Many newcomers to Scottish Terriers seem to find breed type difficult to understand and too much emphasis is often put on individual points at the expense of overall type when assessing dogs. This article will try to explain SCOTTISH TERRIER TYPE as opposed to other breeds. A grasp of type is fundamental to breeders and judges.
A Scottish Terrier should be a sturdy, thick-set dog: of quality and he should never be a fine-drawn, elongated dog. Body properties are therefore of great importance and they are one of the characteristics of the breed. A Scottie should be firm and solid, not fat and sloppy and he must have a good ribcage and be short-coupled. Bone and substance are vital breed characteristics but quality is also important and a top Scottie is a combination of substance and quality- one without the other does not produce a top dog. However, bone and substance come first, but quality must be plentiful also. Willie Gill of the famous Gillsies used to say that you want as much bone and substance as possible with as much quality as possible -and in that order!
Ideally you want a long clean head, good neck and shoulders and a very sturdy body with a deep ribcage and very wide well-angulated muscular quarters and a carrot-shaped tail set right on top. This is not easy to get in the same dog!
Beautiful clean heads are often linked with light bone and light bodies whereas good bone and well-developed ribcages are often seen on dogs with strong skulls and thick, throaty necks. Both are incorrect. However, it is perfectly possible to combine substance and quality in the same dog although not easy and the key to correct breed-type lies in the correct combination of these two extremes. A Scottie that is too fine-drawn lacks breed-type no matter how good the head is, but a dog that has correct body properties often displays correct breed type even if the head is poor, and this is important to remember. Lack of quality will however never make such a dog a top specimen.
There does seem to be a tendency to favour dogs that are too racy in outline in many countries at the present time, and this is not right and I sometimes refer to such dogs as ''Foxterriers in disguise,” and they inevitably fail in bone and body, but often produce pleasing silhouettes, but are alien to correct type. The Owens of Gaywyn fame have often used the term “Terrier type” as opposed to correct Scottish Terrier type.
A Scottie should carry himself with pride and have an air of importance about him and he should never be highly strung. He should appear to stand foursquare on solid legs and look as if he had just bought the place rather than ask for forgiveness for being there! Betty Penn-Bull once said that a true Scottie should look and behave like a country squire rather than a Bond Street beauty, and I think this is a wonderful way of describing both type and character – two vital ingredients for a Scottish Terrier.
Judging "Character" In The Ring
“NO JUDGE SHOULD PUT TO WINNERS OR BEST OF BREED ANY SCOTTISH TERRIER NOT SHOWING REAL TERRIER CHARACTER IN THE RING”
Scottish Terriers 8 -14
A key phrase from our standard. Should be pretty self-explanatory but is it? I am approached many times to explain or clarify this and it always leads to discussion of “Sparring.” Those who have grown up with Scotties know that sparring is just one way to show Terrier character in the ring. However I seem to hear that there needs to be better education on how to spar, when to do it and is it the only way to show that character.
What is sparring? Webster’s says, “to gesture without landing a blow...” I love this description. When I started it was commonplace to see terriers sparred. Dogs were brought out to face off and display their alert attitude. Judges brought 2 dogs but rarely more than 3 center ring. Tails would become rigid, ears erect and occasionally a quivery lip would show a hint of tooth. Never contact. Not to say that occasionally a tuft of beard might end up in the air. But that was greatly discouraged. The best dogs never left the ground. They just drew a line in the grass and said I dare you, simply a glorious stare down.
Sadly I hear stories of bad sparring. Concerns are how a judge allows it, how an exhibitor controls their dog and what spectators see in the ring. Perhaps some helpful advice is in order since I would hate to see this practice disappear.
As an exhibitor always have your dog in control in the ring. Train your terrier not fly into the air in a rage but rather stand its ground. Know the distance you can approach another terrier before your dog reacts. Ring awareness of your surroundings, fellow exhibitors and their dogs is a must. When asked to spar listen to directions. If none, take the lead and control the situation by how close you allow your dog to get. All the judge needs to see is your dog’s positive attitude. If asked to get closer stay your ground.
Judges you are in control of your ring. If you choose to spar terriers then make sure you know how. If not, consider whether or not you should do it. Go to people you respect in breeds that spar. Get feedback on what is correct and/or safe. Watch it being done before you give it a go. My general rule of thumb is never spar more than 2 dogs. Bring them center ring with lots of space around. State clearly that you just want them to look and you do not want contact or see them leave the ground. If attitude is there it will be displayed immediately. If it is not do not push the issue. If the exhibitors start to get too close tell them to back away. Never allow the dogs to connect. We do not want to see dogs injured and we need to think how it would appear to spectators. We do not want any thought that you are encouraging dog fighting. That will only do all of us and our sport a disservice. Once you see that bristly attitude dismiss the dogs back into position. Please never spar a puppy with an adult. It is too great a risk for a young temperament.
As for "real terrier character" sparring is not the only test. Look for an attitude of confidence. A firm stance for examination. A head and tails up movement in a group going around or a solo down and back. It is a dog that comes back to a judge with an air of superiority that says look at me.
