Ms. Ms. Karen Martin

1. How long have you bred Great Danes? Is that your only breed?
I started my love of Great Danes as a child when my father wanted a large dog. She quickly became “my” dog instead. Then when I met Bernie in 1988 he already had a brindle dog name Tiger. Together, Bernie and I started in Danes in 1989 when we got Tracer and Lacey from Bev Swinford of Danemark Danes. 
When I met Bernie I had been raising and showing Labrador Retrievers and had shown a Rottweiler and a Sheltie to numerous titles. Right now we have no other breeds. I want to concentrate everything on one breed.

2. Who were your Dane Mentors?
My First and Foremost mentor in Great Danes was my breeder friend Bev Swinford. Who I became very close to. She was like a stepmother to me. I still call her and talk to her about breedings and ask her opinions on many things. Along the way of applying for my judge license there have been many other judges who have helped me learn about judging and about our breed. I have learned a lot about structure and movement from Quentin La ham, Pat Hastings, and Pat Trotter all of whom put on seminars. 

I have attended many educational seminars at the great dane Nationals. The two judges I have learned the most from Vince Mulligan and Nikki Riggsbee.

3. What do you think your greatest accomplishment has been in Great Danes? Have you had any top winning Great Danes
Well that’s easy! I bred and showed the 1997 National BOB winner BISS Am Can Int CH Diamond’s Canadian Style CD CGC ROM. He was in the Top 20 two years in a row. He was retired right after his win at the National. It was the most exciting moment in the world. We have it videotaped from several angles and I must have watched that 100 times! The other major things I am proud of are the following: we bred, owned and showed the two youngest AKC titled Great Danes. Mother and daughter both earned their TD titles on their 6 month birthdays. Am Can Int CH Danemarks Trace of Lace CDX TDX Can CD TD CGC ROM and AM Can Int CH Diamond Danes Amazing Grace CD TD Can TD CGC Rom. Lacey was also the first CH-TDX in our breed and the mother to Dion who won BOB at the 1997 National. Next we have Tori who finished in 6 weeks with back to back groups 1’s from the BBE Class. She went on to be in the top 20 before she was 2 years old. She is also my first VCD1 titled Dane, Am Can Int CH Diamond Danes Victorious Winner CD TD NA NAP NAJ NJP RN VCD1. Then last but not least I think everyone probably knows our Glory. As far as we can find out she is the first natural eared bitch BISS winner. Her name is Am Can Int CH Diamond Danes Stars N Stripes TD RN CGC, Can AOM 2006.

 4. How long have you been Judging and what breeds are you licensed to Judge?
I just got my judges license as of August 1, 2006. I have not judged my first assignment as of February 1st. I am approved for Great Danes, Labrador Retrievers, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers, Australian Shepherds and Juniors.
Have you seen a trend good or bad in the Dane Ring?
My opinions on this are based on sweeps judging, looking for Stud Dogs and watching from ringside. I think our breed seems to fluctuate from time to time. I have seen movement seem to get better over the years from when we started in Great Danes. Heads seem to fluctuate greatly depending on what part of the country you are in. I think there are more fluctuations in head type in our breed than anything else. There are many types of heads that seem to fit the standard but are very different at the same time. Top lines seem to be on a downward trend right now.

5. Do you believe advertising “Wins” influences judges, especially at the breed and group level?
Well, they do say advertising helps when you have a special. I didn’t do much advertising with any special we had. But, I also wasn’t trying to be #1. Pictures can make a dog look really great. I want to see the dog in person to make any judgments. Pictures can be very deceiving. I don’t think advertising helps you under a judge who is confident about what they do. It may help with a judge who is not as confident and wants to put up a dog because “so and so judge” did.

6. Would you like to see “Reserves” awarded some kinds of lesser points?
No. We do not need to make more champions by making it easier.

