Vizsladogs, Ltd.

Showing Your Vizsla In the Breed Ring

After reading an email note that Lu Hart of Arkansas wrote for the Vizsla Listserv, we asked if she would rework it a bit and submit it for the Vizsla Home. We are very happy to present this August 1995 article on conformation and want to reaffirm our invitation to others to make submissions.

In response to questions from other Vizsla owners, I've put together a few reflections on showing Vizslas in the breed ring. (If I have any qualifications at all for this task, they are the numerous mistakes I've experienced personally. I have literally run into judges, knocked down ring barriers, left the ring at the wrong time, stacked my dog badly, moved my dog poorly, and in general been about as hopeless a handler as one will ever see. Thanks to some good dogs and forgiving judges, I've finished my dogs anyway -- and along the way, eventually learned a little bit about the right way to do it. My thanks to all of you who helped me along the way!)

Those of us more familiar with obedience or field trials wonder sometimes at the beginning of our show careers: Are there any objective standards at all in the breed ring? And yes, each judge does have his/her own picture of the standard (as do we all!). However, judges spend a LOT of time studying their breeds, and the "ideal Vizsla" picture must be reasonably consistent among judges, as a good dog never has trouble winning under lots of different judges. You do learn along the way which judges prefer larger or smaller dogs, darker or lighter coats, etc... I've found that a really good-moving dog always has an advantage.

Also, some judges care more than others do about ring behavior. (If the judge in question used to be a professional handler themselves, it's a better than even bet that he/she expects to see a well-trained, smoothly presented animal.)

I have seen more than one Vizsla judge compliment dogs for field condition (including some barbed-wire scars), so there are at least a few judges out there working with us to keep it a true dual breed.

Judges ideally do NOT score on "fault-finding". The best judging is based on the over-all quality of the dog; an exceptionally good Vizsla with one or two minor but glaringly obvious faults should be (and usually is) put up over one with no glaring faults but no great strengths either. We're not trying to breed for mediocrity!

Unlike the practice in Great Britain, in the USA judges do not have to give a detailed critique of each dog they place. But usually if you approach them politely after they're through judging, they will tell you what they thought of your dog. Do NOT ask why the placements were in the order they were -- you will just get the stock non-answer, "I just liked the other dog a little bit better.". Instead, ask to learn more about that judge's interpretation of your breed's standard in general. Many judges are willing teachers when they have the time.

No matter what the "whiners" tell you, there's really not that much "politics" in the classes. (Best In Show may perhaps be another matter!) Professional handlers win frequently with dogs that have minor faults because they know how to present that dog in a way that minimizes the faults and accentuates the virtues. You can learn to do this yourself. Read, attend seminars, practice, ask experienced people, and practice some more.

Watch other breeds being judged, and try to determine what the winning handlers are doing to present their dogs well. Notice that the top handlers have "quiet hands" (to quote George Alston); that is, they do NOT continually fuss with the dog. The judge should notice the dog, not the handler. Believe in your dog! If YOU believe that your dog is special, the dog will show much better.

How do you know whether your dog is "show material"? Ask knowledgeable people: judges, handlers, long-time breeders. Try to choose a bluntly honest sort of person to ask, rather than someone who might try to spare your feelings. It's better to know the truth as soon as possible.

And if your dog "isn't really show material", but you'd love to take him/her into the ring yourself at that hometown show, why not? Go for it -- fun is the real reason for all this insanity, anyway. As long as you and your Vizsla are having a good time, that's what really matters.

(Note: Both the Boggs and the Crawford breed books on the Vizsla have sections on stacking and gaiting. One of the most useful books I've seen on training for show is Everyday Dog, by Nancy Johnson -- usually marketed as an obedience training book, but it's really both. If you don't have a bookstore handy that carries these books, you can call 1-800-776-2665 for Direct Book Service and they can take care of you. )

Vizsladogs, Ltd.
5-21-95 © 1995 - 2006
Last updated 02