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Judging the Maltese

Compiled and prepared by Mrs. Robyn Hurford ANKC Licn Judge (Gameford Maltese) on behalf of the Royal N.S.W. Canine Council Judges Training Scheme.

Judging a Maltese.

Learning the words of a breed standard is not all that difficult. Many people can recite them verbatim, with great confidence and few mistakes. The important thing, however, is that this not be a parrot-type procedure, or a case of knowing the words but not understanding what it is they are telling us. The ability to mechanically repeat what is written in a standard has little value unless one truly understands these words and possesses the ability to apply them to the dogs themselves.

From the moment we have started noticing purebred dogs, we have learned that type is of utmost importance. But do we truly understand the word, and what "type" means in a Maltese?. How about balance, without which no animal can be truly excellent, even though he may possess an outstanding individual feature, or several?. Then there is "soundness," to which people usually refer when speaking of the manner in which a dog gaits.

Type is a composite of the features as outlined in each breed standard, which make that breed unique and set it apart from all other breeds of dog. As applied to the Maltese, one of correct type is a small dog, compact in build with a firm, level top line and proud demeanour, moving along smoothly, head carried high on a neck of good length enabling the dog to do so, the picture enhanced by proper tail carriage and further enhanced by the correct coat, which is an important characteristic. The coat of a Maltese is a single coat (i.e., one without undercoat) falling long and flat over the sides of the dog from the head to the tail, of a straight and silky texture absolutely without any trace of woolliness, wave, or curl. A "fluffy" coat is entirely untypical in a Maltese, just as is one of coarse texture or any kinky tendencies.

Pigmentation is important to the typical Maltese expression, with dark black nose leather, lips, and eye rims essential. A Maltese of correct character (or type) must never appear shy or timid. Self-confidence and a happy attitude are typical, as is a dog who steps out smartly, with good reach and drive for his size, as be moves.

Balance is proportion. A well-balanced dog has neither glaring faults nor an outstanding feature to two with little to back it up. He is a dog which everything seems to fit together nicely.

 A well balanced Maltese must be compact with a head of medium length and a neck long enough to carry it high. This head is balanced by a short fore face in comparison to the skull. Length of back from the withers (top of shoulder) to tail set (root of tail) should equal the height from withers to ground for the compact look.

Style comes nearer than any other Breed Characteristic to ?Type" and is of great importance to the Show Dog. It is of course a gift sent from heaven and is based on manner and action not physical construction. Above all he must ooze quality. If a Maltese possesses all these factors - Balance - Soundness - Style he must therefore be very Typey

"Soundness," or correct typical action, is displayed by a Maltese moving along smoothly, holding its top line level, reaching out well in the forelegs and flexing stifles and hocks powerfully behind. Speed is not the test of correction and in fact, in excessive cases can completely disguise whether or not the dog is moving correctly. The forelegs should reach out straight and true from strong, correctly angulated shoulders, elbows held close to the body, and toes pointing straight ahead. The hind legs should move in a straight line (a Maltese never "crab" or "side wind" as he travels) driving along in accordance with moderate angulation. Viewed from behind, the hocks should be short, straight never turning in nor out and they should travel straight ahead, feet never toeing in or out. The action should appear smooth and fluid and effortless.

The current fad in the show ring with Maltese is that of racing them around the ring as though there is no tomorrow and there dogs feet are rushed along so fast that its feet barely touch the ground or the dogs lead so tight that the dogs front feet are unable to touch the ground. It is impossible to evaluate whether or not the dog's conformation is equipping him to move in accordance with what is correct. All four feet of a moving dog should be able to touch the ground, and the speed should be adjusted accordingly.

Remember the five Essentials


I have only covered 4 of the above in detail.

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