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Judging the Russian Black Terrier

Judging the RBT has own specifics - as any other breed but first of all, I would like to mention the importance of the role of judges in the breeding program for many breeders. Quite many of the breeders focus on the breed type that wins the rings at the moment. If a judge has a specific vision of a breed and the dogs of a certain or exaggerated type win, then the breeders start to focusing on this type. This particular type becomes desirable and requested by puppy-buyers because dogs of this type win and get titled and bred and it rolls farther and farther. This is why the judges, along with the breeders, bears a certain share of responsibility for what kind of development directions this or another breed gets, which of the breed representatives are recognized as preferable for breeding..

Judges and breeders must work for the best future of any breed and to be accountable for their actions. I also find very useful if a judge will provide a review or report or comments, you name it, about population presented in the ring at a big all breed dog show or Speciality. The conclusion with analysis of merits and faults, because with time some breeders can loose the eyes on their breeding stock and the actual vision of the breed within the standard. I think that a judge, judging the RBT, should choose and award in the ring a solid and breed typical dogs with normal breed behavior, having no visible health problems and without exaggerated breed features.

Through the years, while following the development of the Russian Black Terrier as a judge, breeder, groomer and handler in one person, I have accumulated a certain amount of knowledge of common faults or features typical for some kennels or specific producers's offspring which apply to different periods of the breed's formation. And this type of the information is especially valuable when in is not locked in one country and can be discussed between the judges and the breeders from different countries.

In my opinion, the first general impression of a dog performing in the conformation ring is one of the most important points in judging. Hightypy, solidness, harmony and balance both in statics and in movement can smooth out the negative impression of faults that can be found during further judging, as well as any dog has them. There should be no impression of a pure terrier or pure moloss or a pure schnauzer, while a judge is looking at Blacky, RBT is rather a blend of all three with its unique silhouette. It should not to be square. Compact yes, but not square. In other words, a Blacky is a typical 9/10 format dog. The bone frame should be strong and massive, but not too heavy. Too massive and heavy dogs of molossoid type are undesirable for such working universal breed. The RBT should not look like over-alert terrier neither.

Differences between the sexes to be clearly defined. And it's not just about the size. There is a number of males of medium size and females of bigger size in the breed. But even a large and powerful bitch can under no circumstances be confused with a male. A male should look masculine, females should look feminine, regardless of size.

When judges start to come to contact with a Blacky in the ring they should take into account that the breed was created primarily for guarding service and which has a very strong guarding instinct even today and thus, the manual inspection should be done with respect to a dog. I recommend to say few worlds so that the dog hears a stranger standing in front of it and ask the handler to raise dog's bang so that the dog sees the judge, because the thick furnishing limits the dog's view.

Both, unreasonable aggression or overly shy are serious faults. I can rather forgive excessive friendliness than unmotivated aggression or nervousness.

The gaze of the dog should be confident and open, in the first minutes of contact with a judge it can be somewhat wary or evaluating, but in no case malicious or frankly insecure. Blackies have sense of humor and intelligence is always visible in the their eyes!

When judging Blackies think that the breed has among others one of most important characteristic - endurance, which is directly related to size. The larger size within the standard, the more a dog has to spend energy on its own physiological needs in addition to its service and work and, all other things being equal, the dogs of medium size within the standard will be more sturdy than dogs of bigger size within the standard. Of course, individual physiological characteristics and temperament of a particular specimens play a huge role but practically, dogs of average size within the standard are more functional and hardy. I prefer dogs of medium size - males from 71 up to 76 cm, bitches from 66 up to 70 cm. By my experience, the dogs of this size are practically almost always more harmoniously built and almost always more balanced while moving than larger Blackies, more over they always have well pronounced sex type. Whatever when marking a Blacky of a bigger size think about correct height which should come from depth of chest rather than length of leg.

