I had the rare pleasure of judging at a Golden Retriever match , last week, in the beautiful grounds of Holycross Abbey. It’s not often I have the oppurtunity to stand at the other end of the leash and I think it gives me more perspective as a handler into how difficult, sometimes, judging dogs can be.
There are things you see from the center of the ring that are often invisible to anyone else except the judge but can make or break your decision between putting one dog in front of the other.
My final selection came down to two bitches. Both very different in type and both , possibly, making it to the final two dogs for different reasons… the overall winning bitch presented the complete picture , in my head, of what a Golden Retriever should be..all the right angles in all the right places, strong but still holding that feminine outline and a head and expression to die for.
I have judged a few times now and although I appreciate and can admire a dog that is carefully stacked and presented I feel that I am a person who will inevitably judge dogs on movement. More than coat, head, tailset and expression I feel that if a dog is made correctly it will all come together on the move . When I asked them to go around for the final time both bitches were faultless…those lovely flowing lines, front and rear moving in symmetry to hold a topline that was poetry in motion..each footfall perfect. At this point with two dogs so equal the final decision, I feel, comes down to the individual dog/bitch…which one wants it more?
Many times over the past few years I have listened to people bemoan the fact that their dog should have won the challenge as they were the better dog/bitch.However, I feel when it gets to that point in the competition there has to be something that gives the eventual winner more of an edge and it has to be something more than just good movement. I like to see some sparkle , something that says ‘hey, look at me’ . So as I watched them take their final turn around the ring that afternoon she had it. I could feel it as I watched her..that imperceptible thrill and pure enjoyment coming from her as she moved around that small country hall.