The Westminster Kennel Club dog show begins on Saturday. A Kent breeder will judge the pooches
When Faye Strauss of Kent fell in love with her husband’s family’s Doberman over 40 years ago, she had no idea her interest in the royal breed would set her on a path to a life of dog shows , which eventually earned him an invitation to judge the Working Dog Group at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on June 22 at the Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown, New York.
Founded in 1877, the Westminster Kennel Club is the oldest dog sporting organization in the United States and its dog show is the second oldest dog sporting event in the country. This year, 3,500 dogs representing 209 breeds will be entered in the show. The preliminary trials will begin on Saturday June 18 and will continue until the grand finale at 4:30 p.m. on June 22: collective judging of the Working, Sporting and Terrier categories, followed by Best in Show.
Strauss’ job will be to evaluate and select the top four dogs from the 31 working breeds that have been selected to move up from the Best of Breed category, basing his decision on the American Kennel Club’s standard of excellence. . She is one of 34 judges invited to participate in Westminster, and among seven who will judge one of the group categories.
“As a judge, it’s pretty hard to pick a winner when there are so many good dogs,” Strauss said. “Having been in the sport for 40 years, it’s a lifetime experience.”
After meeting Dean, her husband’s family dog, Strauss couldn’t forget the breed. Although she grew up with a family dog, she was taken in by the Doberman’s personality, regal looks and intelligence. She knew right away that she wanted one of her own.
“The Doberman has always interested me because he has that straight look,” she said. “They are muscular and powerful and it’s just a beautiful breed to behold. I like a lot of different races, but I never wanted a different race.
While attending a dog show in Eugene, Oregon in the 1970s, she met the owner of a Doberman stallion who recommended the couple get a puppy sired by his dog from a bay area breeder.
So she and her husband planned a trip to California and chose a dog they named Margo. While Margo was still a puppy, the breeder suggested that the Strausses enter Margo in a dog show.
“We hadn’t really trained her [to be a show dog]”, Strauss said. “I looked at a lot of magazines, so I knew what the judge was waiting for. We were lucky to have a dog that was very easy going. [Margo] sort of did all the work on her own.
Margo won her puppy class, beating 23 other puppies her age, prompting Strauss to turn to more competitions and breeding.
After this show, Strauss began working with a friend to learn how to make a dog look good and get it into competitive condition. She and her husband, Gary, created Sherluck Dobermans in 1973, breeding litters from Margo and her half-sister, High Fashion. Over the years, the pair have bred over 100 AKC champions. Strauss has put a 12-year hiatus from dog breeding, but expects a litter on July 4.
Now, decades after competing in his first competition with Margo, Strauss will be a judge at the nation’s most prestigious dog show. Strauss has been judging dogs from around the world for 25 years, but this time it’s different.
Although Strauss has judged Best of Breed at Westminster twice before, this is the first time she has judged any of the seven groups of dogs that will compete in the Best in Show range. Strauss first enjoyed prestige at Westminster in the 1980s after his dog Jake was invited to compete for best of breed. Jake won Best of Opposite Sex, which is awarded to the best dog of the dog’s opposite sex that won.
Brian Martin of Portland and former AKC Field Representative for the Pacific Northwest will be steward at the Westminster Dog Show this year, assisting judges with logistics and coordination to efficiently get dogs and handlers in and out. ring dogs. He said it was a big deal to be asked to judge at Westminster.
“There’s no other show in the United States that’s more beloved as a judge to be a guest at. It’s pretty special,” he said. “It’s easy to say they are the cream of judges in the country.”
The Westminster Club invites judges from around the world, based on their proven and consistent ability to be fair and make selections consistent with breed standards and sends a written letter of invitation requesting their participation in the event.
“I don’t know what their decision-making process is, but it’s always a pleasure to be considered and invited to the show,” Strauss said.
Each judge evaluates a dog based on the breed standard, looking at characteristics ranging from the color of a dog’s nose to the length of its ears and the shape of its legs.
“Every dog has a description of what they should look like,” Martin said. “It’s very precise, and it’s very trying to be able to judge at this level. It’s a huge, huge accomplishment.
The judges have two and a half minutes to spend with each dog.
Starting with the head, a judge checks the dog’s teeth and bite, then touches the body and coat before watching how the dog moves as the handler walks away and back with the dog. Finally, the judge will walk around the dog while it is standing to take one last look before sending the dog to the end of the line. Once all dogs have been evaluated, the judge selects the top four winners.
Although Strauss breeds Dobermans, that doesn’t mean she will favor the breed in her selection. Strauss spent a lot of time competing with the other breeds in the group and showing breeds other than Dobermans. Additionally, she received mentorship in each breed, attended seminars and webinars, took oral and written exams, and received peer reviews.
“Some [breed] the standards are 50 to 60 years old,” Martin said. “The breeders work very hard to preserve their breed and the love that is put into all of these shows is just amazing.”
Strauss compares Westminster to the Super Bowl, the Kentucky Derby or the World Series.
“Not only can you see the best dogs, but you can also see the best dog handlers, dog trainers and conditioners,” Strauss said. “The tension is high as you see the manager giving everything to deliver the best presentation. The best of the best are here.