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Are AKC Judges defrauding breeders? Seasoned exhibitors speak out on judging objectivity, attitude, and disrespect for Breed Standards.


Feb 2015

James Loebrich, Guest Columnist


An article in TheDogPress{1} on judging solutions evoked an outpouring of public opinions as to the broken state of dog show judging.  The American Kennel Club’s control of judges and judging has given rise to the notion that current judging criteria are defined by AKC mandates and NOT breed standards.


Will the businessmen in the AKC offices address these concerns or will they move in a different direction? For a glimpse into AKC thinking here is an excerpt from Alan Kalter’s February 2014 Chairman’s Report:


“However, as we face a new year, it is time to acknowledge that registrations are unlikely to remain AKC’s primary, long-term revenue source or method for engagement with dog owners. … And instead of declaring that declining forms of traditional revenue equate to the demise of our organization, we must embrace evolution. It’s a new year, and it’s time for a new AKC.”


Last October the AKC issued the AKC Judging Approval Survey Letter. The stated intent was to send the survey to all Parent and All Breed Clubs, Delegates, Judges, Exhibitors, etc. In actuality, many clubs, judges, and VIPs reported that they did not receive the judging survey. Can we accept this as a genuine attempt to address problems with the judges, or do you see this as pretending to be concerned but in reality controlling the outcome?


My feeling from studying these public responses to the AKC “judging letter” is that Handlers, Judges and AKC Reps are all somewhat complicit in defrauding exhibitors. Today’s judging system may even cause breeders to veer away from the breed standards in search of exaggeration to catch a judge’s attention and approval.


On judging objectivity, not favoring professional handlers:


“I believe the AKC has reached a tipping point in terms of fairness and sportsmanship.Please do not call this a sport anymore, its [sic] the "dog game". If it would be a sport there would be at least a miniscule amount of fairness. The traveling gipsy circus of professional handlers is an issue I have no solution for. I understand the need for professional handlers for people that cannot or do not want to show their dogs. But now it has come to the point that I don’t even take my BOB winner into the group, why waste the time.” - Klaus A Hollmig


“The only pleasure I get is a win under a good, honest judge and there aren't many around these days. I don't even like a win when I feel like it was because of who my handler is rather than who my dog is!” - Cathleen Smith


“First and foremost AKC needs to end its incestuous relationship between Pro handlers, judges and AKC reps. An inherent conflict of interest exists in the current system. Handlers should be out of their profession for a minimum of 5 years before being considered as AKC reps. Requiring oral critiques is a good idea, but in honesty, I suspect as soon as they opine, it would provide more mirth than illumination, given the sorry state of knowledge of most judges today.” - Patricia Dollar


“Showing in the AKC is a waste of money. Normal handlers cannot win against all of the professionals. The owner/handler classes that AKC has created for novice handlers is a joke.” - Sandra Bearden


On critiques, clarity of choice and lack of Breed Standard knowledge:


“I was quite puzzled as to what the judge saw in her that I (and the other competitors) didn't see. Getting a critique may have shed a bit of light on it.” - Lynn McCain


“If judges actually have to explain why they made the choices they did, you would see far less favoritism to "handlers" and more honest judging. If they are actually going to look "stupid" by saying something, they probably won't.” - Iva Kimmelman


“Critiquing (not just saying how nice the club and grounds are!) makes a judge "look-see-say" much more accurately, and forces new judges to learn how to be analytical.” - Fred Lanting


“What I find difficult to understand is how Group placements and BIS's can be awarded to dogs that clearly lack breed type and sound structure according to the standard. Judges Education seems to have zero impact as Judges and handlers know better supported by the Reps.” - JoAnn Stoll


On Attitude On The Part Of Some Judges


“Judges often seem to forget that they are being paid to perform a service...not unlike an attorney, or a dentist or a nail technician.” - Corey Rigoni


“Judges .. have a responsibility to each exhibitor in the ring. They can not be allowed to feel like they can do whatever they want in the ring.” - Crystal Nolen


“There’s no reason any AKC judge should have a condescending attitude toward exhibitors. AKC should never tolerate … verbal abuse to the paying customers, especially if a judge is grand-standing loudly to cause embarrassment.” - Darice Ragan


