JUDGING THE ENGLISH TOY SPANIEL
By Fred C. Bassett AKC Approved Dog Show Judge American Pomeranian Club Judges Education Coordinator I t is a great pleasure to have been invited to write about judging the English Toy Spaniel (ETS), one of our rather “rare” but truly beautiful and delightful Toy breeds. I think it is won- derful that ShowSight Magazine devotes the space that it does to breed specific fea- tures, which is a real service to the dog show community. My main focus will be toward people that judge the breed, or are studying to judge the breed, but I hope that my comments will be useful to all fanciers as well. I have been judging the breed since 1996 and greatly enjoy it when I have an entry in ETS. Th ey make me smile when they walk in to the ring… and what is it that makes me smile? Th at beautiful head and expression! ETS are one of those breeds that we think of as a “head breed,” and rightfully so as without the unique headpiece we do not have a typical ETS. Of course to be a really excellent represen- tative of the breed the rest of the dog must be wonderful too, but without the correct head it is just another cute little dog. So I look for the beautiful plush face with a full rounded skull and a muzzle and underjaw that is broad, full and padded enough to balance with the skull. Almost no nose and enough “lay- back” to give the “f igure 8” like side prof ile. He shares this with the Japa- nese Chin, but the Chin is not as full in muzzle and has a larger skull in rela- tion to muzzle. The ETS is a Spaniel, so it must have the beautiful full rounded eyes to give us the soft, melting expres- sion we love. With properly low set ears to frame the face, we have a picture that is unique and beautiful. This is a slow
maturing breed, so the puppies and young dogs, even the best ones, will not be at their best until at least 2 to 3 years old. The heads broaden and f ill out as they mature. I have included a couple of old photos of beautiful heads that I had in my f iles. The breed has improved greatly in body, soundness and movement since I started to judge them in the 1990s. I judged a big entry of the breed (over 100) while I was provisional. I was on the panel of a cluster of shows in south- ern California where the National was held that year and was very fortunate to be assigned the breed the day before the National. I would say that only about 20 to 25% of that entry had the over- all look that we want with a pretty head along with sound structure and good substance and nice movement. This year I was honored to judge the Nation- al Specialty and the majority of the dogs were of high quality overall. Congratu- lations to the dedicated breeders who have made such wonderful improve- ments in overall quality! In my opinion the biggest challenge now is to get the correct body proportions well established. We want a cobby, essen- tially square dog and many of them today are too long in back and/or loin present- ing a rectangular profile. Th ere are also many dogs that lack the straight bone in the front legs that we want. Th ere are lots of curves under the coat. Now I would like to give a few tips on proper examination of the breed. When I examine the head on most toy dogs I use both hands to “cup” the head with my hands and gently stroke the head with my fingers to feel the structure under the coat. Th is relaxes the dog and allows you to move or turn the head to take a look at profile while you are in control of the head. I use my thumbs to feel for
the canine teeth without opening the mouth. I can gently evaluate the bite and check for wry mouth in this manner. If something doesn’t seem quite right, then I will gently lift the lips to take a closer look, or ask the handler to do it if the dog is stressed. I examine the rest of the dog after I step to the side. I place my right hand on the back and feel for the with- ers. With my left hand I feel for the point of shoulder and the elbow. Th is gives me an accurate view of the front angulation. I then run my hands down the front legs feeling for shape, bone and substance. Th en run my hands back along the body to the rear legs and check them similarly along with topline, tailset and coat. I try to keep my hands on the dog the entire time which steadies the dog and lets him know I am in charge. Do it all with a light, gentle touch and give the dog a good experience. In-ring temperament and showman- ship has also improved a great deal over the years that I have judged this breed and it is rare these days to have an ETS that doesn’t want to move and is scared of the environment. New puppies may hesitate a bit, but the majority of exhibits will move out for you to properly evaluate move- ment. I prefer to see them on a semi-loose lead if possible. In making my placements I use a meth- od that I employ for most of the breeds I judge. I pick out the “pretty ones,” and then find the soundest within that pretty group. So I emphasize breed specific type features first and then look for sound- ness within that sub-set. Th is emphasis changes a bit in the other direction for the Herding dogs that I judge, but even there if they aren’t typical for their breed, they are just another generic sound dog. I truly enjoy judging this wonderful breed and hope that you will find my input useful when evaluating the ETS.
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