Fri, 08/05/2022 - 11:08am

Question of the Week

Should there be a minimum or maximum age on approving judges?

Question of the Week 08/05/22

Eve Auch

Gardnerville, Nevada

The restriction on ages should not be chronological but mental. There are some very sharp oldsters and some young ones who don’t know the breed(s). As long as an individual can do the job and has the requisite knowledge, physical age shouldn’t be a factor.


Marilyn Pipes

Stephenville, Texas

Interesting question. Since it seems to take a minimum of 10-plus years to attain approval for a group, what would be the max age to start judging? If I start applying when I am 50, finish a group by the time I am 60 (that’s optimistic), then I may have 15 good years to have assignments. On the flip side, how young to start judging? If you start at 25, that gives you a lot of years to pursue one side of the sport. But even being “born” into the dog world, how much knowledge and experience have you acquired at that age to apply to evaluating breeding stock as a judge? My answer, then, would have to be … no one should say you are too young or too old to pursue a calling such as seeking approval to judge. The acquired or innate ability to apply standards in an evaluation of a live exhibit isn’t a matter of age. It’s love and dedication to the sport. 


Janice M. Leonard

Denver, Colorado

No. The AKC has established requirements to meet prior to applying for judging. These requirements should indicate a person’s knowledge and experience. Ability is more important than age.


Betty J. Abbott

Monterey, Tennessee

My hesitation to put a maximum age on dog judges comes from the individual differences in physical capabilities to do the job. Some would be able, physically ready, at 85 years old, while others possibly at 90. However, my own gripe would involve having a "walker" or wheelchair in the ring. Many of us remember the reactions of dogs to walkers and/or wheelchairs — never good. A terrified or aggressively guarding dog could inundate the whole picture for all dogs in the ring, possibly for life. Even a cane could cause a problem. 

Granted, this could be temporary. However, the show dog should able to be at his best, not his worst.

As a senior judge who now uses a rolling walker for my own welfare, I am going to resign my position. I would rather watch and enjoy than to make a roomful of enemies.

As to minimum age, I believe the time required to accomplish the prerequisites for approval would rule out anyone under 25 years old. The years spent successfully breeding, showing, and learning the standard and great and not-so-great aspects/qualities of a breed demand time studying, exposure to great dogs, informative knowledgeable mentors, and some early failure along the way. 

This would apply to approved judges as well as aspiring ones. 

Too many times we all have seen a judge go into a ring and end up finding a winner that is so faulty in important features of the breed that it should be on a farm herding sheep or cattle, or a pet, not being an embarrassment to all.

Best wishes to all.


Jacqueline Rusby

St. Bruno, Quebec, Canada

No minimal or maximal — they will find their own worth.


Bo Bengtson

Ojai, California

This is something I have thought a lot about recently, no longer being in the first flower of youth — or even the second, or third … Yet there are AKC judges who are considerable older than I am out there judging, show after show, week after week. How do they do it? And do they actually still make a decent job of it?

I haven’t been an AKC judge for several years, partly due to unrelated reasons, but I have judged fairly frequently in England and at FCI shows, and I decided a few months ago not to accept any more assignments overseas. (Judging at the World Congresses for Whippets in Italy and Greyhounds in England earlier this year seemed suitable occasions to quit.) I have been judging since the 1960s, when I was in my early 20s, and I’m sure I was sharper mentally and stronger physically in those days.

But I have just accepted judging Veteran Sweepstakes at the American Whippet Club's National Specialty in April 2023. I’m hoping that the long breed experience I have will carry me through. Mary Dukes had more than 50 veterans when she did the Veterans at the same show in 2019. She is a lot younger than I am, but I probably won’t have as many dogs to go over.

For most people the window of judging opportunity is fairly narrow. You have a professional career to consider, or a family to bring up: Not until you are in your 50s or 60s can you focus on becoming an AKC judge, and then in your 70s you may be “too old” to be of much use. I am not sure what could be done to change that, but I do know that some people should never judge dogs, regardless of how young they are, and some should at least be allowed to judge Best in Show in their 80s and beyond.

Being able to judge dogs well has very little to do with age, and age only sometimes has anything at all to do with how well you judge. We all age differently, and setting hard-and-fast rules would not help our shows at all.


Bill Shelton

Pomona, California

Why don’t we simply reward competency! Not seek ways to limit it. No matter what end the spectrum of age. 


