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Dog Judging Solution

A Couple Of Suggestions For AKC


If there weren’t problems with the AKC judging system, there wouldn’t be so much discussion about it and so many proposed improvements – even by AKC itself.


Jan 2015

J. Byer Jr., Research Editor


We've heard nothing since AKC sent the survey but a recent judging experience caused a bit of an uproar in the dog fancy. Many have read about the Clay Coady judging incident{1} and are calling it unprofessional. Is this just another sour grapes tale or is there some truth in it? (Read some of your FEEDBACK below.) For years now there have been charges of favoritism, cronyism, and just bad behavior.


My Aunt Aggie and her husband showed Collies and left the conformation ring due to the “nasty politics”. For those who have exhibited longer than a few years, the three personal experiences below may sound familiar.


1. My first judge experience involves a friend who needed but one more point to achieve a Championship. She had the majors, just needed the point and she had owner-handled the whole way. The problem was the dog had damaged a canine so badly that it was essentially gone. How could she finish this dog with a missing canine? He was the spitting image of a famous breed icon and very desirable. The friend got a call from a breed judge who knew the dog. He wanted to breed his bitch with him but wanted him finished first. The judge later called back, saying he had entered the dog in a show some 8 hours away. That’s right; the judge paid for the entry at this show and told her she would get her point there. She went to that show. The dog got the needed point, completed his championship, and the judge got his breeding.


2. A friend’s Weimaraner needed a root canal procedure. She traveled to an experienced veterinarian for this work. In order to insure structural integrity she got the tooth capped with titanium. We told her that while admirable that she took this action, she would not be able to show her dog in conformation. To prove us wrong, she went to a match and the A.K.C. licensed judge gave her dog not just a win but Best Of Breed.


A month or so later this very same A.K.C. judge was officiating at a show which our friend had entered. Once the judge saw the tooth, she stopped all judging, had our friend take her exhibit to the center of the ring and she LOUDLY called for the AKC Rep. This was at a Weimaraner Specialty show and 100+ exhibits were on hold for 15 minutes while the situation was being resolved. It was decided between the Rep and the judge that the dog would be written up. Our friend was excused (in tears) over the dramatic scene made in the ring.


We were shocked at the big to-do made on the show grounds by the very same judge who had recently judged the dog and given him BoB without saying a word about the titanium tooth. Our friend has not ever shown again.


3. Last summer (2014) a Viszla friend was showing her bitch. We had gone to many classes, trained with her and she was a competent handler. The day prior to the incident, the bitch, with our friend handling, took the points over a professional handler. The next day and the class lined up, the judge abruptly announced loudly before all exhibits and the crowd, that our friend should learn how to properly stack her dog! It was inaccurate, humiliating and unnecessary and it was the last show my friend would attend.


This judging report recently appeared online:


November 25, 2014. Had a good / bad experience at the Black Mountain show in Las Vegas with Toy Dog Judge Mr. E. Bivins. As I started out he yelled at me to WALK!!! I did and when he said, “down and back”, as instructed I headed in the direction he pointed. Not straight but in a diagonal direction. He screamed at me so loud everyone in the convention heard and turned around. I was very upset by the time I got back to the table. I understand he is very thorough and precise thank you for that but his bedside manner is sub standard.


So, this Clay Coady incident is not an isolated event. All the dog people I have talked to, every one of them, can tell a story of crude behavior or manipulation of show results by judges. And like the 3 personal experiences above; stacking the ring, reciprocal favors amongst judges and flat out fixing the winner ahead of time are consistently true examples.


Can the sport survive as is without some corrective action? Whether your replied to the AKC survey on judging, we need your thoughts on what can be done for a follow-up to be sent to AKC.  The following two suggestions may help alleviate some of the judging problems AND educate others in the process.


1. Require judges to give a brief written critique for the dogs they placed much as they do in Europe. The judges’ critiques should be publicized in the dog press for all to see.


2. It would be interesting to have a web forum where all approved judge’s bios are posted along with a comments section much like we can do with product reviews online: a running commentary on a judge’s performance in the ring if you will. This puts the scoring of a judge’s ability, style, and professionalism firmly in the exhibitors hands and available to ALL who exhibit.


A footnote to the above report is that a breeder friend of mine likes Clay Coady for his stringent application of the standard to exhibits in his ring. I personally have shown to him and had no problem. We all understand that many losing owners/handlers will blame the judge but “loser gripes” are obvious. What about shining a positive light on the process?


Why not educate exhibitors with a simple review process applied to our judges?


Only the Delegates can change AKC show/judging rules but that doesn’t mean YOU don’t have a say in the system. I talked to the NetPlaces Network and they are open to the idea so tell us what you think about opportunity to critique or simply rate judges.  Give the editor (and our readers) your feedback below. AKC has listened in the past and made changes. After all, you are the dog show customer and YOU hold the purse strings.

