Are Show Dogs Subjected to Groping During Judgement?

The answer is yes, and the consequence of not conforming in the genital department is disqualification.

By Jennifer Grant

Image: James Clarke

There’s this obscure, perhaps harsh, rule in the world of Dog Shows that goes something like this: any dog that has been found to have faulty testicles three times will be barred from any future conformations. Talk about performance anxiety!

Conformation is a term to describe the process of judging the physical attributes of the dog. Within each category, a dog that has most (or all) of the favored traits of its breed will be deemed to have “good conformation.”

Image: Shutterstock

Breeds that are competing in a show, face judgement in a number of ways: gait, attitude, balance, physical attributes, and the presence of “two normally descended testicles.” This is how the inspection of the male dog ends – a light touch on the testicles to make sure they are both present and in place. If either of those qualities are lacking, the dog is disqualified.

Image: Ray Woo

Unfortunately, the testicle can retract prior to, or during, an examination. Judges may probe a bit to “assist” the dog with this problem in order to avoid disqualification. And this is where the circulating groping rumors first lifted into the ether…

This all became a big fluff when Show Dogs, in response to parental uproar, recut the film in order to remove two scenes.  The offending scenes involved the lead dog submitting to a genital inspection while running the following mantra through his head, “Go to your happy place.” Certainly the depiction is offensive and potentially triggering for victims of child sexual abuse, but is this full out groping the reality for dogs facing conformation judgement?

Image: Richard L. Paul

The answer is yes, but also no. I’ll get to that in one moment.

Female dogs are also required to be reproductively intact. This determination is more difficult, however, as scarring in the abdominal region does not necessarily denote the removal of ovaries and uterus. The judging procedure is much the same for female dogs as it is for male, a light touch along the body line to verify presence of reproductive organs.

Image: Degtyaryov Andrey

Do dogs feel anxiety over having their genitals touched? It’s not likely, at least not for show dogs. It’s not “groping” in the emotionally traumatic sense in which humans use the word. But, it is, indeed, a feel of the genital region.

Canines that appear in conformations are trained to submit to thorough examination, and have confidently sailed through similar situations countless times. An untrained dog, however, may feel very fearful. For example, you may have seen your poor fluffer trembling on the vet’s examination table. This anxiety simply doesn’t exist for professional show dogs.

So, we probably don’t need to worry over dogs feeling anxious about the groping, but perhaps some consideration should be given to feelings surrounding the label of “faulty testicles. Just saying….