Interview with Best in Show judge Stuart Plane
Crufts 2022 Best in Show judge Stuart Plane by Bill Moores
The below interview first appeared in the February 2022 Kennel Gazette. To read the full interview please visit The Kennel Club website to purchase your issue of The Kennel Gazette.
Congratulations on your appointment at Crufts, you must be really looking forward to the big day?
It must be everyone's dream who judges dogs to officiate at Crufts, and to judge Best in Show is something to which everyone must aspire. When I received the invitation I was beaming with pride, and as the day approaches I am becoming more excited and my expectations are growing. Interestingly it will be 40 years since I was in the Best in Show final at Crufts.
How many times have you judged at the show before?
My first appointment at Crufts was in 1994 when I judged my own breed Scottish Terriers and to step on the green carpet was a huge thrill. Since then, I have been fortunate to judge several terrier breeds, along with Schipperkes. In the main ring I have judged The Kennel Club Vulnerable British and Irish Breeds competition, Breeders’ Competition and the Young Kennel Club final. I was due to judge Griffon Bruxellois in 2021 but sadly, like so many others lost this appointment due to Covid-19.
Our readers would like to know a little more about the breeds you have owned and showed. Can we ask what they are and what attracted you to them?
Scottish Terriers have always been a family pet so there was little doubt I would pursue them in the show ring. Their independence and stubbornness appeal strongly to me. Presenting them as a show dog to compete against some of the elders in the breed, sadly not with us anymore, was always an ambition. I owned a Sealyham, which won the Reserve Challenge Certificate at Crufts, and a Wire Fox Terrier which won well locally but was never going to hit the high spots. In my early years Poodles were always around so here again they became part of the family as they are so adaptable, fun and energetic keeping the Scotties on their toes. Latterly I am closely associated with the Donzeata Griffons who mix so well with the Scotties and benefit from having a terrier-like temperament. If space and time allowed, I would have had a Pekingese or a Japanese Chin. Both are breeds in which I take a huge interest.
How many champions have you had in these breeds?
I started showing in my own right in 1975, breeding my first Champion in 1978. To date there have been 24 Stuane Scottish Terrier champions, plus two Toy Poodle champions bred in partnership with David Guy who in his own right has made up many Griffon champions.
As a respected judge in demand, to where have your overseas appointments taken you and were any of these particularly memorable?
As a teacher, I was not always free to exhibit at every show or accept judging appointments. Despite this I have been blessed to have judged across the world including in Australia, America and throughout Europe. I judged the Scottish Terrier Club of America plus the New England Club which gave me an insight into how the breed was developing there, so much so that I eventually imported a dog and a bitch from America. A judging appointment in Monte Carlo was very exciting, and a tour round the casino quite an eye-opener. Flying visits to Europe allowed me to experience many breeds, although my headmaster was not happy when serious delays at Bologna airport delayed my return to school!
It is always interesting to hear what dog people have done in a professional capacity, can you share this with us - and may we ask if you have felt it has helped you in any way in your judging career?
I qualified as a teacher in 1974 and began my career in a local secondary modern school. My ambitions were solely amongst dog showing and so was not ambitious about teaching although I did enjoy being in the classroom, even with the most difficult of pupils. My final years as a teacher was spent in horticulture where much of my time was spent outside with the pupils. This I enjoyed so much and several pupils have gone on to have a career in this area. Teaching the less able children has helped me when giving talks on the breed to put information across in the best way an audience will understand.