Copyright ? 1501-6


Reference and Related Articles and Information:

{1} Judge Clay Coady Defies Standard    AKC Judging System   ~   Dog Shows Concerns Prt 2   ~   Dog Club Politics Prt 3


YOUR OVERWHELMING RESPONSE is appreciated but we have closed this comment section. Read comments now.

Should offer a review section on individual judges?

Would you like to have biographical information provided by the judges themselves?

BethAnn Hanson - I have been showing dogs since 1987. "Back in the day," we had judges that were consistent; meaning, you knew what kind of a dog they liked. Be it a big dog, a pretty dog, a dog that could move well, a dog with a beautiful head ... etc. You could RELY on these judges to judge consistently. The judges KNEW THE STANDARDS. In my opinion, I don't believe that to be the case any more. There are all around judges who appear to have NO IDEA what the Standards are. I realize it is a daunting task; however, if you aren't up for it, don't do it. I believe there should be many revisions to how the AKC handles many of their practices. I think there should be "tests" for judges to see if they really know the Standards - given more than once. I believe exhibitors should be allowed to weigh in on judges. If they appear to be consistently putting up "handlers," this should be noted. I have seen "handlers" show working breeds that honestly fall off their legs and win. Attain championships. This should NEVER happen. The judges, and whatever glitches are in the "system," are systematically ruining our breeds by allowing inferior dogs to win, attain championships, and become ranked. Exhibitors hate to "complain" because it looks like sour grapes. There doesn't appear to be a process that can be followed that is not steeped in negativity. It is expensive for clubs to hire "different" judges and, therefore, many of the same judges show up over and over again, because they can be used for all breeds. I believe it would behoove the Fancy to make it less onerous for people who have proven their knowledge to become judges. People who have "paid their dues," as it were, honest. Yes, there are good and bad with everything! But I can honestly say that I have seen a decline in judges who honestly judged dogs over the past 27 years.


Sandy Walker - As both a judge and member of the show committee of an all-breed club I am appalled by the above comments. There are hundreds of honest devoted judges in the US,spending thousands of dollars in their education process, and hundreds of clubs that hire them. If you truly want to change the sport join your local kennel club and work! Become a member of the show committee and actively contribute to the judge selection process. My club does not hire based on anything other than the preferences of the club members and what they require is honest decision making, good hands on the dogs, and courtesy in and out of the ring.


JK Marten - My wife was not "raised showing dogs", so after two years of marriage & studying our breed, attending handling classes, etc., she finally co-bred a litter with me. She chose her very first show puppy & was thrilled. We decided upon attending shows in Hot Springs, Arkansas, because of the usual friendly & relaxed atmosphere. Her puppy was by no means perfect, but the behavior of the judge was simply horrible. She left the ring in tears. Was this absolutely necessary?! What did that judge gain by being nasty to my wife?! She followed correct ring procedure, displayed manners & was appropriately dressed. The judge drew a crowd & intentionally embarrassed her. Of course we reported him to the AKC Rep, but it seems some judges are appropriately disciplined, while others are not. My wife was a true student of the breed, an educated professional & isn't accustomed to men intentionally being rude or bullying her for no credible reason. She's a Lady. After some further research, we discovered the judge in question was having a dog of the same breed specialed elsewhere in the USA. He wasn't the breeder, but I guess, in his mind, owning one dog of a specific breed made him an "expert". The opinion of everyone we've relayed this experience to is that it's apparent the judge felt threatened by a true novice with a nice puppy & was eliminating competition ahead of time, because he saw my wife as a natural talent...apparently something he'll never possess. My opinion is & always will be, that he can kiss my grits!


Fred Lanting - In addition to many years as an AKC, UKC, and SV (Shaferhund Verein) judge, and experience in over 30 countries, I am very familiar with verbal critiquing at the end of each class as well as preparing critiques for publications. I strongly suggest that clubs (or even individuals) who want a written critique should furnish the judge with a tape recorder or have a scribe/sec'y hold one during the critique at the end of each class. The club can then have the remarks transcribed and supplied to club newsletter editor, etc. 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. A note re the UKC method of critiquing Belgian Shepherds: This should be totally revamped, as everybody falls asleep waiting for the scribe to write... including the dog, spectators, helpers, and handler.


Lynn McCain - I would love to get verbal critiques from the judges, as well as written critiques. At least then you know what the judge sees/doesn't see in your dog. I had a dog entered in the ring to be sure a major held who was about 1" below minimum standard and didn't have a great front and wasn't in the best coat condition. The judge put her up over a beautiful special (not my dog) for a major win. 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. The only thing I can think of is she was the only dog in the ring without chalk. Maybe the judge doesn't like chalk, in spite of its prevalent usage.


