Saluki Examination Manual for Judges: How to Examine a Saluki in the Ring
"All Salukis have a quirk..." That's what a handler friend said some years ago, right before threatening to charge double for showing them. Or crossing them off her list all together. But she was right. This one can't have its loin touched. That one can't have its tail touched. And the one that used to be on the end of this lead? Well, forgot to mention, he'll slip his collar and run off if wind blows his ear fringe. It seemed like every Saluki that came to her came with a 10-page instruction manual listing things she dare not do to it. Pity the poor judge who walks in the ring without benefit of the manual!
So judges, here's your saluki examination instruction manual, and even if one size doesn't fit all, some sizes will fit somebody because I asked a group of Saluki exhibitors their pet peeves and pleas when it comes to the way in which judges examine Salukis. Or even before they examine them:
"Never approach from the front!" said several. "Never approach from the side!" said others. "Never approach from the rear!" added a few more. I was beginning to detect a trend: Never approach.
But alas, AKC rules kind of require it, so in a minor miracle, all the saluki exhibitors finally agreed on something, and decided you should approach from a 45 degree angle from the front. OK, a few insisted it was 38 degrees, but we ignored them.
What about approaching from above? "Never lean over the dog!" So much for that idea. And before you suggest it, no, do not approach from below.
If you're a new Saluki judge, or have not yet had the pleasure, perhaps some background information is in order. Salukis are supposed to be aloof. But somewhere that morphed into "OK to be schizoid-shy." Back in the 70s when I first started showing Salukis, it was just accepted that if you could touch them and they didn't pee on themselves things were good. Salukis have come a long way, but they still aren't the social butterflies of the dog show world. Many have a steadfast belief that every stranger is out to violate them in some unspeakable manner---like examining them. They react by shying, shrinking and rearing. Fortunately, I have never heard of one snapping.
Salukis aren't some special species that must be examined unlike any other dog in your ring, but---they do seem to be more likely to react to actions that you can get away with when examining more gregarious breeds.
As with any breed, approach confidently, at a normal pace. Sometimes judges become too cautious around Salukis. Many years ago I had an obedience judge creep up to my Saluki for her Stand for Exam, moving half the speed at which she'd approached any other dog. My normally outgoing Saluki jumped straight up and landed five feet away. The judge shook her head apologetically and said, "I know how spooky they can be, so I tried to go reeeaaally slow..." Yeah, thanks, that worked.
The same goes for the middle-of-the-ring stalk. Again this probably goes for any breed, but please stand upright while you contemplate your line-up (or what you'll be ordering for dinner). When you bend over and stare you're stalking and they can freak out!
Many handlers requested that judges refrain from wearing hats, blowing dresses, strong perfumes or from smoking cigarettes. I have to say, I am of the school where maybe the dog needs to learn to accept hats rather than let our judge pass out in the summer heat, but, hey, anything not to spook the Saluki!
So back to the exam. You've removed your hat, quit smoking, and confidently approached the dog at a 45 (er, 38) degree angle, standing upright. But wait! Is the dog ready? By far the most common plea from Saluki exhibitors was to wait until the handler sets the dog up before going over it. It may seem like a time-saver to just start the exam as soon as the front is set, but in the long run, after the dog has shied and moved and had to be reset, it's a time waster. And definitely a disservice to the first dog in line. Most Salukis aren't that wild about being touched by strangers but will tolerate it as long as they've been told to stand and stay. But otherwise, they'll generally step away.
The same goes for judges standing impatiently beside the dog---or worse, towering over it--- while the handler tries to set it up as the Saluki pretzels itself in an attempt to keep its Saluki force field between it and the judge. A little patience and breathing room will pay off in a faster exam and better performance.
There's no need to befriend a Saluki before or during the exam. Most Salukis don't want to be your friend---at least not within a few minutes of meeting you.
Keep the exam impersonal. No baby talk, please. To a Saluki, the hands-on exam is like a proctology or gynecology exam---something where sweet talk doesn't really help the situation. If the dog is acting shy, the very LAST THING you should do is start talking to it! No "It's OK, sweetie" because you will not be believed. Also please refrain from talking to the handler especially while over top of the dog. An "all-business" approach is likely to get the best performance from a saluki teetering on the brink of shyness.
Many Salukis will pull their head back when you approach. Some people claim this is because they are far-sighted and need to be farther away in order to focus on you. Maybe. Maybe not. The scientist in me is awaiting the refraction data for sighthounds versus non-sighthounds before jumping on that. However, whether it's for vision or just being a Saluki, pulling the head back should not be penalized. Even the best-trained dog's inner Saluki has to manifest itself at some point in the ring!
Several exhibitors advised leaving the bite to last. Good advice as far as keeping the unsure dog stacked, but difficult to remember in practice!
For recalcitrant puppies, you can start at the rear and work forward, without taking your hands from the dog. We had one very dedicated judge at our National years ago who had class after class of shy puppies. She had the handlers hide their dogs' eyes while she walked to the handler's side and examined them from there. The puppies never caught on that it wasn't their handler touching them!
