During my many years of exhibiting, winning some and losing some, I often found myself wondering how many times I was defeated because of a minor flaw that a judge may have considered a fault.

Faults and flaws come in all shapes and sizes, sometimes performance related or more obviously in physical appearances but I believe there is a clear difference.

Faults are those defects that are clearly and specifically addressed in the standard, where flaws are merely variations and blemishes on an otherwise quality exhibit.

I believe that any judge who, unless it is a tie breaker, tosses an exhibit for a flaw, is guilty of a disservice to that particular breed.

Many times you’ll find a judges tolerance of flaws and minor faults coming from issues carried over from their very own breed standard.

If you have read your own breed standard you are well aware of the faults stated within, some variations may be stated as minor or major.

Flaws of course are most times never mentioned within a standard, so I will attempt to give some examples of those slight imperfections that sometimes judges find so offensive as to put an exhibit out of contention.

There are however, a few elusive examples of circumstances within breed standards that guide us to proper appraisal of a breed stating that a judge should or should not fault an exhibit accordingly.

Example #1 The Samoyed standard states “A judge should always see the tail over the back once when judging”.

The standard of the German Shorthaired Pointer states “A dog in hard and lean condition is not to be penalized.” In most cases depending on the breed these issues would not enter into your overall opinion of an exhibit.

Here are some examples of flaws that I feel should be of little or no consequence when viewing any high quality animal.

Some may be more breed specific than others. Please remember every situation is unique and there is much gray area and subjectivity in dog judging.

These examples only apply where limitations are not otherwise provided for within any given standard.

– Scars or imperfections in the coat.
– Sun fading or slight variations from ideal coloration.
– Light masked or excessive darkness of masking.
– A slight crook or bump in the tail
– A light toenail or missing toenail.
– Missing, crooked or recessed teeth. (disqualification to some breeds, not mentioned in other standards.)
– A stitch or small injury (sore eye, sore tail, or elbow bruised)

Performance related flaws:

– Handling, where presentation is altered by human error.
– Stepping back off an examination, especially while distracted or in young exhibits.
– Double handling.
– Performance lessened by silly behavior of a youngster or even an adult so long as it is corrected for proper appraisal of the exhibit.
– Performance lessened due to circumstances such as small rings and undesirable facilities.

There are so many other examples that could be represented, but I think this gives one a general idea.

One of my mentors once said to me that it was my responsibility as a judge to find the best dog and make sure that it ends up the winner.

Making it win meant when a situation arose where a slight performance flaw or physical flaw occurred, not to throw the baby out with the bath water!

As judges it is our sole responsibility to find the best exhibit in every circumstance.

I often find myself giving beginners small lessons in the ring to improve their dogs performance, sometimes even  the occasional “old timer” can benefit from a lesson or two.

The ideal scenario for handler and judge alike would to be presented with the highest quality exhibit, perfectly trained and conditioned, unfortunately that so very often is not the case for various reasons.

I do feel that while the quality and technical ability has risen in the handling field, unfortunately the emphasis on the very purpose of the dog show has fallen by the wayside, especially so in the young and upcoming handlers.

It is the judges sole responsibility to appraise a breed with the eye of the breeder at all times.

It’s the responsibility of the handler to present the breed to best of his or her ability. Sometimes circumstances arise where judges and handlers alike have to alter their performances to fit any given situation.

My advise to anyone as a previous professional handler and breeder exhibitor, be aware of the quality of your exhibit and know when you have the best dog and when you do not.

Understand when those minor variations in the competition are truly all that separate them from being ideal, even with a little helpful advise, they should always end up the winner.

Within our beloved breed we are gifted with so very many talented breeder owner, professional handlers who truly aspire to breed and exhibit only the finest specimen.

Having walked in those shoes for a very long time, I truly understand how frustrating it can be. One hard lesson to learn was that a good performance, good condition or a good handler does not make a good dog it simply enhances the overall appearances.

A good dog is easy to find, but when the previously mentioned advantages are not up to par, as a judge, certain adjustments might need to be made in order to perform the job we are expected and committed to do.

One can occasionally be fooled by a superb handling job, but never should one be fooled or confused by small imperfections and flaws.

Even great dogs have flaws or even faults!

A quality judge knows the difference and rewards the dogs accordingly.

Dana Cline