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A (JUDGES) SEMINAR WITH A TWIST
I have presented many judging seminars but the United Kennel Club (UKC) judges training seminar was the most innovative, educational multi-breed event I have ever taken part in.
Update Sept. 2017 - September 30, 2006 | TheDogPress.com
Held at the rather famous Phoenix Inn (host lodging for the 3 AKC shows held across the street) the UKC training seminar lasted three days. Being a three day event doesn’t make it innovative. There are a growing number of such in-depth studies. Some are too lengthy due to lack of valuable content. Even two-day programs are a useless financial strain on judges when they leaving knowing little more about a breed than when they arrived. The three day jam-packed United Kennel Club JEC program held in Greenville, SC was a notable exception. No one left without enthusiasm for each breed presented, the job and the process itself.
Presented by Mark Threlfall and Kathy Lorentzen, it was comfortable, constructively formatted and well attended. What made it so different was the emphasis for a consistently positive approach to judging. In order to accomplish that, particularly in breeds they were there to explore, “The Power Of Positive Judging and Critiquing” was not lip service to a concept. It was a demand that set the stage for discovery.
We all know that we should evaluate dogs in a positive manner. Successful breeders do so consciously when selecting breeding stock. AKC judges are encouraged to avoid fault judging. The best writers and educators of our time stress an appreciation for the dog's virtues but I have never seen it so eloquently, sensibly, and consistently taught as was done in the three-day UKC seminar.
Credit must go to the moderators. Mark Threlfall was an extraordinary AKC handler. The protégé of William Trainer and Jane Forsythe, he handled nearly 500 dogs to their AKC titles, with all-breed Best In Show wins in every group. His presentation of the Springer, Ch. Salilyn’s Condor, #1 All Breeds with 104 Best In Show wins culminated with BIS at Westminster in 1993. Mark was the youngest board member of the Professional Handlers Association, ascending to the Presidency in 1989 through his retirement in 1995 when he became Director of Communications for AKC. As part of a management team charged with revamping the Customer Service Dept. where he created the “Special Services” department, developed the toll-free “800” service, etc. In 1999 he moved to the UKC as Director of Dog Events and is currently Executive VP with oversight in Judging Approval, Education, Event Plans and Records. Also an AKC judge, Mark sees the sport from every angle.
Co-presenter Kathy Lorentzen is a Golden Retriever and English Springer Spaniel breeder, known for top producers, and owner-handling her dogs to many Specialty, Group and Best In Show wins. Kathy is co-creator of the highly acclaimed Sporting Dog Excellence and instrumental in putting together the first International Breeders Symposium for Springers which brought together breeders from around the world! An AKC and UKC approved judge, she has judged Specialty shows both here and abroad and graced the Westminster judging panel. Like Mark, Kathy excels in organizational and communicative skills so you can imagine the electric combination they brought to the UKC multi-breed, multi-faceted Judges’ seminar.
My judge-friend and I were immediately impressed with the process for Positive Judging. Oh, we’ve heard it all before but never has the methodology been so clearly taught! Participants were required to do verbal critiques as they placed each class. It can be hard enough to elucidate what you admired in a dog but it’s even harder to explain, according to each standard, why a dog deserved its respective placement. But that is in fact what everyone learned to do. AKC judges are rarely given opportunity to explain their placements, in fact, many consider it unwise to do so. Verbal critiques are foreign to most AKC judges but everyone who awards dogs must do mental critiques in order to accurately and fairly assess a class. As an aside, cat show judges explain their choices, pointing out the outstanding virtues in each top ten winner. Accountability and demonstrated knowledge is the key in cat show Finals rings and in UKC judging.
Getting from the point where one is capable of relating assessments and placements to the breed standard to then verbalizing that mental process for a critical ringside is a challenge for anyone! Over and over the judges were patiently coached until they became adept. The tendency is to say something like “I prefer this dog’s front but his rear could be better.” By the second day, participants were comfortable with a logical, comparative thought process centered on virtues rather than faults. By the last day, without exception, they were able to quickly and comfortably explain how and why they arrived at their placements.
Verbal critiques centered on brief specificity like “This is my first place dog because of his outstanding head, correct harsh coat and moderate angulation.” (Features ranked highest in that breed standard.) “I award this dog second because of his lovely ear set, expression, and set on of tail” paid respect to qualities also important to the breed. “My third place dog excels in bone, substance, and powerful movement” calls attention to desired breed characteristics without pointing out that his head, coat or tail set might be lacking. Fourth place virtues in a small class might be explained simply as “My fourth place dog has an ideal topline for the breed.”
The requirement is to know the standard and place the class according to primary breed characteristics. The demand for type is for that breed with secondary emphasis on overall structure or movement. No fudging allowed! No taking the easy path tread by those who lack familiarity in a breed or haven’t bothered to study the standard and development of a breed. Fault or “generic” judging is readily apparent to astute breeders who continually assess that judge’s capabilities in their breed. Adeptness in positive judging is the order of the day for UKC and when this mental adjustment was firmly established, even those of us not familiar with a breed could “ringside judge” the class according to the standard. Mark and Kathy gently called attention to faulty thought processes. By the last day, when ringside also placed the dogs, there was almost unanimous agreement!
We recommend at least one UKC seminar for every judge, regardless of affiliation. There were several AKC judges who said exactly what I stated in opening this report; it was the most informative, truly educational seminar I’ve ever attended!
Breeds presented: American Eskimo Dogs, Toy Fox Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers, Labrador Retrievers