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
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
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
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. )