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This may be old news for some, but in case you have not heard, the American Kennel Club has a judge’s blog for Obedience and Rally on the web (https://akcobedrlyjudges.wordpress.com/about/)! The blog is a very useful tool for covering specifics in the Regulations, plus helpful for keeping up on current topics. Case in point...
MAY BE RELEASED
MUST BE RELEASED
Any dog that appears dangerous or aggressive MUST BE EXCUSED
The Judging Procedure for the Judge’s Book for Excused dogs has not changed! All “Excused” dogs require the judge to state a reason in the judge’s book. DO NOT carry down an “NQ” to the Total Score box.
If a dog is “out of control”, it is to be EXCUSED; versus a dog that “demonstrates uncontrolled behavior”, that dog must be Released from returning to the Group Exercises. Likewise, any“misbehavior” that is disruptive enough to remove the dog from the ring, as long as that dog isnot considered dangerous would be “released”.
For additional information regarding marking the judge’s book please see page 119 of the Obedience Judge’s Guidelines.
To view more articles please visit our Members Page!
This may be old news for some, but in case you have not heard, the American Kennel Club has a judge’s blog for Obedience and Rally on the web (link above under title)! The blog is a very useful tool for covering specifics in the Regulations, plus helpful for keeping up on current topics.
Pamela Manathon, Director of Obedience, Rally & Tracking writes, “We are replacing our traditional newsletters that were formatted in PDF documents and emailed out to each of you. Now we will be posting topics of interest by use of the AKC Obedience & Rally Judge’s blog. In doing so, we will be able to provide more timely write-ups and take full advantage of the blog’s Search and Category functions. This will make it easier for you to quickly research and access past information.
You will be able to sign up to get a notice each time something new is posted. If you misplace the link you will be able to locate it on the AKC website under “Judges Newsletter” just as you do now.
Our goal is to keep you as up to date as possible and give you the tools you need to be the best AKC Obedience & Rally Judge you can be. We can’t do it without you!”
Pamela Manaton, Director of Obedience, Rally & Tracking
And the Field Reps…
Diane Schultz, Mary Higdem and Sharon Hodgens-Wood
One can follow the Blog via email, if you wish. Under the red “Search” box, there is another box to enter your email address to receive notifications of new posts. Plus, there is an Archive which has links to older Judge’s Newsletters of the past. I really like this blog and I think you will too!
I have noticed a little bit of confusion with the Regulation change where a dog may now be carried while in the ring. Yes, there was a change on December 1, 2015 in this regard, but there are stipulations when it may or may not take place. So, if you choose to pick up your dog and/or carry it into or out of the ring make sure when it is acceptable, otherwise a substantial deduction may be in order. And remember a substantial deduction is three (3) OR more points; that deduction alone may cost a placement in the final score standings! Let’s take a quick review of the new Regulations and the Chapter and Sections which pertain to the change in verbiage.
Chapter 2, Section 11, Notification and Announcement of Scores.
“After all the scores are recorded for the class or division of the class, the judge will call the qualifying handlers back into the ring. For the awards ceremony, dogs may be picked up and carried into the ring if the handlerdesires.Before awarding the placements, the judge will inform the spectators of the maximum number of points required for a perfect score. After scores of each placement have been announced the judge will tell the other qualifying handlers their scores.”
Chapter 2, Section 22, Praise.
“Praise and petting are allowed between and after exercises, but points will be deducted from the total score for a dog that is not under reasonable control while being praised. There will be a substantial penalty forany dog that is picked up or carried at any time in the obedience ring while under judgment. Note: Adog is under judgment from the time it enters the ring until it leaves the ring.”
Glossary of Terms, Substantial deduction — 3 points or more
There you have it. When one is in the ring for the individual exercises (or Group exercises) they are being judged from the time they enter the ring until they pass through the exit on the way out. When one comes intothe ring for awards, they are not being judged---there lies the difference.
For me, I will continue to walk with my Saint Bernards into the ring for awards. If I change my mind I will need to go to the gym first to make sure I can lift 180 pounds and hold it for at least 5+++ minutes. ☺
I am no great trainer by the stretch of anyone’s imagination so let’s make that point crystal clear right now. One thing that I have learned from my trainer (and from judging) is to know when to step up to the plate and ACT, if necessary. It can be difficult but there will be times to just “suck it up buttercup” and put on the best Oscar performance for your dog when in the ring.
Specifically, I am speaking when showing your dog in the performance rings. We spend great amounts of time bonding with and training our dogs (some more than others ) and then enter a show expecting things will go well. Or, we are at least of the opinion it is worth a try when mailing in the entry.
Then comes the day of the show and it is Showtime! As we enter the ring with our teammate we are happy, full of expectations with set goals in our mind; furthermore, we are proud we have reached the point to enter the ring. Once in that ring, one needs to also keep in mind to apply the BEST acting skills you have until you step out of the ring. For the most part these skills will work well and come naturally as long as all is going according to plans. But if the dog makes an error (or the handler errors) that is when the BEST Oscar performance for the day needs to take place. Don’t let the dog see any disappointment in your attitude if it made an error.
So the dog has made a mistake! Sometimes that is all it is, a mistake. Big deal. Remember it is a dog you are working with, and when were you perfect all the time during your learning processes? Other times an error is a result of Murphy’s Law, but most often it can be a result of a lack of proofing, showing too soon, not fully training for the task at hand, communication, or good preparation on your part. It’s a hard pill to swallow for some as it is always easier to blame someone or something.
The moment the performance goes awry REMEMBER from that point on you are working on the next time you are to enter the ring. All is not lost for your remaining ring time. Keep the entire ring time positive for your dog. That may require digging deep into your mental toolbox and coming up with your best acting skills. Don’t dwell on the error(s) in the ring as your disappointment may be the memory the dog takes out of the ring. Entering the ring once again in the future could bring back that past memory of a negative experience. Then history repeats itself.
As an obedience judge there are times I witness a handler showing disappointment to their dog when an error is made. This comes in the forms of spoken language, tone of voice and/or body English. The dog then shuts down and it goes downhill from there. The day then ends being a total loss with nothing gained. Success in training is not all about a green ribbon; it is also about building attitude, so use your ring time wisely and to your dog’s benefit, not detriment.
