The Perils of Fault Judging by Dan Harrison with credit to ‘Anonymous’


From the first moment in the sport of dogs, we all become used to discovering faults
in our own dogs, as well as in that of our competition. Whether at a show or looking at
pictures on a website or Facebook page, finding faults comes so much easier than looking
for virtues. It somehow makes us feel better to be able to say how short that dog’s keel
was, this dog had no ribbing or that one was ‘soooo hocky’ and threw a foot, or that one
had a foot that turned out. At some point, we all must realize that all of our dogs have
faults. The question for more advanced evaluation is balancing these faults against the
background of that dog’s virtues. My philosophy evolved into learning to judge the dog as
a whole, not just pieces and parts.

I began to realize that not everyone has the same outlook a few years ago at a specialty
show in which I was exhibiting. At this specialty, I arrived with a young bitch who
already had a couple of specialty majors as well as several BVs from the classes, so
she was one I considered top quality. Looking around, I saw that a friend of mine had a
smooth bitch of her own, who was striking. This was definitely the competition. Standing
there, I felt she was better than my own. She had many virtues: gorgeous head, beautiful
arch of neck, lots of forechest, level topline, short hocks and appeared to combine it all
with a great, outgoing temperament. I also noticed, while this friend usually employed a
handler, she was obviously so proud of this one that she was showing the bitch herself in
the bred-by class. Who could blame her for pride of ownership in this lovely example of
the breed? Seeing her walk by me, she retained in profile that correct outline and moved
with reach and drive. I thought, “Well, there goes the major!!”

Since we were in separate classes, I got to see the bitch being shown, and on several
occasions on the diagonal, my less ring-wise friend let her bitch get her head down and,
as a result, the bitch threw a hind leg when she moved. I knew instantly (and admittedly
with a sigh of relief) that under this judge, my friend’s bitch was out of the running.
Actually, the bitch failed to even win her class, and this was met with many knowing
looks at ringside among exhibitors who saw the bitch move on the diagonal and noticed
that occasionally errant foot. No one even questioned the judge’s decision. I have to admit
the same scenario played out at the next specialty we both attended, even though I was
showing a different class bitch

It troubled me that these judges (who I had, and have, the utmost respect for), and most
others at ringside failed to recognize that between my bitches (who each did get the
major) and my friend’s, hers was far the better Dachshund. I knew that as lovely as
my bitches were, I’d have traded either in a minute for my friend’s bitch, because, bred
correctly, my friend’s bitch had more qualities to offer in the whelping pen. This, it seems
to me, is the purpose for which we’re showing and should be the basis for our selection
of winners. Even if she did throw that foot occasionally on the day, she still had such a
preponderance of virtues that I knew she was destined for better things. In fact, not to my
surprise, she later was a multiple DCA winner and BIS winner under the tutelage of a
handler a little more talented than her proud breeder.

While on this topic, I also must confess to falling prey to this fault judging concept at
least once in my judging career. I had been judging for a couple of years and had been
taken, as I found out when I looked at the catalog after judging, by the get of a particular
sire in a particular variety. I had awarded a few of them (enough for me to remember
anyway) despite their having bites that were, let’s just say, not entirely perfect. But they
were otherwise sound with nice fronts and the type that I prefer.

On this occasion, the specials came in and I was struck by one entry, first in line, who
seemed to have it all. Gorgeous head and expression, beautiful arch of neck and neck set,
one of the best forechests I had ever seen in the variety, great coat with that much desired
short hock to fill out the picture. Going down the lineup, I quickly recognized his nearest
competition who shared all his virtues, but without quite the finishing touches of the
front, forechest or the coat texture of the first in line.

As I started going over the first dog, there it was that same off-bite that had been haunting
me in this variety. What should I do? At the time, this trend disturbed me greatly as the
then-current Standard considered an overshot or undershot bite a serious fault. He gaited
beautifully as did his closest competition. Do I reward the ‘serious fault’ or put up a
dog which I liked a lot and had many virtues himself, but did not have the virtues of a
tremendous front and flawless coat as the first one?

I finally decided to go with the ‘lesser’ dog because of that one overweening fault. While
he was a very lovely example of the variety, he did not fill my eye as the first one had. I
am sure that had I not run into several of these same bites before in my judging, I would
have quickly chosen that first special, rightly or wrongly. Only as I was sitting in the
plane on the way home did it hit me. Which one would I have bred to? While both were
stellar examples of the breed, in actuality, I would have chosen that first one without
a moment’s hesitation to breed to, despite that fault, because he had the most virtues,
including that beautiful front and forechest. And, oh yes, he did share the same sire as the
other dogs I had put up with faulty bites.

As you can see, it is not always simple to keep your eye on the prize of rewarding the
most virtues, because it is easy, for any number of reasons, to become distracted by
a fault that really rankles. The bottom line is to ask yourself if you want to breed (as
a breeder) or reward (as a judge) the best example of the breed or the most fault-free
example. There is a difference.