An AKC judge examines a flash in the pan puppy or a new look in the breed, how they are created, judged, and wisely used in a breeding program.



E. Katie Gammill, AKC Judge, Exhibition Editor - December 2009


A “flash in the pan” winner is a sight to behold. Finishing from Puppy Class is wonderful but is the dog still a “flier” at maturity?


Did the puppy live up to early promise or is it overdone or oversized? Will it hold those extraordinary virtues and contribute to a pedigree in a positive manner? Will everyone rush to breed to the dog before they have those answers?


E. Katie Gammill, AKC Judge/Exhibition Editor, TheDogPlace.orgIs this why newcomers entering our sport become disillusioned quickly? Are they expecting instant success? Perhaps they don’t take time to “do their homework”. Perhaps they were misled by a breeder with little experience. Therefore, they “do their own thing.” Granted, a single undisciplined breeding may produce a winner but can they repeat that success? Many newcomers sell each and every puppy in the litter as “show quality”. Later, they have a rude awakening. They soon learn “show puppies” are few and far between.


A great part of making a show dog depends on the new owner’s effort regarding socialization, grooming, and handling expertise. Some breeders entrust their “pick of litter” to a novice but that does nothing to insure that puppy’s future unless the novice is willing to take advice and listen. If said puppy doesn’t win, eventually it is bred into an unknown pedigree and the older breeder’s success quickly dissolves into ambiguity. Some breeders know this and that’s why it is difficult to buy a “show puppy” from a successful breeder.

A newcomer should NOT dictate what is considered success. Will they be able to reproduce their success down the line? What do they know of the genetics involved? It is very easy to “snatch defeat from the jaws of victory” by taking a animal from a successful breeding program and crossing into a mish mash pedigree that offers little except “top names”. “Champion” in front of a name does not determine the dog’s ability to reproduce that which secured the coveted title. It does not even insure quality. Many dogs are “Champions” but are Specials material. There is a distinct difference!

This alone is a good reason to find a reputable mentor. When did apprenticeship go out of vogue? Listen to the old breeders regarding the continuity of pedigree. There are rules for success and excuses for failure, yet both are often ignored in the pursuit of an “instant winner”. Lack of experience wobbles on the edge of disaster, cementing in traits that can destroy a breeding program. A selective breeding program may go array. I know someone who started over no less than four times to identify that which was acceptable according to expectations. In less successful breeding programs, genetic problems are swept under the rug.

Analytical judgment of a dog when it is compared to a standard offers diverse opinions because breeders differ in their goals. In theory, each breed has a specific standard or blueprint to follow that places everyone on the “same page”. This in turn creates a “level playing field” but that’s a mouthful of malarkey. When this mind set is accepted, the winners are few and the losers are many. The problem is this. Why should serious breeders breed to a standard when judges tend to go with “trends” and not appreciate or award a dog bred to standard?

Someone produces a dog with an incorrect “goose” neck and a judge views this as “style”. An exhibitor leaves with the blue ribbon in hand and a plethora of breeders attempt to produce the same trait because “it wins!” Nevermind such a “trait” is undesirable according to the standard. It won, thus it MUST be right! Many people, including judges, do not read their standard much less study it.

An example of this is the swing to bigger dogs. Judging large and small breeds in sequence on a given day requires judge’s to refresh their memory by referring to the standard and noting the correct size regarding the next breed. Otherwise, they may reward an oversize small breed dog because their eye was used to seeing a much larger animal in the prior breed. Even if the size is only a “suggested size” and not a disqualification, size still affects the way a dog carries itself and performs. The distinct difference in “toy, moderate, and giant” should be always be taken into consideration before deciding Winners.

“Type swings to and fro” due to a specific trait catching a judge’s eye. My mentor said “Those who remain true to the standard will be the winners in the end”; I might add she failed to tell me if I would live long enough to see this come about.
The person who created this “different” animal does NOT pay the price. It is the true breeders who pay the price by suffering the consequences of remaining true to the breed standard. THEY are the “odd man out”.

A dog is only as good as its genetic make up. “Compromise is the crutch to justify what we produce in our litters.” “We breed what we like, we show what we get.” Feel free to quote me! And when YOU take your dog with the “new look” into the ring, it wins. When they show their new show puppy purchased from you, it does not win. Explain that to a novice. This is why good handlers are at a premium. Through their expert grooming, most dogs may “look like a winner”. They do not show “faults” to the judge, but emphasize positives. They convince the judge by presenting it like it is the best dog in the ring. It is called ATTITUDE, a requirement needed by both dog and handler. The rest of the exhibitors in the ring must present a far better animal to be recognized and pulled forward for the win. On the other side, if owners and breeders spent 24/7 training, cleaning up after, socializing, and brushing their dogs, they too, could be winners.

Here is a suggestion. When a particular “look” appears in your breed, you have choices. You can turn your nose up in disdain and watch this person continue on the merry path of “win now and pay later.” You can jump on the band wagon and enjoy success for a while. Or you can review pedigrees, open the door of “possibility” and perhaps utilize a few of their ideas. It is your choice.

Where did the look come from? Carefully tiptoe forward, peeking around corners, watching the success or failure of such an animal over a period of time. This one-time desirable “look” may “fall off the cliff of opinion” much like others before it. If the animal continues to have that “certain something” that impresses judges, then take the opportunity to carefully incorporate a desirable nuance, at the same time, weeding out the less than desirable traits picked up in the cross. Grow a few out to watch them mature. Breeding dogs takes time, it is difficult. Losing a good breeding program due to selection of “current winning types” can devastate a breeder.

True breed type IS the standard”. Preferred breed type is “flavor of the month”. And “hot damn, it wins, who cares” will be the end of us all. A flash in the pan can only be wisely used if it sustains the quality.


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