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Gladstone On Current Judging System


AKC Judge, attorney, and long-time AKC Board Member Steven Gladstone sent this letter to the AKC Board and Delegates re the AKC Judge Approval process.


July 2014

Reprinted with permission of Steve Gladstone


The biggest frustration I have had on the Board is being unable up to now to have much influence in changing our awful judging approval process. Our approval system has, in my opinion, done more to destroy our shows and sport than anything else.


We grant retiring professional handlers multiple groups in the time we grant breeders multiple breeds at best. We hire professional handlers to become our field reps who we charge with watching our judges and deciding which judges are the best. We create instant All-rounders out of handlers who have never judged a class of dogs in their lives when we hire a pro handler as a field rep and let them evaluate a judge’s placements of any breed a month after hiring them.


Then we let them advance their past colleagues.


Last month when I tried to discuss the hiring practices of staff in hiring handlers rather than judges I was told such conversations were inappropriate for Board discussion. I think staff should not be allowed to hire a field rep without the advice and consent of the Board.


We must take the field reps out of the business of observing and commenting on the merits of judge’s selection of awards. Field reps should observe beginning judges to make sure they can follow the rules, mark the judge’s book correctly, examine the breeds appropriately and treat the exhibitors properly. After that they should have nothing to do with observing and advancing judges.


We need scores if not hundreds more judges eligible to judge groups.


(Addressing Delegate Gretchen Bernardi, Mr. Gladstone said) You know I agree entirely that our judging should move back to emphasis on breed judging not group judging. How about letting any judge who does one or two breeds in a group judge the group? Group judging is nothing but the icing on the cake. What’s the difference if a Wolfhound expert breeder judge doesn’t have approval to judge other hounds? Let her judge the hound group. And if there are 10 such hound judges at a show pull 1 of the 10 names out of a hat to do the group. There is nothing magic about being a group judge. Let’s let anyone do it. That would make the playing field dead level.


We would then stop the race of judges constantly trying to judge more and more breeds in order to judge groups. Our show chair could have hundreds of breeder judges to hire without needing to fly in half a dozen hugely expensive anointed few who we call multi group judges. The entire structure of our shows would change. Costs would plummet. Breed judging would sky rocket. Exhibitors might actually have some faith in judging and come back to our all breed shows. Quality of group judging would not suffer if the proposition that handlers are now winning with inferior dogs is accurate.


Even if a single breed judge judging the group did not do a great job, the result would be the same. – an inferior dog was placed. Only the reason for the inferior dog placing would change. Incompetence instead of favoritism. What’s the difference? Let any breeder judge judge the group and we won’t need something like the NOHS.


And by the way, the only way something will change is by a rule change forcing staff and the Board to live with it. Our current system is too ingrained with rhetoric to be fundamentally changed from within.


Radically yours,

Steve Gladstone



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