Taking The Lead

By Andrea Keepence-Keyte

To Withhold, Or Not To Withhold? That, My Friend, Is The Question!

To Withhold, Or Not To Withhold? That, My Friend, Is The Question!

After City of Birmingham Championship show there has been much chatter about withholding awards.

For those who may not be aware, a judge withheld from a whole class (placing only 1st) in quite a numerically strong breed. There has been much discussion about this and the reasons why it was done. We must consider that some of the dogs that were withheld from have had significant past wins and some held junior warrants and show certificates of merit. The judge did write an explanation stating that poor movement was the reasoning behind their decision.

Next followed all sorts of conversations which highlighted that many actually do not understand the withholding rule and much debate about when you should withhold.

In the “judges FAQ’s” issued by the Kennel Club the following is stated:

An award may be withheld if in the opinion of the Judge there is lack of sufficient merit. This can incorporate both breed specific points and/or visible health & welfare issues. The Judge must mark on the judging slips that the award has been so withheld. When a Judge withholds a Third award for want of merit, the subsequent awards in that Class must also be withheld. (Regulation F(1)21.m)
Judges are reminded that no matter how outstanding an exhibit appears in relation to the breed standard in other ways, care must always be taken to consider it in more general terms prizes should never be awarded to dogs which are visibly suffering from any condition which would adversely affect their health or welfare eg:
• Lameness - including ‘hopping’
• Inappropriate temperament – refusal to be handled, timidity or aggression
• A discharge from one or both eyes or any signs of discomfort in either eye
• Obvious breathing difficulty
• Obvious skin disorder or ear irritation
• Exaggerations that would make the dog unsuited to the breed’s original purpose
• Significantly over or under weight

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The point that is open for individual definition is “in the opinion of the Judge there is lack of sufficient merit.” I suppose here you must look at your exhibits and decide what this means. For me, if it looks like a beagle, behaves like a beagle and displays all the characteristics required for a beagle to do a day’s hunting then it has sufficient merit. I have seen withholding occur and I have agreed with why the judge withheld. But I Have to question the original case in that there were 11 exhibits entered in the class, 1 of which was absent and the judge only found one dog that had sufficient merit???

When I have spoken to people about this they have all agreed that as a judge it is your job to place the exhibits in “order of merit” and unless something is drastically wrong (see above) there should be no reason to withhold. One person I spoke to said, however, that when it comes to awarding CC’s this can be different. You may find exhibits which are obvious examples of the breed and could in fact do what the dog was bred for. When it comes to giving the CC however you are saying that you believe, as a judge, that the dog you are going to award this to is worthy of the title “champion” and in some cases this might not be true of your class winners.

I have stewarded where a judge only had 3 dogs entered and CC’s were on offer. The judge withheld the CC but did award best in sex. This was because the judge did not think there was an exhibit worthy of the title champion. Fortunately in the bitch classes numbers were greater and the quality better and the judge was able to award the bitch CC.

One thing I do think needs to be clarified is what happens when you withhold. There was much discussion and interpretation of the rule about withholding but I have always been taught that wherever you withhold from, you then cannot award any further prizes. I think this is the safest approach personally because if you’re withholding from one place, how can any exhibit be worthy of a lower award? The rule states that if you withhold third then you must withhold any further awards suggesting that you can withhold first and second but award third onwards – and this just seems ridiculous to me personally, if there is not an exhibit worthy of winning the class then there is no exhibit worthy of a place in my opinion !

I believe that there is a danger here that some people who might be wanting to “make a statement” when judging might withhold for all the wrong reasons. I have written before about the motivation to judge and if it’s anything other than honourable then I wouldn’t bother. Getting revenge, knocking exhibits or making a statement should never be the motivation and as I have said before, this hobby is expensive and people vote with their feet! Don’t assume that the exhibitors are stupid because they are far from it!
There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing your own thing and placing the dogs you want to place – don’t do it to please anyone other than yourself. And ask yourself at the end of your judging “are you happy with your placings?” and if you genuinely are, you’re doing the right thing. It’s a funny old game judging dogs and you can only really please one person and that is you!

“With power comes the abuse of power. And where there are bosses, there are crazy bosses. It’s nothing new” – Judd Rose

If there is anything you would like me to discuss or research and write about please do email me or contact me through Facebook. Also, don’t forget to email or call me with your news, results and gossip!
Andrea Keepence-Keyte
01386 830908


Remember to click the green Wag or red Growl button below to react to this article, you can also leave a comment below.

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31 Wags
Andrea Keepence-Keyte
I have had pet dogs all of my life, it wasn't until I met my husband and we moved in together that we got our first dog together. I really wanted a Labrador but my sister in law had just bred her beagle bitch and was expecting her first litter and my husband had his heart set on a beagle. So I am afraid to say he is completely to blame for what followed!

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  1. Haradwaithe

    I agree entirely with this article. Some judges withhold for no other reason than it makes them think that they are showing that they care for the breed when in fact all they are doing is making themselves look silly. Others withhold because they think that it makes them appear important but all it does it make them look vain glorious. Yet others withhold because they do not think that the exhibit is of sufficient merit to qualify for Crufts (despite the fact that they do think it is good enough to be placed in NON Crufts qualifying classes) this again is completely foolish. The judge is not there to pre judge Crufts, they are there to place the exhibits in 'order of merit' as the KC guidelines state. Again if the exhibit is lame or falls within any of the other guidelines for not placing as per the KC then surely it would be much better for the judge to have a quiet word with that exhibits handler and suggest that they withdraw the exhibit rather than be withheld. But again in most classes, especially the one referred to in the article, there are sufficient exhibits that the judge should be able to place enough exhibits so that, should the handler refuses to withdraw (which would be silly because they must know that they are not going to get placed) the exhibit that is lame or otherwise needs not be placed. Once again my argument is that there is NO reason for any judge to withhold unless the exhibit is suffering from a condition that the KC recommends should not be placed and the handler refuses to withdraw the exhibit.

  2. Nicky Marsay

    It was rather a shock for a judge to take this action in an E Band breed, one that I hope was done for the right reasons. This could have led to people suspecting that this breed was in a very poor state, despite the many Group successes it has enjoyed. Fortunately the breed was judged at the next Show by a very prominent and experienced all rounder who managed to find enough worthy exhibits in all the classes. It's very easy to see faults (and no dog is perfect) but recognising virtues is where the true art of judging really lies

  3. Cleevehill

    Well if you had the same system as FCI shows you woould have grade each dog and only a dog with an Excellent may go on to be CAC or CACIB and BOB. Any dog that gets a very good is iliminated from.the final decision. Instead of withholding grade the dogs. This saying I have seen judges witholding the CAC and IB even when the dogs had an excellent.

  4. Kajakees

    I agree with Cleevehill. If a judge had to assess a dog on its individual merit it would perhaps focus their mind on the Breed Standard, rather sadly, in some cases, who is on the other end of the lead! I remember an overseas judge, a breed specialist, giving my bitch a strong limit class and in his critique, stating excellent all through,. She didn't win top honours that day but did go onto gain her crown. Too many judges are afraid to do the right thing, all credit to a judge who can be true to the self and the breed standard.

  5. Beauceron

    Sadly while this is happening those dogs that actually bare teeth on the ring are placed instead of being withheld...

  6. Lydia

    I think Cleevehill hits the nail on the head.

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