Cavalier King Charles Spaniels Breed Column
AKC Gazette - December, 2001
My apologies to Edward Albee for borrowing this column's title in order to draw your attention to balance. The balance to which I refer is not that which describes the relationship of a dog's parts. Instead, I ponder balance in how Cavaliers are judge: the opinion of the breed specialist versus that of the all-rounder judge.
At this year's first Cavalier World Congress, an all-rounder judge hinted that breeder-judges often do not look past the head and tend to ignore, or not recognize, structural faults. Not long after, a breeder-judge said to me that some judges just don't seem to understand our breed, that they reward generic dogs that are structurally correct but lack proper breed type. These opposing statements are the crux of the balancing act that many judges are faced with.
Like it or not, we all bring baggage with us in our judging. Those who cut their teeth on breeds that were bred for sport or work naturally gravitate toward a Cavalier possessing the attributes of basic correct structure and movement.
Other were weaned on breeds whose main purpose was to be pleasing to the eye and soul through ornamentation and temperament. These judges are naturally drawn to specific traits such as correct large, round eyes; skull shape; and rich color. They may be forgiving of a less than perfect topline, or hindquarters and shoulders that would not server well in the field.
For Cavaliers, there is a bit more to this than the old chestnut of type vs. soundness. Cavaliers have been judged "in a vacuum" in this country for many years, compared only to fellow Cavaliers. For six years now, their new venue has placed them squarely beside breeds which have held their own for years in group and BIS show rings.
Uptopia would exist if all judges knew structure and symmetry as well as every nuance of breed type that breeders value in a Cavalier. In the real world, just as there will never be a perfect Cavalier, there will never be a perfect Cavalier judge.
To achieve a delicate balance, breed specialists must learn all they can from those who understand structure, balance, athleticism and a harmony of all the aforementioned qualities that sets a dog apart as superior.
Likewise, the all-rounders should continue to study our standard and relentlessly question breeders about those qualities on which we place the most emphasis in the pursuit of proper Cavalier type.
Personally, I don't subscribe to the idea of judging by what is best to send into the group ring. To do so is to admit that one would judge the breed differently at an independent specialty (where the BB dog would meet no further competition) than at an all-breed show.
Let us not discount either end of the spectrum in this delicate balance of judging. The somewhat generalized statements here do not imply that the all-rounder knows nothing of type, nor do they infer that breeders know nothing of structure and movement.
The delicate balance is a mid- ground where all of this knowledge converges, enabling a judge to find a dog of superior breed type that is structurally correct, and sound in mind, body and movement.
Once all judges are steeped in such knowledge, the additional challenge goes forth for breeders to produce such a Cavalier - in order that the judge in the delicate balance will have this marvelous specimen of a Cavalier to reward!
- John D. Gammon, AKC Parent Club President & Gazette Breed Columnist