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Judges to put health first
Seminar highlights the importance of the responsibility of judges

The top show judges in the country, some of whom have appointments at Crufts 2009, attended a Kennel Club seminar last Wednesday, which set out the central role that the show world will play in safeguarding the future of pedigree dogs.

Mike HerrtageChairman of the Kennel Club, Ronnie Irving, addressed 83 judges at the Stoneleigh Education Centre, to discuss the recent changes to some of the breed standards and to emphasise the judges’ responsibility only to reward healthy dogs.

The judges were also reminded of the power that the recent changes to the show regulations has given them to remove any dog from competition that they believe may not be able to “see, breathe and walk freely and be free from irritation and discomfort”.

Speaking at the conference Ronnie Irving told the judges that the “future of pedigree dogs is in your hands”. He added: “In most of the breeds there have been no changes or only minor changes to the breed standards. Where the changes are more extensive the Kennel Club is not expecting the breed to change overnight, you can only judge what is before you. Your duty is to find the balance between health and breed type and know that health comes first. The two are certainly not mutually exclusive but where there is a clash the Kennel Club is in no doubt that health must be paramount.


“It is in your hands where the future lies. We can use dog shows to benefit dogs and prevent exaggeration, by ensuring that judges only reward those dogs that are healthy. There is no doubt that it is the show breeders who are going to solve health problems and stimulate new DNA research projects. It is they and we who have put money into this in the past and will continue to do so in the future.”

The seminar was interactive and the judges were asked to highlight any additional health concerns that they may have noticed in breeds, while the Kennel Club outlined its intention to hold regular annual or biannual meetings with the judges in order to ensure that they continue to work with Kennel Club and share information about the health of all breeds. It was also made clear that the Kennel Club would not “defend the indefensible” and support the breeding and rewarding of those dogs that are unhealthy, to the detriment of the vast majority of healthy pedigree dogs.

Ronnie Irving’s speech was followed by an address from Mike Herrtage, MA, BV, from the University of Cambridge who reiterated the Kennel Club’s view that there is an unsubstantiated belief that pedigree dogs are generally unhealthy but that in the “tail end”, where problems do exist, it is the judges’ responsibility to address this and to protect the reputation of the pedigree population as a whole.


Zena Thorn-AndrewsAdditional judges seminars will be held prior to Crufts 2009 to ensure that all judges who have appointments are clear about the revised standards.

Zena Thorn-Andrews, Crufts Best in Show judge 2007, said: “The seminar has really brought home the importance of what judges do and the real difference that we can make to the health and reputation of pedigree dogs. I always put healthy dogs forward to win prizes but the revised breed standards have gone a long way to addressing the issue of exaggeration.

“I breed Dachshunds and all 19 clubs agreed the suggested changes to the standard and came back with their own recommendations, which were accepted by the Kennel Club. It just shows what we can achieve if we all pull together and I think that these seminars are a really good way of ensuring that we all keep in mind that we share the same goal: to breed and reward happy, healthy dogs.”

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