At a recent English Cocker Specialty, I got involved in a discussion
on judging "to type". I was a latecomer, so I do not know how the topic
of type arose, but I was concerned that so much emphasis was placed on the
one aspect of judging by some of the participants present. Unfortunately,
not much time was allocated for opposing viewpoints, but lively interchanges
of opinion took place later and, as a result, I was asked to make my point
of view known in the form of an article.
Surely, when judging a high-class show where top-ranking dogs are exhibited,
type is well-established and adhered to by all serious breeders, and no
significant deviation is evident? "He was not my type" is the oft heard reply
made by some judges when asked why certain dogs did not place or go higher
- this, to my mind, is the hallmark of an inept judge, and is usually a lame
excuse for overlooking (or de-liberately downgrading) an excellent specimen.
"Type" like "quality" is difficult to define. To me, type is the amalgam
of all the essentials that the breed requires. these basics are conformation,
balance, substance and soundness (both of movement and temperament). No
dog, no matter how pretty it looks, can be a good dog without these essentials,
nor can it be said to be typical of its breed if any of them is lacking.
The standard clearly defines these points. No one should read anything into
the standard that is not there - if judges and breeders alike adhered to
the standard, there would be only one type and that would be the correct
Conformation is the way that the various parts of an animal's body fit
together and the way they are assembled differentiates one breed from another.
Any departure from the standard constitutes a fault (i.e. the standard states
a short, strong back - a long back is therefore a fault, and so on ...). So,
read your standard and understand it. You will then see that any serious deviation
from it would make your dog "untypical."
Balance - the standard states that ABOVE ALL, the English Cocker is
a balanced dog, both when standing and when moving. Thus, ANY exaggeration
would constitute a fault and make him untypical (i.e., overlong legs or neck,
For balance, the dog HAS to be viewed as a whole, so that the smaller
or larger dog is correct (within limits, of course) if he is in balance.
Substance - the standard states that the English cocker has to have as much
bone and substance as is possible, so long as he does not appear coarse or
cloddy. Thus, a slender, lightly-boned, elegant dog is not typical.
Neither should fat be construed as substance. Substance is made up of
good hard bone, flesh and muscle.
Movement and Temperament - these two often seem to go hand in hand.
An English Cocker's gait is characterized by drive and power - not speed.
A shy or sluggish temperament does not seem to be part of a dog who moves
in the positive fashion demanded by the standard, or for the work he was
bred for. He could not work all day in punishing cover if his temperament
and movement were not as stated in the standard and would, therefore be untypical
for of his breed. A really good dog needs to be pretty close to correct in
all the above points, and be able to show them off when on the move to be
considered for a winners spot in the show rings of today.
When a judge has a lineup of dogs all meeting the requirements of the
breed standard, it is THEN that he can begin to indulge his own preferences
as to head properties, eye color, density or otherwise of coat, feet, etc.,
but please do not let us tolerate judges who have their own ideas of what
type of English cocker we should breed. The finer points, such as good presentation,
expression, texture of coat, etc. all help a dog to "fill the judge's eye"
but, for the good of the breed, a good dog poorly handled should always beat
a well-presented, expertly handled one of lesser worth. Alas! This does not
always happen, and the days when the best dogs in good competitions are ASSURED
of winning are the days that neither you, my friend, nor I will live to see.
Reprinted from the ECSCA News Review July/August 1990