Cedarwood Labrador Retrievers
Home My Labs Nursery Services Articles News Links Email


Northwest Notes / THE LABRADOR QUARTERLY - Fall 2015

Diann Sullivan

For many years, Julie Sturman compiled and published JULIE BROWN’S DIRECTORY to Labrador retriever Pedigrees and this was a huge part of education for ME.   I can’t remember if it was 1978 or a couple of years later, but I had been trying to find a quality female but did not know anything about finding a breeder. The local breed club that I had joined held obedience classes and I had worked hard toward qualifying for my first passing scores toward a C.D. (Companion Dog) obedience title. Somehow, I came across a premium list for the Labrador Retriever Club, inc., National Specialty being held very close to where we had family in California .  We travelled down from Washington State with a toddler and “Honker” and when I walked into the show site, I was overwhelmed! First time I’d EVER seen Labradors like that!  On a table near the superintendent, was JULIE BROWN’S DIRECTORY to Labrador retriever pedigrees…. Page-after-page of a close-up photo of the dog, his hip, eye and any other health clearances AND his pedigree!

Such a strange picture to look back on now….  “Honker” and I tied for 2nd place in Novice B and finished our CD and I have our proud picture with me in polyester slacks! Those Julie Brown’s Directories were the beginning for me and I imagine many others then, to see different structures, study pedigrees and begin to really look at production.

Recently in Oregon while attending the lovely Rose City LRC club Specialty, I was amazed to come across a table with old magazines and freebies….. My eye was drawn to this amazing book THE JUDGE’S OPINION, Compiled, Edited, & Published by Julie Brown’s Directories.

Julie Brown’s Directory sent 20 questions to breeder-judges both in the U.S. the U.K. discussing their breeding programs, top dogs and their INTERPRETATION of the Standard (in their particular country).  It was concluded that most judges attempt to place dogs who most ‘closely resemble the current standard for the country ‘they are judging in. The1963 standard for the Labrador retriever was then in effect and the standard we use now was then ‘proposed’ by the LRC, Inc.

The ‘interview’ really, of each breeder-judge is a peek into what ‘the judge is thinking’ perhaps as he or she evaluates your dog. DO try to find this book!

 In the 1980’s, it was a time when importing from England was very popular to meet the need of improving ‘type’ (Head, coat and tail). I have a box of old catalogs for Specialties going back into the 1960’s from the owners of CH.Lockerbie Brian Boru, WC, Marjorie and Cy Brainard, and looking at catalog ads, our structure was improving in angles front-and-rear, but we needed to improve coats, heads and substance. Interviewed were prominent breeders in England who included Margot Wolley/FOLLYTOWER, Anne Taylor/FABRACKEN, M. Satterthwaite/LAWNWOOD, Janice Pritchard/CHARWAY, Arthur Kelley/BRADKING, Ken Hunter/CRANSPIRE, and so many others. Also included were breeder-judges from Wales and Scotland . Breeders of great Labradors who influenced our breed.  The breeders of champions from Blondella, Ardmargha,Kupros, Warringah, Linershwood, Poolstead and Novacroft. 

Each was asked if field dogs should be required to adhere to the breed standard and as well, should show champions demonstrate field ability.  Mrs. Diana Beckett from Kimvalley kennels answered “Yes, so to become other than JUST Field or Show champions”.  Gwen Broadly from Sandylands Labradors replied, “Why not”?  I love the answer to this question as answered by David & Carole Coode from WARRINGAH, “Field people made the standard originally, so yes is the answer.”

Interesting response from Jo & Derek Coulson, LINERSHWOOD, “ Yes, otherwise, why have Labradors ? They could just as easily train up a cross breed to work”.

Most of us probably share the opinion of Dorothy Gardner, NOVACROFT, “It would be nice but it will never happen”.  Several English breeder-judges replied to this question, that it was desirable but not compulsory.

Another question I considered a more personal question is whether their breeding practices are primarily line breeding or out crossing -  The majority of the breeders from Europe answered “Careful line breeding and out crossing when necessary”.  Those who answered from the U.S. more often discussed Not doubling up on lines that were’ faulty’ and at that time, had more comments mentioning soundness.

The breeder-judges from Europe and the U.S. voiced their opinion to carefully linebred and use out crossing to bring in traits desirable in other lines.

This book is simply fascinating and the prominent breeder-judges interviewed in the United States included Winnie Limbourne/WINGMASTER, Joan Read/CHIDLEY, George White/STONECREST, Kendall Herr/DICKENDALL, Lisa Weiss Agresta/LOBUFF, Mary Wiest/BEECHCROFT, Debra McKinley/FANTASY, and other important breeder-judges.

One question asked each judge was regarding their opinion on missing teeth…..“Could missing teeth affect a placement in one of your classes?

 DO they check for missing teeth when checking the bite but the answer to whether missing teeth could affect placing dogs, most answered, “Not likely”.   Lisa Weiss Agresta of LOBUFF, answered, “It is something I notice when checking the bite but would not affect placements”. Many, such as the late, respected breeder-judge Winnie Limbourne of WINGMASTER Labradors , answered with a resounding “No”!

