One of the most frequently asked questions in the dog world is how to become a judge. The process varies dramatically from country to country. Regardless of nationality, it would be unthinkable for anyone to contemplate judging before he or she has a thorough knowledge of their chosen breed and also the practicalities of controlling a show ring. Before taking the step to become a judge, excellent practical experience can he gained by tcting as ring steward for experienced judges. This teaches ring procedure and how to maintain the necessary paperwork, such as the judge's book and the steward's sheet. it also'gets the candidate used to handling a degree of authority "center stage".
In the United Kingdom there is no facility for anyone to apply to become a judge, because potential judges are issued with an invitation to judge from a canine society. Breed clubs maintain lists of potential judges at various levels, the lowest of which would include the names of people who have been successful breeders, and who would be considered ready to start judging at the smallest shows. Eventually, after a minimum of five years' judging at this level, an invitation may be forthcoming for a Championship event. Permission has to be given by the Kennel Club for anyone to award Challenge Certificates, and a detailed questionnaire has to be completed by the invited judge. This is studied by the Kennel Club judges Committee and the opinions of the relevant breed clubs may be sought. The Kennel Club will then approve the judge for that appointment only. Alternatively, if they do not grant approval, they give no reason. In the United Kingdom, since judges are approved for one show only they must go through the same process with every additional breed they judge. This slow process explains why in 1995 there was only one person in the United Kingdom who had been approved to judge all breeds.
In the past, judges were drawn from the ranks of highly successful breeders and stockmen present in the British Fancy. Officials would invite them because of their accepted knowledge. Such people did not have to acquire the same level of "hands-on" experience as the present-day judges in the United Kingdom,
THE GREAT JUDGES
The older generation of all-rounder judges, who judged dogs and all types of livestock, was rich in 'characters," some of whose reputations suggest that they would be far from acceptabIe to today's governing body. Stories are told of how some judges actually handled dogs in the ring while smoking a cigar, and it is reputed the Countess Howe once judged Labradors from a wheelchair, selecting her winners by pointing with her walking-stick. recent years have seen all-rounders, like Joe Braddon and Bill Siggers. Both shared a mischievous sense of humor which would perhaps not be appreciated today, but there was no denying that their knowledge of all breeds was vast, and their eye for picking the great one as a youngster was well known.
The ranks of British all-rounders in the past few years have sadly been depleted. R. M. "Bobby"James achieved universal acclaim for his exceptional eye and his wonderfully fulsome judge's critiques; Lily Turner had raven black hair and a constant, benevolent grin Stanley dangerfield had a ramrod-straight figure and famous pastel jackets; Herbert Essam wore a plastic orchid and matching collars and ties - long before they became fashionable; Catherine Sutton was the ultimate professional at everything she attempted; Joe Cartledge always had a kind word for youngsters and novices; Reg Gadsden's severe expression belied the gentle soul that hid beneath; the well-loved all-rounder, Judy DeCasembroot, was always confident and invariably right. These and many more have been taken from the British dog scene, with few possible replacements.
Other judges, like the internationally respected Gwen Broadley have chosen to retire while still physically active. Her loss was acutely felt, though she remains as keen and successful a breeder of Labradors as ever.
It has perhaps been left to Scandinavia to develop popular all-rounder judges who combine great knowledge with lively personalities Finland's Hans Lehtinen and Denmark's Ole Staunskjaer spring to mind as obvious examples.
The most loved, respected and revered judge in the United States was Alva Rosenberg, a quiet man with a wonderful mind, a calm hand on a dog and the most incredible memory about dogs that he had judged and found worthy. His name became synonymous with quality and type, and the aim of breeders was to breed dogs that would please Alva. Another dog man through and through was Percy Roberts, an Englishman who settled in the United States. He became a very famous handler and an importer of dogs for American clients, and won Best in Show at the Westminster Show four times - a record. He ran a great ring with total control, and when the dogs were placed everyone knew exactly where they stood and why they stood there.
