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.