JUDGING IN AMERICA
Tony Allcock OBE
2022 National Japanese Chin Specialty
Firstly, I must state how honoured I was to be elected as the Judge for the 2022 National Speciality. I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent with you all and particularly the hospitality afforded to me by everyone. Thank you to the hard working officers, committee and volunteers.
I have decided to produce a report which incorporates my findings in general. Not surprisingly, some of the negative aspects I refer to are not just peculiar to this assignment but perhaps rather more applicable globally!
On the whole, I found the breed to be in good heart and was particularly impressed with the overall presentation of the exhibits. This being in exemplary fashion.
Throughout the world today, I am very conscious that brachycephalic dog breeds are currently under the spotlight and there are many out there watching closely those they describe as ‘flat faced breeds’ particularly referencing health and welfare. There is clearly an underlying threat to brachycephalic breeds of which Japanese Chin is no exception. It is essential, therefore, that breeders and Kennel Clubs throughout the world concentrate on health matters and more importantly, health testing and maintaining data which can be used in evidence to support our dogs are not as unhealthy as some would make believe. We have a collective responsibility to protect this beautiful breed and therefore we do need to concentrate on our breeding programmes, paying due attention to health matters so that when we are challenged we can respond positively and provide fact, not fiction.
I will now give my candid view and more specific comments on my findings as your Judge.
Worldwide, there is some variation in Japanese Chin breed standards but, in general terms, these are quite slight so fundamentally they are all similar. When adjudicating, it was important for me to judge solely in accordance with the AKC Japanese Chin breed standard. Prior to judging, I was invited to spend a morning at the Japanese Chin Club of America breed seminar, delivered for aspiring judges. I must make comment here that the presentation and content of the seminar was first class and contained excellent slides along with beautifully detailed illustrations on each and every aspect of the AKC Japanese Chin breed standard. Congratulations to presenters Carla Jo Ryan and to Scott Toney. I have no doubt that this was the best of a kind I have attended.
If we consider the General Appearance as required by the AKC standard this is one of the most significant paragraphs which is worthy of note. It reads the Japanese chin is a small, well balanced, lively and aristocratic toy dog with a distinct oriental expression. This immediately conjures a clear picture. It goes on to give a further description of movement/action, the plumed tail, profuse coat and its texture. It specifically states that the outline presents a square appearance. I make no secret of the fact that I support the latter very strongly and during several recent judging assignments have particularly noticed an increase in dogs which are longer backed with short legs and decidedly ‘oblong’ in appearance. Although ‘lively’ is mentioned twice in the standard, specialist Chin judges will be aware that this breed can be reserved on the table and extremely stubborn on occasions, so allowances have to be made, which I did. On the whole, temperaments were excellent but when tails were dragged along the floor this I had to penalise, strongly. Also found in the general appearance description is something of which many breeders have always struggled with – substance should be solidly built, compact yet refined and asks for good weight in proportion to build. The UK breed standard requires the chin to be the daintier the better/wide in chest/compactly built/cobby. The AKC standard – solidly built/compact/refined/light and stylish in action. This is where it becomes interesting. The synonyms of the word ‘Cobby’ (this formerly appeared in the AKC breed standard), according to the English Oxford Dictionary, is described as ‘thickset, solid, sturdy, chunky and stocky’ so in conjunction with requirements such as dainty and refined, asks for adherence to conflicting requirements. Perhaps this is why wisely the word ‘cobby’ was removed from the USA standard.
Notwithstanding either breed standard, here is a classic example of when a judge has to consider it all in moderation. Yes, we definitely require a small dog but not too substantial in bone, size or overall appearance, but perhaps a balanced combination of both. I was pleased to find that amongst my entry there were no heavily built, substantially boned or cumbersome movers, but rather those that were balanced in bone, rib, width of chest and perhaps decidedly on the finer side but not featherweight. An accolade must therefore, be awarded to those breeders adequately managing this difficult requirement which I believe is a challenge to non-specialist judges to comprehend and for breeders to contain within their breeding programme.
The AKC specifically references Size, Proportion and Substance – Size indicating 8 inches and 11 inches at the highest point of the withers. Proportion – length between the sternum and the buttock is equal to the height at the at the withers. This, therefore, is most useful to judges as it makes no exception that the standard requires a square outline to which I have already referred. Interestingly, the UK breed standard is without such a specific description.
Another welcoming attribute I found in my entry, was the ‘oriental’ expression achieved by round dark eyes of complimentary size to the shape of the head with that essential requirement of a small amount of white in the eyes. Generally, this balance was achieved. In the past, many of us have bred beautiful chins with large, dark, round, lustrous eyes complimented by a significant amount of white in the corner of the eyes. For modern tastes and with respect to health requirements, we now should breed for the ‘small’ amount of white to enhance the unique expression asked for in the breed standard. I recently judged Japanese Chins in Europe under FCI rules where no white in the eye is mentioned in that standard. On this occasion, expression was, therefore, rather plainer than I prefer, but absolutely correct in accordance with FCI breed requirement. Fortunately, long live those breed standards that ask for the ‘oriental expression’ and breeders and judges which continue to support and preserve it.
