Are Dog Show Judges Sexually Harassing Dogs?

Should dog show judges be groping the testicles of male dogs?

Posted May 29, 2018

Blake Handley photo, Creative Commons License CC0
Source: Blake Handley photo, Creative Commons License CC0

A recent newspaper headline reminded me of an email that I received a while ago. That email read in part:

I was visiting a friend of mine who is a dog fancier and while we were having tea she had the television on because they were broadcasting some big important dog show. I really wasn't watching carefully, because dogs are not my thing, but at one point I saw that a dog was being examined by the judge who looked at his teeth and ears and all that, and then, right on camera for everyone to see, he reached around and grabbed the dog's testicles. I was astonished and offended but thought that perhaps I had misinterpreted what I was seeing, or it was some sort of accidental contact. However as I watched the judge look at the next dog he did exactly the same thing, finishing his examination of the dog by grabbing its testicles. Are dog judges and dog owners that perverted that they think that groping a dog's sex organs in public and on television is an amusing part of a dog show? Is sexual harassment okay because the victim is a dog and the perpetrator is a dog judge? What is wrong with you dog people?

At the time I had dismissed this note as the product of someone who didn't understand conformation dog shows or who had had some psychosexual trauma in her life which had made her overly sensitive to sexual issues. I believed that her response to the normal examination of a dog by a judge in the show ring was unique — until now. I was forced to reconsider my opinion when I encountered the following story headline in The Telegraph, "Children's Film Show Dogs Cuts Canine Sexual Harassment Scene after Protests from Parents"

The film "Show Dogs" is a live action, family-oriented fantasy involving a police dog, Max, who has an undercover assignment at a dog show. Having Max impersonate a show dog allows his human partner to investigate criminal activities. In the movie, Max has the ability to speak to other dogs. The scenes which have offended the parent groups have to do with the judge touching Max's testicles while examining him in the show ring. Max is uncomfortable about this but is advised by a champion dog that he must tolerate this and that he should just go to some happy place in his mind in order to get himself through the unwanted genital manipulation. Max does, and as a consequence, he is rewarded by advancing to the final round of competition.

Several parent groups maintain that these scenes are essentially telling children that they should put up with sexual harassment in the form of having their genitals touched and they will be rewarded for it. Because of this interpretation, they have demanded that the two scenes be removed from the film. Furthermore, some of these same groups have also questioned why such sexual touching is necessary in dog shows at all, suggesting that the dog judges are sexually abusing these animals with such manipulation.

It appears that a good deal of the problem in this situation is that some people don't understand the purpose of a conformation dog show. Perhaps the judge's behaviors would be easier to understand if we used the older label for such a competition which was a "breed show". The goal of conformation dog shows is to select the dogs which are physically sound and the best examples of their type. This is specifically for breeding purposes. To achieve this the judge evaluates dogs in several ways, such as watching their gait and movement and then performing a quick, up close, physical examination that usually lasts around two minutes. Generally speaking, the judge begins the examination at the dogs head, then moves toward the rear, all the while touching the dog to determine its structural soundness. For male dogs, the final act involves lightly touching the testicles to make sure that they are present and of equal size. This is important because after all the dogs are being selected for breeding purposes. Thus the American Kennel Club rules are that any dog who does not have "two normally descended testicles" will be disqualified.

Remember it's all about breeding potential. So the rules also indicate that female dogs in the competition must also be reproductively intact. Dog show judges can't really verify this in their brief examination. One might argue that certain patterns of scar tissue could suggest that the female dog has been spayed, but that same pattern of scarring could be the results of other types of surgery. Genital manipulation would not help to verify that a female dog is sexually intact so they are not touched there.

For male dogs, a quick look and touch give the judge most of the information needed to make sure that the sexual apparatus is in place. Male dogs are generally not shown in conformation shows until they are around six months of age in order to allow enough time for young dog's testicles to  descend fully. Even in adult dogs, however, there can be problems when the testicles do not descend or if they descend and then go back up. A dog with only one testicle descended into the scrotum is called a monorchid, while one where neither has descended is called a cryptorchid. Either condition will result in disqualification. Fortunately, for some dogs, such problems correct themselves over time, and the testicles do eventually descend so that the dog can be shown.

There is a story that dog show people have told me about a man who owned, what he believed was a particularly handsome young Rottweiler (just like Max in the movie). Unfortunately, it was a cryptorchid whose testicles had failed to descend. The man wanted to enter this dog in a specialty show in Philadelphia in order to impress some friends, so he resorted to trickery. It may be hard for some people to believe but there actually is a company called "Neuticles" which manufactures silicone testicular implants for male dogs to replace what the vet normally snips away during neutering. This product appeals to the desires of some people who want their neutered pet to still look like a virile male even though he is no longer sexually intact. In any event, this man managed to convince a veterinarian to put in these testicular implants (for cosmetic reasons, he assured him). A couple of months later the dog was entered in the Philadelphia show. While in the ring, the judge was amazed to find that this Rottweiler had four testicles instead of two. Its owner had missed the fact that, a short time before the show, the dog's natural testicles had descended to join the implants. The owner and his now too masculine dog were summarily ejected from the show.

In any event, the point of this discussion is that the brief genital inspection and light touching of the testicles for male dogs in the show ring is not a perversion on the part of dog judges, but is part of the process of determining the best dogs for breeding future generations. However, the producers of Show Dogs responded to the media outcry by cutting the two controversial scenes which supposedly showed dog judges sexually harassing male dogs.

Copyright SC Psychological Enterprises Ltd. May not be reprinted or reposted without permission

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