A friend of mine labeled her email to me “Soapbox Time,” and we discussed a few issues we consider problems in our community. Her email started me thinking about sharing a few of these matters with you – so here goes.
Kudos to AKC.tv on their coverage of the AKC show in Orlando. Well done and thank you. While watching the group-judging coverage, it was obvious that practically every handler (especially in the Working Group) kept shoving food in their dog’s mouth. Is it any wonder that newbies watch this and think this is how dogs should be shown? Maybe we need a webinar to show the differences between using bait properly and feeding a dog!
Whatever happened to showing a dog without using food? There have been innumerable times that I had to push a handler’s hand out of the way of the dog’s mouth so I could see the bite (and what I saw primarily was chewed-up liver in a wet mouth). Do you not know what you are doing, or are you trying to hide something? Do you think we don’t know that? By the way, thank you to those handlers who do pick up their bait after throwing it. I insist on that in my ring, and it is only common courtesy for the dogs who follow you. How would you like to show a Scenthound in the same ring that just had bait thrown all over it?
And, by the way, isn’t it the job of handlers to show the dog and not themselves? I know that we are judging the dogs and not the handling, but when the handling gets in the way of seeing the dog properly, maybe some of these handlers need to read the Junior Showmanship Judging Guide that says, in part, “The use of bait or lack thereof should not be penalized and/or awarded, but the overuse may be considered as well as the absence of equipment necessary in extreme conditions.” And, “The general rule in evaluating a handler’s capabilities is ECONOMY OF MOTION. Handlers who use exaggerated motions and gestures in any phase of their presentation of the dog should be faulted. In essence, the judge should hardly be aware of the capable handler’s presence while completing the dog’s examination.”
My friend and I turned our attention to the Judges’ Approval Process. No, it is not a new discussion, but we – like a great many others – could not understand how some judges could be approved for three or four groups in five years. It’s ridiculous! Checking boxes be damned! How about using some common sense? How can anyone truly process all those breeds in that period of time? What is the rush for a judge to want these many groups?
The obvious answer is that it makes the judge more palatable for clubs to hire. Is it more important to have groups “covered” at shows than it is to give exhibitors the opportunity to show to knowledgeable judges? How fair is it to breeders and exhibitors to have their hard work, dreams and love adjudicated by someone who only wanted to judge their breed to get more assignments? I have spoken with many fellow judges, and many think this issue has resulted in poor judging, which leaves many in our community — including judges — frustrated and disillusioned.
Let’s look at the other side of the issue, and that is properly utilizing judges at shows. Scheduling a judge for 175 dogs, two regular groups and three NOHS groups is scheduling for bad judging. Judges who are overworked get cranky and lose concentration. As another judge said, “One judge was really grumpy when we sat together during groups. It was really hot, and she said she felt bad and was tired. I agreed with how warm it was, but I said, kindly, that we have to remember that many drove a long way, spent hours grooming, and to many this is their beloved pet. Some also sacrifice financially to enjoy the sport. Of course, this is hard to remember when your feet and back hurt and you had to gobble half your lunch while taking pictures.” Again, common sense would make a significant difference.
Undeniably, my biggest frustration in our community revolves around those few with the smallest brains and biggest mouths who are convinced that every show is crooked and that is why they don’t win.
Here’s an example from Facebook (one of the worst things ever invented): “Dog shows have been crooked since they began.” This sore loser went on to make claims about “gifts” and payoffs to judges and repeated lies that had no basis in fact. She could not provide any proof or facts, but she wasn’t going to let a little thing like the truth stand in the way of her spreading her lies. We should be used to that by now.
Another person blamed something else for her losses: “The problem has a lot to do with the way judges are selected. Whereas if judging assignments were random that would curtail some of the judicial schmoozing. Of course, others would start schmoozing the minute that they see who the judge is. The AKC does not do enough to bring this to a halt, if they even do anything at all, when the act of colluding is really criminal racketeering that defrauds a whole bunch of people that spent serious dinero to have their dog fairly judged.”
Yup, it is obviously the schmoozing that wins shows – and apparently this person does not know how to do that. Criminal racketeering? OMG, this person needs help. Obviously, the only reason she was losing was because everyone else was crooked. What else could it be? If these people really believe this crap, why don’t they find something else to do with their time and money? Either that, or they may try breeding good dogs, raising them properly, training them, and not thinking that every puppy is a show dog.
Believe me, the judges whom I respect are aware that there are problems. As one of them said, “People who lose will always be finding an excuse, but I must admit that there is so much generic and fault judging going on by people who don’t have an ‘eye for a dog’ that I really have no desire to compete, let alone special a dog. I think the AKC has enabled too many people to judge who should not be in the ring.”
Of course, there are some things we can do better. We need to find a way to provide education for our breeders and exhibitors. Holding our “Meet the Breeds” at various locations around the country is of value in attracting possible new owners. We should also hold educational seminars for breeders and exhibitors at various geographical locations to enable a good number of people to attend. General breeding concepts and anatomy could be one lesson. Another meeting that has been very favorably received when I and others have presented it at club meetings is a discussion of “What a Judge Looks For” and “What is the Judge Thinking When He is Examining My Dog.” Helping our exhibitors know how the judging process works would be very beneficial in improving their understanding and appreciation of judging. How about holding some seminars where exhibitors were assigned to judge a class within the time parameters placed on judges. Maybe it would help bring back respect to the judging position.
We also need to find a way to use our most valuable assets – breed mentors. Most mentors will not approach someone with an offer to help for fear of being considered overbearing or out of line. Perhaps mentors could let superintendents know which shows they will be attending, and that list could be included in the premium list and judging program. It’s worth a try.
And, mentors … your words and actions at shows carry more weight than you may think, and you never know who is listening. Some of my mentors – Joyce Nilsen, Ann Bolus, Laddie Carswell, Bill Trainor, and Bob and Jane Forsyth – were not even aware of mentoring me, but they showed me — through their actions as well as their words — how to be a professional and a significant member of our dog community.
Finally, our “senior judges” can show leadership by including the newer judges in our conversations and lunch or dinner gatherings. I have had quite a few tell me they felt left out and unwelcome. We can do better than that. As Wayne Dyer said, “How people treat you is their Karma. How you react is yours.”
Yes, we may have a lot of issues, but I still think our community — like our country — can do much better. Let’s be the best we can be.
What do you think?