Ronald V. Horn

Greenwood Village, Colorado

Any time an organization sets specific criteria such as minimum and maximum age requirements, that organization may very well eliminate some extremely talented and well-qualified judges. Certainly, there are young judges who are extremely qualified to adjudicate dogs. With that said, the judge’s approval process must be able to determine the skill a young person possesses and their readiness to take on the responsibility of judging. There are senior judges who are highly respected for their knowledge and ability to make quality decisions in the ring. Sadly, there are also senior judges whose ability to judge is in the past. Again, it comes down to the AKC’s ability to evaluate the individual judge and having the skill to help those individuals made the decision to retire. It would be truly concerning if some arbitrary age criteria eliminated some of the most respected judges.


Johnny Shoemaker

Las Vegas, Nevada

Yes, there should be a minimum age for approving judges. I think 18 years and older and no maximum age for approving judges.

I think if a person is 18 years or older and has had a good deal of time raising and owning a breed with their parents and has the amount of CEUs to qualify to judge a breed, then I have no problem with that. I do not, however, think that person should get a breed that he or she has not had very valuable experience with. The earlier the better, as we have lots of old judges ... myself excluded. I do not think we should discriminate on an age that is too old to judge. If a judge can get to the show and judge the breeds assigned to him or her, there should be no problem with that. However, if a judge is observed as not having the correct mental capacity, he or she should be spoken to by the executive field rep and discuss the future of his or her judging.

I myself would be excluded from this observation, as I have friends who will go into the ring when I am "judging" and remove me from the ring with the statement, "Now is the time, Johnny."


Shawn Brown

Auburn, California

I feel putting a number on it would be a disservice to the fancy, However, like some livestock associations, a competency evaluation after, say, 70 or 75 might be in order. Some folks start to lose the ability to handle the paperwork and/or the sorting of large classes. Over the years I have been asked as a ring steward by a rep to review in progress an elderly judge’s book, as well as ensure that BOB and BOS were in fact opposite sexes. We have all been under a judge who was clearly in over his or her head, one who may have been an icon in past years. It is most difficult for almost everyone to admit they can no longer do the things they love, and I would much prefer to fail in front of a single person (rep) in private than be seen struggling in front of the fancy and be totally unaware of it.


Howard Atlee

Laurel, Maryland

Age should make no difference. The love of the art of dog judging never leaves. In any job, a person likes what he likes or finds a change of mind for his personal preference.


Jay Hyman

Mt. Airy, Maryland

The question is whether there should be a minimum and/or a maximum on the age of judging. Recognizing that I have a vested interest in the conclusion, having been judging since 1987, my answer is "NO." There are good judges and bad judges, regardless of age. It depends mostly on experience, and training. It absolutely also depends on the judge’s "eye" and understanding of what you are looking for as an affirmative factor in the dog and not negative features. The first picture relates to "TYPE," and a recognition of the animal being able to do the work envisioned by the standard. Once this is determined any negative features detract from the conclusion — i.e., if the side go is bad, the "coming and going" can only "hurt," it cannot "help." In Beagles, once the position and set of the tail is good, the "excessive length" can detract. (I have chosen one dog and not the other on this "excessive length," set forth in the standard.)

The proper measure of the judge’s ability is determined by the market. If the exhibitors are not happy with the quality of the "judging" — as well, and just as importantly, the way the judge treats the exhibitors — they will let the club know and the club will not contract the judge again. Unhappy exhibitors will not enter under a judge who does not treat them with respect, importing knowledge, and does not do a good job, both in quality and letting the exhibitor understand why the decision was made.


Polly Smith

St. Stephens Church, Virginia

OK, trying to get rid of us. What age? Retirement is generally 65. Do you want 70? Good question — I am sure the younger judges would like us all gone. Maybe only allow you to judge 15 or 25 years. 


Leslie Sorensen

Keenesburg, Colorado

No, for obvious reasons. Quality judging is not linked to age. Experience always prevails.


Doug Johnson

Bloomington, Indiana

The answer is obvious … Yes. The subject is sensitive and generally rather private. 

Beyond being good in ability, there is a physical component to judging. The long days, the travel, the bending, twisting and turning will and do take their toll on the body. As a hired professional, you owe it to the exhibitors to be able to perform the function of adjudicator with complete ability. 

All of this said, we don’t all age at the same rate. There are many senior judges who are marvelous in their abilities … even enviable. So, putting a number to it would be unwise. However, it is important for us to safeguard the sport and those devoted to it from performing when they are not at the best cognitive level.


