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Determining a top dog


© St. Petersburg Times, published February 12, 2001

Every breed of terrier has its own standard and lengthy list of judging guidelines. Sandra Goose Allen knows them all.

"Two judges can interpret the same rules a different way, but that's what makes dog shows so fun," she says. 'You only have 2 1/2 minutes to look at a dog when you're judging, so you have to know what you're looking for."

When Allen takes to the floor at Madison Square Garden tonight and Tuesday, here are the basic judging points she will follow.

1. Look at the whole appearance of the dog. How is it "set," how low or how long, and how does its coat look?

2. Size, proportion and substance. How is the dog built? Is it big-boned? Slightly built? Solid and compact?

3. Check the head. What is the overall size, the expression? Are the eyes piercing? Round eyes are perfect for pugs, for example, but almond eyes are the standard for Scotties.

4. Look at ears (set high or low?), the nose, the teeth. A French bulldog should have an underbite and a scissors bite is right for a Silky.

5. Examine the neck and topline of the body, the front and rear.

6. "Span" certain breeds by making sure two hands can fit around the chest and back.

7. Feel the coat. A Skye terrier's should be long and soft, while most other terriers' coats have a crisper texture. Also check for color.

8. Watch them walk. Gait is important.

9. Attitude counts. Does a dog have a good temperament? Is it self-confident, steadfast and proud? Make sure it's alert and has a sense of showmanship. Terriers should walk around the ring with their heads and tails up.

10. "I always look for the positives in judging," Allen says, "because there's no perfect person and no perfect dog."

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