Some governing bodies may strive to produce a generation of judges which is in many ways cloned, but it is to he hoped that individuals will be allowed to flourish, provided their knowledge, integrity and dedication is what the role of dog judge demands.
In the United States, judges can apply to judge and they are assessed at a practical level by more experienced judges. The American Kennel Club grants judges approval to judge breeds and may grant experienced judges more than one breed at a time. They often grant approval for a sub-group of similar breeds at the same time. This is where the breeders, judges and future handlers find their proving ground. Their skill, intuition, manners and abilities are what count in this competition, not the attributes and conformation of their dogs.
The AKC continually refines its judging procedures to the benefit of all concerned. James Edward Clark was the first person in the United States to organize a seminar on a specific breed to help educate breeders and aspiring judges. Held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the early 1960s, it was a great learning experience. The principle of holding teaching seminars caught on. Many breed seminars are now held annually in the United States.
The American Kennel Club has started to hold two AKC judges Institutes yearly. These are extremely popular "teach-ins" that last for a week. All aspects of judging are examined including how to run a ring, understanding the Standards, rules and regulations, giving written and verbal critiques, evaluating a class, weighing and measuring a dog, touching a dog correctly when judging it - in fact, everything a judge needs to know. The instructors often learn as much as the students.
In the United States a person may apply to judge a specific breed if he or she has bred that breed for at least ten years, has bred at least four litters and produced at least two Champions. The applicant must also have judged at six Sanction Match Shows or Sweepstake classes of the breed, and been a steward at no less than five AKC licenced shows. All potential breeders must complete a detailed and lengthy form. if the application is approved by the AKC board of directors, the applicant is required to take a written test on the breed in question. An AKC representative interviews the applicant if the test is passed. The interview allows the applicant to demonstrate further knowledge of the breed and judging skills. The board of directors reviews all reports and results. If its decision is favorable, the applicant is granted the status of provisional judge.
Provisional judges must wait until a club invites them to judge and complete five provisional assignments while being observed by an AKC field representative. If all goes well the reports are put to the board for approval This procedure takes about six months. Once a person has judged a number of shows application can be made to judge another breed. Applicants who have been judges in another country and who live in the United States may apply to judge more than one breed or a Group, on their first application. The growth of interest in purebred dogs and the attendant dog shows in the United States has meant that increasing numbers of judges are required to take care of the many annual dog shows. The AKC is continually reviewing the best way to identify and reward the talents necessary for superior judging.
THE CANADIAN SYSTEM
In Canada, those who wish to apply to be a judge must have bred at least one Champion that was finished ten years ago, plus one other that was finished at any time. Applicants must also have bred at least four litters and be a member of the Canadian Kennel Club. Other requirements are at least thirty hours of ring stewarding (at least three hours each session), and applicants must have judged a minimum of five CKC sanctioned matches within the last five years. Aspiring judges must give details of their background in dogs and pass a written exam when making an application. The results are sent to a committee for evaluation. Those who succeed may accept one assignment, at which they are observed. After this hurdle, any number of assignments to judge the permitted breeds may be accepted and judges will be observed at three of these. If no negative comments have been made, judges may go on the approved list. New approvals may be applied for yearly.
FCI related countries generally attach great importance to study and examinations, both practical and theoretical. Often intensive courses must be attended, ensuring that the candidate judge is well versed in basic canine anatomy, before going on to more detailed study of breed characteristics and type. A student judge system operates by which potential judges have the opportunity to handle and write critiques on dogs which are being judged by a more experienced judge. At the end of the day, the student's opinions are studied and compared with those of the judge who will make a recommendation that the student is sufficiently knowledgeable to judge that breed, or otherwise.
In assessing any breed, judges will base their evaluation on personal experience gained as breeder and exhibitor, the level of quality to which they have been exposed, and knowledge of the written breed Standard. While the Standard may describe perfection, any judge's perception of that level of quality will be very much colored by his or her own particular background.
As an example, if a judge has been a breeder of Boxers and has previously had great problems with light eyes in his or her own particular bloodlines, this judge will be more aware of the difficulty experienced in breeding that fault out than will a judge who has never encountered the problem.