Next time you are at a dog show sit outside the obedience or rally rings and watch the Oscar Performances going on. The contenders for the best actor/actress Oscars will be the handler(s) who always keeps the dog “up” and happy. They will be ones interacting with the dog between exercises keeping the dog engaged and focused. When and if there is a mistake, observe and learn the skills of the best performing actors. The Oscar winners will reap many rewards in future performances and those dogs will enjoy the sport the most, plus look forward to going into the ring once again to please their handler!
There is a time and place for everything. Think of the dog show ring as a stage where you are the main performing actor for the day. Will it be Oscar worthy? Training and fixing issues/mistakes is for another place and another time.
A Steward is an integral part of a dog show's success. Most of these folks volunteer their time to the sport and without them the show would grind to a "Halt." In the Obedience ring a Steward CAN make a big difference in how efficiently a ring functions. Their actions can also have an effect on the performance of the dog in the ring. Stewards are mentioned in the Obedience Regulations in Chapter 1, Section 31, plus a full chapter at the end of the Obedience Regulations to review duties (pages 127- 132). Section 31 in the 1st chapter reads: “Judges are in sole charge of their rings until their assignments are completed. Stewards are provided to assist but may act only on the judge’s instructions. They must not give information or instructions to owners and handlers except when the judge asks them to do so.” The judge shall review with the stewards their duties and the manner in which they are to be performed. Any request from an exhibitor for special consideration must be directed to the judge. This is all fine and dandy IF the Judge gives instructions. I have stewarded at trials where the Judge just introduces himself and THAT IS IT for the instructions. Or, the instructions are SO FEW one is still left in the dark as to what the Judge is expecting. In such a case, ASK QUESTIONS before the class starts. Such a Judge should be put on the spot as to what will be required of the Stewards. The exhibitors are the ones to be kept in mind, as they will benefit from a knowledgeable Steward. Let's not forget, the handlers and the dogs are the IMPORTANT ones for the day. A few things a Steward will need to know BEFORE the class starts are:
Novice A & B & Preferred Novice (No group exercises in Preferred Novice)1. How does the Judge want to handle conflicts?2. About how many dogs in each Group and if all the groups will be done at the end of the class, or not?3. Where are handlers and dogs to be brought into the ring?4. Where is the Figure Eight to be performed and how and where are the Stewards to stand?5. Who takes the leash after the Heel on Leash?6. Does the Judge need the clipboard held during the Stand for Examination?7. Is the Steward to bring the leash to the handler after the last exercise?8. Where are the Stewards to stand during the Groups?9. What do the Stewards do when a dog "breaks" during the Groups?10. What instructions, if any, are to be given by the Stewards to the handlers?
Graduate Novice, Open A & B & Preferred Open (No group exercises in Preferred Open.)1. The above Novice items 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, and 10 again apply.2. What is the Steward to do with the dumbbell before and after the retrieves?3. Where are the extra boards from the High Jump and extra Broad Jump hurdles to be placed when not being used by some dogs?4. During the Graduate Novice and Open A & B group exercises (in particular) the stewards must be used to assist the judge. Judges must provide stewards with slip leads to expedite removal of a dog that interferes with another dog or to leash a dog that attempts to leave the ring. The hander is also to inform the steward when leaving the ring after the individual exercises IF they will be returning for the group exercises. There will be times where this requirement may slip the handler’s mind; therefore, it might be best to ask the handler as they leave the ring if they will be returning. It will save time in the long run when getting ready for the group exercises and filling out the group judging sheet.
Graduate Open, Utility & Preferred UtilityThe above Novice items 1, 3, 7, and 10 again apply (The above Open item 3 applies in regards to the High Jump).1. How are the scent articles to be handled when the handler brings them to the table?2. Where are the scent articles to be placed in the ring and how does the Judge want them arranged.3. What instructions are given in placing the gloves and picking up the remaining gloves?4. What is the Steward to do during the Moving Stand and Examination? The Judge is in sole charge of the way they want the ring conducted, but if this is NOT conveyed to the Stewards the first several handlers may be entering a "zoo" instead of an Obedience ring. If the Judge does not give instructions or if they are vague -- ASK QUESTIONS BEFORE the first team enters the ring.
A few things in mind and you will be much appreciated by the handlers and Judge:1. Be knowledgeable of the class one is asked to steward.
2. Arrive at least one-half hour before the start of judging to assist in setting up the ring and receiving instructions.
3. Pay attention to the dog in the ring. Be ready when the Judge and handler need the Steward's assistance. For example, know the heeling pattern ends. This way one will be ready to immediately respond for the next exercise, if needed. When a dog and handler have to wait for Stewards, it breaks up their pace and can affect their performance. Being ready when needed will save a considerable amount of time during the day, plus the handlers like the opportunity to get in and out of the ring in an efficient manner. Try to give total attention to the dog and handler in the ring, and if other handlers have questions they can be answered in "off" time. The dog and handler in the ring come first.4. After the last individual exercise, if not instructed differently by the Judge, take the leash to the handler. This is not only a courteous action, but it may help prevent the handler in an advanced class from taking hold of the collar and guiding the dog to the table.
5. During the Figure Eight exercise, don't stare at the dog. Some dogs may interpret this wrong and thus affect their performance. However Stewards hold their hands during the Figure Eight, be consistent for all dogs.
6. In a class with a dumbbell, if asked to bring the dumbbell to the handler, carry the dumbbell in a way in which not to excite the dog. Many dogs love to retrieve and if a Steward swings the dumbbell around while walking out to the handler, the dog could lose control and thus be subject to a penalty.
7. In Utility, MAKE SURE the dog is watching BEFORE PLACING out and arranging the scent articles.
8. When placing the articles, just handle them enough to arrange them per the Judge's instructions. The Regulations call for the Steward or Judge to HANDLE each of the remaining articles -- this does NOT imply to "SCENT" the articles. Also, the Steward placing the articles should beware of a foreign scent on their hands such as cigarette smoke or food. The scent given when handling the articles should be consistent for all dogs.
9. Concentrate on placing the gloves correctly. Make sure they are on the Judge's mark. If no mark or instructions are given, the center glove is to be centered between dog and handler and about 3 feet from the side of the ring. The corner gloves are to be placed about 3 feet from each side of the ring in the corner. The Directed Retrieve is done in the unobstructed end of the ring, and the gloves are only to be placed while the dog and handler are facing away. No table or chair is to be at this end of the ring.10. Dress appropriately, for weather outside or varying temperatures indoors.
