Recently, judges received an email from the American Kennel Club strongly advising the judge to ask the handler to show the bite/teeth instead of doing it themselves. Additionally, besides just showing the bite, some breeds require the mouth be completely opened and teeth counted. This was requested for sanitary reasons but also “the exhibitor is familiar with the dog resulting in a more efficient and pleasant experience.” Most judges will try to comply with this memo, some may not agree with it and there are those that may just forget– but keep in mind, if necessary, the judge does have the authority to personally open the dog’s mouth.
What does this mean for you as an exhibitor? It means there may be dogs and handlers new to the ring and their dogs may or may not be fully trained to stand for examination. When the handler reaches for the mouth a young dog may feel the pressure on his collar let up and can take it upon himself to back up or move. I’ve seen dogs back into the next one in line. When handling a dog not fully trained I was taught to put a quick leash wrap around my left wrist before using both hands to manipulate the mouth as a precaution to prevent a dog getting away from you but I’m sure there are better methods. Ask your show trainer what they do but the main thing is to practice showing the teeth. Your dog can get excused if he does not allow a full examination. Pet people – do practice this too – your dog is going to be examined by a vet sooner or later and they virtually always look in the mouth. Sooner or later you may have to scrap some tarter off the back teeth. This should be part of your socializing routine.
Those of you going to local shows need to be aware that the Great Danes are being watched like a hawk by the AKC representatives due to serious incidents at recent shows. NO aggression is permissible, in or out of the ring and this includes growling. When walking to the ring keep in mind inexperienced people may be carrying ring bags and other equipment and perhaps not watching their dog fully. When ringside keep those collars right behind the ears and keep your Dane’s head beside you at all times. Do not walk up to another dog thinking it will be alright because it appears young. Keep space around you and your dog in and out of the ring – do not crowd or run up on the dog ahead of you. If you think you are getting crowded do not be afraid to politely ask for a bit more space if you were there first. Puppies getting attacked can traumatize them permanently. If trouble starts some Danes will think nothing of diving into the thick of things making everything worse. Your dog must be held by someone that can control it in all circumstances. Remember we are not walking fluffy little toy dogs here.
These incidents do not encourage a public perception of the Great Dane being a gentle giant.
By Katie Edwards with Georgia Hymmen