The few breeders have worked at retaining the sturdy, moderate build and have worked hard at producing outgoing temperaments. MF: When I first started judging there seemed to be more Irish Water Spaniels in the ring. Today, when I have the pleasure of an entry, I usually have exhibits of the same quality. Quality remains consistent, though numbers are decreasing. HG: I have judged several Nationals and Specialties. It always shocks and disappoints me when the exhibitors, breeders or those just looking for their next stud dog, leave before the Veterans come in. They are our history and for the most part better than what is in the ring today. There will always be the exceptional dog that will come along, but for the most part they are not getting better. These are just some of the things happening that would never have been shown or bred years ago. Now they are in the ring and probably in the whelping box. I just did a futurity and was saddened to see what was going on in their mouths. Teeth are getting smaller, bottom jaws are loos- ing their depth and width (for the teeth to be properly fitted) and the result are bites becoming even or miss- ing teeth. The breed’s forefather would have considered them for hunting or breeding. Why are we doing it? VL: I think generally, thanks to some really excellent breeders putting their mark on the breed, there is more uniformity and better balance being seen now. Size has come more into standard. There is still work to do with sound-moving dogs, especially in rear movement. WP: In my opinion, this is a Sporting breed has undergone minimal changes from past to present, with the excep- tion that we now find more level top lines than a slightly higher rear. JR: When I first started judging there were very few Irish Water Spaniels in the shows and they were clearly working dogs. “Dugan” changed all of that and a few dedicated successful breeders picked up the ball so that I think today’s dogs are better in the ring. 7. What do you think new judges misunderstand about the breed? M F: I feel new judges do not truly understand the tempera- ment of the Irish Water Spaniel. All too often, a new judge will approach the breed in a manner that does address their natural wariness of strangers. Also, truly understanding and rewarding proper make a shape takes an educated effort. The subtle details in topline, loin, croup and tail set define breed type, and are lost in the
judging process because new judges are often seduced by coat and presentation. HG: To truly understand the Sporting group, judges need to see these dogs work. If there is not a trial around, then make videos and send the link to all Sporting judges— new and already approved. This will help them to under- stand their job and why they are built this way and the need of a specific coat type. VL: I think judges new to Sporting and to Irish Water Spaniels mistakenly believe this is a “Spaniel” breed and start looking for some of the traits we associate with a Spaniel—which they are not! Correct curls, the widow’s peak and beard seem to be a bit of a challenge. The myth that circulates about the breed is that temperament is not steady and new judges buy into this and are apprehensive about approaching the dogs for the examination. WP: That they are not only a very unusual show dog but rather a gun dog with temperament, type and structure. JR: I feel that sometimes the beauty and showmanship of many breeds takes away from essential characteristics particularly in the numerically smaller breeds. AH: I think the IWS is pretty straightforward for judges to understand if they study the purpose of the breed. He is a gun dog needing those attributes, plus proper coat and hardworking condition. I find most examples in the ring to be of excellent quality, although coats “...thAnks to some reAlly excellent breeders putting their mArk on the breed, there is more UNIFORMITY AND BETTER BALANCE BEING SEEN NOW.
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