Armed with astute knowledge and many years of hands-on experience, judges enter the dog show ring with the difficult task of selecting a winner. And when you’re on one of the biggest dog show stages, the stakes are higher. A judge must select a single winner from a large group of dogs, work within the parameters of a TV show, and have a chance not to trip over the plush mat.
âIt’s a tough job, but in the end you have to pick one out of four,â said Judge Jason Hoke, recalling his time judging the Toy Group at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
Before a dog can even reach the group level, he must face serious competition at the breed level. Since conformation dog shows are structured as an elimination event, meaning that a dog is ultimately selected as “Best in Show” for that particular show, the competition becomes more difficult with each round. A dog that wins “Best of Breed” then moves on to Group Competition, and if it wins the Group, it advances to the Final Round to compete for “Best In Show” and “Reserve Best In Show” (second place ). It could mean running down thousands of dogs to find a winner.
These winners are chosen by a group of people essential to the competition: the judges. And before a judge enters the ring to make the roll call, he or she has many years of experience in the show business and has spent hours and hours studying breed standards and standards. purebred dogs.
Are the dogs at a dog show compared to each other?
Just as a painter spends time working on a brush stroke or a musician strives to play a perfect chord, a dog show judge also has a skill to hone: measuring a dog by its breed standard. A common point of confusion for the uninitiated is that each dog is judged on how it compares to the breed standard and not how the dog directly compares to others in the ring. For example, when a judge examines the Greyhound group, he does not directly compare the Greyhound to the Afghan Hound. The comparison is really the Greyhound to the Greyhound breed standard and the Afghan to the Afghan breed standard. A winner must exemplify his standard more than other dogs represent theirs.
To become an AKC-certified judge, an individual must complete a number of educational requirements (exams, seminars, being a mentee), as well as years of experience as a manager. Since becoming a judge is no easy task, it takes a dedicated person, with an insatiable appetite for knowledge and a love of the sport to be successful.
But just because a judge obtains a license does not mean that schooling stops. Knowing the breed standards throughout is one thing, but controlling a ring, clarifying decision making to competitors and keeping all of your decisions in mind is another.
âWe can all judge outside the ring,â Hoke says, âbut once you get in the ring it’s a different story. When you’re outside you can focus on a dog you love. , but as a judge you have two minutes to make your decision.
And refreshing your knowledge before a competition is essential.
âEvery judge worth his salt does a breed standards review before a judge assignment,â says Lyne. “I always remember the disqualifications applicable to the races I will judge that day.”
Visualize the perfect dog
Large dogs can easily stand out to the judges, but what happens when your ring is filled with exceptional canines? Seasoned judges make sure to assess everything presented to them in the ring. Regardless of a judge’s experience, the adjudication process is not automated; they are still human.
âI would like exhibitors to realize that judges, on the whole, want to judge to the best of their ability, to find the right dog and never run out of a good one,â said Virginia Lyne, an all breed judge. “I think people are inclined to seek explanations that are totally removed from the actual process of evaluating breeders – thoughts on who likes who, who wore the judge’s favorite color – the list goes on and on.”
It can be difficult for the public to understand that dogs are not necessarily judged against each other, but individually as dogs who can pass on the best characteristics of their breed to the next generation. A judge’s thought process can easily be linked to their own breeding programs.
âI always have to ask myself: which one would I use in a breeding program? Explains Elliott B. Weiss, who first entered the ring as a judge in the early 90s after being a successful professional manager for many years.
âWhat I think is hard for the public to understand is that you don’t judge dogs against each other,â he says, âYou judge dogs against a picture of perfection that you have in your mind of the switchboard. “
More than a beauty contest
To the untrained eye, a conformation dog show can look like a beauty pageant. However, purebred enthusiasts would be quick to tell you that there is more to it. In its simplest form, a dog show is a place to have dogs evaluated for breeding programs. The decisions judges make in the ring affect the way handlers present their dogs and the decisions breeders make when planning for the next generations of their breed.
Each breed was bred for some reason – many toy breeds were bred to be companion dogs, while hunting dogs were bred to help humans hunt wild game, and these particular functions formed the standard of each breed – a model of appearance and action of the breed. In the ring, a judge evaluates the dogs according to their level of quality.
âAlthough judging is about beauty, it is about the beauty defined within a race and how a race has become what it is and what it looks like in the eyes of the judge on this day- there, âHoke explains. âThere is a lot of history involved as to why a certain beauty exists in every race. History dictates what a breed is and what it looks like.
Hoke merged the form and function of certain breeds after participating in many international events and exploring various geographic regions.
âI judged abroad, and that’s good, because you can see the races in their country of origin,â he says. “When they say ‘high mountain terrain’ you see what that terrain is and why (the races) were built that way.”
However, a good judge will not only see the appearance of a dog, but also the personality of its breed. A dog that displays a breed’s true temperament can help it stand out in a sea of ââlarge dogs, especially at larger shows.