Interview With J.Donald Jones

  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 bred very little, maybe four litters between 1958 and 1964. I also co-bred a litter in 1965.
2.) How long have you been in the breed? When and how did you get started? Are you affiliated with any clubs? 
I was always involved with livestock and horses, and I showed and judged livestock beginning when I was still in college. I was involved with horses, teaching equitation in Summer camp while I was in college, and I showed hunters and jumpers. Shortly after graduating from college I bought a GSD and began to show him. The first show in which I entered him I won a major, and it went from there. I showed my first GSD in about 1958 or 1959.
I have been a member of the GSD of Atlanta for 35 years and a member of the GSDC of America for about 37 years. I am also a life member of the Atlanta Kennel Club. 
3.) How long have you been judging the breed? 
I did my first judging assignment in October, 1966 and that was the GSD Club of Mobile Alabama. At that time I had the largest entry ever in the South--120. Lamar Kuhns showed the BOB dog, Fred Olsen showed the WB and George Collins showed the WD. (There is more history here if anyone wants to know it)
4.) How many times a year do you judge German Shepherds? 
Usually I judge GSD at all breed shows as many as ten times a year, and I usually judge one or two specialty shows, actually I judge GSD as many at 12 times a year, and I may judge them in South America, Australia or Canada. I have also judged GSD in Jamaica and Dominican Republic on several occasions.
5.) Over the last 2 years has the number of shows? 
The number of shows has increased.
6.) Have you ever judged the National Specialty? If yes, when and what classes ? 
No, I have not judged a National.
7.) Do you judge at both all-breeds and specialties, which do you prefer ? 
I enjoy judging either specialty or all breed shows, and during the past few years it find that some of the better dogs and larger entries are at the all breed shows
8.) Do you have a color preference? 
I do not have a color preference. The breed standard does not make a preference, except to say that strong and rich colors are preferred; therefore it would be inappropriate for a judge to use a color preference while judging the breed. I have owned black and tan, sable and solid black. In some cases a solid black dog appears to be finer in bone, and sometimes the light and background of the ring give optical illusions. When judging a solid black, or even a bi-color, it is necessary to look closer or from different angles.
9.) What importance do you place on condition of plush versus smooth coat? Please explain. 
A plush coat may be more attractive than a smoother coat, but the coat does not make a dog better--just a more attractive dog! But even the " astute ringside judge " will find and appreciate the more attractive dog. There can be coat faults since the breed standard calls for a double coat of medium length. This being the case a very short coat or a " smooth " coat could be faulted.
10.) When judging the dog do you also judge the handler? Please elaborate if possible. 
No. But a handler can contribute to the dog, both positively and negatively. A good handler helps a dog look its best, and a poor handler can interfere with the presentation, but, be sure, a good handler cannot make a bad dog good and a bad handler cannot make a good dog bad.
11.) What importance do you place on missing teeth? 
The standard speaks directly to missing teeth. Any missing teeth, except the first premolars, is considered a serious fault. An outstanding dog in every way except that he has one missing premolar is still an outstanding dog.
12.) How do you see bites today? 
Bites generally are good. Occasionally you will find a dog with a level bite. I have had one serious bite problem in the last 200 GSD I judged.
13.) How do you see strength of ears? 
There are some problems with the strength of ears. It is not unusual to see a dog with soft ears, leaning ears and ears out of proportion to the head. Poor ears, I think, should be considered faulty and the breed standard states that they should be carried erect and the center lines of the ears are parallel with each other and perpendicular to the ground.
14.) Do you feel the GSD's temperament has improved over the past 5 years? 
Temperament may have improved slightly in the past five years. It has improved a great deal over the past 15 years. I think that we may be more forgiving now that we were a few years ago. We have become accustomed to dogs that do not exhibit the strength of character that the breed standard calls for. There are many dogs in the show rings today that appear nervous or anxious, and many of these same dogs exhibit what I call a neurotic dependency on an owner who is outside the ring. A dog with sound temperament should be calm and reasonably dignified in the ring. He will 'spark' for a double handler, but not dig and claw trying to climb the walls for a double handler.
15.) Do you consider temperament today to be? Please explain. 
Temperament today is only good.
16.) Do you prefer a dog to be shown on a loose lead? 
A loose lead is determined by whoever is looking at it. A lead can be considered loose and still have a fairly firm contact with the dog in order to give it direction. It cannot be called a loose lead if the dog is pulling hard, tugging, digging and clawing to go forward. I require that a dog be shown on what I consider a loose lead.
