1. Home
  2. Preparing for the Event
  3. Conducting Oral Exams at the show

Conducting Oral Exams at the show

The following information is courtesy of the Canadian Dog Judges Association (CDJA).

DogShow.ca is a proud sponsor of the CDJA.

The CDJA delivers education programs to enhance the knowledge of conformation dog judges; liaises with the CKC to provide input on CKC decisions, policies and programs that affect conformation dog judging; and disseminates information to members so they can remain informed and united in their common goal of promoting critical breed characteristics and improving the quality of conformation dog judges.

The preparation of this CDJA guide to the conduct of oral exams in breeds approved by the Canadian Kennel Club was inspired by the similar guide published by the American Kennel Club (http://images.akc.org/pdf/events/conformation/Oral_exams.pdf). To paraphrase the introduction to that guide: The proficient judge alters his or her examination technique from breed to breed based on the priorities as defined by the breed standards. To do so requires interpretation as to what the standard is attempting to convey to the judge. Close inspection of a breed’s standard will determine the appropriate oral exam to conduct when judging that breed, which is an essential component of the breed specific exam.

Oral exams can be generally divided into four (4) categories which individually or in combination will constitute the correct oral exam for a breed:

Bite – checking the front
This exam is proper when the standard only refers to the alignment of the bite (scissors, level, undershot or overshot) as a preference, fault or disqualification. This procedure also complies with the examination procedure required by the CKC in those cases where a standard does not mention teeth or mouth (e.g. Irish Wolfhound) or where the standard includes language that references all teeth in a general way (e.g. Teeth – white, sound and strong or even and set squarely).

This requires the judge separating the front of the lips to display the meshing of the incisor and canines or asking the exhibitor to “Show the bite, please”.
Teeth – checking the front and sides
This exam is required for any breed whose standard references missing teeth or dentition. This includes any disqualification for missing teeth other than M3s, or any reference to full dentition or a full complement of teeth as a preference or fault due a lack thereof. CDJA March 2019 Rev 1 August 2021

This requires the judge to separate the front of the lips to display the meshing of the incisors and canines AND the flews on each side of the mouth, so the judge may observe the pre-molars and molars on the upper and lower jaw for each or asking the exhibitor to “Show the teeth, please”.
Mouth – involves opening the mouth to count teeth or check pigment. Always used in combination with a “bite” or “teeth” exam depending on the breed
Required for any breed that includes a standard disqualification (DQ) for pigmentation or missing teeth that requires checking the M3s. If the M3s are excluded from the disqualification by the standard (e.g. Leonbergers), opening the mouth is not required. It is used in combination with the bite and/or teeth exam depending on the language of the standard.

Breed standards that include a DQ for pigmentation of the mouth but do not reference missing teeth or full dentition would require examining the “bite” and then opening the mouth to check for pigment of the mouth and/or tongue. An example would be the Chinese Shar-Pei, whose standard calls for a scissors bite but also states that the tongue, roof of mouth, gums and flews should be solid bluish-black except in dilute colours which have solid lavender pigmentation.

Breeds for which the standard includes a DQ for missing teeth will require that the front and sides be displayed and may include opening the mouth so the judge can effectively observe the molars.
Thumb – Thumb exam is used for smaller, short muzzled breeds that call for an
undershot jaw
Involves the judge running the flat of his or her thumb outside of the top lip OR inside the lips of the dog to feel for the proper alignment of the jaw. This procedure is appropriate in smaller, undershot breeds with short muzzles. This is the preferred means to conduct the oral exam for these breeds as it is not necessary to open the mouth. It is recommended that the thumb exam be conducted at the end of the individual examination. Examples of where this procedure may be used would be the English Toy Spaniel, Pug, Pekingese.

Please keep in mind that Conformation Show Rule 4.4.1 calls for dentition to be displayed by the exhibitor but allows the judge to proceed if the dentition is not automatically displayed by the exhibitor.

In practice, the exhibitor should be asked to “show the bite” or “show the teeth” depending on the requirements of the breed standard. The exhibitor may additionally be asked to “open the mouth” when necessary to complete the oral exam. In breeds where this is appropriate, the judge will personally conduct a thumb exam.

Group 1 – Sporting Dogs
Group 2 – Hounds
Group 3 – Working Dogs
Group 4 – Terriers
Group 5 – Toys
Group 6 – Non-Sporting
Group 7 – Herding

Was this article helpful?