The job of a Steward is not one to take lightly. Know what the Judge requires--think ahead and be ready when needed to save time. The Judge and, most important, the handlers will appreciate the effort.
Take the time to sit at ringside and watch judging taking place at as many shows as possible. It is a wonderful learning experience all by itself.
To assist you in your learning observations:_ Setting up the ring, (Review Chapter 1)_ Check ring size, location of gate and table (move if needed)._ Double-check jumps by measuring. 1/2 inch deviation is okay._ Material of jumps, flat white, weight of wood, check the bar for weight for wood._ Placement of jumps, pay attention to lighting and ring enclosures from the DOG’s line of sight. If mats are necessary they must be at least 4’ width under the jumps._ Make note of the place for out of sight stays (Graduate Novice & Regular Open)._ Mark the ring for all your classes prior to the start of the first class--saves time._ If deficiencies cannot be corrected, note in Judge’s Book.
_ Managing the ring - Heeling pattern(s) & Postings._ Is your pattern choppy or does it have a smooth flow for ALL breeds?_ Is the heeling away from the ring gate and table, if possible?_ Is the Figure Eight out and away from obstructions (gates – jumps)?_ Have you preplanned adequate space for the physically challenged handlers?_ How do you plan to inform the exhibitors of your heeling pattern (tell, show, post)?_ Post required information for the class(es) to judge 45-minutes ahead of start time.
_ Steward’s instructions._ Thank your stewards for volunteering their time._ Review their duties and make sure they are understood before the class starts._ Having printed instructions works best as you will then not forget items to cover, plus they will then have a hard copy to refer back to, if needed._ Have leashes available for the Group exercises (Graduate Novice & Regular Open) and additional instructions for how you want the Group exercises handled.
_ Judging positions - for all exercises._ Give serious thought to the best positions for each exercise for observing the team in action. Keep your distance; be aware of your movements so as not to interfere._ Stay on the dog’s side as much time as possible, especially for the Fast and Slow during the heeling exercise.
_ Watching dogs, handlers and scoring (Create habits)._ In a class with jumps, first look at the jumps to make sure they are set correctly before the team enters the ring. Then look at the dog entering the ring to make sure (in your mind) the jumps are set for at least the minimum standard height and/or distances for that breed. Know how to measure to verify height._ Bring the team into the ring ONLY when you are ready to proceed._ As the team enters the ring, do a quick visual check of the collar, leash and for forms of identification, making sure all items conform to the Regulations._ Check the armband; first to make sure there is one and it matches your worksheet._ Keep your eyes on the team once they enter the ring and until they leave the ring._ Exercises where the handler leaves the dog, keep the DOG in your vision and the handler in your peripheral vision until the handler reaches where they are going. If any scoring is to take place during this timeframe it most likely will be the DOG._ After the last exercise (individual in particular) refrain from too much conservation with the handler. Let them concentrate on getting the leash on their dog and exiting under control. Do not be a distraction to the team which could end up causing a scorable fault for which YOU may have been the cause._ Watch the team exiting the ring before you enter data in the Judge’s Book._ Make sure the leash is attached or slipped through the collar as the team exits; otherwise a scorable fault is warranted under Miscellaneous Penalties.
_ Use the WORDS in the Obedience Regulations._ Know and use the correct words in the Regulations if you are giving information or feedback to the handler. For example, do NOT inform the handler the dog “bumped.” The dog “crowded” and did not allow the handler “freedom of motion at all times.” The handler should be able to go to the Regulations and find exactly what your comment was all about.
_ Awards ceremony._ The AKC considers this a BIG deal, so practice in getting procedure down._ Make sure your ribbons are at ringside well before the end of the class and double-check to be sure they conform to the Regulations (Chapter 1, Section 18)._ Bring all the qualifying handlers (Regular, Alternative or Optional titling classes) back into the ring._ You are required to inform the spectators that a perfect score is 200 points._ You have the choice to present the placement ribbons in the order of 1st > 4th_ or 4th > 1st._ As you announce the placement and score, bring that team forward and have them STAY forward. Speak UP so the spectators OUTSIDE the ring can hear you!_ Bring the next placement forward (etc.) and line them up next to the team previously brought forward. The objective is to present to the spectators the placements and separate them from the other qualifiers in the ring._ After the placements are presented, next go down the line of qualifiers and YOU hand them the Qualifying Score ribbon and announce to them their score.
_ Judge’s Book entries._ Know how to fill out a Judge’s Book. Refer to the Judge’s Guidelines (Chapter 5) for samples._ When you go to the table to enter data in the Judge’s Book do it efficiently and move on to your next team. Precious time can be lost at the table resulting in running late._ Write neat and be precise, plus double-check your addition._ Keep in mind, there are new abbreviations to be used (NQ-R & HLR)._ When writing in the book know the differences between “Excused” and “Released” and when to use the correct word in your entry._ Make SURE all the boxes are filled in, including absentees, Miscellaneous Penalties; write in the Regular Open B/Utility B and Preferred Open/Utility exercises and the Roman numeral for the chosen exercise order._ If you made a correction in the book make sure it is initialed._ Double-check to see you have the times started and stop entered in the book._ Double-check to see the placements, scores and catalog numbers are recorded._ Double-check to see all information is carried down to the Total Score and Final Qualifying Score boxes._ If there was a run-off did you add in the plus (+) sign(s) to indicate the winner(s)?_ If there were discrepancies or explanations needed, write those in on the inside cover of the Judge’s Book. Carry a piece of carbon paper in your briefcase so you can make a copy of what you wrote on the cover for your records._ Sign the book!_ If a dog was disqualified or a dog-on-dog attack, complete those forms and make sure they are also turned in._ If you hand off the book to be turned in, give the book ONLY to the Obedience Chairman, Superintendent or Show Secretary. Your “worksheets” are not to be given out, that would include photographing.
To assist you in your apprenticing for becoming an obedience judge, observe how a Judge sets up and marks their ring for the different classes, plus judging position(s) during the various exercises. Take notes go over them with the Judge if time permits.