Very few of you now might remember Nancy Martin of AYR Labradors , answered that one or two missing teeth wouldn’t affect placements but more would. “The standard doesn’t mention dentition but it’s certainly better to have them all.

 I THINK THERE ARE MORE SERIOUS FAULTS in structure and balance”.

 All but one or two breeder-judges from England answered that they check for missing teeth and then, only in the front. Mary Roslin-Williams from MANSERGH Labradors, replied, “Yes, I check for missing teeth but it only affect my placements                                                   overseas where they mind”.

One question asked to each breeder-judge was “How important is movement for Bench or Show dogs”? Such an important question - Our late great breeder-judge George Bragaw from SHOOKSTOWN kennels in the U.S. stated that we need a better definition of movement but a free and easy gait shows balance and symmetry or lack of it”.  Winnie Limbourne answered, “Very important but not often found”.

I very much like Mary Wiest, from BEECHCROFT Labradors answer, “A quote from the 1930 standard that describes my feelings- “Movement or action is the crucial test of conformation”.   I was actually surprised that the majority of breeders from the U.K. also replied that movement was very important as at that time, it seemed that more important in judging was being given to head, coat and substance.

The former standard from 1963, was simple and without disqualifications. It was vague in areas such as “Level mouth” as the description of bite and mouth. When I entered the hobby in the late 1970’s, basic soundness was still very much a challenge. I remember praying all day that my dogs would ‘pass’ when taken in for OFA x-rays.  Eye exams denoted PRA clear. That was it. I remember doing my first elbows in the late 1980’s. Structure was often hard to understand for the novice and type was very scattered.

This book asked these prominent breeder-judges of that time “What do you see as the breed’s greatest asset and also the breed’s greatest fault”?   EVERY response listed the greatest asset of the Labrador is his good temperament- loving, kind and gentle!  The Labrador ’s overall ability to all areas of work. Most every breeder-judge stressed the Labrador ’s desire to please.  But the answer to the breed’s biggest fault could be most surprising for 1993 as Imports were popular to improve type but often at the sacrifice of rapidly improving soundness. Ken Burton of the famous English kennel BLONDELLA, responds, “Fronts in my opinion have become the greatest fault, insufficient angulation, short and steep upper arms which contributes to the very poor movement in many of the Labradors today”.  In MY opinion over all of these years for me, the beautiful layback of the shoulder has always been prominent in the English dogs. British breeder-judge Margaret Clayton from ARDMARGHA suggests that the greatest fault at present in the U.K. is the layback (or rather the lack of), upright shoulder. This affects the outline of type, movement, and the ability of the working dogs to collect game”.

Many U.S. breeders were very aware of temperaments at that time often becoming aggressive and hyper. The British retrieving tests were more welcoming to all dogs and many breeders there DID focus on correct structure and movement. The highly respected Arthur Kelley of U.K. ’s BRADKING Labradors specifically states that there are too many wide fronts with elbows out.

Winnie Limbourne believed the greatest fault to improve on is movement.  Having recently reread these opinions, I was so impressed with what Janice Pritchard had to say to this, breeder of such great English dogs as CH.Charway Ballywillwill, “The most common weaknesses in show dogs at the present are short, thick necks / straight shoulders, short upper arms, low tail sets and poor movement front and back. Too often, newer breeders get the impression that weak conformation and poor movement is acceptable and they do not take this into their consideration when they choose stud dogs or buy puppies”.

Judges are INTERPRETING the Standard against the dogs they have before them and on-the-day.  The editors concluded that Most judges attempt to place dogs who most ‘closely resemble the current standard ‘they are judging’.

The answers to the question, “How would you suggest breeders improve upon what they are doing” that was most fascinating. 

Lisa Weiss Agresta saw lack of prominent breast bone, well-laid back shoulders and well bent stifles were current faults in dogs along with lacking second thighs.

“I believe breeders have got to go to stud dogs who have these important features and who produce them”. 

DICKENDALL’S Kendall Herr believes, “Breeders really should learn all they can about structure and type so they can breed intelligently to improve upon what they have”.  Margaret Litherland of Wales agrees, “Breeders can only improve faults when they learn to recognize them and breed to correct them”.

With all that is happening for ethical breeders in 2015, I couldn’t agree more with Mr. John Barbour of SORN Labradors, U.K. , “Only objective breeding and good, honest judging can improve the breed”.  We, now more than perhaps ever, want to protect and improve the breed we love and that is number one for many good reasons. 

THE JUDGE’S OPINION, Julies Brown’s Directories, 1993; Julie Sturman (Old address) 7315 Granite Road , Melrose Park , Pa. , 19126 , USA , Ebsco Media

Home My Labs Nursery Services Articles News Links Email

Copyright 2012 ~ Cedarwoods Labradors ~ All Rights Reserved