The head description in the AKC standard leaves no doubt in the Judge’s mind about the balance, shape and ratios required. It is extremely detailed and easy to understand. I recommend it is read frequently. Many Judges place great importance to features of the head and so they should! It is significant to mention that a large proportion of the AKC standard is dedicated to its description. For my part, that balanced muzzle, broad and wide and often described as ‘bubble gum cheeks or kissable lips,’ really sets off the attraction of the facial expression. When examining, I gently examine teeth only if, from initial observation, I perceive there is likely to be an abnormality and then ask the exhibitor themselves to show the bite. Perhaps I might have my critics here, as from the outset I do not advocate an intrusive examination of dentition in this breed. I have personal experience of a potential bitch champion ruined due to an over zealous non-breed specialist judge wrenching the mouth open to examine teeth whilst crushing her eyes and nose. My entry contained some beautiful heads and even masculine dogs never failed to possess a soft expression whilst maintaining masculinity. With regard to neck length. I appreciate there is a trend for a ‘lengthy neck’ nowadays. Moderate is the requirement but I rewarded a lengthier neck than ideal over a short one. It is important to point out that the neck must carry its head up proudly and for me, it can never be proud if sitting on the level of the backline! I found very few incorrect short necks and when I did they were usually accompanied by upright shoulders, resulting in being void of forehand reach and extension.
The backline should be secure and level. There were a few with slightly indifferent toplines, giving an indication before observation of movement that the hind action would not be ideal.
Very few had flat ribs and those that were ‘square’ in outline usually had the perfect spring of rib and accordingly, short strong loins. Tail sets were, on the whole excellent and therefore were set on high and carried arched over the back. It was pleasing to see so many exhibits which sported balanced, profuse coats, with complimentary furnishings and those which had made a ‘chrysanthemum’ tail, so it cascaded over each side of the back. One of the UK’s top breeders brought the latter to my attention when I first started exhibiting and whenever I had the benefit of voluminous tail feathering, I used this to great effect.
I found many beautifully textured coats which had the correct balance of being silky with just enough undercoat to encourage the coat to be slightly ‘standoffish’. A pure silky coat will often lay too flat and can be detrimental to the overall picture. Likewise, too much undercoat will make the coat stand away from the body often distorting the natural shape of the exhibit. I am not a groomer, but always took great pride in presentation. I was not skilful in the art of stripping or scissoring coats or indeed needed to be with Japanese Chins. Without exception however, I bathed my dogs before EVERY show (no facilities in the UK to do so at the showground). There is nothing in the rules to prevent coat trimming in this breed, but it was noted when a dog had been ’over’ presented, this did not sit comfortably with me so chose not to reward.
A chin moving correctly is a joy to watch. Perhaps not with such a ‘flight’ as the Papillon breed but not far from it. As with most breeds, parallel movement is desired. If there was one area where I felt the overall entry gave a particular area of concern then this was it. I have already commended the many superb breed attributes which were placed before me. I was, however, disappointed time and time again when first class exhibits were placed on the table before me and I wondered at the super breed attributes, only to find disillusionment when I first witnessed them moving away from the table. There were too many poorly constructed hindquarters and I do ask that breeders make due consideration in addressing this. On the obverse, front movement was, on the whole, most acceptable and this added to impressive ‘profile’ reach and extension going across the ring. I recall in one class containing a distinct mixture of beauty and very poor hind movement. I am a Judge who places strong emphasis on correct movement and conformation whilst acknowledging breed type. My dilemma in adjudication, therefore, was compounded when making the final selection as there were classic examples of exhibits being of beautiful type but moved very poorly and several others which were not of the same breed quality but moved beautifully. Incidentally, the following day, I watched a very notable, experienced and talented all-breed Judge adjudicate this same class containing most of the same dogs. His placings were very different to mine as clearly it was his persuasion to reward those that possessed the better movement. This is not a criticism – far from it – but an observation that different Judges have varying priorities and that is what dog showing is all about!
With regard to coat colour. It was super to meet and to judge several Tricoloured Chin (not acceptable in the UK breed standard). I will not go into the whys and wherefores of this colour as over the years I have read various articles written ‘across the pond’ both in support and vehemently opposed to Tricoloured Chins. I found pigmentation in all colours excellent.
Facial markings were, in general terms, very good. Of course, we all prefer symmetry of these but this is something of which I am fairly relaxed about and consider other breed specifics being of far greater importance. Indeed, the UK breed record holder (of decades past), arguably has not symmetrical markings of the muzzle. Naturally, I would not reward mismarked chins. The pattern of body markings I found to be all acceptable and noted that pleasingly, the AKC standard indicates that the size, shape placement or number of body patches is not of great importance. Interestingly, there are Judges in other parts of the world who are frenzied about coat patches/ placement and markings and will severely punish accordingly. Whilst I had an immense variation of lightly marked, heavily marked, large and small body patches before me, it was only those with excessive ticking which were penalised.
Finally, I will summarise by thanking all the exhibitors for their exemplary acceptance of my placements; for their appreciation of fellow competitors wins and for the friendliness and camaraderie which was prevalent both within and without the ring. Sadly, around the showrings in the UK today, this is the exception rather than the rule. Please continue with your sportsmanship and appreciation of others. We all take the best dogs home but must ensure that those rewarded on the day must be congratulated.
Once again, thank you all for the honour conferred on me as your judge and for friendships rekindled and the new ones initiated. I had a wonderful time.
Tony Allcock OBE (Sleepyhollow)