Just Roll with It

By Jessica Freni

Breeds have different bites, it goes without saying, and is quite obvious from even a quick cursory look at any handful of breeds developed for different purposes. Each breed standard contains verbiage on the bite correct per the breed, for some that is requirement of full dentition and a scissor bite and for other AKC breeds undershot is acceptable or within the norm.

For examination of some AKC breeds a “thumb roll” is the correct method. The “thumb roll” is used for some small, brachycephalic breeds and is the name suggests quite simple and straight forward, the judge rolls their thumb under the dog’s lips and along the teeth/ jaw. Examples of thumb roll breeds include: English Toy Spaniels, Pugs, Japanese Chin, Pekingese and Brussels Griffon. The thumb roll is simply to verify jaw alignment, e.g. that the bite is not wry (usually fairly obvious from an external look) and it is “NOT necessary to pry open the mouth and doing so may be problematic and cause the breed to react by squirming or trying to get away. ” (AKC, “Conducting Oral Exams”) For these thumb roll breeds it is often appreciated by exhibitors that the thumb roll follows the end of the table exam and the judge is soft handed.

It is especially frustrating that too often judge’s insist upon seeing or fishing around the mouths of “thumb roll breeds” and forget which they are or express annoyance at being reminded by these breeds’ exhibitors. It is equally frustrating for individuals of these breeds who consequently find their nose or eyes obscured or poked unnecessarily. In the event the judge requests the exhibitor “show the bite” on a thumb roll breed it really should suffice to flip the lip just enough to verify such things as the jaw is not misaligned and not held or tugged at by the lips. Exhibitors should politely communicate with judges at time of examination a reminder when necessary about the thumb roll rather than creating a frustrating, incorrect table experience for the dog and their Parent Clubs when judges forget the thumb roll breed’s procedure and supplemental information sent out accordingly.