Note:1) Size of the ring for the class(es) being judged for the day.2) The marks put out in the ring when setting up for the different classes.3) Placement of the judge’s table.4) Ring gate as it relates to heeling pattern and the different exercises.5) Placement of jumps and checking the equipment.6) Heeling pattern(s)--Is your pattern fair to all breeds and handlers? Is it choppy?7) Are the Fast, Slow and Halts adequate and fair to all breeds?8) Positions and movements during the heeling pattern--observing the most possible!9) Position during the different exercises- is a reason for where the Judge stands.10) Calling of Judge’s orders--correct orders, timing the giving of the order.11) Instructions to the stewards.12) Posted materials at ringside.13) Worksheets and charts to assist in making quick notes for scoring and feedback.14) Group exercises:a.) Group worksheet for scoring and notations for qualifiers and non-qualifiers.b.) Handling group issues.c.) Instructions to handlers and stewards.d.) Find out where the out of sight area well be BEFORE you start judging the class.15) Note handler and dog errors between exercises that are scorable (also during Groups).16) Checking the items the handler presents for the different classes and when to check.17) Observing the dog and handler while in the ring at ALL times from entering to exiting.18) Judge’s Book--filling out the Book, who to give it to and when to turn it in.19) Announcements, Awards and presenting the placements to the audience.20) What’s in the briefcase? “Tools of the trade” so you are prepared.
NOVICE - RECALL (Chapter 3, Sections 10 and 11)The suggested location for a judge is off to the side of the dog and handler and slightly behind. A narrow angle gives a better view of the team and being on the side of the dog gives a less obstructed view. As the handler leaves the dog, both can be observed. When the dog is called or signaled the judge can move in (at a distance) and follow the dog. If the path of the dog is followed the judge will "give up" a good view of noticing if the dog sat out too far or came in too close. Walking in at the angle will afford a better view of the Front, and then the judge can step behind the dog to judge the Front and Finish.
OPEN - RETRIEVE ON THE FLAT (Chapter 4, Sections 9 and 10)When the handler sends the dog to retrieve the judge is basically observing two Recalls plus the retrieving parts of the exercise. The dog must go out directly, at a brisk trot or gallop, retrieve promptly, at the end of the ring with the team or at the far end of the ring in front of and off to the side of the team. Both locations give the judge a constant view of the dog and handler at the same time. A judge who stands in the middle of the ring can only watch the dog OR handler - not BOTH at the same time. The same holds true for the Retrieve Over High Jump and Scent Discrimination. If you compromise your viewing of an exercise you also compromise your judging of an exercise!
6. The scoring of a performance.Judgment is based on knowledge and experience and as a judge scores a performance they will be drawing from these resources. Having a good knowledge of Obedience before you start judging is important, but one's knowledge and understanding will grow with experience. In Chapter 2 of the Obedience Regulations, Sections 1, 5 and 24 need to be reviewed. Before stepping into the ring to judge you will need to be aware of the various faults and have an understanding of what penalties are to be applied to said faults. From reading the Regulations one will obtain an idea of what constitutes a minor or substantial penalty. The Glossary of Terms defines a minor penalty as 2 1/2 points or LESS and a substantial as 3 or MORE points. The Regulations also mention some of the more common faults and state whether to apply a substantial or minor penalty. They also give the latitude of applying a minor or substantial penalty. Sounds simple, but good judging comes from knowing when to apply which penalty and the assessment of points to be taken off.
The heeling exercises are among the most challenging to judge. The scoring is not all clear-cut. For example, what point value will YOU apply to a dog that does NOT sit as the handler comes to a halt? The Regulations list some of the faults associated with heeling and the scoring in Chapter 3, Section 6: "Substantial or minor deductions shall be made for such things as lagging, heeling wide, forging, crowding, poor sits, failure to sit, handler failing to walk at a brisk pace, occasional guidance with leash and other imperfections of heeling." These are imperfections in heeling, as the dog is not performing the exercise to perfection as described in Chapter 3, Section 5. YOU now have to determine if this is a minor or substantial penalty and then what point value to deduct.
Let's say you had three different dogs come into YOUR ring and on the first halt during the heeling exercise each dog failed to sit. As you penalize the no sit do YOU have a preset value of points to assess? For example, do you feel a no sit is a substantial penalty and therefore subject to a three or more point deduction? Or, are you going to consider the different actions that took place as the handler halted before making your decision?
To help make up your mind, consider a few of the variables in regards to the three dogs not sitting:A. The handler halts and the dog stands in perfect heel position.B. The handler halts and the dog stands on the handler's left side but out at a 45 degree angle to the direction in which the handler is facing.C. The handler halts and the dog forges ahead and then comes back and stands in front of and facing the handler.
Each dog made the error of not sitting but the degree of error differed from dog A to C. Are you still going to deduct a set number of points for a no sit or develop a scoring system that might be a little more flexible as to the seriousness of the error? Keep in mind, one of your responsibilities is to separate the top four dogs and handlers in the class. What if dogs A, B and C only had that one error. Will you have a three-way runoff, or will you have separated their work by scoring the differences in their work? These are some of the tough decisions YOU are going to have to make!
In all exercises the first thing to keep in mind is the principle part of the exercise and did the dog and/or handler meet the requirements. If in question, refer to the Regulations for that exercise and if still in doubt read the first sentence of Chapter 2, Section 3, QUALIFYING PERFORMANCE. In the scoring of a performance, another area to consider is the penalizing of SEVERAL serious faults during an exercise. The Regulations may state when a substantial deduction is to be applied but the judge must also keep in mind if the dog and/or handler are fulfilling the minimum requirements of that exercise and if the performance warrants a qualifying score.
For example, the Retrieve On Flat is a twenty-point exercise. In order for a dog and handler to have a qualifying performance in AN exercise, they must earn OVER 50% of the points available in that exercise. In this case they must earn at least ten and one-half points. Now, let's look at a dog's performance on the Retrieve On The Flat.
A. The dog SAUNTERS out to retrieve the dumbbell on command.B. The dumbbell is picked up, then dropped and again picked up.C. The dog SAUNTERS back to the handler and performs a perfect Front.D. The dog SAUNTERS into a Finish (on command) and has a poor sit.
The errors listed in A, B and C are substantial deductions, depending on the extent, as per Chapter 4, Section 9. Are YOU going to deduct the minimum points (three) for a substantial deduction for EACH occurrence in A, B and C? Then are YOU going to score the lack of being prompt and smart in the performance of the Finish along with the poor sit? Let's say you take JUST a half-point off for the Finish and another half-point off for the poor sit. Look at your total deductions. You may have taken off ten points from a twenty-point exercise. That is NOT MORE THAN 50%. Are YOU going to fail the dog? Or, will it be your philosophy of judging to score harder during the first several major faults and ease off as long as the work is still qualifying in your mind? The dog did perform the exercise by responding promptly to the handler's "Fetch" command and completed the exercise as per the requirements in Chapter 4, Section 8. These are just a FEW examples of things to THINK of when you step into the judge's shoes. Who said judging Obedience was easy!? It is a challenge and very rewarding when you leave the trial knowing you did your best for the sport.