Cathleen Smith - I would love to have the opportunity to critique a judge. I think it might bring some much needed fairness back to the sport (or at least save exhibitors some money) by saving us from entering under judges that do NOT judge the dogs. So very tired of preferential treatment to certain handlers. 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!


Serena Galloway - For everyone who wants a written review, I am all for that, but those writing reviews should be required to give their FULL legal names as they appear on ownership of dogs they are showing. NO anonymous reviews should be allowed. This would help to eliminate the sour grapes individuals.


Klaus A Hollmig, Dallas TX - I have been breeding and showing purebred animals since 1980, in dogs since 1997, participating in events with FCI Europe, AKC and most recently UKC. I believe the AKC has reached a tipping point in terms of fairness and sportsmanship. Please do not call this a sport anymore, its the "dog game". If it would be a sport there would be at least a miniscule amount of fairness. Even figure skating is fairer than this.


Ideas to help solve the problem:

1. allow parent clubs to designate (and undo) breed specialist judges

2. approve every breed specialist judge automatically for the group and BIS, then let the market sort it out

3. eliminate monetary rewards for judges, flat fee of $100 per show day + expenses. If they are so dedicated to purebred dogs they will gladly serve the purebred dog community without financial incentive.

4. if point 3 makes you worry about having enough judges, please refer to point #2

5. boycott judges like Clay Cody and let the clubs know you will not enter their show if this person is contracted. Let the superintendents know.


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.


Steve Wolfson - I suggest that at a specialty, clubs wishing to enhance and promote higher entries, ask the adjudicating judge to critique either the first place or 1-4 winners of each class. It takes a bit more time but adds authentic knowledge of the breed by the judge, drama and excitement to the show.


Corey Rigoni - 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. The people paying deserve competence, courtesy and thoroughness. Yet, people hang on to their every utterance as if it's some sort of religious edict, and too often look the other way and don't report judges who are rude, abusive, and emotionally, mentally or phyically disengaged or otherwise unable to perform the service they were paid to do. I once had a judge mumble an inaudible ring direction and provide a gesture that was likewise unilluminating (I was the first dog of the day so I had nothing to go by). I stopped and asked him to repeat his direction at which time he walked to within six inches of me and leaned over me with clenched teeth and repeated what he'd apparently mumbled previously. Needless to say, I didn't win that day, but I also have never shown to him again and have actually organized boycotts of this judge on more than one occasion. At the time (20 years ago) I was too scared to say anything to the AKC rep, and frankly, back then, nothing would have been done anyway except to be brushed off with, "I'll talk to him." No more. My money's as green as the megamillionaires' with the professional handler, motorohome and bazillion assistants and kennel manager. If a judge abuses or mistreats anyone, they need to be called on it. Period.


Sandra Bearden - 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. When you can't earn a championship, why go through a process in vain? AKC might look a little closer at UKC shows. The handlers and the grooming are not foremost. It is the dog.

Crystal Nolen - I have always thought a three judge system would be best for getting a truly accurate opinion about your dog, but I understand that we probably do not have the resources to do this. Barring the ability to do that, a written critique is the second best option. At least with a written critique the judge needs to have some of what each dog looks like and why they would put them up. They will need to look at the dog instead of just the handler. I think a formal complaint system for handlers to critique judges and get feedback after an investigation takes place would be ideal as well. Judges need to feel that they have a responsibility to each exhibitor in the ring. They can not contain to be allowed to feel like they can do whatever they want in the ring.


Khalid Karriem - It's the dog show clubs not AKC Who picks the judge, call my I well I expand.


Patricia Dollar - 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. Now they just put their kennels out on lease and take a paid position where they are not more than a Fox In The Hen House. They are anything but objective and serve more as a guardian for judges and Pro handlers than an objective arbiter of the rules. Judges should be required to take a video style test of canine anatomy and movement for each breed they are assigned. Any fool can pass an open book test but not many of today's judges seem to understand individual breed type and movement. Judges who are members of show committees should recuse themselves from judge selection committees to eliminate the trading of assignments so prevalent today. Judges should be limited in how many shows they can do in a year to force committees to look at alternative judges in order to give new judges more opportunities for assignment in order to hone their skills. AKC needs to end this well entrenched retirement income subsidy they are providing a chosen few judges. 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.


Darice Ragan - Allow Reviews on AKC judges. I read reviews on many things---lodging, restaurants, pre-purchasesbecause I like options, therefore, I want to know what kind of person I might hire to evaluate/judge my dog. Theres no reason any AKC judge should have a condescending attitude toward exhibitors. AKC should never tolerate that kind of verbal abuse to the paying customers, especially if a judge is grand-standing loudly to cause embarrassment. There are more professional ways to convey a message. AKC judges ARE NOT Gods and need to stop acting as such.


Iva Kimmelman - There are so many great ideas. The time has come for the AKC to required written or better yet, VERBAL critiques of all four placements, WD, RWD, WB, RWB, BOW, BOB, BOS and selects. 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.


