I had been invited to judge in Bologna in 2004 at the traditional Raduno.
Below you can read the questions that the Italian Siberian Husky breeders were interested to get my opinion about prior to the judging:
To answer this question I just need to think of our standard, which describes a medium-sized, moderately compact, balanced dog that is quick and light on his feet and free and graceful in movement. Siberians are endurance trotters therefore they need longer leg than depth of chest and slightly more length of body than height, well laid back shoulders and sloping croup. Only dogs that are built well can stand long days of hard work.
I personally hate to see a dog that heavily groomed. This is a working dog! We must not forget it! The dog must be clean and neat but I don?t like to see powder and glitter spray on the coat. Siberian husky is one of the quite few natural breeds and the use of mousses, sprays and powders is a crime against the naturalness of the breed. Trimming is another issue I could kill for. This is strictly prohibited in the standard and we have to keep the rules.
Good presentation can give a great advantage of dog. Good handling brings out the best in a dog, while poor handling can damage his appearance, giving the impression of faults that are not really there. But all of us must be aware that it is the dog, and not us, who is under judgement.
I consider it important however, when I see a good dog with a beginner handler making mistakes while handling the dog, I would try and help him with some advices and give him another chance to do the exercise again, hopefully correctly.
The best way would be to go to several dog shows first and watch carefully the judgements. We should just sit and look at how the show goes, what does the judge do and what do the handlers do. We can learn a lot of these events. And it is much easier and less painful to learn from other people?s mistakes than from ours. Look for the dogs that are moderate, whose movement seems truly effortless. Then we should go to the handlers or breeders that we liked the most and get an appointment to see their whole kennel. We should visit several kennels before we make our final decision. We should stick to see as many dogs as possible and evaluate their behaviour, their condition, homogeneity and environment. The relationship between the dogs and the breeder will also tell you a lot. A single winner should not attract us; we must go and see his relatives as well. If we did well our homework, we have a great chance to get a dog that will give us a lot of joy and success in the show ring. Novice people should also understand that showing dogs is a serious hobby that is challenging, expensive, and often frustrating. We need a lot of patience, stamina and also great bucket of luck. We need to be very open to new information. We never stop learning.
We are talking about a working dog that should be able to pull light loads for long distances so I would say that this is the most important. This is the essence of the breed. A dog can have such faults that could be very well hidden (especially with a professional handler) when stacked but these faults will definitely come up when the dog is gaited. Unfortunately, in many cases the judges do not use their hands only their eyes when judging. A good handler can very easily mislead these people. People who do not know anatomy should not judge this breed.
We are not taking part in sled dog competitions but that does not mean that we do nothing with our dogs. Although we own a sled we train our dogs mainly with bicycle since we do not have too much snow unfortunately. All our dogs are tested for willingness of pulling. What is important for me that it makes them and also us happy. Unfortunately the mushers prefer to use long legged, skinny, short-coated creatures since they are obviously run faster especially in this climate and in short distances. On the other hand, we have to consider that those animals would die after the first day in minus 40-50 degree. I believe that both parties should start to get closer to each other. Mushers should understand that a correctly built, well furred dog could only survive in the Artic climate and run long distances while breeders should make a bigger emphasise on doing any kind of exercise with their breeding stock that proves that they are able to do their original task and are willing workers. My opinion is that a show dog should be able to put on a harness the day after a show and perform on the trail.
My ideal Siberian is a happy, outgoing dog. While standing and moving the dog looks like a balanced athlete. Nice coat is really very attractive but there must be something under the coat. Balance is very important and depending on the front end matches the rear. The angulation of the shoulder and hip joints should be approximately equal in order to provide equal reach in the front and in the rear. The lack of this balance is mainly the reason of incorrect movement.
Siberians must have a lovely, keen and friendly expression. Nice markings help to provide such expression but we have to try and look behind the markings. When you look only the head of the dog it should be obvious that it is a male or a female. It is very important to have almond shaped, obliquely set eyes since it is necessary to protect the eyeballs in the freezing wind. We tend to see a lot of dogs that have good shaped eyes but they are not obliquely set and that has a very bad effect on the overall expression of the dog. The ears are medium-sized, well-furred, set high on the head and strongly erected. Stop must be well defined. The length of the muzzle is also a critical point of the examination of the head. Many dogs have too short muzzle, which gives them a very sweet appearance although it is very dangerous in having a proper scissors bite. Also the length of the muzzle has an important role in the warming up of the inhaled cold air. On the whole, the head must be in proportion to the body. Pigmentation must be checked. Nowadays I met quite a few (mainly red) dogs that had pink parts on their lips. Breeders should be more careful with it. The croup should fall away at about a 30 degree angle. Insufficient slope to the croup often comes with a high tail set and a dog that pushes air with his rear legs, not ground. It might look nice in the ring but inefficient when pulling a sled.