Don't confuse shyness with aloofness or even lack of experience. The Saluki that pulls its head back should not be penalized; the breed generally does not appreciate unsolicited touching. The youngster that moves or crouches a bit should also not be penalized. But the dog that rears, chokes and scrambles to get away is beyond being aloof or inexperienced and should be penalized.
The exam doesn't require a full body pat-down. As the walking skeleton of the dog world, you can pretty much see Saluki structure without having to feel for it.
Nor does it require a cavity search. The standard specifies only the teeth (which it describes as "level" but pretty much all Saluki breeders believe it means the teeth (not the bite) are to be even and not crooked, and that a scissors bite is preferred). If you wish to check for missing premolars, you can, but there's no need to open the mouth to count, and it's not expected. The standard doesn't mention missing teeth, and few exhibitors expect you to look. When you do look in the mouth, get it done quickly and from a distance. No need to bend over the dog or crouch down to face level.
I've seen a few judges check foot pads, as they often do for Afghan Hounds, by picking the foot up and feeling it. Few Salukis are used to this, and if you do it, do it last and fast, and shift the dog's weight off the foot first. But generally it's just not done.
Salukis need not bait. I've shown baiting and non-baiting salukis. The baiting ones are a lot more fun, but the non-baiting ones should not be penalized. Very few will bait from a judge.
The standard says ears should be "mobile." But most Salukis are not in the mood to be curious in the show ring. And even if they are, they will fall for the common squeaky toy or kissy noise exactly one time in their show careers; after that, it only pisses them off. I've seen two judges in almost 40 years of showing Salukis who manage to consistently get ears-up attention from my dogs. One makes a truly unique sound, and the other lets lint or dog hair float away in the breeze in front of them. The ears go way up for both.
I've seen judges do what must have been searching for hair weaves the way they were rooting around in the ears of Salukis with super long feathering. I suspect Saluki hair is too fine to allow for weaves. But with the proper genes plus super care ear feathers can get super long. If you see super long ears, don't bother to root through them looking for something fake! Make sure you don't wear rings that can get caught in feathering.
Salukis are little dogs in big bodies. A firm hand for a Working breed is a rough hand for a Saluki. And watch that "OK, all done!" pat! I've seen otherwise gentle judges who habitually give the dog a good pat on the rump when they're through---which most Salukis interpret as being severely beaten!
If a Saluki has tucked its long tail during the exam, and fails to untuck it before moving, the hind legs can start to get tangled in it, tripping on it with every step. The dog will look crippled from the rear until you or the handler figure it out. If you notice this, you may wish to give the dog another chance after advising the handler to move the tail to the side of the dog before moving.
If you want an entry to move at a slower pace, tell them. But please don't then reward only the exhibits that didn't slow down!
Remember that Salukis come in two varieties, feathered and smooth. Feathered Salukis are genetically longhaired dogs in which the hair on the body fails to grow long. This has some implications for judging.
1) The body coat of a feathered Saluki actually can have some very long (up to five inches) guard hairs that lie close to the body. It also has an undercoat. These two factors, though slight, tend to smooth out definition compared to the true short hair of the smooth Saluki. So the smooth will almost always look more muscularly defined, but it can also look more rough around the edges, compared to the feathered.
2) Feathered puppies are often almost totally covered with long fuzzy hair. It gradually goes away with maturity, with that on the sides, chest, and sides of thighs going away last. The very last to go is behind the elbows. The fuzzy puppy coat is normal and should not be penalized.
3) Neutered and spayed Salukis will usually grow long hair all over their body, often excluding a saddle. Especially if judging a veterans class, be aware that once again, this is normal and not to be penalized.
4) Feathered and smooths are to be judged on an equal basis. But be forewarned, if a smooth places last you will be accused of not knowing it was a smooth. And some advice: never joke with the handler of a smooth about thinking it's a Sloughi or Ridgeback in your ring; especially if the dog doesn't win, they will not take it as a joke!
Super long feathering is dramatic, but it should neither be rewarded nor penalized. Be aware that long hair on the feet and legs can cause some illusions in movement.
What about colors? Right now the breed is in the midst of a controversy concerning brindle. In brief, some believe they're not pure, others believe they've been there all along and there's no such thing as a Saluki of a wrong color. Putting the great brindle debate aside, all colors and patterns are equal, and at least at this point, the standard disallows no color or pattern.
You will readily recognize chocolates (livers) when they are chocolate and tans or chocolate grizzles, but you may not as easily realize that the cream saluki with the liver nose and yellow eyes is not a poorly pigmented cream but a chocolate factored one. A pink nose is not a liver nose.
Most of all, enjoy your assignment! Remember that we rejoice in the fact that our breed comes in so many styles, so don't think something is amiss when you see a ring filled with variety! We just didn't want you to get bored.