interpretation of the word “racy” that is part of our standard. The FC is not cobby or weedy. He must possess the strength of jaw and body and bone to pick up a wet, heavy bird and swim or come through the brush or cover with it. Even though he is racy he still must be retriever type. 4. Do you think the dogs you see in this breed are better now than they were when you first started judging? KA: On average, I think the dogs I see now are roughly equivalent to what I saw 15 years ago, neither better or worse. Certain aspects of the breed seem to go in cycles. Early on, I saw a lot of weak rear assemblies. These then got better but lately I’m starting to see weakness again in this area. An area of concern lately is proper bone and substance. Our standard calls for “power without lumber and raciness without weediness.” I see too many of both sexes in the ring lacking in proper bone and substance. The breed should have good bone with moderate tuck- up, not acres of daylight. MD: I think we are in a very strange place right now. The good are very good and the bad are bad. I don’t believe that some breeders are putting their best dogs out there. I saw some promising dogs a few years ago and was hopeful. What happened from there, I don’t exactly know, but there seems to be a lack of breed knowledge even amongst breeders. We, as judges, are in a constant learning mode. It isn’t easy judging. I always say it is easy to be an arm chair quarterback. Go out and try it, judging that is. Every time we enter a ring, touch a dog, or work to apply for a new breed we are in a learning state. Breed- ers need to be continually learning as well. Look out into your own ring or at the end of your own leash. Be objec- tive and do your best. Even if that means not showing or breeding a particular dog. That doesn’t mean you can’t move forward, just do it with a better representative of the breed. CH: Yes, I think the FC is better now. As breeders we should always strive for the ideal FCR. No dog is perfect but that is what we should be striving for. Studying the breed and learning what is correct is what we are aiming for. KL: Actually, yes, I do think that the breed is going in the right direction for the most part. More and more breeders are paying attention to the standard and taking it seriously. ShM: They are not better than when I started judging, but we have improved health and longevity while losing soundness since I started in the breed. SiM: I think the breed—which I love—is losing soundness. DW: I am a founding member of the Flat-Coated Retriever Society of Canada, attended both the first American and first Canadian National Specialties. I have also had the honor of judging both National Specialties. I feel that generally the animals being exhibited today are much better quality than those being shown in the mid 1970s. Movement—both side gait and coming and going—has improved considerably. The conscientious breeders are doing a good job; however, there is still much room for improvement here. Heads are still an issue although there are many good heads being shown. Silhouette is still a
major issue. The Flat-Coat is a longer bodied dog than either a Golden or a Labrador Retriever; however, the length should be in the rib cage and not in the loin. The rib cage should taper to a moderate tuck up. AY: I don’t know if dogs now are better or not. I see both in the ring but most old time exhibitors know me pretty well. There are certainly more animals being shown and more families to look at. There has been quite a move to import from UK and Scandinavia where the FC is quite popular. Like everything, sometimes a little goes a long way! When I first brought my puppy in only one other gentleman had done that so times have really changed. I would like to note that the FCSA has been very instru- mental in health and has worked very hard for the breed. 5. What do you think new judges misunderstand about the breed? KA: Echoing what I said above, I think new judges misun- derstand proper substance, which translates into proper silhouette. I also think judges don’t fully understand or appreciate the importance of one of the hallmarks of our breed, the unique long, strong, clean, “one piece” head, which is unique to the Flat-Coated Retriever. I see more and more generic heads being rewarded in the show ring. MD: Type, pure and simple. There is the age old argument about type versus soundness—a sporting dog needs to hunt, work all day. I get it. But without type we are losing something that we never get back. CH: New judges sometimes get hung up on the one piece head or size of the bone or length of coat or some other trait stated in the Standard. One must evaluate the whole dog not just one part. KL: the most misunderstood thing new judges misinter- pret is that “raciness” is so different from “weediness”. Sometimes a lesser boned dog will be put up with this thinking. Also, once again, this is a head breed. It is most critical to type before anything else and the head is the cornerstone of the breed. ShM: It’s not a “head breed!” The dog as a whole is more important. SiM: The difference in body type when compared to the other retrievers. DW: Once again I think new judges do not understand the head and the silhouette. These are hallmarks of the breed and set it apart from the somewhat related Golden and Labrador Retrievers. I see too many judges who evaluate the breed from ten feet away when they should be judg- ing the breed from across the ring. If an entry resembles a black Golden Retriever, then it is incorrect. The head of course can be evaluated close up but the head profile should also be considered. AY: I suspect new judges will need to take time to get their feet wet and be able to separate the wheat from the chaff. You have to see excellent examples of any breed to learn. FC owners are a great group and do all kinds of wonder- ful things with their dogs and many are multi-titled. Most are owner handled which is wonderful. Some are better breed specimens than others but be assured they are all loved and part of the family.
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