Responsibility Placed On Show-Giving Clubs


“I suggest that specialty clubs wishing to enhance and promote higher entries, [sic] ask the adjudicating judge to critique either the first place or 1-4 winners of each class.” - Steve Wolfson


“Show-giving clubs need to be sure that they have reputable people as show chairs. People who are NOT going to exchange assignments for future wins for themselves. … at the Group & Best in Show levels, that having that judged by 2 judges would also go a long way in combating any wrongdoing on the part of a judge.” - Mary L. Stumpff


“Change the selection of judges to … put all qualified judges names, and their breeds, in the hat or computer. And pick blindly. Appoint judges that know the quality of a dog, not just the faults.” - Tam Cordingley


“I would like to see a new AKC rule requiring a club to break a contract with a judge, when five people complain to the show superintendent about a particular judge.  - Jane Creason


“…judging must be made primarily objective rather than merely subjective. … require a mandatory Written Explanation from the judge as to exactly why one dog was given preference. Second, in this Technological Age … scoring to be done immediately on paper and online and streamed to various parties at ringside, AKC Headquarters (etc) thus creating an exact audio/video/web Time Stamp to minimize potential subsequent monkey business.” - Joe Gardner


“Allow Reviews on AKC judges. I read reviews on many things---lodging, restaurants, pre-purchases because I like options, [sic] therefore, I want to know what kind of person I might hire to evaluate/judge my dog.” - Darice Ragan


“Written or verbal critique of the placements would be lovely, though time consuming--I've seen it done on livestock, and it's VERY helpful.” - Melody Tate


“Personally I would like to take the standard and put numbers to it ALL. If we are truly having our breeding stock evaluated and not just playing games then… assign numbers according to importance, established by the parent Clubs for each breed, to the overall structure of the dog. Take percise [sic] measurements on the PERFECT dog and rate each part with measurements on how close each dog fits.” - Gloria LaTour


“AKC MUST listen to ALL complaints and when a complaint is received have the Rep monitor the judge … more that 5 minutes at one show. The problem with Reps are [sic] they are friends with the handlers and are reluctant to be critical of those they work with and see on an almost daily basis.” - Gerald Smith


Well Mr. Kalter, if you reflect seriously on the cause for the plummeting registrations that your organization is experiencing, the answer may lie in part with the neglect, abuse, and utter failure by the AKC to properly address these judging issues.


You are of the mindset “that registrations are unlikely to remain AKC’s primary, long-term revenue source”, but you must hear the voices of the purebred community that pay those 6-figure salaries at the AKC.  New people are discouraged from coming into the sport or staying when they see the way things are run. Today’s judging performance is under severe scrutiny and it is found at best lacking and at worst thoroughly corrupt.


If you continue to insist that “it’s time for a new AKC.” you will have your wish soon enough.


If you “must embrace evolution” you and your business associates can move on with the product endorsements and abandon your roots at your own peril.


I respectfully ask the American Kennel Club to respond to these questions:


Can AKC allow judging dogs to become like professional wrestling where the entertainment diverts attention from the predetermined results?


Are Judges who lack knowledge of a breed relying on the false belief that professional handlers are bringing better dogs into the ring?


Would the embarrassment of having to give oral or written critiques drive the incompetent judge away?


Education? Currently exhibitor education consists of watching a judge pick a winner and dump the rest without a word of explanation. This has to be discouraging to “newbies”.


Owner/Handler classes? NASCAR will not allow your mother-in-law to drive her Nash Rambler alongside Dale Jr. at Daytona, yet in dogs, professionals and amateurs compete in the same ring for the same prize! Why?


How many of us have encountered a judge who gives instructions that are inaudible or confusing and then we go 3rd in a 3 dog class for not following the orders?  What about the point allocation system which was once widespread in the Standards of purebred dogs? Sadly, it was abandoned. Why?   Did having to score faults and virtues enumerated in many breed standards place too great a burden of knowledge on judges? EST 2002 © 152


Reference and Related Articles and Information:

{1} A Dog Judging Solution   ~   Dog Shows Concerns Prt 2   ~   Dog Club Politics Prt 3





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