By Barbara Bender
Reprinted from Giant Steps © May/June 1987
Depending upon who you talk to everything or nothing is wrong with the caliber of Giant Schnauzer judging on any given day. Winners feel the judge did a superb job while those losing feel the judging was generally terrible. Having been both a winner and a loser, I know I have expressed both opinions, but I hope more objectively than most exhibitors.
I could fill volumes with comments about bad judging (or good), but feel there are three areas, particular to our beloved Giants, to which judges should give more careful examination and consideration, and become better educated. At the top of the list is coat texture, second is examination “under the coat”, and lastly structure vs. the illusion created by a good (or very bad) groomer.
While all of us can quote the standard describing proper Giant Schnauzer coat, judges must penalize deviation in coat texture from that described in the standard as they would deviation from any other part of the “ideal giant”. A dog with a poor top line is penalized for the fault that is present, but is the soft‑coated Giant Schnauzer similarly penalized? I think not. I am not advocating putting up harsh coated giants who are otherwise very faulty; however, it appears that harsh-coated sound dogs are not considered for points and breed as often as they should be while soft‑coated giants with other visible faults win on their flash and furnishings. The standard describes only one coat, and any other coat should be penalized to the degree of the deviation from the ideal.
I believe in addition to actual coat texture, a properly presented, hand stripped giant should be given preference over an obviously clipped dog of otherwise equal quality. I have witnessed judges put up giants resembling seals, obviously clippered with a ten blade just days before the show. With the coat so closely clippered, there is absolutely no way the judge could discern coat texture or its deviation from the ideal coat. On the other side of this coin, I have seen judges withhold ribbons from obviously clippered giants (the ten blade look), explaining to the exhibitor their reason is inability to judge coat texture. I applaud this action by the few judges who have exercised this option. As judges if we are unable to judge any other part of the dog we would not hesitate to withhold ribbons.
The second area of giant judging which should be improved is the actual examination of the structure of the dog. Without feeling under the coat for front structure, feeling for depth of chest and brisket, feeling top line, and feeling bone, leg, and arch of toe ‑‑ much can and does go undetected. How wide are the shoulder blades from one another at the withers? How badly does the top line break? How much is hair and how much is rise over the loin? How deep is the brisket, or how much depth is simply hair? Do the feet turn in or out? Are the hocks really straight? A clever groomer can straighten an east/west front; tuck in loose elbows; and move a crooked hock as much as an inch in either direction with careful grooming. Not to mention fixing top lines, tail set, length of neck, and heads. Without actually touching these and many other parts of the Giant Schnauzer, many faults to undetected. Judges must look past the illusion created by a skillful groomer and presented by a seasoned handler.
Lastly, the greatest measuring stick of a dog's structure, and giants are no exception, is his movement. It is this area in which Giant Schnauzer judging seems to hit an all time low. I am not sure if a good number of judges simply don't understand correct foot placement and the straight column of support each leg is intended to give to the locomotion of the dog, or if judges pass off questionable things they see as “flying furnishings”. Whichever the case may be, improvement is sorely needed. Many times we witness a great looking dog stacked to perfection by his handler fall apart moving, and win! Structural faults are the cause of poor movement and should be detected by the judge (whether the dog is standing or moving), and penalized to the degree present. Poor movers are poor movers whether Dobermans or Giants, and must be detected by the officiating judge. This task is made even more difficult for the judge with a poorly groomed Giant whose owner has left enough leg hair on the dog for three giants. I recently had the opportunity to view the AKC film/video “Gait”. I had not viewed this film since about 1970, and still feel it is the best visual explanation of movement and recommend it to all judges or aspiring judges. It is an excellent primer for the beginner, or refresher for the intermediate in experience.
I have offered these thoughts in hopes of improving the judging of our beloved breed. If only a few judges take the time to consider the impressions of this article, and a slight improvement occurs as a result, then my purpose will have been met.
Yours for better Giant Judging.
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