arxism M s This Judge’s Point Of View
Growth of a Judge Continued FROM page 48
“head hunter,” or even one that only puts up certain colors. Sometimes an exhibitor or handler who did not win will think or say, “I guess my dog is too fancy,” (replace with the word of your choice: pretty, big, small, angulated, etc). In fact, none of this may be true as the judge can only put up what is in front of her. But these reputations may determine what dogs are shown to her in the future. So it becomes a vicious circle. Many new judges are determined that soundness is a requirement for their winners. We all start out to be breed saviors. Then the true education of a judge begins. Probably because I am old, I have had many newer judges talk to me about judging. I tell them that I understand what they are going through. Been there - done that - have the tee shirt. When I started, I knew that poor movement was an issue in my breed, and I was determined to find a sound dog. However, I also knew that my breed is a combination of elegance, balance, and substance. After a few assignments I realized that I had choices and compromises to make. Do I put up a sound dog that does not have the essence of the breed, or do I put up a pretty dog that needs help to get across the ring? 82 Dog News
A judge is faced with this every time she steps into the ring. I learned over time - that we are not judging perfection - we are judging reality. Everything is a trade-off. We all have to decide what is most important to us for each breed we judge. For me there are certain essences of each breed that cannot be ignored or dismissed. Once we have found this, then we can start looking at which dog has proper reach, depth of chest, etc. But the essence of the breed is paramount. It takes some judges longer to learn and accept this than others. Some never get past this point. Judges learn to judge by judging. Unfortunately it is difficult for a new judge with just a few breeds to get enough assignments to stay in a rhythm, and they can wither away. She gets frustrated. In order to “stay in the game,” and keep her “judging eye” the new judge accepts as many sweepstakes and match show assignments that she can. This does help, but only if there is a good mentor there to help her by honestly discussing her procedure and selections. The “newbie” has to be open for this feedback. If she is not, all this practice will do is lock in some very bad habits. I do believe that there are a few lucky people who “have the eye.” But even these have to learn how to run a ring smoothly, safely, and on time. Judges need to learn the rules; when and if to award Select, AOM, when to
withhold, when and how to DQ. All judges should learn how to maintain a proper demeanor and be firm but friendly with the exhibitors. Another thing that takes some experience is learning to judge the whole dog and not pieces. This is a point that cannot be over-emphasized. It is very much like learning to judge the positive attributes rather than fault-judge. Every judge has to learn what things can be overlooked, and what things cannot. There is a time to draw the line, and each judge must learn this for themselves. Unfortunately, new judges don’t get enough opportunities, and their education is stunted. It takes time and experience to remain calm, stay on time, run a smooth ring - and find the best dogs. Over time a judge will learn how to prioritize breed characteristics, and how to determine which ones just can’t be overlooked. If what is important to a judge is breed essence, the judge may wind up being pretty good. If the judging is done based on fads, grooming, and handling well - that is sad. Those who want to be a good judge for the right reasons continue to study, talk to breeders, and attend seminars even for breeds for which they are approved. Those who want to succeed watch good judges and how various breeds are judged. When I used to teach young wannabe handlers, I would point to Jane Forsyth, Bill Trainor, and Laddie Carswell.
“Watch them and copy everything they do, including how they dress.” New judges should do this with experienced judges that they may respect. They should sit at ringside with mentors and try to determine how and why they would have placed the class in front of them. I caution new judges about this though. I have seen and heard too many supposed mentors who have an axe to grind lead a new judge down the wrong path - usually towards the dogs that they show. These are not mentors. These people are pimps. Finally, if the new judge has survived a few years, she is approved to judge the Group. Additional learning takes place here. First of all, judging a group helps her get more assignments (although these days it may take two or more groups). Then, by having the opportunity to judge some of the better representatives of many breeds, she gains additional understanding that even the best dogs have little faults. The judge that can only see that a potentially great dog toes in a little will never really be a good judge. The one that can see and “feel” the quality represented in the group is the judge I want to judge my dogs. Those few who I respect try to learn as much as they can because they care. As an example, my wife, who will not apply to judge Toy breeds for quite a while, asked a successful Peke breeder at a recent show to teach her the correct way to examine the breed and WHY. I watched also, because although I have judged the breed in Best in Show, I am always ready to learn and improve. Those who want to just add more breeds continue to bitch about the system. I agree that the system is very definitely broken and unfair, and I have complained more than once. But that is no reason to stop learning. Just because you can send fifty pages when applying for additional breeds doesn’t mean you are ready to move on. What do you think?
Dog News The Digest of American Dogs Volume 30, Issue 44 October 31, 2014