17.) How would you rate the following in sequence of importance? (On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest). 
There is a serious flaw in rating important characteristics of the breed. That is a net in which many specialty judges get caught. It is very important to see the whole when judging, realizing that some points are stronger or weaker than others; but always knowing what a complete, balanced, correct dog looks like. In the total picture, some of these elements are more important than others. Structure and temperament must be given 10. Gait (Side and coming and going) should be given 8 or 9; Shoulder and reach are part of side movement, so give it 8; teeth, pasterns, hocks and feet are absolutely necessary for the dog to survive, so give those 8; coat and pigment are not as important as other elements, but give them 7; and attitude may be a part of temperament or it may be confused with hyper or calm, and in that case give it 7. 
18.) Could you briefly describe your ring procedure, and any changes you may incorporate between a small Vs large class 
Ring procedure is important because it lets exhibitors know how things will be done and it will determine if there is order or confusion within the ring. My procedure is to bring the dogs into the ring and send them around once or twice. At that point I do individual examinations, including the down and back, followed by each individual having a solo trip around the ring. If a class is large enough to be divided, I follow the same procedure with each section. I place the dogs in order as far back as necessary. If the class has been divided I retain four or five from each group and bring them in for final placement. I would usually work a large class down to six or eight and make the placements from that group, it is not necessary to make a big show out of judging temperament that can be done most effectively during regular examination followed by one pass by each dog while it is standing free and at ease on the lead without bait from the handler or distraction from a double handler, it is important to notice eye movement when judging temperament; because that will tell you a great deal about the attitude of the dog-- especially if the dog is anxious or hostile. The first responsibility of the judge is to do the exercise that helps determine the quality of the dogs in the ring, not to show the ringside what he is doing (or not doing). Granted, at large specialty shows it may be more important to make a show of the temperament evaluation. But generally, what is most important is making a fair and correct assessment of temperament based on good judgment.
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)? 
At this point I do not advocate limiting the points on age, etc. but it may be something that we should consider. Maybe we should consider not awarding a championship to a dog until it reaches a year of age or even 18 months; and in this case the second major could not be given until the dog had reached the age of one year. This is just something to think about, not fight about.
20.) If a dog is not exactly to the standard in size, would you prefer slightly larger or smaller? 
The breed standard says that the ideal height at the highest point of the shoulder blade for males is 24 to 26 inches and 22 to 24 inches for females. I take that for just what it says--ideal. We seem to be forgiving males that are as tall as 28 or 29 inches, but we severely criticize a 24 inch one. If we assume that 25 inches is ideal, then 24 or 26 inches should be equally acceptable by the standard and the same should apply for females, with the ideal for them being 23 inches. The truth of the matter is, the males and females are too big. There are females that win points who are 26 inches or better at the shoulder, and I know of at least one champion male that is 29 inches at the shoulder. The GSD breed standard does not say that the dog is medium or small, neither does it say that it is large. The standard is very specific and gives the exact measurement. I think that a reasonable interpretation of the breed standard would say that a GSD is medium in size because of the kinds of things it was developed to do. A large dog would not be as agile or athletic as the GSD has to be. A Saint Bernard and a Newfoundland are large. My specific answer to the question is, I prefer a correct size dog (male and female), and I would fault a dog that is as much as two inches over the ideal. One can condition oneself to recognize correct height, I have to d0 it in several breeds that judge since they have height disqualifications.
21.) Do you think on average German Shepherd Dogs are too extreme? 
Extreme is an adjective, and it should be used to describe elements of the dog, not the whole dog. Yes, many GSD have extreme rear angulation. We continue to have this problem, and it has not improved in the past three years, it may even be worse. Any element to the extreme is wrong. A dog that is straight (no angulation) is wrong and a dog that is extremely angulated is 'wrong. An over angulated rear is weak, and you will note that many of these dogs drag the tops of their toes on their rear feet when they move. A GSD that is correctly built has good or correct angulation on each end and certainly should not have extreme rear angles.
22.) In your opinion should double handling be allowed? 
There is nothing wrong with double handling. The problem is that many of those who attempt to do it are foolish and do more harm than good. I estimate that for each dog that is helped by "double handling' 10 are hurt by it. What we now call double handling 1s nothing more than attention getting or performance on the part of those who do it. At the same time, there are many effective double handlers who help the dog and you scarcely notice them; and their dogs do not go nuts, they simply perk up. So, let's accurately define double handling.
