A SHORT COURSE ON JUDGING SAINT BERNARDS by STAN ZIELINSKI
A re you or do you aspire to become a judge of St. Ber- nards? If you come to your judging of this breed with a background in another, this may help you in your quest to judge the breed with some of the confidence you would like to have. Since most people judging the Saint Ber- nard do not have the extensive background to truly evaluate the entire dog, we must ask the question, “What few features, when properly evaluated, will go the farthest towards iden- tifying the best Saint Bernard in the class?” It is our suggestion that you won’t go far astray if you can properly evaluate the following features (not necessarily in order of importance): 1. Correct Proportions 2. Powerful Build 3. Proper Head 4. Sound Body and Mind Of course, a list of important features does little good without an explanation of the intri- cacies of each. We need to consider these sub- jects in some detail to explain the finer points of each item. Th e following text will expand on each of these topics and, it is hoped, not cloud the issues with too much verbiage. Let me begin now with the short course. 1. CORRECT PROPORTIONS Th ings to look for: Th e first paragraph of the standard calls for a proportionately tall figure. Th is means that it is not a proportionately long figure. Th is is not a requirement for a lot of altitude, but rather a statement of the proper proportion of height to length. Much that is erroneous in the breed is a direct result of the fancy ignoring this one important feature. • Th is is the feature that requires moder- ate angulation and all that that implies. • Th e proper balance is a direct con- sequence of the dog being tall rather than rectangular. • Th e inherent nobility of the breed fol- lows from the logical step by step require- ments dictated by this one property. What you should penalize: Deviations from being proportionately tall. Being a rectangular dog is wrong, whether from being short on leg or from being long in body.
Having said that, we must note that we find real fault with extremes rather than with small deviations from the ideal. While one must guard against a degree of angulation unsuitable for a proportion- ately tall dog, you should also not accept a dog that is so short coupled that it would require straight stifles and vertical shoul- der blades for compatible movement. As to our personal philosophy, we find that a just barely perceptible degree of extra body length to be found in what we consider to be very good specimens. However, we nev- er accept short legs as being anything other than a serious fault. We also condemn a long loin as being a very big problem. In short, we never consider any obviously rectangular animal as being acceptable—correct breed type demands that the exhibit must have the correct proportions for a Saint Bernard. 2. POWERFUL BUILD Th ings to look for: If there is one word that clearly express- es the essence of a Saint Bernard, that word is “POWERFUL.” As a judge, you should look for the dog for whom the term power- ful is most applicable. Th e best test for powerful is the touch test. Much of the quality of the dog is determined via the laying on of hands; for the body must have great substance and feel firm and muscular during the exami- nation. Just remember that you are looking for a powerful athlete, and you use your hands to do the searching. Th e loin should be commanding in its presence—enough so that you should get the impression that you could lift the dog by grasping it by the loin with both hands. If you are not impressed with the mass of muscle on the rear legs, then you prob- ably aren’t dealing with one of the better specimens of the breed. Th e same could be said for the nape of the neck, the shoulders and the forearms. Not that you should ignore the infor- mation gathered visually. Your eyes should tell you when gazing upon a good Saint Bernard, that this is a strong, powerful and massive animal. • Th e width, when viewed from the top, should be the same for shoulders, ribs and rear quarters.
• Bone must be substantial without being cloddy in appearance. Always beware of useless timber as it detracts from the athletic ability of the dog. • Th ere should be so much muscle develop- ment in the neck that you get the impres- sion that the dog has a short neck; which does not mean that it should be short—it should only appear to be short because of the powerful muscles and immense girth of the neck. Furthermore, the neck should form a smooth transition into the broad shoulders and from there into the wide flat back, loin and croup. • Even the tail should be so powerful in appearance that it renders the impres- sion that it could be used as a weapon. What you should penalize: • General lack of substance —While it is not required to be overly tall, it must be strong, massive and powerful. Lacking these properties, the dog lacks breed type. Of course, you must not be caught mistak- ing pseudo substance for the real thing; to wit: • Wetness —which is epitomized by sloppy loose hanging skin and soft spongy muscle and other body tissues. Th is excess of skin to the point of drip- ping wrinkles is a severe problem in our breed. Th e Saint is not a breed with tight fitting skin, but neither should it ever be bloodhound-like in appearance. Loose, flabby skin is an indicator of loose mus- cle and ligamentation. Normally when viewing such an animal one gets a sense of a weak, sloppy, clumsy animal that no amount of conditioning can make right. • Excessive weight —which is found in the dogs that are packing too much lard. Don’t ever mistake fat for substance. A Saint should be athletically built in order to perform his historical functions. • Barrel chest —In seeking a massive dog, the fancy must not confuse a wide dog with a dog that has an improperly shaped rib cage—the so-called barrel chest. Th e dogs must still be able to function with- out having to reach around some huge barrel to reach the ground. 3. PROPER HEAD Th ings to look for: Th is is a subject that could be the sole subject matter of an entire book. Since a
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