7. How are the ribbon prizes presented?After the last dog in the class has been judged, the scores are recorded and the judge calls the qualifying teams back into the ring for presenting the prizes and awards.
The American Kennel Club wants like the presenting of ribbon prizes to be a bit of a ceremony. Winning the blue through white ribbons is a big deal and the judge should present the winners to the spectators, who are on the outside of the ring. A good judge will first address the onlookers and briefly state what constitutes a perfect score, and may go into detail describing a qualifying score. The judge should keep their comments to a minimum during the awards ceremony and then announce the prize winning dog and handler. It is suggested to mention the score BEFORE the armband number. If armband number is announced first the spectators will clap and cheer and miss hearing the score.
As a judge you will want to "present" the first four prizewinners and separate the four teams away from the rest of the qualifiers in the class. This way the spectators can observe and take note as to who won. Have the winners come forward to receive the ribbon prize and ask them to remain in front of the group. Then do the same for second through fourth. Also, keep in mind to speak up when awarding the four placements so people in the second row outside the ring can hear.
After the placements are concluded the judge then goes to each handler and tells them their score. You then conclude the awards and turn in the Judge's Book. If time permits after turning in the Book you may speak with exhibitors about their scores. The judge is encouraged, but not required, to discuss the scoring, but a judge need not enter into any discussion with any contestant who appears to be dissatisfied. This sport is based on good sportsmanship and that is the image to project.
When speaking with exhibitors use the same words that appear in the Regulations. For example, don't tell the handler the dog lost points for bumping during the heeling. "Bumping" is NOT a word used in the Regulations. The judge should have chosen words such as crowding or not allowing the handler freedom of motion at all times, rather than commonly used obedience lingo. Using terms other than those found in the Regulations might be misleading and confusing, creating some doubts as to the knowledge of the judge. Judges bear the responsibility of educating exhibitors -- new and "old."
SummaryIf you are considering applying to judge Obedience in the future, keep a good perspective...judging should be taken seriously but not to the point where the fun and common sense are lost. At the same time don't overlook the dedicated, experienced exhibitors who have invested countless time and work into the sport, or the Novices just starting out. They deserve and demand good, fair, consistent judging and it will be up to YOU to meet these demands. Don't let the title of judge go to your head, or form the opinion that you "know it all" and "have seen it all." NO ONE has a 200 in that department - so keep mentally fit by attending AKC Obedience Judging Seminars, training dogs, and observing other judges. Obtaining approval to judge is JUST the beginning!
This article only provides you with a LITTLE idea of what it takes to step into the shoes of an Obedience judge. If you plan to walk in these shoes always put the sport of dogs first in your thinking. We have a fun sport and it requires responsible people to keep it sound. Judges in Conformation, Tracking, Field, Obedience and other Performance Events have a BIG responsibility in protecting the integrity of the Sport of Purebred Dogs.
Take a moment and consider yourself as one applying to judge in the sport of Obedience and look to what it takes to fill the shoes of such a judge. We are all quite opinionated when it comes to the question of what makes an excellent Obedience judge and opinions will vary as to what it takes to fill the shoes of an obedience judge. What kind of judge would YOU make and how would YOU go about judging? As in every field there are variations (some good and some that could use improvement) in how an individual accomplishes a task so consider the options in meeting your ideals of an EXCELLENT judge. Take a close look at some of the aspects and decision-making involved in judging with you stepping into the ring as the judge.
You have decided that you want to judge obedience trials so now what are the steps required to meet this goal? One starts by applying first for Novice - Open and Utility are applied for separately at a later time. Before prematurely applying to judge Novice Obedience Classes at American Kennel Club member or licensed trials, the AKC has certain requirements that must be met. Failure to meet any requirement will result in the application being returned. Exemptions from some requirements may be made for applicants from Alaska, Hawaii or Puerto Rico.
To qualify as an applicant – you must have:
1. Personally owned, trained and titled a dog to an AKC Utility Dog (UD) title and at least one other dog to an AKC Companion Dog (CD) title;
2. Been active in the sport a minimum of six (6) consecutive years;
3. Acted as a steward in Novice/Open/Utility class (depending upon class applying for) at AKC member or licensed trials a minimum of ten (10) times;
4. Have judged at AKC sanctioned obedience A or B matches a minimum of five (5) times. Judging a non-regular class at an AKC trial with a minimum of ten (10) dogs competing may substitute on a one to one basis to replace the match requirement. Apprentice assignments beyond the three (3) required may be used on a one to one basis to replace the match requirement.Apprentice judged under three (3) judges with a minimum of ten (10) dogs in each class. Apprenticing is for prospective judges only and is to be done at the level they are eligible to apply for.
5. Actively participated as an assistant trainer or as a trainer in a dog training club or similar organization;
6. Attended an AKC obedience seminar within the last three (3) years.
Check out the AKC web page for further details: http://www.akc.org/events/obedience/judging_requirements.cfm
As a judge you are to:1. Qualify the dogs that meet the minimum requirements in the Obedience Regulations
2. Non-qualify the dogs that do not meet the minimum requirements
3. Separate and place the top four dogs and handlers in the class
A good knowledge of the Obedience Regulations and Guidelines For Obedience judges is only part of judging - one has to have the fortitude to carry out the correct decisions. All decisions are not going to be clear-cut and scoring faults is not going to be easy. Every infraction from perfection (providing it is worth at least one-half point) should be scored. This may sound like nit-picking but consider the following: If the dog and handler in the ring make a minor or substantial error and it is not scored, is this fair to the next dog and handler when they perform the exercise (or between exercise) perfectly? In theory, you would be giving the same score for different qualities of work. While studying judges, keep notes on both the good points observed and points you feel might be improved upon. Pay particular attention to the following:
1. Is the judge giving the impression of being the one in charge of the ring and meeting his/her judge’s responsibilities?
