The subject of asking anatomical questions has raised its ugly head again on Facebook. There is a split opinion on this but I was quite glad to see that the majority of comments made on a particular thread on Facebook were in support of questions being asked. Junior handling, and therefore adult handling, was born to encourage young handlers into the sport and encourage learning about dogs – this is the rationale behind asking questions.
My personal opinion on this has always been that to encourage people (especially the younger people joining our hobby) you ask anatomical questions. I do feel that this shouldn’t really go outside the scope of the “50 points of the dog” now of course known as “confirmation and movement hands on assessment”. I do not think there is any harm in asking breed specific terms either – for example on a beagle ears are commonly referred to as “leathers” and the tail is referred to as the “stern”. I also think that all dog owners should know that a dog has 42 teeth!
I have been asked all sorts of things during my handling escapades – how many bones in the neck? How many pairs of ribs? I know the answers because I have studied the anatomy of the dog for my own interest but I would not ask these questions myself as I feel that this is beyond the needs of a handler.
Two very good points were raised about this subject to support the asking of questions. The first, logically just stated that if you want to read critiques and judges often use phrases like “well defined stop” and “good turn of stifle” how are you meant to interpret this if you do not know what the “stop” and “stifle” are!? Conversely if you are writing critiques I would suggest that a basic grasp of the points of the dog would be an advantage.
The second point made was that if you do not understand or know the points of the dog how are you meant to be able to present your dog to its best advantage? Breed standards use anatomical terms throughout and in order to show your dog you do need an understanding of the standard.
I will make this point though (and I make it often) to potential judges – you must decide what is a priority for you is when you judge. Is it comprehensive knowledge of the anatomy and substandard pattern work and showing of the dog? Or is it an exemplary handling performance showing good rapport with the dog and showing it to its very best with may be a not so good knowledge of the anatomy? I know which it is for me! Also, if you ask questions as a judge at least make sure you know exactly where the point of the dog is too!
I do ask questions, I ask breed specific questions and anatomical questions but I have never, ever knocked an excellently performing handler who answered a question wrong over someone who broke the golden rules or put in a disappointing performance. I have, however, split equally excellent handlers this way. I have been in the very fortunate position twice where I genuinely couldn’t split handling performance so for me to complete the package I asked some breed specific questions and the handler that was able to deliver that complete package, of performance and knowledge, on that day won the class.
“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family” – Kofi Annan
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