23.) Should all select dogs, in your opinion, be OFA (H&E)? 
I am ambivalent about this. Yes, I think they should be OFA certified because they are to be used for breeding; but no, I do not think it should be required. If breeders are doing their job, they will not breed to a dog that is not x-rayed and tested for other genetic problems. It should be a moot question about requiring select dogs to be tested or x-rayed, because it is expected that ethical breeders d0 these things as basic to their breeding program. In other words, if a dog goes select and he/she has not been tested and x-rayed you would not breed him/her until this was done and you had evidence that the dog was free of genetic problems.
24.) When making the final selection, does the dog with the most front reach usually win the class? 
No, the dog that more nearly meets the requirements of the breed standard and is balanced and sound should win.
25.) Do you feel more emphasis should be put on the total package, and less on movement? 
Yes, I feel that most of the emphasis should be put on the total package. One of our problems has been that many judges judge on a single element and forget about other things. What we are dealing with is not 'movement' it is exaggerated side movement. Good, outreaching, sound side gait does not get better when it is exaggerated, it gets faulty.
26.) Do you think the German Shepherd Dog standard should be changed? 
No, absolutely not, because the GSD breed standard is probably the best breed standard in existence today. And I feel sure that there is no person(s) around today who could possibly improve it; and I, for one, would do battle with anyone who attempts to change it.
27.) Do you think there should be any changes in any of the existing rules concerning dog shows? If so, please elaborate 
I am sure that many of us who have been involved in showing and judging dogs for many years could suggest ways to change existing rules. But when all is said and done, our present system is working. Let it be for now.
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 
In my time there have been several dogs that I think came near to being the standard. Yoncalla ' s Mike was a wonderful example of the breed. He was correct all over and the right size. A more recent example was the great Mystique. She, too, came near to being the standard in make, shape and size. Neither of these dogs had a flaw or significant fault anywhere. They certainly were correct breed type, and that included good temperament and sound, outreaching side gait.
29.) Do you feel that in general the quality of the breed in this country is getting better or worse ? Please elaborate 
I do not think the breed is getting worse in this country. I do think that we have too many people having puppies and too few breeders. This causes us to have large numbers of dogs that lack breed type and general correctness because the puppies are indiscriminately bred.
30.) Do you have a pet peeve about anything owners or handlers do concerning the showing of dogs ? 
I do not have pet peeves, I do think that dogs are being sold as show dogs and brought into the ring to be shown that should be spayed or castrated and placed as pets. It is simply foolish for people to breed dogs without regard for the quality, and sell them as " show dogs".
31.) Do you have any suggestions for owners or handlers regarding anything they should ALWAYS do when showing under you ? 
They should always bring dogs that are show quality, and the dogs should be clean and reasonably trained. Experienced owners and handlers should be competent enough to know when they have good dogs, and if the one they have is not the best one they should be able to see it and accept their place with grace and poise, they should listen and follow the directions given to them.
32.) Do you have any suggestions for owners or handlers regarding anything they should NEVER do when showing under you ? 
Do not ever exhibit poor sportsmanship. Take your wins and losses like ladies and gentlemen and go to another show the next day hoping to do as well or better.
33.) Do you have any advice for people who are relatively new to showing and/or breeding? 
Yes, do not be afraid to ask a question in order to get help, and let the judge know that you are new at this, but trying hard to learn. Have an attitude of respect and you can expect the same. Everybody started where you did. Also, find a training class and attend it.
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 
It has all been said in the previous answers.
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 even see it. 
Yes, I have judged several of the greats. I had the pleasure of judging Mystique several times in groups and for best in show. She was one of the greatest show dogs ever and her record is there to prove it. Another great dog that judged was the late Manhattan. I gave him the group at Madison Square Garden the year he went best in show there. Even though a few GSD people criticized this great dog, he did more for the image of the breed than any breeder I know, and I know lots of breeders. Hatter, as he was called, finished his championship in specialty shows but went on to be one of the top all breed best in show winners of all time. I saw Yoncalla ' s Mike go Grand Victor twice, but I did not get to judge him. I did visit with him and his family once in their home in California and we became good friends.
Back to Judges 
Copyright © 1997 - 2006, Assistant Spider Last Updated - 01/01/98