2. How does the judge set up and run their ring?
3. What instructions are given to the stewards?
4. What kind of heeling pattern is used? Is it a good one and does it appear to have been thought out?
5. What position is the judge in for observing and scoring the performance of the dog and handler in the ring?
6. The scoring of a performance.
7. How are the ribbon prizes presented?
1. Is the Judge giving the impression of being the one in charge of the ring and meeting the Judge’s responsibilities?The Guidelines For Obedience judges addresses the duties of a judge in the areas of judge's responsibilities, appearance, impartiality, knowledge, and responsibilities to exhibitors, spectators and to the sport of purebred dogs.
JUDGE'S RESPONSIBILITIESIt is vitally important for all judges to understand their responsibilities to the sport. Obedience judges symbolize the entire sport of obedience training. While presiding over a ring they represent The American Kennel Club, an organization devoted to impartial administration of every rule and regulation adopted to promote and protect the interest of purebred dogs, their breeding and their exhibiting in shows, obedience trials, tracking tests, and field trials.
IMPARTIALITYJudges should be friendly and courteous, but above all they must be impartial and firm. It is fine to have a sympathetic attitude toward some unexpected failure provided the decision and scoring are not affected. Competent judges are aware that they cannot make concessions to one exhibitor without doing a disfavor to all other exhibitors. First, consideration must be given to those who enter the ring prepared to perform the exercises as required by the Regulations, without any special treatment.
RESPONSIBILITY TO THE EXHIBITORSA judge must remember at all times that every exhibitor is an important participant in the sport. Without exhibitors there would be no trials. It must also be remembered that for every experienced exhibitor, there are hundreds of newcomers. The alienation of newcomers may eventually cause them to lose interest, stop training and quit the sport. The sport needs the novice, because the future of the sport is in the hands of the novice.
2. How does a Judge set up their ring?The way the obedience ring is set up WILL affect the dog's performance. To be sure the ring is going to be the way YOU want it is one reason to be at ringside at least 45-minutes before the scheduled starting time of the class. This will allow time to set up the ring, check the equipment, make changes if necessary and instruct the stewards on how YOU want the ring to run. A good judge will plan the ring set-up so every dog and handler can move between exercises and perform each exercise to the best advantage. While you are observing judges, see how they check the following:
RING SIZEThe ring should be paced off to make sure it meets the requirements in Chapter 1, Section 32 of the Obedience Regulations. If the ring does not meet the specifications, you are going to need to take action.
FLOOR AND GROUND CONDITIONSIt is your responsibility to see that every handler and dog have a fair shot at a good clean performance; this is first accomplished by having good ring conditions as per the Regulations. If you don't deal with these deficiencies, how are you going to deal with the scoring of a dog/handler when they are affected by such conditions? If indoors, the floor shall have surface or covering that provides footing for the largest dogs. Rubber or similar non-slip material totaling at least four feet in width must be laid for the takeoff and landing at all jumps unless the surface, in the judge's opinion, is such as to not require it. If outdoors, "The ground shall be clean and level, and the grass, if any, shall be cut short." Short means SHORT! Keep in mind the small dog trying to retrieve a dumbbell, scent articles or accomplishing a Long Down in long grass. Blades of grass and weeds will be sticking the dog in the face and unfairly affecting its performance as compared to the Saint Bernard whose face is a good thirty inches from the ground. Of course, a Saint Bernard will not look kindly to having long blades of grass going up his nostrils as he bends down in the course of picking up a dumbbell! Level ground means level! The handler and dog, not to mention the judge, should not have to concern themselves with trying to maintain their balance when walking in the ring.
EQUIPMENTYou now have the ring all squared (actually rectangular) away and it is time to check out the equipment. If indoors, and matting is to be used, there are a few things to keep in mind. If your ring is fully matted - you've got it made! You, the handler and dog have ideal conditions. If not fully matted, matting for jumping must be four feet wide and laid for the takeoff and landing at all jumps. If the mats you are supplied with are only three feet wide, two will have to be used to make the required four-foot width for jumping. Length of mat is now also a concern. A dog must be positioned at least eight feet (in Open) in front of the High Jump and Broad Jump. Also, the dumbbell must be thrown at least eight feet beyond the High Jump. This means there should be AT LEAST sixteen feet of matting to be fair to all breeds of dogs for takeoff and landing. The Jumps are regulated and the required measurements are in Chapter 4, Sections 11 and 13, and Chapter 5, Section 14. These sections also deal with the painting and numbering of the jumps. There are all types of jumps that one will encounter. Beside the wood jumps we now have PVC (plastic) styles. These jumps must have the same properties of the wood jumps. For example, the boards in the High Jump must be rigid and not able to bend and fall out of the upright standards. The Bar must be weighted and have the integrity of a wood bar. It is up to the judge to measure the jumps and have corrections made if needed.
DEALING WITH RING AND EQUIPMENT DEFICIENCIESThe judge should take immediate action to correct the deficiencies in the ring or equipment by bringing them to the attention of the Trial Secretary or Superintendent. If there are undesirable ring conditions they must be reported to the American Kennel Club if the deficiencies have not been promptly corrected at the judge's request per Chapter 1, Section 34. The judge reports to the AKC by writing up the uncorrected problem inside the judge's Book cover. Also, a letter (or email) should be sent to the Obedience Department as a follow-up. Had the judge reported incorrect equipment at the club's prior show, it would have been corrected and you would not be dealing with such problems. Don't hesitate to take action - you owe it to the sport and exhibitors!
GIVE ATTENTION TO LIGHTINGBe aware of lighting if indoors or out. Pay attention to the dog's line of sight for jumping and signals, and consider where the Group Exercises will take place in the ring. For example, the sun would be better on the dogs back than in its face. Lighting might affect where you want the gate and table in relation to the heeling pattern, plus the position of the jumps may need to be thought out.
WHERE DO YOU WANT THE GATE?Where the ring gate goes in relation to the ring is YOUR choice. If you don't care for the location of the gate when arriving at the ring, change it! It is best to be comfortable with the gate in relation to your heeling pattern and set-up of the ring. The end result will be a better job of judging.
WHERE DO YOU WANT THE JUDGE' S TABLE?Give some real consideration as to where YOU want the judge's table. At the AKC Obedience Judging Seminars it is suggested that the table be OUTSIDE the ring. Their reasons make good common sense: The ring is for the use of the dog, handler and judge.
· If stewards are on the outside of the ring their attention is more likely to be focused on the ring activities, and they will be ready when needed.
