KCANY GERMAN Shepherd who shows signs of stress should be dismissed from the ring, the Kennel Club has ruled – but it’s the show managers who are really under stress, according to the breed council secretary.

The instruction to dismiss dogs showing stress  is included in a new film emphasising judges’ ‘responsibilities to the health and welfare’ of the GSD and covering ring procedures that has been uploaded to the KC’s online ‘Academy’.

It comes in the wake of last year’s KC directives aimed at the breed, with all GSD championship show judging contracts for 2018 and beyond being suspended until judges have taken part in an education seminar.

The film includes a multiple choice exam which is mandatory for championship show judges and can be completed online. To be allowed to award CCs from 2018 judges must score at least 18 out of 20.

The questions are based on the content of the film, KC show regulations, the code of best practice for judges and ring stewards and other announcements made by the KC on showing and judging the breed.

No GSDs are used in the ten-minute film, only other pastoral breeds, and it says that if a dog displays any signs of stress – or aggression – it should be dismissed from the ring.

Judges are urged to employ a triangle pattern rather than a circle, and the filmsuggests no ‘run-offs’ between dogs.

DW asked the KC to clarify what it meant by stress – backing away from the judge? And asked if this was not being discriminatory against the breed. 

The KC replied: “Many of the GSD directives could also be said of other breeds, but the Board is concentrating its attention at the moment on GSDs with the aim of judges recognising and taking into account the issue of dogs showing signs of stress and any others when judging and rewarding dogs in the show ring.

“The code of best practice for judges says the following on the matter, ‘Judges should never award prizes to dogs who are visibly suffering from any condition which would adversely affect their health of welfare.

“For example, inappropriate temperament whether this is excessive timidity or aggression (other examples are also listed); ‘2.7 – The duty of care expected of a judge is that of the experienced dog breeder and exhibitor who would be aware of what is normal and therefore should be able to appreciate significant deviation from normal.  Judges are not expected to make a veterinary diagnosis, but rather to exercise their informed common sense based on their extensive experience.”

The film covers the rudiments of judging and emphasises that double handling is not allowed. It sets out the escalation procedure in the event that there is double handling which involves a request for the activity to stop, a warning, suspension and then abandonment of the class.

It says judges must show integrity and be able to justify their placings.

Other breed-specific aspects such as changes to the Standard are also covered.

The KC said it expects all judges of GSDs to adhere to the points made in the film, which emphasise that the breed is to be shown in the same manner as all other large pastoral breeds, some of which are featured in the film.

Judges can watch the film at their own convenience without any financial outlay, said KC secretary Caroline Kisko.

“The education of GSD judges through the KC Academy has come about as we needed to find a way to reach judges all over the UK as well as those living overseas who are visiting our shores to judge the breed,” she said. “This facility allows the judge to view the film and take the examination in the comfort of their own home and is therefore a cheaper option for individuals than driving many miles to a seminar…

Positive images

“It was a conscious decision on the part of the KC not to include any GSDs in the film as we wanted to provide advice and guidance and to show images of the accepted custom and practice of exhibiting and judging dogs in the UK. We did not want to publicise bad practice and breaches of show regulations nor the negative aspects which have crept into judging and exhibition of GSDs over recent years.

“We want viewers to remember positive images which will facilitate their learning.”

Breed council secretary Sheila Rankin called the film discriminatory and said the KC should ‘lighten up a bit’ or more breed clubs would be lost.

“Speaking personally, I find the whole idea of a video about handling GSDs without using a GSD is slightly bizarre, but then the KC, like God, moves in mysterious ways,” she said.

“Is this video to be one of a series? Will there be another, for example, showing American Cockers being handled without their heads and tails being held up? And if it is only GSDs who are to be dismissed from the ring for showing signs of stress then I would think it is discriminatory. But surely the KC would be right if they did not to want to put any dog of any breed under stress?

“Talking about stress, I think the KC should appreciate the terrible stress they are putting GSD show committees under. I’ve been show secretary/manager for GSD Club of Essex for at least 35 years and our last show in 2016 almost convinced me that it is not worth running them anymore. Even though the field officers whho come to Essex are very kind and very pleasant the stress of being watched all day long is enough to make even the toughest secretary throw in the towel.

“The KC is our governing body and as such I respect their rules and the people who enforce them, but if they do not lighten up a bit they will lose more GSD clubs as there just won’t be people willing to serve on show committees.”

The German Shepherd Dog League of GB declined to comment.   

The film can be found at http://www.kcacademy.org.uk/shop/ring-procedures-at-kennel-club-licensed-shows/german-shepherd-dog-judges-education-programme/. Registration for the Academy account is free of charge. To sign up go to https://learn.kcacademy.org.uk/login/signup.php