Handling conundrum: ears up or down?

I was at a dog show this past weekend and took Kunga into the breed ring with 4 other specials, winner’s dog, and winner’s bitch.  As usual, Kunga was the only dog in the line with natural ears, indeed the only Dane in the show still sporting the ears he was born with.

As I often do, I stacked Kunga up in the line and, just as the judge stepped back to review the entire class, I lifted Kunga’s ears above his head.  This gives the judge the chance to view Kunga’s head looking something like all the other dogs in the line, with ears up.  My understanding is that this is how dogs are shown in Australia, where Kunga’s sire lives.

(Here’s a link to a ring photo taken in Australia, sorry I don’t know the dog: http://www.charlottereevesevents.com.au/order.php?event=11&photo=44)

The judge came up to me and angrily told me to “let those ears down!”  Of course I complied immediately.  He hissed at me that this was insulting to him, suggesting I didn’t believe he could properly judge the head without this help.  I apologized but mentioned that I’ve been ASKED to do this by a number of judges, and thanked for it in other classes when I did it unasked.  One judge even picked up the ears himself and tried to position my hands to hold them the way he wanted them.  I’ve had a judge lean forward and lift the ears from the front in a kind of parody of a crop.

I think we in the US are still muddling along when it comes to properly judging natural-eared Danes.  We have no precedents and no general exhibition rules that everyone abides by. I’ve seen some people leave the ears down; I’ve seen others do as I do and pick them up for some of the exam or in the lineup.

If I haven’t shown to a judge, I don’t usually have any idea how they’d like to view my dog (though I always allow them a front and side view with Kunga’s ears down: I’m proud of his excellent ear set).  Maybe it’s time to reach some consensus on handling rules.  I’d be in favor of having the judge request an “ears up” specifically if they want that.  I’m sorry to have offended the judge this weekend, but I don’t think he considered the quandry that handlers like me are in: ears up or down?  We can never tell what would be preferred.  As usual, Kunga doesn’t care as long as he gets the bait and a big hug after the class.

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  • Lark

    Kunga is a winner in my eye!

  • Roseann

    I’m sorry that everyone is so ‘invested’ in a look that requires the breed to have their ears surgically mutilated. I’m even sorrier that natural ears are so shunned. I’ve becomes so uncomfortable about the issue (in my club) that I’ve quit attending meetings. They (ears) are not welcomed and certainly there is no provision made to encourage their display in the ring or in the rules. Sometimes I almost wish there was a separate club just to represent the natural eared Great Dane. Roseann

  • windrealms

    I have only had one judge request me to ‘pick up the ears’ while showing and NO, I show them the way they were born . . .sorry. If a judge can’t seem to get the essence of the head without my doing so, I am not interested in showing to that judge, don’t care how many other dogs in the ring have theirs cropped!

    A GOOD judge will not only consider the look of the head with natural ears but will evaluate the ear set-on, the shape/size of the natural ear–and perhaps educate themselves in what a good ear and not so good ear is.

    The more we cater to this type of behavior by judges, the less the judges will care to get educated!

  • Vickie

    I also have another breed were the coat comes in rough or smooth. Roughs can be groomed to hide many faults. They (Brussels Griffons) are also shown natural or cropped. There is not the taping needed and they can be cropped as adults. My last male got his AKC and UKC CH. with ears. and over half his grand champion points. Then I cropped him. Have pictures 3 weeks apart and did it to educate people. I must admit I love cropped but his ears were so ideal I wanted everyone to see them. My suggestion would be to have a natural ear class at specialties. Just a suggestion!!

  • Barbara Breau

    We show in Atlantic Canada , a natural eared Dane from Germany. We do not put her ears up while showing . So far there have never been any problems . We figure if the judge wants to see them up then they can just ask. No judge has ever asked.

  • Mona

    It is my understanding that it is best to leave the ears alone unless the judge requests that you hold the ears up. Though I have been told by a breeder that you may brush the ears back to show the planes of the head. In general, you will please some of the judges some of the time…

    I’m proud to show a natural!