adjusted pets and I cannot forgive poor temperaments, however excellent the conformation might be. Secondly, size and proportions. Nowhere in the Breed Standard does it say they should be “long, low and level” and I want to see dogs that meet the 2:1 length:height requirement, with adequate ground clearance. Finally, they are a working breed, so they need to be able to move freely, while holding a good topline. Surely, it is not difficult for judges to understand “the legs and feet should move parallel to each other” with the correct width.

Temperaments were, almost universally, excellent. There is a clear difference between a dog that is perhaps reluctant to be handled on the table having had a previous bad experience and one that is nervous, or worse, aggressive. I found a few of the former who subsequently moved happily and showed themselves off and I was able to recognise their qualities accordingly.

In the UK I have been critical of the excessive size of some of the Standards, which sometimes goes hand in hand with excessive length. I could not make that criticism of the dogs entered under me in Australia and I don’t think there was a single Standard that I thought “I’d struggle to pick you up”. Where possible, I favoured dogs that did not have excessive length of loin which gives them too much length. I also favoured dogs without exaggerated forechests and depth of body. The breastbone should be prominent, but I found a few Smooths and Mini Smooths where what appeared to be bone was actually masked by a covering of fat. This results in an over-heavy appearance and, when followed through to the keel, meant a lack of ground clearance as well.

This was the first time I had judged Minis without scales and it does make it impossible to tell how close to the ideal weight of 4.5 Kg the dogs are. Clearly, some were bigger than the desired maximum, but none could be criticised for being “small Standards”. A few Minis could have done with a bit more body condition, but not to the extent that it was a concern.

I was really impressed with how the majority of dogs were able to step out at a good pace and cover the ground to make full use of the large size of the ring. Despite the heat (which peaked around 28C) very few dogs were lethargic on the move, nor did they pitter-patter with small steps or plod slowly around the ring.

There was real quality in depth in the Longs, Smooths and Mini Smooths. As in the UK, the quality was more variable in the other two Miniature varieties, but the quality dogs stood out. In the Mini Longs I was concerned about short upper arms and elbows that stuck out, but there were also some exhibits with very poor hindquarters, to the extent that I wondered if they had deformed tibia which is characteristic of Pes Varus. Owners should ask another handler to move their dogs away so they can see whether or not the hind movement is parallel and legs are the correct width apart. As in the UK, some Mini Wires were rather terrier-fronted, with upright shoulders and lacking much discernible prosternum.

In profile, standing, I noticed a tendency for some dogs to be rather longer in the lower thigh than is desirable so that the hock joint stands further away from the hind-quarters. I think this is an exaggeration to be aware of because, taken too far, it can result in a tummy-tapping gait with lack of rear extension and weak, wobbly movement when going away.

Coats in both the Long-haired varieties were good, with adequate feathering and generally not excessively profuse. A couple of Mini Smooths had incorrect, very soft coats instead of being dense, short and smooth. Mini Wires exhibited a range of coat types from very harsh, to very soft. Coats in the Wires tended to be presented longer than we see in the UK, although they were of good texture and correct double coats.

Overall, many of the dogs I judged could give UK exhibits a good run for their money and the handling skills, particularly in moving the dogs at a good pace, would be a model for others to learn from.

I would like to end by thanking my hosts for their generous hospitality and to all the exhibitors for entering their lovely Dachshunds and their sporting behaviour. This was definitely a trip of a lifetime and a judging appointment I shall long remember.

Photos to follow and I’ll be writing a full critique later.



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