JUDGING THE BICHON FRISE
“YOU CAN ASK ANYTHING OF A BICHON AND he will do his best to comply."
Try to keep your eye from being swayed by exaggerations and watch for the good, sound, all-round dog you’d be happy to take home. Flash may win the day, but what will it produce in the ken- nel? Help to maintain the high quality of the breed with your awards. Selecting the sounder dog with perhaps less in-ring “sex appeal” does not make you a “giant killer.” This is a happy breed that might at some point in their inexpe- rienced show career show signs of shyness. The tail will drop, they will go around the ring hesitatingly, and generally not do a bit of good for themselves. That’s when you show your compassionate side and offer encouragement to the dog with praise, pats on the table, and all the kindness you can muster. Take a bit more time with the dog so that the next time it’s in the ring the memories will be good ones and the exhibitor will think you’re the best judge in the whole USA. But, for the most part, the breed is just naturally happy, eager, and so very willing to please. You can ask anything of a Bichon and he will do his best to comply. That’s why they make such excellent companions, hospital greeters, cheerleaders, agility and obedience dogs, and teachers of children as to how to be good pet owners. It is a breed that is a delight to judge. Not only for the sheer joy of looking at their pure, wholesome beauty, but because they fill every need a person or family could ever want in a beloved pet. Unfortunately, one is never enough.
The texture of a mature coat, while still of a comfortable, soft feel, is not like silk and smooth. Each hair is more bodied than that, with a feel of straightened curl to it. Some people suggest it offers the feel of cotton. I can only guess they are suggesting a pulled- apart cotton ball with fibers of strength, but pleasant to the fingers. When Bichons first came to America, we didn’t really know what to do with all that hair that, by golly, just kept growing and, if not brushed frequently, matted. A pattern of presentation was developed and this style of grooming has remained, enhanced, poofed, enhanced some more and, nowadays, you will see in the ring many different perspectives. For me, this is the hard part. I had my style of pattern that I had developed from watching many different non-Bichon groomers, including a great influence from my Terrier roots and George Ward’s insistence that I give them a decent rear, as well as Bichon groomer, Joe Waterman, who pre- sented the gorgeous California “awning” of coat extending over the eyes. And so, I have had to learn to accept other styles and patterns from reputable breeders, exhibitors, and handlers who may not meet what I personally preferred. But, if it looks good, I can hardly argue with the overall picture. You must develop your own eye for what you want to see in the grooming presentation of the Bichons that come into your ring. It is important that you understand that some coloration in a Bichon coat is okay. Puppies will frequently exhibit a spot or two of near-red in splotches, and 99 percent of the time this fades to all-white upon maturity. It is this presence of color that aids in the good, dark pigment required in the face and pads. As an “I didn’t know that!” thought, many Bichons that started out with color in their coats will have it return in their senior years. That’s okay, too. Good genes! The lengthy coat of the head, and the tremendous length of coat down the top ridge of the neck to the flat topline, is pretty much the accepted pattern. There are many, many fabulous groomers out there, and they are all trying to enhance the outline of their exhib- its. If, in your opinion, for example, too much coat is left on the underside of the body, making the dog appear short and low, why don’t you run your hand along the bottom of the chest and up the tuck-up, holding the coat back so that you can actually see how much leg is there and if it balances with the length of the body? If you didn’t catch it as they went around, I see no problem with requesting that the dog go back on the table for a quick check. You certainly wouldn’t want to do this with all the dogs in the ring, but only the one you really would like to consider and are trying to decide if it’s grooming or structure that is throwing your eye off. Being somewhat pushy, I don’t hesitate to mention grooming sug- gestions to the exhibitor. The professional handlers might look at me like they’d like to pinch my head off, but the sincere exhibitor who never gets to see his/her finished product from a distance appre- ciates the perception. Almost all groomers of Bichons will groom their dog to embellish its qualities and will do their darndest to hide the lesser traits. This is, in fact, the basic premise of the dog game.
SHOWSIGHT joins the Bichon Frise Club of America and the entire fancy in sadness at the loss of Ann. Always pleasant, always polite, and a bright spot in everyone’s day, Ann devoted her life to the sport she loved most. Our condolences to her family and friends, which we like to think includes us. –ed.
200 | SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, APRIL 2022
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