7. What is your greatest pet peeve in evaluating a dog... i.e. - movement, feet, teeth, top line, type, croup.... etc?
I don’t know that I have just one thing that is a pet peeve of mine. I would actually say all of the above come into consideration. I want the overall best dog. We should be judging on the best overall quality and not nitpicking on individual faults that EVERY dog has. It is hard to find a dog that has no faults. So you just try to get the best overall with the best movement and best type you can find with as few a faults as possible. Hopefully those faults will be minor and not major faults. But I guess if I had to choose a tie breaker it would have to be fronts. I think fronts are the hardest thing to correct and get right. It’s also the hardest thing for most people to understand.

8. What is the first thing that catches your eye when a dog is in the ring?
The overall outline of the dog and then their movement as they go around the ring

  • 9. What are your feelings about “baiting” in your ring?
  • I “LOVE” free baiting! There are some really great handlers out there that can stack and make a dog look better than it is. I like to see a dog stand naturally on their own. You really can’t hide things from a good judge anyway.  Free baiting shows a dog off naturally. What you see is what you get. 
  • 10. Many people say there are a lot of “politics” in the ring. How do you feel about “Professionals” vs. “the Owner Handlers”? 
  • Well since I am also an owner handler, of course I like owner handlers. That said Professional handlers are very good at what they do. They have to be, it’s how they make their money. They are also very competitive which makes them good. If owner handlers want to show their own dos, that is great. However, be aware that you have to be very good at it also to give your dog the best chance possible. I have seen many owner handlers not only make their dog look its best but make it look bad sometimes. My best advice to owner handlers is to practice a lot. Video tape yourself so you can see what you do well and what you need to work on. If you, as an owner handler want to compete with professional handlers then you have to be as good as or better than they are. I am sure there are some politics here and there but overall I think not
  • 11. When you have a Novice in the ring do you find it hard to judge the dog fairly?
  • Fairly? No, I do find it difficult sometimes to watch a Novice owner not do a good dog justice. A good judge should be able to see past the handlers shortcomings and find a good dog. It just makes it that much more difficult.
  • 12. How much do you penalize things like “blowing” coat, long toenails ECT..? Would you still give a dog Winners in spite of these types of grooming problems?
  • That can be a difficult question. It depends on the extent of each. I once took points under a judge that said, “This dogs coat will come and go but the underlying structure is not going to change.” If given two equal dogs, the better coat would win. At a major that may happen but minor points will not have as many to choose from. I have found so far that the superficial things I don’t notice too much. They would have to be dirty enough for me to see or feel it or nails long enough to affect a dogs feet. I think a dirty or un-groomed dog reflects on the owners care of their dogs and shouldn’t affect judging them unless it’s pretty bad. But I really don’t want to put my hands on a dirty smelly dog either.
  • 13. How do you feel about being approached after judging to discuss your placements?
  • I don’t have a problem with someone asking my opinion after wards as long as, they can take the truth without being offended or trying to argue.
  • 14. PICTURES..Do you like to receive them? Are you disappointed if you don’t receive them? Is it OK to send a “thank you” card for wins? Should you always send one? I think a lot of people aren’t sure what is proper?
  • Pictures! I love pictures and have asked to be sent pictures in the past of dogs I really liked. I am sure it will get to a point that I will not be able to save all those pictures. I think sending a thank you note is not out of line for major wins or other exceptional wins. But no, I wouldn’t do it for every win. Pictures are too expensive to be sending the judge unless they ask for it.
  • 15. Would you like to be able to give a written evaluation to the handlers, like they do in Europe?
  • I do love doing the International shows and giving written critiques. However I think they take to long to do. It wouldn’t be a good thing to do at AKC shows with the number of dogs that are usually entered. It’s a lot of work! On the other hand I do think it is good to have written evaluations on your dog to keep it real. I think most people know the faults of their dog unless they are kennel blind. Which does happen? If someone truly wants to know about their dog and learn, it is different from a person who wants you to explain why their dog didn’t win. No matter what you as a judge say it will not make them happy.
  • 16. What other hobbies do you enjoy?
  • I like to bike ride with the dogs and go for walks in the park. I maintain two 30 gallon fish aquariums. I love taking pictures and making albums for each dog so I can enjoy reviewing our past wins over and over.
  • Great Dane Review would like to thank Karen Martin for answering our questions.