Nikki Riggsbee

Are you a breeder judges? (if yes, how long have you bred Danes?)

Yes, We had a Great Dane when I was a child, and I got my first Great Dane as an adult in 1980. I have several Great Danes that I exhibit and breed.

How long have you been judging and what breeds are you licensed to judge?

I’ve been judging since the early nineties and am approved to judge all working breeds, hound breeds and most of the sporting breeds.

Have you seen a trend (good or bad) in the Dane ring?

Danes vary quite a bit in the different parts of the country, depending upon the priorities and visions of the Dane breeders in each area. Overall soundness has improved. Strong breed type is too seldom found and seems to be less important to most breeders and exhibitors. Great Danes are becoming a more moderate breed.

What are your feeling about “baiting” in your ring?

Baiting is fine; but if it is thrown, it should be picked up. My main concern when judging is when the dog is being fed, no baited. When the handler is feeding the dog, I can’t see the shape of the muzzle. Finding bits of bait in the dog’s mouth when I am checking the bite and the teeth is not appealing. Another problem occurs when the handler holds the bait high so the dog looks up, which ruins the lip line and the neck arch and set.

Many people say there are a lot of “politics” in the ring. How do you feel about the “Professionals” vs. the Owner Handlers?

My purpose is to evaluate the dogs and find the ones I thinks are best according to the breed standard in 2 ½ minutes per dog. Sometime, presentation (professional and amateur) gets in the way. Some professionals make a dog look much better than it is. Some amateurs make it look worse. One way to see the actual dog is to see him moving in profile: the handler can’t fix or hurt the dogs as much when it is moving.

When you have a Novice in the ring do you find it hard to judge the dog fairly?

No, I try to see the dog in spite of the presentation. I may ask them to modify how the dog is stacked or moved so I can see it more clearly. A more common problem is that the Novice isn’t knowledgeable enough to accurately evaluate his dog. So when he loses, he doesn’t realize that it is because the winner is better quality or looked better that day, so he assumes or is persuaded that it is politics. Please realize that the same dog can look very different on different days.

How much do you penalize things like “blowing” coat, long toenails, dirty dogs, ect.? Would you still give a dog Winners in spite of some of these types of grooming problems?

I try very hard to give priority to those features that have to be bred into the dog and less importance to those characteristics that one can correct or were caused by humans. You can’t take a dog home and fix a bad head, short neck, steep croup, or such structural faults. You can go home and improve the coat, cut the toenails, improve weight or muscle tone, and training. Showing a dirty un-groomed dog is insulting to the breed and the judge. But if the un-groomed dog is the best one there , it wins.

How do you feel about being approached after judging to discuss your placements?

If a person is not being argumentative and there is time, I have no problem discussing the dogs after wards. I may not remember the specific dogs, so it is helpful if the dog(s) to be discussed are brought to the discussion. Too often, all the judge gets to do is to point and the winner thinks I love the dog and the losers think I hate theirs. This is seldom true. I’ve had times when I had to choose between several excellent dogs, but could only choose one. I would hope to see the others on another day, for I would love to put them up, too. On the other hand, sometimes all you can do is pick the best of medium quality set of dogs. You can only judge what is in the ring that day. 

PICTURE…. 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. 

I love getting photos if they are good ones of beautiful dogs, although I realize it is an extra expense. A good dog can take a bad or mediocre picture, though; I’d rather not see those. “Thank you” cards are nice for big wins. But send it right after the win, not just before you are showing to that judge again. The best gift you can give a judge is to bring your very best dogs.

Do you believe advertising “Wins” influences judges, especially at the Breed and Group level?

It depends. It depends on how good the advertising picture is. I look at some that are sufficiently poor that I wonder how the dog won. Another time, I saw wonderful pictures of a dog and looked forward to judging him. But he wasn’t nearly that wonderful in person, and there was a better dog there, so the advertised dog didn’t win. It also depends on how well, a judge knows the breed. If he knows it well, ads make no difference at all. If he doesn’t know it well, and lots of respected breeder judges have put up a dog, it could influence him.

Would you like to see “Reserves” awarded some type of lesser points?

I don’t know. It could be good, if the entry was very large and the reserves points were not majors. But I think that sometimes Reserve isn’t always given to the second best dog. I think there is an opportunity for abuse, just as there is with crossing over points with Best of Winners.

What other hobbies do you enjoy?

Although I retired at the end of 2003, I’ve kept quite busy with dogs, dog clubs and judging. I’ve also written three books (pet manuals on Irish Wolfhounds, Havanese and Bernese Mountain Dogs) and numerous articles for the Magazine Dogs in Review. Some have won or been nominated for awards.


Great Dane Review would like to thank Ms. Riggsbee for taking the time to answer these questions for us