Joe Gardner - First of all, the basis of 'judging' must be made primarily objective rather than merely subjective. Dogs must be 'scored' by a Computer Ballot, on a specific Breed Rating Scale in the certain categories which are assessed. And given that the ring is full of the best of the best specimens this can result in 'ties,' a strict schedule of tiebreakers must be in place, the very last of which by necessity would be Judge's Choice. This would require a mandatory Written Explaination from the judge as to exactly why one dog was given preference. Second, in this Technological Age, there is absolute reason for this scoring to be done immediately on paper and online and streamed to various parties at ringside, AKC Headquarters, and where applicable without creating a disturbance, audiences both live and TV in real time, thus creating an exact audio/video/web Time Stamp to minimize potential subsequent monkey business. Aside from cleaning up the obvious charade of shows being quite simply Beauty Contests (where the Eye of the Beholder rules) rather than more perfect Competitive Events, this system also provides a clear window by where the judges can be judged. That is to say, compared, contrasted, rated, and thereby given preference or not for future and Higher Standing Shows.


Mary L. Stumpff - I think this is a multi-faceted problem. It includes the AKC, the show giving clubs, the parent clubs for each breed and the exhibitor. First and foremost, the AKC needs to find a better way of approving people to adjudicate dogs. Dog shows are supposed to be for judging viable breeding stock. I feel that no one who has not bred at least one (1) breed for a minimum of 15 years, has enough knowledge to pass on breeding stock. Second, the parent clubs need to step up their judge's education programs, or they do not have the right to complain about poor judging. Show-giving clubs need to be sure that they have reputable people as their show chairs. People who are NOT going to exchange assignments for future wins for themselves. And, last but not least, the exhibitors need to take a pro-active attitude about who they show their dogs to. Do not hesitate to make a complaint to the AKC rep for what you consider a transgression on the part of a judge and/or do NOT wspent your money showing to an offending judge. The expense of showing a dog today are such that I will NOT waste my money on a judge that has treated me rudely, or has shown me that they do NOT understand my breeds standard. We experienced breeders are the crazy ones in this equation. We are paying hard earned money for another person's opinion of our breeding stock. And, if we have been breeding for more than 10 minutes, we know our dog's quality, ourselves. Does that mean we are always going to win? NO! Just because you lose on a given day, does not mean that you don't have a good dog. It means that the competition that day out shown your specimen. If you watch a judge in the ring, you can usually tell what he/she is looking for, if they are truly judging the DOGS!


I do tend to like the European way of judges having to write a critique of the dogs that they have placed. I also think that 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.


Tam Cordingley - Throw out the book learning politicians. Change the selection of judges to pick out of a hat pool. 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.


Gloria LaTour - 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 people, politics could be eliminated. Assign numbers according to importance, established by the parent Clubs for each breed, to the overall structure of the dog. Take precise measurements on the PERFECT dog and rate each part with measurements on how close each dog fits. Make it a panel of judges that measure and record what they are seeing on structure. Then temperament test what is appropriate for that breed and then a movement evaluation.. use photos and explanations of what you see. This could be done without the owner or handler but ONLY the dog that is being evaluated, the judges would not know WHO the dog belonged to. The dog could pass or fail one or parts of the testing. Then the dog could be rated on what the results of the evaluation show the dog to be. It would NOT be a competition but an evaluation of breeding stock to further the IMPROVEMENT of the breed. I don't think what is being done is anywhere close to that.


Jane Creason - I would like a review section on individual judges. Show committees seem unconcerned about exhibitor opinions. They hire "popular judges," regardless of known complaints, because they think an established judge will draw larger entries or a local judge is cheap to hire (no airfare). 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 in response to the premium list. The review section could have a box checked, if other people had permission to print out that complaint and use it as one of the five complaints required to force a club to replace a judge. Clubs would hate such a rule. However, if Judges knew just five complaints could cause them to be replaced, if judges knew their selection would be driven by their performance and EXHIBITORS, judging would change. Select, small show committees would have to research their judges in advance, and provisional judges with an unblemished record would be equally attractive as judges that had been around for years (with many complaints). Complaints could be lodged with the show superintendent as soon as premium lists were received, or when the shows open on the internet. The show superintendent would notify the club to find a replacement. In a very short period of time, show committees would start to care about the quality of judges they hired. All they would have to do is check this website, which is not an onerous burden. Many logistics go into reviewing lists of judges eligible for the breed, for group, and show, as well as balance their budget for air fare, hotels, and the judge's lunch and renting vans for the hospitality committee. With all the work that goes into a show, it is not too burdensome for some member of the club to spend an hour running the final names by the review section. Keying the judges "H" if they are known to only put up handlers, "D" if the are respected for putting up the best dog would reflect on a club's hiring choices.





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