Sat, 01/22/2022 - 7:52pm

Different Perspectives

Qualifications for becoming a judge vary across the globe

There are so many so-called clichés that come to mind when comparing the qualifications required to even start your way up the ladder to becoming an approved (or, in some countries, licensed) judge of conformation within the “networks” that include TKC (UK), FCI (The World!) and AKC.

And if you have been involved in and under the influence of all these organizations the way I have, it is in many ways like comparing apples and oranges.

With great interest I read Andrew Brace’s article “A Breeder Who Becomes a Judge” – and as usual it was interesting, with in my opinion lots of wisdom included.

There were, however, a number of issues mentioned that made it obvious we grew up with very different rules and traditions.

As has been stressed on so many occasions, the entire judges-education process and how to climb that very special ladder differs from organization to organization – and even in countries directly under FCI jurisdiction, you will find that the national kennel clubs’  procedures vary greatly!

One point that I “hooked onto” in Andrew’s article was that some British judges who seemingly did a great job on home ground were totally lost when judging abroad and surrounded by only new faces, be it on two or four legs …

The U.K. – or in this respect I refer to England and Scotland – covers a comparatively small area of the world. Everybody with any interest in a special breed will know everything that’s going on: dogs, people and of course, due to the weekly dog papers with the latest results and critiques, all results and placings. Based on all this information, we always said that anybody with any brains, even without a real eye or talent, could leave the ring having done a very acceptable job!

So we were always a little apprehensive when breeder-judges were invited to officiate in Scandinavia! Would they be able to handle the assignment properly without any knowledge about anything or anybody? And if the show was an all-breed show, they would normally have a few “related” breeds thrown into their assignments – as being British they would of course know every British breed …

There were of course a few whose interest was only their own breed, but to get to the point where they were given the all clear by the KC to award CCs in the breed, most of them would have had to accept Open show assignments that included a variety of breeds. A very few really disgraced themselves visiting our country, but there were one or two who will forever be remembered, both for what they did and what they said!

In those days there was no such thing as judges education in the U.K. Whether or not approved by TKC to award Challenge Certificates was completely based on the number of classes (and dogs) judged at Open shows etc. The breed clubs were always consulted and their recommendations in most cases adhered to … but with a certain amount of flexibility for certain VIPs! (A global phenomenon, I think?) And I know that a number of clubs tried to eliminate “intruders” from outside their own breed to achieve the final blessing by having different requirements for the “intruders,” which made it virtually impossible to have success! And I don’t blame them, even if it wasn’t always to protect their beloved breed – more a move to pave the committee members’ own progress up that ladder!

But then – we’re all just human beings …

I grew up with a number of great British idols and heroes. Only a couple of professional handlers on that list, but a number of spaniel and Terrier experts who all had a lot of wisdom and expertise to share with those prepared to listen. And I was one of those!

There were always a couple who by reputation could be influenced. Reluctantly I have to admit that one of the most well-known ones was famous for bringing a selection of handmade stripping knives he sold to the exhibitors – and there was a suspicion that if you were able to purchase a set of those before judging started, it would improve your odds of winning!

But in my case I don’t think it ever paid off ... So think my halo is still intact?!

But to contradict Mr. Brace’s comment that a number of judges who did well in the U.K. were “lost” when judging in foreign countries: Several of my highly respected heroes from the U.K. did great when judging in Norway and Sweden – but once watching them in action in their own country, I realized early on that there were things playing a part in their decisions not based on what they had in front of them. Which for a blue-eyed, innocent youngster was hugely disappointing.

Hopefully by now this has changed! There were deals made – and also a certain amount of charity involved, as some of the handlers needed to win (prize money in those days) to buy enough gasoline to get them back home … And then of course a number of dogs were also already sold abroad on the condition that they came with a U.K. champion title – so at times rumors of “commissions” were flying about. Still didn’t seem to be affecting the entries.

Hopefully a lot of these deals were eliminated once a number of the culprits were banned for life after being caught in silly deals like exchanging a Challenge Certificate for a box of cigars – or “A Picture of The Queen,” provided it was on a certain value GBP note!

All people involved with this were in some ways connected with Terriers. There was always a lot of talk about things going on in the Cocker world, but if so, done much more discretely.

I have always claimed that I preferred being judged by a knowledgeable crook than a useless nobody, winning or losing. And I have actually had judges coming to me after judging saying: Sorry, but I had already promised Mr. X …

And then: Hopefully you can come to Belfast? Bring a bitch – the dog CC is already spoken for! Well, I never went to Belfast – and never asked for any favors. And never entered under that person again. Halo still intact!

My policy has always been to treat others the way I want to be treated myself. It would be ridiculous after years of thinking, planning, training and grooming having to ask anybody for help. All I wanted was to have an honest opinion and judgment of my dogs! And the number of shows I attended were greatly reduced as a number of my old heroes crashed to the bottom of my rankings.

In another article, Andrew touched on the subject of the influence that friendship could have on some people’s decisions.

I have been accused of penalizing my friends at times! Which I don’t think is a fact, but I still think at times I have been disappointed by what some of my friends have decided to show under me. Obviously hoping to get away with it …

Growing up in Scandinavia, where dogs and dogs shows were simply a hobby, be it as a breeder, exhibitor or judge, there were rarely any occasions when we suspected any wrongdoing. Lack of knowledge could at times seemingly play a part, but no really political issues – or anything for financial gain.

There were a couple of very respectable all-rounders who deliberately varied their choices from show to show. (We could show the breed under the same judge many times during a year, as no restrictions applied.) We knew that if we won the breed once, it would take at least two more shows before we won again under the same judge … No disastrous decisions involved – always explained by “On The Day,” etc. But it boosted their entries and probably also their EGOS!

But, seriously: Knowing the influence judging dogs has had on the improvement of most breeds, I think we can conclude that the majority of judges knew what they were doing and judged accordingly!

Hopefully the current corps of judges speeding through the system will not negatively affect our breeds?

Some time ago I asked a couple of world-famous and successful American breeders: When did you last show a dog with the sole purpose of hearing the judge’s opinion?

Answer: “Interesting question. Cannot remember!”

I think (and hope) the answer would be different coming from an English or Scandinavian exhibitor – or maybe not.

If it’s all about winning, I think it detracts from the spirit of the game.

I think the U.K. today is the only place where a majority of breeds have entries that justify “hiring” breed experts, but even they can make weird and inexplicable decisions at times.

I might be on the guilty list!?

So maybe there is no magic formula to follow to provide the dog-showing world suitable judges?

Until next time …



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