Since Russian Black terrier is a working breed, great attention should be paid to the bite and other dental parts. Any other bite than scissor bite or any missing tooth must be discarded; dogs with such faults cannot receive any other grade than disqualification. Other dental parts should also be graded according to strict criteria - the incisors must be large and healthy and must be lined in a clear row; wide jaws, well-bred fangs. I can admit a light violation of the row for incisors after 7 years. Pigmentation in the mouth should be black or, in extreme cases, dark gray. I draw attention to the fact that some bitches, during or after heat, may have weakened pigmentation. Partially pigmented lips are unacceptable. As a judge and RBT breeder with more than 30 years experience, Im sad to note quite many cases of chess positioned incisors in the lower jaw, even for young dogs, weakening of pigmentation in the mouth and of the nose, narrow lower jaws, and jaw distortion ( raw mouth). Such dogs should not be awarded, especially the males.

Judges also need to pay attention to the eye color. To my very big regret recently there has been a fairly large number of titled and often winning dogs with light, up to yellow and watery-green colored, eyes. Who's faults is it? Both judges awarding such dogs and breeders using such dogs for breeding behind their titles. By my opinion, such dogs must be ruthlessly fined and this fault must necessarily appear in the critique. While controlling eyes, it is also important to pay attention to the eye rims, which must be black, dry and fit tight. A dog with loose eyelids or a visible third eyelid cannot be awarded.

While examination of the head, the first things should be taken into account are general breed type and expression, size and length. The lines of the forehead and muzzle should be strictly parallel, and the forehead is flat. Until now, there are a dogs with diverging lines of the forehead and muzzle out. Usually, heads of such lines also have over exaggerated occipital orbits. Some dogs have slightly defined or flattened stop. Marking of dogs with such heads depends on the severity of these faults. I also want to pay attention to the marking of the shape and width of the skull. The skull should not be too broad or narrow. I like it moderately wide, but well-filled skulls and with no bony occiput. It is also very important to pay attention to the length and fullness of the muzzle. According to the standard, the muzzle is slightly shorter than the cranial part and with such proportions the massiveness and width of the forehead part are preserved.

Now for the time, many judges choose and aware dogs with too long and thin necks, which look very showy and glamorous in the rings, but Blackies are not Afghan hound and the neck should has a medium length, which is equal to the length of the head, strong, muscular and with a well pronounced nape. There are deviations in the other extreme - a short or bully neck, sometimes with a dewlap, which is also a serious fault.

What I can see in the rings recently is many dogs with serious faults of hindquarters, in particular with short and a horizontal croup and too long loins. As a result of this is a wrong construction of upper thigh - it is too narrow and plumb-set, herewith stifle joint is too straight. The croup should be slightly sloping and of enough length, necessarily broad and muscular.

Another problem of the rear construction is an over-angulation, in particular, too long lower tight. Dogs with such excessive angulation, in fact sickle hocks, look extremely flashy and glamorous when they "park out" in the individual gaiting. To award such dogs is a common misconception when judging RBT.

Many handlers show Blackies with heads held high up both in static and while moving. Such type of a handling presents an absolutely wrong picture of the breed, with wrong neck set, neck length and hindquarters extremely far back. The Russian Black Terrier of a right format, well-boned and solid, with the correct anatomy and the right angles, with breed typical behavior use to stand beautiful and confidently on the ground by itself and may sometimes need only a small correction while standing. The front should not be too wide apart and the rear should not be too far back and the whole picture should show a strong and confident working breed whose form follow function. But nevertheless many all-rounders are picking such a showy dogs as their winners and this wrong routine rolls-on.

There are also quite a few dogs with a narrow "empty" front and the elbows turned in. Dogs with such front construction are very narrow on the front and with forelegs looking like growing from one point. Rich coat and and magic of competent grooming can hide such surprises as crooked or shortened forearms and easty-westy feet. Therefore, it is always very important to check with the hands the straightness and positioning of the forelimbs. Easty-westy feet is not always easy marked due to rich and fluffy furnishing coat. In this case, moving by step motion coming to a judge or the direction of claws growth in statics can help to reveal this kind of fault.

Flat ribs, lack of chest fullness in the last lower third part, and short sternum are also a fairly common faults among winning dogs as well as they have competent grooming hiding such problems.