Gayle Bontecou

Clinton Corners, New York

Absolutely no approvals after 110! And none before lots of “qualifications”!

If we didn’t have so many shows we would not need all the new judges …?


Laurie Zelek 

Old Lyme, Connecticut

The older a judge is I would assume they are more experienced and knowledgeable in their field. They would also teach what they have learned to the younger ones as they come into the field. Why do you want to get rid of them? Knowledge is so important. 


Louis Krokover

Sherman Oaks, California

Wow – this could really open a can of worms as they say. But here goes … (Remember that I LOVE this sport.)

Regarding AGE – There should NOT be a requirement on either how young or how old you are.

Rather, it should be based on your knowledge and your ability to perform as a judge.

If you are unable to physically perform walking into a ring, going over a dog, and most of all remembering what you are doing in the ring, then it is time to step out rather than being asked to leave the ring.

Let's face it – the current system is broken and has been for many years now.

We have lost the great ones, and we (the AKC) are coming up short on replacing them with like for like.

Lately, I have had the misfortune to see judges being escorted out of the ring. This hurts me deeply, as I have known them most of my life. It is no fun growing old.

I have said this time and time again …It is time for the AKC to start asking breeders and exhibitors of merit to become judges, rather than waiting for those to apply.

This is a sport and not a retirement business.


Nina Schaefer 

Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania

Only if it applies to those approving judges.


Mark Francis Jaeger

Mason, Michigan

Age is not a valid proxy for most qualifications, regardless of what activities people participate in. (I do agree with minimum ages for drinking, driving, marrying and smoking, mostly because there are physiological and neurological development phases ongoing in support of those in young persons.) Judging is a matter of acquiring skill and retaining proficiency. One size cannot fit everyone.


D'Arcy Downs-Vollbracht

Bullhead City, Arizona

No. Age does not correlate to breed knowledge or an eye for a dog. We desperately need quality judges, and it is an expensive, frustrating process for even the most knowledgeable candidates. Adding in another arbitrary obstacle to narrow the already shallow pool of applicants would be foolish.


Bradley A. Bonato

Waukegan, Illinois

As a frequent ring steward, IMHO judges should be at least 25 years old, and maximum of when their mental faculties come into question multiple and separate times with the AKC rep.


Bill Stebbins

Port St. Lucie, Florida  

The age of an applicant is not the issue. In the case of a younger person applying to judge, their experience — as detailed in their application paperwork, as well as their interview with the field rep — should be the primary factors. In most cases a younger person would probably be applying for only their first breed or possibly one or two more. 

If an older individual applies for more breeds, they, too, have criteria which are required. The field rep would determine its acceptability. There have been cases where some judges “hang on a bit too long” and simply can no longer adjudicate their classes in an appropriate manner. They could self-impose a 100-dog maximum to their daily judging or they could retire from judging altogether and become another member of those listed as a judge emeritus.

Many years ago I was a spectator at an area show. The field rep approached me and asked me to steward for one of that day’s judges. The judge was pretty much a household name in the dog world. He was one of those who should have graciously stepped down from his judging duties. That day was very trying. It was obvious from the first class that he was unable to judge. During the day I did everything but actually mark his book. I pointed to the various armband numbers and told him what placement to write by that number. He had one breed that had about 20 specials. He had dogs everywhere in the ring with simply no rhyme nor reason. He had dogs with bitches and forgot which dogs he had already examined. I was, thankfully, able to help him through this class.

Just because a person applies for more breeds when they are past middle age should not be a factor if they are able to judge effectively. Trying to set age maximums/minimums for approving new breeds could also be a slippery slope as far as legality.


Joe Napolitano

Tampa, Florida

There should be a minimum number of years a person has participated in the sport; age can differ. As far as how old, there are those who are physically and/or mentally incapable at 50 or 60, while others can perform in their 70s or 80s. It is not so much age as it is ability.


Lydia Coleman Hutchinson

Middletown, Maryland

Being in the senior judges category myself (I was first approved 58 years ago), I personally would not approve of AKC putting a maximum age to be permitted to judge. As long as the "senior citizens" are physically and mentally fit and still enjoying serving as judges, they should be encouraged to continue. The sport definitely needs their experience and wisdom.

In regard to a minimum age, I have no strong opinion. It should be determined by the experience, knowledge and maturity of the candidate.


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