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Who'd Be A Judge?

by Ian Copus

The judging of dogs is a responsible position, requiring a considerable degree of canine knowledge, decisiveness, integrity and for large entries, physical stamina. Couple these factors with what I would consider the essential, "eye for a dog", and the most important need, that of respecting the exhibitors who have paid for that opinion, and you have all the qualities a good judge should possess; thus, you have the perfect judge.

Who wants this position, and why? Any prospective judge must take a look at himself and decide if he will make a good job of what is a very demanding task. I know of many knowledgeable breeders who do not wish to take on such a responsibility. Others who do must be prepared to spend many years studying the breed/ breeds in which they are interested, learning canine construction, anatomy and movement. Discussion must take place with reputable and knowledgeable breeders, who consistently have produced good specimens of their respective breed/breeds. Visiting kennels and attending breed seminars will further assist in increasing the knowledge of the prospective judge. All in all, the prospective judge has to feel comfortable in the middle of the ring oblivious to external influences. For some, this pressure is too great. they feel they are the centre of attention rather than the dogs. Others just plainly do not wish to be in the position of a judge.

Different countries have different stages through which prospective judges have to progress, before being approved to judge a breed at its highest level  - Championship, where Points (Canada and U.S.A.), C.C's (UK) or C.A.C.I.B.'s (remainder of Europe) are being offered. The specific qualification requirements of judges in different countries, will be covered in a later article. A good judge will take many years to acquire the necessary knowledge. I began showing at the age of 9, bred my  first litter at the age of 14, carried out my first judging assignment at 18 years of age. One should wait to be invited to judge and not ask for assignments. If you display your canine knowledge, integrity and have shown good dogs, approaches will be made to you. Some people get to that stage and judge only the once, not having enjoyed the experience.

Personally, I loved it. The opportunity to place your hands on beautifully constructed animals is a sheer joy. To transpose all your studying, reading and discussions with fellow breeders to the real thing can be very rewarding. Obviously, not every dog gives you great pleasure, but you should always look for the positive points of every dog you judge. This can sometimes be very difficult, especially if you have a class of poor specimens. It is always easier to judge a class of good dogs than a class of poor ones.

Tom Homer (A famous all breed judge who sadly. is no longer with us) writes in his book, "Take Them Round, Please":
"Judging is both an art and a science: it is an art because the decisions with which a judge is constantly, faced are very, often based on considerations of an intangible nature that cannot be recognized and assessed without some artistic sense. Such things as type, quality, expression and balance cannot be described adequately in exact terms, they have to be recognized intuitively. It is also a science because without a sound knowledge of a dog's points and anatomy a judge cannot make a proper assessment of it whether it is standing or in motion."

The judge's duty is to find the dog in each class, which in his opinion, most closely fits the breed standard, and then place them in order of merit. It is the interpretation of the breed standard, and where each judge places their particular preference or discretion which makes the dog show such an intriguing experience.

Different dogs win under different judges, and if that were not the case, then why would the majority of exhibitors keep entering their dogs at shows? They enter with the hope that this judge at this show will put up their dog. Judges differ in their interpretation of standards and the value they, place on breed specifics. This is not wrong and exhibitors must be tolerant of judges who place particular emphasis on a particular breed point. If every judge, judged exactly the same, there would be no need for dog shows. As an exhibitor, you may get to know a particular judge's preferences, and if you feel your dog/dogs are not his type, you have the choice not to enter. It is a fact that rarely do two judges think exactly, alike, that is why, exhibitors go back for more, week after week.

All judges will have their own style of judging, and they must learn to develop a thick skin, for rarely will all the exhibitors entered under him be happy, with his placings. As long as the judge is fair and gives all the exhibits the same opportunity to show off their virtues, then criticism of the judge is limited The judge must remember the exhibitors have often paid large sums of money to not only, enter the show, but also in travel. Therefore the judge must be courteous with exhibitors and kind with the dogs.

Judges are in the middle of the ring to find the best dogs, nothing more, nothing less. However, a judge must always remember, while he is judging the dogs, the ringside is judging him.

N.B. Is this age of equality of sexes the male gender is used for convenience only and refers to both male and female judges.


Copyright © 1999 Ian Copus
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Last revised: November 11, 2010