· If there is food on the table for the judge or stewards, it is now outside the ring.
· The dog and handler have a better opportunity to perform with the elimination of the commotion around the judge's table. It also frees up more space for better use of the ring.
MARKING THE RING FOR THE DIFFERENT EXERCISESOne thing a judge should strive for is to be consistent. Every dog and handler deserves the same opportunity when entering the ring. One way to help achieve consistency is to mark the ring for the DIFFERENT exercises as needed. For example, mark where you want the stewards to stand for the Figure Eight. This makes sure the stewards are always the eight feet apart that is required. If not marked, you will notice the stewards unconsciously standing farther apart for larger dogs and closer for smaller dogs. Also be aware of the other “required” marks for the advanced and Preferred classes.
RIBBONS AND PRIZESBefore starting the class, make sure you have all the ribbons and prizes required for that class. This will help your efficiency in being able to present the ribbons and awards after marking the placements in your judge's Book.
3. What instructions will be given to the Stewards?In the Obedience ring a steward CAN make a big difference in how efficiently a ring functions. Their actions can also have an affect on the performance of the dog in the ring. The judge is in sole charge of the way they want the ring conducted, but if this is NOT conveyed to the stewards the first several handlers may be entering a "zoo" instead of an Obedience ring. A helpful suggestion: Have typed steward instructions with your judging equipment. Having your detailed instructions at hand ensures you won't overlook anything and have them available for the stewards' reference during the class.
4. What type of heeling pattern is used? Is it a good one and appear to have been thought out for your ring?When you are invited to judge at a trial, there is an important Chapter and Section to keep in mind. CHAPTER 2, SECTION 6 – JUDGING OF CLASSES AND DIFFERENT BREEDS: "The same methods and standards will be used for judging and scoring the regular, preferred, optional titling and non-regular classes and in judging and scoring the work of dogs of different breeds, including dogs listed with AKC Canine Partners." The time to be aware of this regulation is BEFORE you set up your ring and plot out the heeling pattern and the areas for the different exercises. Large breeds (and super-fast dogs) require a considerable amount of room to maneuver. If this is not factored in beforehand, then the dog's performance could be compromised. All breeds need be given ample space so they have the opportunity to work towards perfection. Also, heeling patterns should be smooth and not choppy. Choppy patterns (explained below) seem to be more of a hindrance to the larger and faster working teams. The next time you go to a trial, notice how the judge has set up their ring. PAY ATTENTION to how the space is used for the different exercises. Make note of the heeling pattern. Also observe how far a dog travels before a halt or a turn and how much space is used for the dog and handler to execute the Fast or Slow. There is NO perfect way to set up a ring or a perfect heeling pattern for all breeds, but some judges make better use of the ring space. When judging at an all-breed trial, you have to be ready for whatever breed comes into the ring -- be it a Chihuahua or an Irish Wolfhound. It is imperative that all breeds be given an equal chance to earn a perfect score if you wish to be a fair judge.
HEELING PATTERNSHeeling is in every AKC obedience class. In choosing a pattern that works for you, also consider the handler and dog. You must give ALL handlers and dogs an EQUAL opportunity to do the principal part of heeling -- the ability of the dog and handler working as a team. Teamwork is best performed when a heeling pattern is smooth. One way to accomplish this objective is to have only one heeling function per leg of the pattern. This provides ALL teams a chance for a smooth performance but when two heeling functions are on one leg of a pattern it becomes choppy and the teamwork starts to suffer. For example, a Fast, Normal, and Halt on one leg would be choppy. Picture an Irish Wolfhound doing this pattern smoothly. Another example...heeling down the center of the ring and making a Right or Left turn and then Slow, using half the ring, before turning again. The choppy pattern will unfairly affect the performance of the larger and/or faster breeds. There is just less room and time to respond if too much is going on during one leg of the heeling pattern. Remember, you are going to be judging these actions. The faults you observe MAY have been caused by YOU by not giving thought to the heeling pattern. The small breeds will start to gain an advantage and you, as a judge, will find your goals of fairness and consistency going down the tubes. A pattern does not have to be long to achieve the smooth objective. The simple "L" pattern (although minimal) lends itself to a smooth performance if you give some thought to where different heeling functions will take place. The "Forward" followed by a few steps and then a "Halt" is another example of unfairness to large breeds, plus it is also choppy. Picture the extremes. A Chihuahua and handler start to heel and the handler walks forward two or three steps and halts on the judge's order. This small breed has had a chance to get up and walk a fair distance before going into a sit. The next dog in the ring is an Irish Wolfhound. The handler starts to heel and walks two or three steps and halts on the judge's order. The Irish Wolfhound starts to move forward in heel position, and maybe just moved one-half or one body length, and now has to go into a sit. Did this breed have the same opportunity to have a smooth performance? The handler of the Irish Wolfhound had no choice but to stop on the judge's order or be penalized for delay in following a judge's order. The judge was consistent and stopped both dogs in the same spot, but lacked good judgment in setting up a heeling pattern that was fair to all breeds. Had the judge halted each dog further away from the Forward, both breeds would have had an equal opportunity for a smooth performance.
FIGURE EIGHTWhen planning the area for the Figure Eight think about the ring barriers and, in Open, also consider the jumps. You want to provide ALL dogs the opportunity to go around the outside post and not have to concern them with the possibility of running into an object. Figure Eight posts that are in the corners of a ring or too close to a jump jeopardize the performance of the larger breeds. This type of set up is also too restrictive for the disabled handlers and their dogs. If you are judging indoors and using mats on slick floors, use THREE mats if possible. Large breeds should have mats under them at all times during the Figure Eight if that is the case for the smaller breeds.
INDIVIDUAL EXERCISESAs you set up for the different individual exercises ask yourself, "Is this exercise going to be fair to ALL breeds and handlers when they enter my ring?" Another point to keep in mind is the disabled handlers and their space requirements. Make a mental picture of an Irish Wolfhound being handled by a person in a wheelchair. With this in mind you should have no problem in setting up the ring that is fair to all who enter.
