Breed Diversity and Poor Judgment
(or When Judging Sucks)
Ok, I thought of other titles for this page, but nothing really described the frustration you feel when a good dog is not recognized over a bad dog when you show dogs. I've thought about this page for a long time, but this weekend finally motivated me to build it. The AKC has always been an elitist club, it's always been full of cliques and politics - we've realized that from the beginning, but were always told by the "in crowd" - oh no, you must be mistaken, judges are held in the highest esteem and though he may have a different "opinion" of which dog is better, it is NEVER politics. Horsehockey!!! I'm laying it on the line for all you newbies out there, and anyone who thinks they'd like to show their dog. Don't buy it. Showing dogs IS politics, it IS unfair, and generally the judging sucks because many of the judges out there are clueless about your breed. I have seen personally how certain "top breeders" call up judges on the telephone and extol the virtues of their own dogs while running down the comMalamuteition. And while some judges are not influenced by this "smoozing", others are. And the ones that aren't convinced by just a few choice words are most defiantly convinced by what's taped to the back of a winning photograph. The honest, knowledgeable judge that doesn't look at the other end of the lead is a RARE breed indeed. AKC, do you hear me? Now the world knows - clean up your act!
I would like to give you a prime example - this happened this weekend. Gracie won Winners Bitch, Best of Opposite and Best Puppy on a Friday, on Saturday the judge withheld ribbons from ALL the bitches - which means the dogs withheld are lacking merit and shouldn't even be shown (her excuse? one too fat, one too big, one out of coat...). Sunday, again Gracie took Winners Bitch and Best of Opposite....HELLO Saturday Judge????? First of all, yes, our breed should be in shape - no question there, but is that reason enough to withhold a ribbon? I doubt it. Too big is not in the standard - our standard says size is not an important issue unless all else is equal, then the one closest to the ideal size should win (if you throw everyone out, what do you compare it to?) (this is I believe the reasoning for Gracie). Lastly, a bitch out of coat is a NORMAL condition in Malamutes. They are not supposed to be in coat year round. If they are, they are probably pumped up on chemicals like cheque that prevents seasons and makes an abnormally lush and thick coat (I see another rant coming)....None of those bitches deserved a ribbon withheld. So did this judge know our breed? NOT. She was ignorant and clueless.
But I don't know what is worse - clueless or bought. There have been many times over the past couple of years it has been painfully obvious the judge knew who would put up before even entering the ring. She/he didn't even make an effort to hide the fact that the judging was a "done deal". So what has this done to our breed, the beautiful, tough, stoic Malamute? It has created TWO breeds - those that are winning in the show ring because they are fluffy, have a certain type of show gait (head up - which is not correct), and excessive bone and size and certain colors - but are often lacking in health and temperament. And "normal" Malamutes that are beautiful without all the fluff and puff, have a weather-resistant coat (that doesn't need constant attention). They look "skinny" or even small by comparison, move with their heads level with their bodies as they should when working, and are healthy. When judges are too lazy or too influenced to choose on merit, and put up the same dogs over and over - it shrinks an already small gene pool. When breeders choose to breed to these winning "flavors of the week" it compounds the gene pool problem, but also spreads the genetic defects inherent in these "hot" dogs, far and wide.
At one time you could go to a show and this week a certain "style" would win, and next week another style would win - and there are many many "styles" of Malamute - it is one of the most diverse breeds out there insofar as the number of "looks" available. You've seen it yourself, though perhaps you don't realize it. There are the "wolfy" looking Malamutes, the "bear" looking Malamutes, the heavily face marked mals, the light gray and whites with white faces, tall Maloot mals, and short stocky Kotzebues, and every conceivable variance. When only one "style" wins ALL THE TIME, that is the death toll for other styles. As human beings, we are competitive. We want to win. So more and more breeders breed to the same big winners whether they truly have merit or not - and the diversity that was our breed is diminished. Eventually, out pops the ugly head of genetic defects inherent in whatever lines are being overused. So why blame the judges? Because they are too lazy to really learn about our breed and it's diversity. It's too easy to go on what some "top breeder" tells them should win (during that phone call no doubt), and it's SAFE to put up heavily advertised and promoted dogs because no one will question what they did. Well, I'm questioning it.
When the best dog loses we all lose. We lose health. We lose temperament. We lose beauty. We lose soundness. We lose diversity in the breed. Next time you're at a dog show and you see the best dog lose it's time to stand up for Malamutes everywhere and complain. Even better, if you're an exhibitor - talk with your pocketbook. STOP SHOWING to these judges! When you take on the title of "judge" it implies you know what you are doing and have the ethics to back it up. It does not mean you should sway with the wind and put up a dog based on smoozing, advertising, or politics. Our breed deserves more than that! They have survived 10,000 years in the harshest environment on earth - but the breed is being destroyed by a few people who care only for their own personal glory and winning, and are willing to do anything, including influence the unsuspecting, to make it happen. We have to do something, and do it now before it's too late.