I would like to mark as separate point the shape of undocked tail. Since the shape of the natural tail is not specified strictly marked in the standard and carries only recommendation of preference for saber and sickle forms, curled or even double-curled tails should not be fined. But I would like to point that dogs with such curled tails may have (not always) short and straight croup. Natural tail curved or hanged to the side may also have serious problem as spondylosis or other vertebrae deformations. Sometimes such hanged tail can be the result of an unsuccessful plastic surgery, when tail ligaments are cut so that a curved tail spun.

RBT coat is described as rough and thick double coat composing of a course, thick, slightly wavy overcoat and a soft, short and dense undercoat. But many dogs are presented at the shows with coat prepared in style "a la poodle", as a velvet surface. Such grooming doesn't help to understand the pure quality and coat structure. This is either an attempt to hide soft coat and wrong structure behind beautiful grooming or because coat was not properly prepared before the show. Some groomers do a big mistake to long-haired dogs which was not groomed for at least 2, or even more months. The groomers wash, dry coat with a hot air and cut outer-coat leaving soft undercoat outside trying to sculpture farther silhouette of it. That is absolutely wrong! The best solution for long-haired Blackies after cutting extra long coat is to use any stripping tool to remove excess undercoat so outer-coat structure becomes visible and tangible. After that it is much easier to form right and beautiful farther grooming and show the right coat structure. I can forgive a slight negligence of grooming if this does not interfere to recognition of the correct structure of the coat and does not change the breed silhouette. I do not welcome too exaggerated haircut. The correct grooming should emphasize the brevity and functionality of the silhouette, the confidence and power of Blacky without an excessive decorativeness. I absolutely do not welcome the overloading of the outlines by excessively left and bloated coat.

Some judges do not really understand the difference between Russian Black terrier coat and Giant Schnauzer coat. I would like to point that Giant Schnauzer has wiry and harsh outer-coat which needs regular stripping but Russian Black terrier has course outer-coat which is not possible for the hand stripping. Perhaps this paragraph in the standard is one of the most controversial.Thus, the awarding should take into account the degree of deviation from the desired coat type.

When evaluating the color a judge needs to look more close the tone of the undercoat. As a rule, outer-coat is always black or black with gray hair, but the undercoat can be dark-brown or grayish in addition to black, which is undesirable and the awarding depends on the severity of deviation from the black tone. The dogs of some kennels have clearly defined patches of grey hair, which is also very undesirable.

RBT movements should be free and well balanced. A typical gait is an energetic trot with powerful reach and drive. Blackie's movement should not remind about Afhan Hound with its flying move or German Schepherd with its "floating over the ground".

I would rather forgive the moderate reach of the front and the moderate drive of the rear if it is balanced than the spectacular flying movements atypical for the breed. Sometimes it's useful to ask a handler showing a dog in fast pace to slow down and this is exactly the method which will allow to see the true gait of a particular dog. Moderate speed of the movement also helps to see the imbalance between front and rear.

Weak tendons are very undesirable. Paws must be compact and round in shape.

Another point that many judges do not pay attention to that the skin should be thick elastic and well-fitting, it should not roll from side to side on body while moving.

Russian Black Terrier is a breed with a pronounced sanguine type of temperament, with a strong and flexible mentality. and easy controlled in any situation. Nevertheless, when judging males, especially adults, it is desirable to organize a ring with a sufficient distance between the handlers.

I hope that in the future we will not see in the rings very large, flashy outlined and over-angulated Blackies with no substance or vice versa, Mastino-like dogs. I hope my notes will be useful to many judges and the breed will avoid the evolution of German Shepherd or Mastino Napoletano or some other breeds, who's exaggerated features make you feel pity, fear for health and doubts about the ability to move independently, without the help of handlers.

As a breeder, I want to have my eyes widen wile looking at the Russian Black terrier males in the rings while standing and moving - one more beautiful than the other.

Alexandra Goratchek
RKF/FCI Judge
owner of RBT kennel "Dolina Vetrov"