5. What position is the Judge in for observing and scoring the performance of the dog and handler in the ring?It is absolutely essential to develop skills in observing dogs and handlers and being able to evaluate their performance fairly and consistently. To help accomplish this goal, give considerable thought as to where the best positions are to observe without interfering with the performance of an individual exercise (or between exercises). Where you stand determines what you can see. It also gives the impression to the spectators outside the ring as to whether or not you know what you're doing! Every judge should want to give the appearance of being professional and precise. There is no perfect position but there are positions that will help the judge better fulfill their responsibilities to the sport. A judge should know what position to be in and why. Sometimes when you are observing from one angle you may be "giving up" being in another position to see other errors that may be occurring. The good judge will recognize what they are giving up," knowing that these errors are less common and of lesser significance than errors observed from their chosen position. When you think through the Regulations, most of the exercises have two common denominators - heel position and the recall. The majority of exercises will refer back to these two items. A few examples of judging positions taken from the Guidelines and AKC Obedience Judging Seminar notes -- are as follows:
HEEL POSITIONSHeeling Exercises
After planning your heeling pattern, the next step is to plan YOUR positions during the course of the pattern. Judges should attempt to position themselves so the dog and handler will be observed from the rear, front and sides, and the judge's movements during the heeling pattern should be consistent from dog to dog. Knowing where heel position is located is of paramount importance during the course of judging. The five faults of heeling in regards to the dog are forging, lagging, wide, crowding and not being straight in line with the direction of the handler. When starting the heeling pattern, be in position to check for the handler and dog moving out together on the "Forward." This is an area where lagging and forging can occur and you will want to be in a good location to watch and score if needed. Being on the dog's side in line with the handler is preferable. During the Utility Signal Exercise, this position will also be important at the end of heeling; the judge will have a better view of the dog stopping and standing in heel position. It is a scorable fault if the dog is not in heel position at this point. You have to be there to see it!
A good position for judging a Sit is from the front or back of the dog and handler. For example, consider a dog making a SLIGHT error on the Sit; from this location the judge can observe sitting wide, crowding or not straight in line with the handler - three of the more common faults. If judging from the side, two faults could best be observed - forge and lag. This is a good example in choosing a position to see MOST of the errors from one location. A spectator sitting in the bleachers outside the ring can observe a dog sitting a foot in front or behind a handler on a halt. YOU want to be in the BEST position to observe most of the minor errors, if any. This is part of judging fair and consistently.
Planning a heeling pattern that allows you to judge from the dog's side most of the time is preferable to being on the side of the handler. Two key elements in the heeling exercise are the Fast and Slow. The judge needs to watch the transition from Normal to Fast or Slow and back to Normal and evaluate heel position. The "Fast" signifies that the handler must run, handler and dog moving forward at NOTICEABLY ACCELERATED speed. "Slow" signifies the handler and dog must NOTICEABLY DECELERATE from a brisk walk. Judging on the dog's side is a favorable place to see if the dog is maintaining heel position or making any of the five heeling errors. Judging from the handler's side obscures the view of the dog's position. Also, momentarily stepping behind the dog and handler on the Fast or Slow will give an excellent observation point for judging straight in line with the handler.
Other Areas of Heel Positions:A dog is in heel position at some point during EVERY exercise. A good judge will study the different exercises in various classes and see when the dog or handler is required to be in heel position. Then studying Chapter 2, Section 18 (Heel Position) and see how it relates to all the different exercises. To observe a fault you first have to recognize that fault. Let's look at two exercises and notice the importance of the judge's location for judging heel position.
NOVICE - STAND FOR EXAMINATION (Chapter 3, Sections 7 and 8)The handler is to be in heel position before leaving and after returning to the dog. In this exercise the handler is the one to assume heel position. To start the exercise it is suggested that the judge be in front of and to the left of the dog. This allows the judge to observe the handler's movements and watch if the handler assumes heel position before leaving the dog. The key elements to view are the five errors of heel position as listed above. This position is excellent to observe if the dog is straight in line with the handler as the handler leaves. After performing the examination, the judge steps back away but in line with the dog's left shoulder. From here one can view if the handler returns to the heel position. The most common faults are the handler returning to a forged or lag position and it is best observed from this location.
NOVICE - GROUP EXERCISES (Chapter 3, Sections 12 &13) OPEN - GROUP EXERCISES (Chapter 4, Section 15.The judge must be in a good location to watch all the handlers return to heel position. If a dog breaks the Long Sit or Long Down as the handler is returning to heel position, the judge will have to determine if the handler was in heel position when the dog broke. Knowing heel position and being able to observe it has a great impact on this exercise - the end result in scoring is a pass or fail depending on the judge's decision!
RECALLSAnytime the dog is coming into the handler, the Recall exercise is involved. The judge needs to be in a good position to observe the dog and handler fulfilling the key elements of the Recall: The giving of the command or signal, dog's prompt response to handler's command or signal, dog moving directly to the handler, moving at a brisk trot or gallop and returning close enough to the handler. Recalls are referred to in many of the exercises in the Regulations so let's again look at a couple of different exercises and notice the importance of the judge's position as it relates to the Recall.
Below is an analogy I would like you to ponder for a bit. In reading only a few of the obedience internet lists which I am on, it stuns me when I read negative comments aimed at the AKC, and our sport in general, from time-to-time. "Constructive" suggestions are good, but there are times when the negative comments go way over the top, IMO. Such shoot-from-the-hip comments (many times without FACTS) are hurting our sport. We need to be more thoughtful of the posts we make, or comments made to the general public. If we are not careful we will be turning off many who may be future participants and our future new friends. As stated so many times before, the future of our sport is in the hands of the novice.
As an analogy, think of our sport as a sailing ship on the high seas, if you will. With each cannon shot (negative comment) we aim and fire at the hull of our ship may result in sinking the ship. Choose your comments wisely so our ship and crew will sail into the future and not end up at the bottom of a negative sea. As I was taught in the service (USCG), "Loose lips sink ships!"
Let me suggest installing a longer fuse in the negative cannon, cease fire, and work to "enlist" new "sailors" on our ship. Becoming involved in saving and maintaining our ship is like polishing the ship's brass. It can be work at times, but ever so rewarding when it shines in the sun. It is time for us to concentrate a little more on saluting our ship and welcoming new "sailors" aboard!
Our ship has been sailing the seas since its launch in 1936. There have been times over the years when she goes back into dry-dock to be updated, but when she returns to the high seas there are always those who love taking shots at her once again, and then run off to board another ship. Keep in mind, our ship is the next to the oldest ship on the high seas, only surpassed by the ship of Conformation. Let's take care of her, treat her with respect, and keep her brass polished and shining in the sun!
WELCOME Aboard and smooth sailing into the future!