spectator's basics

from the berner-l

A dog show is basically like a tennis match or any other single elimination tournament.

You have 'class' dogs (unseeded players) vying for points toward their championship and for the right to compete for Best of Breed that day.

You also have Champions of Record (aka: Specials), dogs who have accumulated the points necessary to earn the title "Champion". Finished CH's have the right to compete for Best of Breed at each show. They're like a 'seeded' player who goes directly to the final round.

Back to the Class dogs...They're separated by gender.

Then within each sex, they're separated into "classes". Classes are based on a number of considerations:age (6-9 mo, 9-12 mo, 12-18 mo), Bred by Exhibitor (the handler also bred and owns the dog, many breeders use this class to showcase their very best), American Bred (as opposed to an import), Novice (for unseasoned dogs), Open (for any dog eligible to show but traditionally, this is the 'ready for prime time' class).

The males entered in each class compete against each other for 1st thru 4th place in the class.

Then the 1st place winners of each class compete against each other for "Winners Dog".

The Winners Dog gets the point(s) available (1-5) which is determined by the number of dogs he defeats that day. In addition to getting the points, he has also earned the right to compete for Best of Breed that day. {The AKC issues a chart each year establishing how many dogs or bitches defeated equals how many points, for each region of the county.}

After the WD is chosen, the dog that placed behind him (2nd) in his Class is brought back into the ring to join the class winning dogs. From this group, the judge will choose the Reserve Winners Dog. This is the '1st runner-up', in the event that the WD is disqualified or ineligible for some reason, the points will go to the Reserve.

The process is then repeated for the bitches so after all the class judging, you have (1) dog (Winners Dog) and (1) bitch (Winners Bitch) who are still in the competition.

At a specialty, there are also age catagories for Veterans. The winners of those go on to compete for BOB as well.

At this point, Best of Breed competion takes place. The 'Specials' (Champions of both sexes) enter the ring along with the WD and WB and winning Veterans. At this level, dogs and bitches are judged together though many judges will have all of the males be lined up first, followed by all the girls.

The judge will evaluate the dogs and bitches the same way he/she did the class animals. At the end, he will point to his choices for: Best of Breed, Best of Winners, and Best of Opposite Sex.

BOB: The dog or bitch which most closely approximated the breed standard that day in that judge's opinion. This dog or bitch will go on to represent the BMD in the Working Group judging.

BOW (BW): Is the judge's pick of the 'best' between the Winners Dog and the Winners Bitch.

BOS: The judge's pick of the best representative of the sex opposite the BOB. If BOB is a dog, then BOS is a bitch. If BOB is bitch, then BOS is a dog.

Onward and upward... The BOB competes in the Working Group against the BOB dobe, sibe, newf, etc. The Group judge will pick 1st thru 4th places.

Likewise for the other 6 Groups: herding, sporting, terrier, non-sporting, toy, hound.

The 1st dog (or bitch) from each of the 7 Groups then compete against each other for Best in Show (BIS).

An 'independent specialty' is a show for one breed only, as opposed to an 'all breed' show. Since only one breed is being judged at an independent specialty, the dog chosen as BOB is also the BIS.

Whether at an independent specialty or a specialty held in conjunction with an all breed show, a dog/bitch who wins (BOB) at a specialty may then add BISS to their name (Best in Specialty Show). Because the competiton at specialties is so stiff, this is a very big accomplishment and very most people, a bigger deal than 'just' a win at Westminster.

Sweepstakes is like a mini-show, geared towards young dogs (puppy sweeps) and to showcase older (7+ y.o) dogs (veteran sweeps). These are judged similar to the regular classes but they are points are awarded and everything starts over again with the regular judging.

** I was surprised to see, among these 27 dogs, of which 3 were what I would consider "mismarked". One had no white on the tip of it's tail, another had white approximately 1/3 to 1/2 of the way up it's front leg, and the third had a front paw with absolutely no white at all.

A breeder friend of mine is fond of saying, "You have to build em before you can paint em." There is a GREAT deal more to the *correct* bernese than markings...good breeders and good judges know that.

** Here is my question: are these markings considered a fault, or just undersireable? If they are faults, i'm confused as to why these dogs would be shown in breed competition. >>

The words "fault" and "undesireable" can be used interchangeably in this context. A fault is simply an undesireable characteristic, that is...something which deviates from the ideal described by the standard.

Where the difference comes in is if you add the word "disqualifying" in front of "fault". The standard for each breed specifies any disqualifying faults for that breed. A dog exhibiting one of these traits would be automatically disqualified in the conformation (show) ring.

"Disqualifying faults" are usually those items which fanciers of a breed consider *the* most unacceptable...either because it is in direct conflict with "type" (the overall look of the correct dog) or for health reasons (in some breeds having a totally white head is genetically linked to deafness so a completely white head will be a DQ...that sort of thing).

The BMD standard contains only (2) disqualifying faults, blue eye(s) or a ground color other than black. These are the ONLY automatic disqualifications specific to Bernese (there are other DQ's applicable to all breeds) in the conformation ring. They have NO bearing on other AKC activities...a blue-eyed or red coated berner is absolutely eligible to compete in obedience, agility, tracking, etc.

** I would like to know how important symmetrical and correct markings truly are.**

I've never met a serious breeder who wouldn't look past imperfect markings to value a quality dog. Exactly where the tolerable/intolerable threshold lies is a very individual decision. I think the (US) standard offers good guidance when considering mis-marking; "Markings other than described are to be faulted in direct relationship to the extent of the deviation. White legs or collar are serious faults." In the BMDCA's judges seminar, the suggestion is to consider incorrect markings in terms of how much they detract from the overall picture the dog presents. To me, that makes a missing white tail or toe tip a very minor fault whereas a couple of white stockings is more of an issue.

** And a question to the breeders out there: Would you automatically consider a "mismarked" puppy as pet quality? Even if the conformation of the dog was show quality? **

I can't speak as a breeder but in my experience, a *severely* mis-marked puppy will usually be placed as a pet....especially a dog with too much white vs too little (white is dominant so harder to breed away from). OTOH... I can assure you that there are severely mis-marked dogs which have been bred, even by responsible and serious breeders. These are the rare occassions when a breeder feels that the overall quality of the dog (actually, more often the bitch) outweighs the serious mis-mark. The decision is made in the context of the breeder's knowledge of the pedigrees she's working with and selection of mates (even for the next generations) takes the marking fault into consideration.

Example: An otherwise beautiful, typey, sound, healthy, bitch has a half collar. This is a serious fault that will keep her out of the show ring. I have no problem with a *skilled* breeder breeding her to forward the good qualities while at the same time, being careful to work away from the excessive white. That's my personal value system...others would disagree and say she shouldn't be bred, period.

** If I remember correctly, none of these "mismarked" dogs won on the day I watched, and one was even being shown by a professional handler!**

Then again... a dog with virtually no white on one side of his face was a two time winner of the national specialty (that's a VERY BIG DEAL!!!). Obviously the judges felt that his strengths outweighed the fault.

**My Berner boy is not perfect conformation wise, but he is a good representative of the breed, I believe. He is also blessed with nearly perfect and symmetrical markings. How much of an advantage, if any, would this give us in the show ring?

Perfect markings will only give you an edge in the eyes of a poor judge or as a 'tie-breaker' when a judge considers two dogs of equal quality.