Thank you once again for your interest in this column. It is always a pleasure to hear from you with your views and suggestions. It may take a bit longer to arrive now that PTP is monthly rather than weekly, but I won’t forget you.
Alison Wilde writes on the subject of judges’ appointments: "I read your column regularly and always enjoy it. I saw the suggestions from Keith Creasey and thought you might be interested to know that I tried to set up a database of judges about 14 years ago. I wrote to every single breed club secretary (around 700 then), offering to put their judging list into a database every year, free of charge. I produced a database which could be sent out to all general show secretaries for a small charge and updated yearly. It was really simple to use and would have made secretaries’ lives so much easier. Only 13 breed clubs took up the offer which unfortunately was nowhere near enough to make it a viable proposition. However I still have the database; I just need the input from the breed clubs to get it up and running.”
A section of what Keith wrote: "...the other gripe that I am often banging the drum about is the regularity of judging appointments, particularly where the same judges judge the same breed at the same show just a few years apart. I think a rule should be brought in that a period of at least ten years should elapse before a judge is even considered for a repeat appointment. Surely someone could draw up a national database of judges of all breeds available to all show societies and breed clubs, together with a programme which could select a choice of available judges at the press of a button. The ten-year rule could be built into the programme.”
So here we have somebody suggesting a database and somebody who has actually taken the bull by the horns and produced one. The unfortunate thing is that not many club secretaries bothered to take up the offer. Perhaps somebody has views as to why? Of course many feel that ten years is too long a time, but we are talking about the same breed at the same show, so that is important. Why do societies ask the same judge to do the same breed at the same show with only a year or two’s gap?
With most championship societies a judge is asked not to have judged the breed in question for 12 months, some say 18 months, and that means having judged it anywhere. So how can a society invite the same judge for the same breed within a short time? Do they do it because that judge drew a large entry or for reasons that are not quite what they should be? Open shows of course are different, although it is not the thing to have judged the breed within, usually, a 50-mile limit within a certain time, and certainly one would not expect the same judge the following year or for at least five years for the same breed at the same show.
Another question that has come up is why do judges, having received an extremely low entry for the breed, get another appointment within a short time? The answer here is that they may have had the invitation before the bad entry one took place, and it is doubtful if any society would write to a judge (if they noticed) and ask why they thought their entry was so low and would they agree to be released from the contract – or would they then be faced with Kennel Club disapproval? Goodness knows it is confusing enough. I doubt if any show society takes note of who is judging all the breeds and what entry the judge received. No doubt they have far too much work to do without doing this sort of research, so it is highly unlikely that their attention would be caught over it, unless there was a database!
The trouble with repeat appointments in a short space of time is it is likely to reduce entries. We can see who won the CCs, and the classes no doubt, and consider whether we feel the judge was favouring a type, or a clique, or one person. If we feel they were we will not bother to enter again, especially with the same dog. And not all of us have new dogs to bring out each year. Maybe we also feel if they favoured a person last time nothing has changed, so would we take our new recruit?
Certainly before the great rise in costs we would have a go regardless. Now we may take caution. Show entries are more costly, petrol is expensive, days off need to be qualified, are we going to spend our money if we feel we will not be treated fairly?
It appears that not all questions on judging are from the seniors in the dog world. I am honoured to have received a couple of emails from junior handlers who are confused by some of the judges. There is no way of knowing what judges are looking for. One corrects for lack of definition of angles such as the triangle, while another says the triangle should be curved to keep the dog flowing. How can you win?
Well you can’t ask the judge beforehand what their preference is, I don’t suppose. But should there be this variation? I asked Marina Scott if she would shed some light on this and offer some advice.
"There are rules set down by the Young Kennel Club. YKC handling guidelines can be easily downloaded from the YKC’s website,” she said.
"As the YKC handling guidelines say for triangles: ‘This is the most common shape used in both handling and breed rings as it shows rear, side and front movement of your dog. Start with your dog in front of the judge with your dog in the left hand, make sure your dog is in line with where you are going, move off in a straight diagonal line towards the right hand corner of the ring, when you reach the corner turn neatly left and follow the back edge of the ring straight along, if you have a large breed, do not stop at the corner, but slow down to create a flowing sharp turn, always encourage your dog with voice commands.
‘When you reach the left hand corner of the ring, turn left again and create the last diagonal straight line back to the judge.’
Some judges believe angles are more important than rapport with the dog – can this be right?
Marina continues, "Some judges have clearly not familiarised themselves with the YKC handling guidelines. Again the following is straight from said guidelines: ‘The handler should try to show off all the good points of the dog and minimise any faults. Movements and corrections while handling the dog should be subtle; your goal is to give the impression of the dog showing itself. Basic moves have been designed to test the handler in the show ring.’”
I hope that helps. Although we cannot know if the judge is familiar with the KC rules or not, can we? You can of course read Marina’s Paws... for Youth in Dog World.