Ultimately we all have to choose our way to evaluate this. Sparring is simply one option and when done poorly the repercussions are not worth the risk. However correctly managed it is a beautiful sight. Two specimens at the end of their leads standing their ground telling each other and the world this is their turf and no one else's.
“His commanding presence, his unflinching gaze, his deep rooted conviction that he is his own man; these are the attributes of the adult Scottish Terrier of a proper type. Once witnessed, this attitude is hard to forget” Evelyn Kirk 1996
The silhouette of the Scottish Terrier is one of the most recognizable in dogdom. As a judge we go well beyond and are able recognize, compare and contrast specimens according to the salient features and disposition of the breed. The Scottish Terrier is in all aspects a small, sturdy dog of serious purpose that will fearlessly go to earth after badger and other prey.
Scottish Terriers enter the ring with confidence owning the ground they stand upon. Many are busybodies and may resist the handler’s efforts to face in the predetermined proper direction. Each dog should convey the belief that he is the best regardless of your judgment. In general appearance this is a compact, muscular dog of good bone and substance with a head that is long in proportion to its size. Check for a smooth flow of neck into shoulder, level topline, a pronounced forechest, and rump extending beyond the tail – the tail is NOT the end of a Scottish Terrier. An examination of dogs from the front and top is suggested to check expression but also for the proper width of the dog.
The dog goes around the ring covering ground even with short legs, reaching out with its front feet almost to the point of its nose and powerfully pushing with its rear showing good extension of the rear foot. Do not misconstrue lots of quick little steps for the effective reach and drive. Ears may fold back while in motion but the tail is carried up.
Judges should be sure to avail themselves of two major opportunities to evaluate the Scottish Terrier, table examination and free-standing. The first is a breed specific examination on the table which can confirm or change your initial opinion. Skillful grooming can both enhance the dog and camouflage problems. Hands-on the dog will uncover where hair is filling holes. Check the proportion and height of the dog (10” at the withers) with your hands. You should think “How could you possibly fit such a big dog in such a small, cobby package?” Stand back and take a minute to carefully observe expression. The ears contribute greatly to proper expression being “set well up on the skull” forming a straight line up from the side. They are relatively small and mobile thus you will want to check these again when on the ground and alert. The correct expression once seen is hard to miss again. The Scot will generally look down his nose at you with a penetrating gaze letting you know that he is in charge. It is described as ‘varminty’ and should NEVER be sweet, appealing or cute.
After many years in the breed you have received an invitation to judge a sweepstakes. Consider this honor the opportunity to better understand our breed and the judging process. The assignment comes with great responsibility. Judging may not be as simple as you first envisioned.
I strongly suggest that you read and reread the standards and articles on judging in general. One important document is the AKC booklet "Guidelines for Conformation Dog Show Judges" which you can find online.
Watch the AKC Scottish Terrier breed video. I suggest viewing it for the first time without the sound and then again with the descriptions. Did you notice the same breed characteristics and faults?
Study the illustrated standard and watch large classes at a show focusing on what you see about the dogs and the judging process. Know the essentials of the breed that separate it from all others and make it a true Scot. Plan to prize the characteristics of type that are hard to breed.
Having the proper ring procedure is a must. Watch and talk to experienced judges. Never do a hands-on examination of our breed on the ground, especially with puppies.
Ask for an experience ring steward if this is your first assignment. As a judge you cannot look at the catalog to determine trophies so ask the steward to lay out ribbons and trophies.
Arrive well before judging and decide where you want the dogs to line up, where you want the table and where you will gait the dogs. Look at your judges' book; find the spaces for all your markings. Turn off your phone.
I have always found it useful to let entries gait around before going to the table. They can peruse the area and calm themselves. You should approach each pup gently. Gait and examine all exhibits individually the same way; on the same surface, with the same care and detail, and with the exact same courtesy.
In your judging selections, stick to your informed vision and ideal of our breed Standard. Plan to be decisive so you can stay on time. Trust your instincts and impressions and judge dogs on their virtues. Most of all select the best whole dog! Piecemeal judging is often fault judging. You will be far happier when the class winners enter the ring for Best in Sweepstakes if you have judged for virtues and the whole dog.
Get first in each class right. Put the dogs in order before pointing to a placement to avoid confusion. The judge should deeply know, understand and appreciate the essence of the breed, inside and out. Reflect on what you know and what you do not. When you realize what you don't know you will continue to learn. Too many spend more time on what they are going to wear than on what they need to know both in content and process. Study and restudy our breed its history, standard, anatomy and purpose.
Finally, remember to enjoy the day and the breed. May the best dog win.
Originally published in the AKC Gazette, August, 2012
Judges Education : Power Point Slide Show
Here is the Power Point Slide Show used for the STCA Scottish Terrier breed presentation.
This presentation is used for the AKC judges education seminars for the Scottish Terrier break.
It is fairly large in size and will take some time to download.