Interview With Ginny Altman

  The following is an attempt to improve communication between the judges of our breed, and the people who show under them.  

1.) Are you an active breeder of German Shepherd Dogs? Do you have a kennel name ?  

I breed a limited number of litter's, at most one to 2 per year. My kennel name is RIVADEN German Shepherd Dogs.
2.) How long have you been in the breed? When and how did you get started? Are you affiliated with any clubs?  
I have been in the breed since 1975. When and how did you get started ? I bought my first German shepherd dog as a pet and became interested in obedience. I took this dog through her utility title and also obtained a tracking degree.
3.) How long have you been judging the breed?  
I have been judging since 1992. 
4.) How many times a year do you judge German Shepherds?  
I judge 6 to 8 times a year
5.) Over the last 2 years has the number of shows?  
About the same 
6.) Have you ever judged the National Specialty? If yes, when and what classes ?  
7.) Do you judge at both all-breeds and specialties, which do you prefer ?  
Specialties - I like to judge at specialties because you can count on large grassy rings in which to evaluate the dogs. There's usually a larger entry and many quality dogs as well.

All-Breeds - I have judged a number of all breed shows and am fortunate that I have had some very nice animals brought under me there. I am also judging Shetland Sheep dogs, Collies, Australian Shepherd's, and Corgi's. When the all breed clubs offer me these assignments they often will ask me to do German shepherd dogs as well. 

Re: Supported Entries - I have had the good fortune to have had some assignments just like this.

8.) Do you have a color preference?  
Yes, I prefer color. In all seriousness, color is not of prime importance to me in judging our breed. I can readily say that I do not have any prejudices against any color.
9.) What importance do you place on condition of plush versus smooth coat? Please explain.  
Not important
10.) When judging the dog do you also judge the handler? Please elaborate if possible.  
No, I just judge the dogs! If I could, I would see the dogs on their own. Given that that is not possible, I ask the handler to show me the dog with the least amount of control of the animal, but at a gait that allows me to evaluate the movement.
11.) What importance do you place on missing teeth?  
Our standard calls for complete dentition. A missing pre-molar is a minor fault. We do not to see dogs with major faults in missing teeth in the breed ring today
12.) How do you see bites today?  
Good. I have seen some level bites, and an occasional over shot bite. We do have wry bite in our breed, but an animal with this condition is not often shown in the breed ring.
13.) How do you see strength of ears?  
Good. A poor ear set is distracting but we have made improvements in ear strength and carriage in the last few years.
14.) Do you feel the GSD's temperament has improved over the past 5 years?  
15.) Do you consider temperament today to be? Please explain.  
Very good I think the temperament today is much improved over what we had 5 to 10 years ago. I very rarely have to excuse a dog for temperament.
16.) Do you prefer a dog to be shown on a loose lead?  
Yes. This is not just a preference, this is mandatory.
17.) How would you rate the following in sequence of importance? (On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest).  
  Coming and going    6
  Side Gait    10
  Temperament    9
  Teeth    3
  Coat    1
  Pasterns, hocks, feet    5
  Pigment    4
  Structure    7
  Shoulder and reach    8
  Attitude    2 
18.) Could you briefly describe your ring procedure, and any changes you may incorporate between a small Vs large class  
I bring the dogs into the ring in catalog order and have them stacked for first impressions. I then ask the handlers to walk one time around. I then ask them to take them around twice on a loose lead. They get to do more times around if I didn't get the loose lead I was looking for. At this point I do some rearranging if it is a large class.

I will then bring the dogs out for their loose lead temperament test and their individual examination. Again in a large class, I may rearrange the dogs after their individual. I will typically send them around again on a loose lead and make my placements.

19.) Do you think there should be an age limit in placing points on a dog (i.e. dogs and bitches under 12 months of age)?  
No, The dog that best matches the standard that day should be the winner.
20.) If a dog is not exactly to the standard in size, would you prefer slightly larger or smaller?  
I don't know that I could say that I have a preference for larger or smaller. It is really about ease of movement, fluid side gait and balance more than it is about size.
21.) Do you think on average German Shepherd Dogs are too extreme?  
22.) In your opinion should double handling be allowed?  
Yes and No. Yes, when an exhibitor is showing a young dog that is somewhat green and really doesn't know which way to go around the ring it can be helpful for the owner to double the dog to keep moving consistently. Also at the end of a long class, when the dog might otherwise not rather go around at all, it can be a "pick me up" for the dog. No, when the objective is to get the dog to lean hard into the collar and go faster and faster around the ring.