The correct topline is straight and strong from the withers to the loin. Since we would like to see, as above mentioned, that the croup should fall away at about a 30 degree angle this creates a slight arch over the loin. On the other hand, we must be careful when evaluating the topline since the quite often seen dark colouring over the back of the dog might mislead our eyes and show that the dog has a incorrect topline. When gaited on a moderately fast trot the topline must be level from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail.
Our standard does not talk about the length of the tail. Unfortunately we see quite often dogs with noticeable short tails. I personally prefer when the dropped tail riches the hocks. The tail should be set just below the level of the topline. Too little slope of the croup creates a high tail set, which results many times incorrect tail carriage and often comes with faulty rear movement.
A Siberians are friendly, happy dogs with outgoing, positive approach to life and are sound both mentally and physically. They are full of energy so I never expect them to stand like a statue in the rings. Shyness and aggression are unacceptable and should be penalized. To avoid such problems we breeders can do the most with early and proper socialisation of our puppies.
This is what this breed is all about. Siberians are real athletes. Their trot is elegant and free, smooth and effortless, often called as a floating gait. He holds his head level or just above his topline and looks like a long flat line from the tip of the nose to the tip of the trailing tail. It simply looks fantastic really an eye-catching movement and that is what a Siberian is about! The standard asks for a loose lead at a moderately fast trot. When we see a dog without proper movement, there must be something wrong with his body structure that we did not notice when the dog was stacked. Good angulation facilitates a smooth, ground-covering stride while poor angulation shortens stride. Ideal Siberians are single tracking, unfortunately in small show rings it can hardly be seen. It is necessary to give them enough space and time to get on this movement.
There are unfortunately several faults that seem to be quite difficult to correct. I consider as the main one the short legs and correlated to it the body proportion. Short upper arms and straight shoulders are still to be improved in many lines. As I already mentioned not obliquely set eyes can damage the real Siberian expression and so does the round eyes. Other fault that we quite often see is the weak ears that are not strongly erected and flapping when the dog is moving. This fault is mostly coming with weak bone structure.
I think we have a very good standard deriving from the fact that the earliest version was written by people who had been working with their dogs and had seen the early development of the breed arrived to North America. However, since then there were several revisions of the standard mainly to describe more accurately the specifications of the breed the main content of the standard had remained the same and did not change with the fashion. In many breeds, the dogs? appearance and movement etc. are based on the breeders? ideas and work. The Siberian is a breed that had survived by natural selection. His movement, eyes, ears, tail, coat, etc. are deriving from the natural selection, and all of these features have important role of the survival and function of this breed.
Breeding is a time and energy consuming, expensive and often frustrating activity. It should never be considered as a profit making business. I believe that the most important thing is to keep nice harmony between breeding and other parts of your life. It should never overwhelm your life. We need a lot of patience, stamina and must not rush. It should be considered as life long hobby, a lifestyle with beautiful and sweet tempered animals.
I believe that both options have their advantage and disadvantage also. A breeder judge is much more aware of all the specifications of the breed and have an up-to-date picture of the breed. He or she probably well knows all the faults that should be corrected and also keeps an eye on the development of certain lines. On the other hand a breeder judge has his/her own taste. An all-rounder judge knows more about dogs overall and must had seen thousands of dogs in the ring resulting a much wider overall view of dogs. However, an all-rounder judge might not be so precise when judging Siberians and probably is not aware or does not pay as much attention on particularities of the breed. On the whole I definitely more interested of the opinion of a breeder judge. This is far more interesting to have another breeder?s opinion on my work.
No. Unfortunately not always. In fact quite rarely. There are lots of politics behind the scene, which is quite sad and frustrating. I personally try to avoid entering my dogs under judges that are not doing their job fairly. In case the entries drop significantly under a judge invited, the kennel club should pay attention to find out the reasons. We worked out a small questionnaire with 8-10 questions about the judging. This questionnaire should be enclosed to each catalogue and should be filled by the exhibitors and dropped into a box anonymously. By the end of the year a quite large database should be collected and based on this the judges should be praised or convicted. Unfortunately it is still an idea and not a working example but I believe we, exhibitors have the right to get a fair judgement for our work and our money. The different breed clubs might list those judges whom most of the club members prefer to see in the rings and maybe another list should also be prepared with those names who should not be invited to judge that specific breed.
The Siberian husky is a marvellous mixture of power, endurance, speed, stamina and in the same time beauty and charming temperament. ?The Siberian Husky is a medium-sized working dog, quick and light on his feet and graceful in action. His moderately compact and well-furred body, erect ears and brush tail suggest his Northern heritage. His characteristic gait is smooth and seemingly effortless. He performs his original function in harness most capably, carrying a light load at a moderate speed over great differences.? It is our task to own, love, breed and judge them according to this.