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Another Judge's Point of View

by Ian Copus

I was asked to write this article several months ago. After judging in Holland and England at Championship Show level this year and attending both Canadian and American National Specialties, I will give an overview of the present state of the Bearded Collie, AS I SEE IT. 

Having shown dogs for 34 years, and judged for 24 years, it is clear that judges will never agree on the placing of dogs, because the breed standards (for whatever breed you are judging) are open to individual interpretation and each judge will have their own personal priorities for what is, or is not acceptable to them. After all, if all judges put up the same dogs, would we keep going to the shows, knowing that the same dog was going to win all the time? I think not. You pay your money and take your chance -one day, a judge goes for the glamorous coat, presenting a lovely picture, the next day a different judge will put up the dog covering the ground the best, and the next day a judge will go for the correctly constructed dog, in his/her eye. Some dogs are lucky enough to appeal to all three judges, others won't. We have all seen it happen - you pay your money, and take your chance. I am sure this description I will give you of the Beardies I have judged and observed this year will cause some people to say, "What the h**l is he talking about, and what does he know anyway!!" But remember, it is only one judge's opinion. 

I always believe in starting with the positive, an without a doubt, temperament seems to be excellent in the breed. I have not come across any nasty or exceptionally wary Beardies in my judging assignments this year and have certainly not witnessed any at the Specialties I have attended. We are truly fortunate in our breed, and I hope breeders continue to keep the wonderful temperaments our breed possesses, and keep it as their number one priority when breeding. I know there is always the odd dog someone will cite as being untrustworthy or skittish, but I am talking in general terms which I shall do throughout. 

The quality of coats and their presentation is also very high. (The issue of trimming I will raise later.) Well groomed, clean and well presented Beardies seem to be the order of the day, wherever I have judged or observed them. Coat textures have been excellent, with very few Beardies having soft coats. 

Depth of chests, length of ribs, that are well sprung, are very good, with top lines on the improvement. There are fewer dogs around that are excessively long in the loin. This good deep rib cage is essential for the Beardie to possess, if he is to have the heart and lung room that they require. A few dogs are tending to be on the square side, we should remember always the 5:4 ratio. 

In general I have been pleased with heads and muzzles, with good moderate stops, although there are a few snipey Beardies, and I have been concerned with what appears to be an increasing number of Beardies with incorrect bites: overshot, undershot, or misplaced teeth. My recent trip to England saw a number of Beardies with very high ear sets, something I have not noticed before. 

One of my gravest concerns is eye colour. It is rapidly disappearing. The eye colour of the Beardie should tone with the coat, so that the Beardie gives you that soft, melting expression that is unique to our breed. You cannot help but smile when you look at a Beardie's face, if it has be correct expression. Too often I am finding, I do not smile and in some cases wish to turn my head away from Beardies, whose eyes are so pale that their expression becomes harsh and unpleasant to look at. I have been concerned about this aspect for several years and my critique has never changed when I have written one for the dog press, clubs or individuals, as one does in Europe - eye colour is being forgotten by the breeders. 

Movement is also of concern to me, with many dogs being restricted in front due to poor shoulder placement an length/angle of the upper arm. However, this is the biggest area of improvement in the dogs in Holland, where shoulder placement and upper arm was very good, and so therefore was front movement. Hindquarters show many dogs being straight in the stifle or over angulated with either too close, or crossing movement, or lacking in drive or exhibiting a high kicking gait. My recent assignment in England saw a dramatic improvement in rears since I last judged there in 1991. Many lack muscle which can only be put down to lack of exercise. We are also seeing the occasional Beardie with an eye catching hackney gait, very pretty but totally alien for the Beardie. All the effort is being put into an upward movement, instead of that smooth, long reaching, ground covering movement we love to see when they move correctly. The need for some exhibitors, especially Canadian or American, to move their Beardies at break-neck speed, I feel is done, as many of our judges seem to believe that the faster the dog moves around the ring, the better it must be. Often this is not the case, if these dogs are moved at a normal pace, you suddenly realize why their owners' handlers are moving them so fast, they are hiding faults more often than not. 

I last judged in Holland in 1990, at the World Winners Show, and I have to say that I feel the breeders there have done a first class job in improving their stock, and I was very pleased to see the improvement when I judged there in April of this year. I was also impressed with the large entry I received in September of this year at Darlington Championship Show. Of the 196 dogs entered none were trimmed and all shown on loose leads. I also feel that the breed has improved in England since I last judged in December of 1991. In this country's case there has been improvements in fronts and rears. I last judged in the U.S.A. in 1994, and was at that time generally pleased with the quality of the dogs, however, I have to say that from the ringside of late I have been disappointed with movement, especially the fronts and rears that I am seeing. We should take a close look at what we are breeding, and be critical of ourselves and our respective breeding programmes. 

This is my general impression of the Beardies of today. What do I look for in a Bearded Collie? A long, lean dog with a good depth of chest and length to the ribcage. Well places shoulders and matching rear angulation, which should give the dog an effortless free flowing movement. The Beardie head should be strong with eye colour that tones with the coat, giving the dog that wonderful melting expression that only a Beardie possesses. The amount of coat is not important to me, it is the quality that counts, a good harsh coat is essential in the breed. 

I personally believe that trimming is unnecessary, after all it is supposed to be a naturally presented dog. In Holland some dogs or I should say the exhibitors were penalized heavily for blatant and bad use of scissors and/or clippers. The same occurred when I judged in the States. The issue of trimming has to be put into perspective and it is the right of the individual judges to penalize dogs for such a fault, if they see it as such. Personally, I would weigh it up with the other dogs in the ring on a particular occasion and decide on the severity of the penalty for that dog in comparison with the other dogs' merits/faults that were present. 

This has been a very quick overview, as I have only just returned from my judging trip to England, and the deadline for this article is next week. The task of judges, when faced with an entry of dogs is to choose in their mind the dog/dogs which they believe best fit the standard. Thus the dogs placed will vary from show to show, with the occasional extra special dog winning under a variety of breed specialists and all rounders. Every dogs has his day, some more often than others, but keep it all in perspective. We all go home from a dog show with the best Bearded Collie - well, at least I do!!!!!!

Copyright © 1997 [Ian Copus]
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Last revised: November 11, 2010