In the end, the judge must put the control on Double handling, if it interferes with his/her judging procedures.

23.) Should all select dogs, in your opinion, be OFA (H&E)?  
No. I am strongly opposed to making any change in the award of select title. Our dogs are judged on movement, soundness, temperament, and type. They are not judged by viewing a set of x-rays. As a member of the parent Club, I voted for judges whose opinion I think should be exercised with full authority on their day of judging. The judge has the responsibility and accountability to select the very best of what is presented to him or her on that day based on the dogs presentation in the ring. That is what the select title is all about. Do not take away the delegated authority of our elected judge to award that title of select to the dogs and bitches that are found to be superior to others in the ring and in competition that day. If the OFA registry becomes the ultimate determinant in who becomes Select then we have had a process of judging by committee outside the ring.

The serious breeders in America today are knowledgeable and conscientious. They know the virtues and the faults of the animals they are breeding. This includes information about their hips, but it includes much more than that. It is their ability to perceive mediocrity with an eye to improvement, not just in hips but in the overall dog.

Hips are not the singular problem facing the German shepherd dog as a breed. We, as breeders, continued to make improvements in the quality of hips while addressing other problems that confront us such as bloat, intestinal torsion, pancreatic insufficiency, carpel luxation, esophageal achalasia, and spinal myelopathy to name only a few. We can not place this sole emphasis on hips-- it is wrong-- if we do this we will be creating a focus that will cause a loss of balance in selection of breeding partners for the overall improvement of our breed. We cannot lose sight of this. The dog is more than just his hips.

24.) When making the final selection, does the dog with the most front reach usually win the class?  
Yes, if that dog has the reach on a loose lead, while maintaining a top line that transmits the drive from the rear quarter.
25.) Do you feel more emphasis should be put on the total package, and less on movement?  
A dog puts the total package together in his movement. The way a dog moves is a sum total of his structure and balance together with his temperament.
26.) Do you think the German Shepherd Dog standard should be changed?  
27.) Do you think there should be any changes in any of the existing rules concerning dog shows? If so, please elaborate  
Not that I can think of, when you know the rules then you can figure out how to play the game.
28.) Is there a dog, whether alive now or not, who to you typifies most closely the "ideal" German Shepherd Dog ? If yes, please explain and give details  
The dog that taught me the most about the ideal German shepherd dog was my Select Champion Emerhien's Deri of Merivern who was select No. 2 in 1981. I had the rare privilege of watching this animal float around my backyard for seven years. She had a fluid, out reaching, ground covering, easy side gait. She was very well balanced and had under drive that matched her fore quarter. She had a well laid-back shoulder and a firm top line. This was a dog that could go and go all day long. So, when I think about the ideal dog I remember my Deri, Bear, as we called her.
29.) Do you feel that in general the quality of the breed in this country is getting better or worse ? Please elaborate  
    We are making many improvements in our breed. We're making improvements in hips, temperament, and overall quality.
30.) Do you have a pet peeve about anything owners or handlers do concerning the showing of dogs ?  
I don't really have any pet peeves. I do like to see clean teeth. I do like to see a clean dog, I guess that should go without saying.
31.) Do you have any suggestions for owners or handlers regarding anything they should ALWAYS do when showing under you ?  
Yes, always remember this is not a race. I like it slow and easy and on a loose lead, please.
32.) Do you have any suggestions for owners or handlers regarding anything they should NEVER do when showing under you ?  
33.) Do you have any advice for people who are relatively new to showing and/or breeding?  
Work with your breeders. They have succeeded before you, they can help you succeed. Do your homework, study the blood lines, study the breed.
34.) Is there anything else you would like to say about judging or about the German Shepherd breed today ? If so, please feel free to say it here: 
    I love to judge the German Shepherd Dog. This is about the dogs and about finding the one that most closely matches the standard. It is a beautiful sight to see all of those dogs gaiting about the ring. I feel privileged to have been given the responsibility to perceive the differences between them and to select from them the ones that come the closest to perfection. It is an honor to be able to judge the German Shepherd Dog.
35.) Have you ever judged one the of the greats? If so, can you give a rundown of this dog for the   people who have not had the privilege to see it. 
    I had the opportunity to judge Mystique in Louisville in 1994. She was near perfection. She was a medium sized bitch of good pigment with well placed fore assembly. She had a wonderful, out reaching, effortless side gait. She carried a firm top line. She was without fault both coming and going. She displayed a sound and happy temperament. All of this she was able to display in an inside ring.
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