JUDGING THE WELSH SPRINGER SPANIEL
A Welsh Springer Spaniel bitch displaying correct depth of body, leg-to- body proportions, and the desired flow of topline.
stack their dogs and push the (docked) tail up/forwards, like a Ter- rier—it is alien to the breed and should be discouraged.”) Marjo Jaakkola: “Because I come from a country where dock- ing has not been allowed since 1996, I am very used to tails. When judging the breed, I often do not remember if a dog was docked or undocked. It does not make a difference as long as the tail is carried correctly. I feel the most important thing is that you don’t penalize the dog for having an undocked tail.” What do you feel is commonly misunderstood about evaluating/ judging the breed? Christine McDonald: “Topline springs to mind. The UK breed standard calls for, ‘Loin muscular and slightly arched. Well cou- pled.’ This is NOT the same as the oft-quoted, ‘rise over the loin’— it is the muscular loin that gives it a slight arch. The muscular structure gives the Spaniel the pushing power to penetrate tough cover where birds may lay.” Frank Bjerklund: “Some say that a Welsh Springer should have an S-shaped topline; however, this is incorrect. The standard asks for a strong back that is slightly arched over the loin; the same wording that is in the English Springer Spaniel standard. If a dog has an S-shaped back, it most often means it has a weak back.” Marjo Jaakkola: “I feel the topline is the most misunderstood aspect in this breed. The topline should not be flat; it should be level, with a slight rise over the loin. There should be no evidence of sloping or dipping.” Do you have any words of advice for those interested in pursuing their judging license for the Welsh Springer Spaniel? Marjo Jaakkola: “Don’t be fooled by presentation, excessive coat, and fast (not always correct) movement. A Welsh Springer should display workmanlike movement with good reach and drive. When you are judging the dog, a good judge should be able to see a good dog that is not necessarily handled well by an amateur. Similarly, but in converse, a mediocre dog handled professionally should not cloud your judgment. If you have an overly barbered dog enter your ring, please judge the dog but encourage the exhibi- tor to present the breed in a more natural way in the future.” Susan Riese: “Judges and exhibitors need to remember that this is a working Spaniel and that tremendous reach and drive, while flashy in the show ring, is not correct. A good all-day work- ing dog in the field needs to have coordinated, athletic, and effort- less movement with adequate reach and drive.”
A Welsh Springer
Spaniel dog with correct substance and ribbing.
What areas do you feel the breed could use improvement in? Susan Riese: “I believe the overall quality of the breed has improved over the last few years. I feel current breeders are making an effort to learn more about type, function, and structure, and are incorporating this knowledge into their breeding plans. I am still shocked to see the occasional bad-fronted dog, with elbows out and bent forearms, winning top honors. A bent leg can break down from repeated impact, which could deem a dog worthless in the field.” At what age do you consider the breed to be fully mature, and what areas do you feel are affected by maturity? Marjo Jaakkola: “The Welsh Springer can be a slow maturing breed. I prefer to see young dogs that look their age. In my experi- ence, many puppies that mature too quickly often become over- done. I do not heavily penalize an immature youngster who has the right essentials. The topline is one area that often changes as the dog matures. I would say that by the of age 4 to 5, they should be fully mature and looking their best.” Susan Riese: “I feel the breed takes longer to mature than some of the other Sporting breeds. What changes over time is that the ribs gain more spring. Heads can mature and become more mas- culine on males. Welsh can look nice at 2 to 3 years and can be specialed at this time, but they usually reach their peak of maturity at 4 to 5 years of age. The word ‘peak’ can cause the image of this being their ‘best’ time in life, when in reality, the good ones keep getting better into veteran classes. Several veterans have won at WSSCA National Specialties over the years. They don’t get older, they just get better.” Please share your approach to judging a mixture of docked and undocked dogs. Frank Bjerklund: “We never think about tails when judging. The important thing is that the breed should carry it in accordance with the standard: ‘Low set, never carried above the level of the back.’ (It never stops puzzling us, why some handlers in the US
A version of this article first appeared in the October 2012 edition of SHOWSIGHT.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Meghen Riese-Bassel is a second generation Welsh Springer Spaniel breeder-judge. Statesman Welsh Springer Spaniels has owned/produced over 100 National Specialty winners, all- breed Best in Show winners, OFA Champion of Health winners, and AKC hunting-titled dogs. Meghen champion Welsh Springer Spaniels, including multiple is approved by the American Kennel Club to judge a number of Sporting breeds, as well as and Spaniel Hunting Tests, and has judged in the US, Sweden, Australia, and New Zealand.
282 | SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, JUNE 2021
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