Interview with Arja Koskelo,Cocker Spaniel dogs judge Crufts 2009

This was the first time that  a non-British judge has judged the cocker spaniels at Crufts.  How did you feel about this? How did you live the experience?
I felt very honoured, I have visited Crufts 36 times and to judge Crufts one day has always been a big dream which I was sure will also stay just as a dream – therefore it was a great thrill when one day I got  the official invitation apprx 4 years ago.  Also this “ waiting time” has felt very exciting.
I did expect a pleasane experience and the day certainly fuullfilled all my expectations.  The atmosphere has always been very special for spectators, but the organizers had made all judges feel the extra special atmosphere too – we all were really doing something special…

In general, how did you see the quality of the dogs you judged?

he quality was excellent – absolutely the best I have judged in Great Britain so far.  Blue roans had the best heads, blacks were really good in overall picture, many reds failed in head and running eyes, some particolours looked nice on the table and side movement but hind action put them down.
I also had to leave unplaced some lovely dogs who were too reluctant to move.  Movement had improved a lot and so  also sizes, compared what they were when I last judged in Great Britain.  And the British dogs, as always, had very cobby and well ribbed bodies and good quality coats.
I was surprised myself to end up with two blacks, because it is rather unusual that a black wins under me.  Black is my favourite colour to keep at home, but it has always also meant that I feel I am ultra critical with blacks and nothing seems to be good enough to me  .But now I must say that my Best dog winner was a very clear decision to me.  The res CC competition was much more difficult because there were 3-4 dogs who I liked to give that award.

What are the best virtues and faults of the dogs you judged?

The bodies were excellent, very few flat or narrow dogs, hindquarters were  very good and very few exaggerated quarters, and hardly any straight back ends. Eyes were good colour, hardly any thick skulls. Correct tailsets and good bone.
The faults were certainly the running eyes in reds, that is a feature we had  long long ago all over the world and we got very well rid of them but now it seems that there are problems again and we breeders  really must work for healthy eyes.  There were two suspected testicles and 5-7 level bites. One undershot. – but those out of 189 dogs, does not make it a problem yet!  There were some too long in loin and  a few who did not please me in toplines.
Most dogs were happy and not one shy or aggressive.  I did forgive a slight reluctant tail action, because the place is very abnormal, noisy, flash lights etc but a tail which was straight down had to be penalized.

How was the  presentation and grooming?

I saw some absolutely perfectly put down dogs, well trimmed, lovely flat shiny coats, but many breeders seem to be leaving too much coat on hind legs, and some do too much trimming on forechest.  There were also a few nice dogs whose show trim was missing the final finish. In general the grooming and presentation was good and that always makes the judging easier and more pleasant.

I would like you to reflect upon the quality of the cockers around the world,
Have you seen a major difference between British cockers spaniels and those from the rest of Europe? Which country now has the best quality cockers ?
The quality varies so much not only from country to country but also from show to show.  The best type is usually found in Britain, best cobby bodies and you hardly ever see exaggerated cockers there.
Sweden is a strong country, there the cockers are often very stylish and can move, but there you see also dogs who have too much of everything ( too much neck, quarters, and coat…)  I think that we have in Finland also a very wide selection of typy dogs with excellent movements.  I have seen many lovely dogs also in Spain, Italy, Netherlands , Norway and Denmark, but I think that  the number of the real top cockers is not very numerous.
But  it always depends what show you have judged, and if  the best breeders have entered or not, therefore it is dangerous to say anything in too strong words.
As it concerns the exaggerated cockers, I must say that it very often is not the dogs fault but the handler or groomer who overhandle or do everything to make their dogs look like something between an American cocker and swan!! – too many think that the more coat, the more quarters and the longer neck – the better !!!
A cocker should always be happy, cockery, short and compact dog, with strong neck, strong  none sloping topline and good balance, moving  easily, using his hocks, with good reach and proper drive  and carrying himself proudly. An ever wagging tail should not be forgotten.