Tips for the Aspiring Judge, by Richard (Rick) Beauchamp
Posted on 08/19/2009 in Ringside Conversations.
Richard (Rick) Beauchamp
If you are going to judge dogs, a full understanding of the breed standard is a bottom line essential. The judge must not only know what the standard actually says but understand its implications as well. It was the late Tom Horner, England’s great dog judge and journalist, who likened breed standards to The Lord’s Prayer. He said even a child can memorize the prayer but it takes an entire lifetime to fully understand what it really means. And so it is with breed standards. Time, experience and learning by one’s mistakes teach the good judge that there is much more to a breed standard than the printed word.
Although knowledge and correct interpretation of the standard may well be the foundation of good judging, there are a myriad of building blocks that will assist the aspiring judge in his quest to become a proficient judge - one whose decisions actually assist in the progress of a breed. By themselves these aids may not sound significant, but trust me when I say that implementing them and allowing them to become a part of one’s judging procedure allows a judge to concentrate on the business at hand, and that of course is to make sure that he rewards the best dogs in each class whether that be in the puppy classes or for Best In Show at the end of the day.
One of the biggest mistakes novice judges (sometimes even longtime judges) make is what I call keeping a ring full of “clutter” - not eliminating the dogs that are no longer in consideration. Let’s use a class of 20 dogs as an example.
After the initial examination of each of the entries, it should become obvious that of the 20 there are going to be some dogs that are far better specimens than others. Dogs that are not being considered as finalists can and should be politely excused. If a judge’s job is to reward the best of the lot he must eliminate those not in consideration so that he can then concentrate on making sure that the very best is selected from the better dogs.
Appreciate what your eye and your studies have told you. Far too many judges spot the best dog as it enters the ring, then begin to compare this one’s front to that one’s rear and the other dog’s way of going, losing sight of the fact that he has already identified the best dog in the ring. A judge must train himself to spot the dog that has the most of the best, and get on with it. Once he starts judging the parts of one dog to the parts of the next he puts himself into a state of confusion from which he may never be able to emerge.
Staring and comparing forever on end does not convince the exhibitor or the spectator that a judge is being thorough. It indicates the judge is confused and unsure of himself. Once it is decided that Dog A is the best in the class, confirm the decision and move on.
An all breed judge of great repute once told me, “Do it fast and they’ll think you mean it!” If the judge later learns he has made a mistake (and all judges will make mistakes at one time or another), the point is not to make the mistake again. There is nothing more boring and apt to lose the respect of those who are showing and observing than the judge who compares this dog to that, moves the one and then the other and then begins to do the same thing all over again. The parts of a dog will not change in proportion to the length of time a judge looks at them. A dog’s front will remain his front whether it is being looked at for a minute or an hour.
One for All and All for One
Time is of essence in judging. Even though someone’s first assignments may be for only one breed, most rings at a show are used for the entire day. Invariably someone will be scheduled to follow the preceding judge in the ring that is being used. Even if this is not the case, the show must conclude at some point and if every judge dillies and dawdles the day away it will be into the dark of night before everyone can go home.
At the same time, every dog entered pays the same entry fee and deserves the same consideration, so the judge must balance thoroughness with reasonable speed. The initial examination should be conducted in the same way for every entry. (It is after that that eliminations and/or further consideration are given.) The judge should develop a pattern of judging that works best for him and use that for each and every dog that is judged.
Knowing what that procedure is and using it consistently allows the judge to concentrate on the job at hand - evaluating the dogs. How to arrange the classes, how the dogs should be gaited, where they will stand after being judged - these are all things that decided upon beforehand frees the judges mind to concentrate on the task at hand.
Savvy exhibitors will arrive ahead of their time in the ring to observe what a judge’s procedure is so that they will be prepared to follow it themselves. However, a judge cannot depend upon every exhibitor being that observant. His instructions should be the same for one and all.
And when it comes to moving a dog, I have always wondered why when it comes to the down and back, anyone would want to move more than one dog at a time. You can only look at one dog at a time - one and then the other - so why risk one or both of the dogs being distracted by the other moving alongside of it? Some judges may like this method of evaluation, but personally speaking I find it tells little and can serve as a hindrance to a dog that might otherwise move quite nicely on its own.
“Be prepared” is not only the Boy Scouts’ march song, it could well be the dog show judges’ as well. Check the weather report before you leave home for your assignment and then take everything you might possibly need for every eventuality.
Not too long ago I judged a four-show weekend in the Midwest part of the country that began with temperatures in high 90s and humidity high enough to qualify as a sauna. The next it was hot, dry and windy, and I mean windy! The third day the wind kept up and temperatures dropped down to near 30 degrees. The fourth day we had lightning, thunder and rain.
Having had the pleasure (?) of judging those shows in the past, I had come prepared for anything from monsoon rains to an ice storm, but my fellow judges had relied upon the weather report only and I couldn’t help but empathize for their plight.
Your travel case should always include something wind and rainproof, a hat of some kind and sun screen. I would include an inflatable life raft if I could after having sloshed around in mud and water all but up to my knees but I haven’t quite figured out a way to do that one.
While on the subject of clothing - be comfortable above all but also appropriate. Most of us who judge can no longer twist and shout like we did as teenagers so avoid those restrictive outfits that make it even more difficult. That said, also consider the fact that you are the judge, the individual all exhibitors and spectators see as an official - dress accordingly.
Sweatshirts and drawstring pants are great around the house and garden, but in the ring as a judge - not so much. Do remember your position of respect, and dress to maintain that position.
This is not to say that the ladies need shop at Versace before their next assignment, nor does the gentleman have need to show up in white tie and tails. It’s about neat, comfortable and appropriate. Remember, you are in charge!
There should no surprises for you or the show-giving club at the end of the day when it comes to picking up your check for the day’s services. Agree in writing as to what you expect to be paid for your judging services. No two judges charge exactly the same thing for a day’s work, and it is not fair to anyone involved to have to haggle over that detail at the end of the day.
If the judge is charging a fee in addition to regular expenses, that should be clearly indicated on a contract signed by both the judge and a club member authorized to do so. “Expenses” mean different things to different people and they should be agreed upon before hand. Air fares, mileage when driving, meals, hotels, along with what is not included (telephone calls, alcoholic drinks, pay per view movies, etc.), should all be agreed upon in writing.
The request for “receipts” can be problematical. The show-giving club’s receipt for expenses paid is the itemized list submitted by the judge. The judge needs the original copies of his receipts for tax purposes at the end of the year.
There have been instances in which the club demands that the judge turn over his original receipts before payment will be made. In most cases the judge has no access to copying his receipts and turning them over to the club leaves him without proof of the expenses he will later need. It would seem to me that if the judge’s veracity is in question he should not have been invited to judge in the first place.
A properly worded and signed contract saves both the judge and club’s treasurer from embarrassing moments and, just as important, allows the club to know in advance what it will be responsible for covering at the day’s end. This can be a hefty amount to come up with if the club hasn’t anticipated what it will be responsible to pay.
Few of these things are ever covered in the “How to Judge Dogs” books but they are an integral and very important part of every show. Thinking ahead saves time and confusion on the part of both judge and show giving club.
Richard G. (Rick) Beauchamp has been successfully involved in practically every facet of purebred dogs: breeding, exhibiting, publishing, writing. He is the author of numerous breed and all breed books including the best-selling Solving the Mysteries of Breed Type and Breeding Dogs for Dummies. He has judged all breeds throughout the world and was one of the United Kennel Club's first all breed judges.