NUMBER ONE, and first on your list, is for you to obtain an illustration of a standing dog plus the skeleton. If these are taken from a book, most will have the muscles and bones named with lines indicating each particular part so that you will know “at which end is the head”! Assuming that you have owned and exhibited a particular breed for five or seven years, and bred a litter or two, then it can be assumed that you have an idea what is required of you.
Running before you can walk helps no one. Assuming that you have watched judging of your breed very carefully over the years, and been fortunate enough to observe a very good judge going over the dogs, you will have learnt a lot. However, some judges do everything but get nowhere. Good judges are STOCKMEN, i.e. someone who has been connected with dogs all their lives, or someone who is very fortunate enough to have a natural eye for a dog, or any other animal, for that matter.
Do take the time to go along and watch other breeds being judged as you can learn a lot from this. Also, please thoroughly read your Breed Standard. It will probably blind you with science in the beginning but you will learn.
Study your breed illustrations carefully. Starting at the head, go over the dog’s neck and lay of shoulders. These must be laid back and not straight. Upright shoulders will not give good movement. The topline in all but a few animals should be table-top level, straight down to the root of the tail.
Depending on the breed, where the tail goes while gaiting is an important point to watch. Study the Standard e.g. Pointers have a swishing side-to-side movement while other breeds call for a slightly curved tail, gentle over the loins. No one likes a tail which is “gay”, or carried over the back, when that tail should be carried below the level of the back.
Examine the hindquarters thoroughly for soundness and, in male animals, do handle the rear end very carefully and gently! NO dog likes his “parts” squeezed. And never approach an animal from the rear!
You have examined the head, neck, shoulders, topline, rear and quarters. Next look at the hocks and feet. Feet do vary considerably so, again, read the Standard. Gently carry your hands over the ribcage down to the loins, then back to the head and mouth.
Do ask the exhibitor to open their dog’s mouth. You could transmit something from one dog to another and most dogs prefer their owners handling their mouths than judges. I have seen some judges who have been really rough, forcing open a dog’s mouth.
Do not try to look into the mouths of naturally undershot dogs such as Affens, King Charles, Pekes, Griffons etc. If you wish to see the mouth, again ask the exhibitor.
You may ask an exhibitor to move around the table, or to the other side of their dog, to enable you to examine the dog more closely. However, do not try to hold a conversation with the exhibitor, though you may talk to the dog. They will respond to you better, but generally remember to handle gently.
While you are judging make mental notes. It is also permissible for you to ask your steward to mark down any particular dogs you may wish to see moving again.
Do be decisive. Do not mess about, moving one dog from one place to another. When you have finally lined up your class, pull out your dogs in order of merit, or pull them out to re-examine.
Once you have made up your mind – that is it! Do not alter your placings. Try to find a “type” i.e. animals who, hopefully, all look alike or are of even size and shape. It is sometimes difficult, though, to find this as some exhibits vary considerably in size.
Important: Never pull out six dogs, place five then send the last one out of the ring. Select enough to send out three or more but, if there are only six in the class, place them all. Let the steward hand out the prize cards then you thank all the exhibitors.
Do not give any comments about the dogs in the ring and do not forget to be in charge of the ring. You are the judge of the day but that does not allow you to be pompous or to adopt a “look at me” attitude. I do not give any comments on any dog in the ring. A good experienced steward is invaluable, particularly to a new judge.
When you receive your invitation to judge some classes, take on only a few at first, until the time comes when you feel confident enough to judge four or five classes. Send in your reply within a few days as the Secretary will be writing to other judges and will appreciate a return-post answer of yes or no. Arrive at the show at least half an hour before judging is scheduled to start so that you have time to present yourself at the Secretary’s Tent and find your steward, have a coffee and collect your judge’s book etc. Do dress to complement your breed of the day. If it is damp or wet don’t wear (Ladies) sandals or high-heeled shoes and dogs hate hats, usually barking at them, or your hat flies away if it is windy! Don’t wear floppy, swinging skirts, jangling jewellery or long beads that can get tied up in the dog. (Gentlemen) you will be better dressed in a suit, collar and tie etc. but please, not jeans.
Remember not to chat to exhibitors on your way to the ring or in the ring. Make sure that you mark up your judge’s book correctly – it is your responsibility. The steward can mark the remaining slips.
In the ring
In the ring, make sure the dogs have room to stand apart from each other and are not crowded. Walk your dogs in a triangle or whatever you wish, after your examination, then up and down. The purpose of this is for you to be able to assess movement fore aft and side gait. Examine each dog in turn then line them up for the final placings of the class. If a dog appears to be limping, tell the steward then ask the exhibitor to move their dog again. Maybe the dog has a sore pad, been stung or has stepped on a foreign body. It will be up to the exhibitor/handler to withdraw the dog and inform the steward.
Judging is not just a question of putting hands on a dog. Judging is knowing an animal. Knowing what fits where, knowing good movement from bad, knowing what you like in a dog. It is difficult when dogs vary e.g. some dogs have heads which are typical of their breed but look different in a line-up. Judging is not a simple task yet everybody wants to judge as soon as they become exhibitors!
Judging is the next step but do not rush into it. Look and learn. Learn to walk before running. Once you do start, first learn to judge your own breed thoroughly. Do not take on other breeds until you have a good experience of your own and then feel confident enough to judge a class or two of other breeds.
All breeds are different to judge. It is not just a question of them all having a head, a tail and four legs. A careful, experienced judge is a pleasure to watch.
Do not worry about disgruntled exhibitors. Remember, there are only five cards per class and only one red one. It is inevitable that with large classes of a breed many good dogs are not placed. It is sad but there is nothing you can do. It is, after all, a competition.
When you are totally experienced, and a good judge, you may be asked to fill in a questionnaire for a society to award Challenge Certificates in your breed. This is an honour. You have to fill it in carefully and honestly so retain all your catalogues from the shows where you have judged over the years. Remember, they are your records so file them away with your judge’s books.
If ever you are fortunate enough to award CCs, do it well and honestly and people will enjoy your judging, then you will gain respect.
A point of paramount importance is that you must always judge the dogs wherever you are, never judge the handlers.
Should you ever be asked to judge your breed overseas, remember that you go as an Ambassador for the United Kingdom. You must do and say all the right things. Have a sense of humour. Do not criticise overseas dogs or people. Do be appreciative of their country. If they like you you will most probably be asked again. If you blot your copybook…….you will not be asked back! Do not tout for overseas judging appointments (or at home). There is nothing worse.
I do not feel that a person is ready to judge overseas until he/she has given Certificates at the very least four times in the UK.
FINALLY…when you start out as a new judge, do not be afraid to ask questions from very experienced people. There is always someone at hand to assist and advise. If you do not know what a straight stifle is, or where the second thigh is, ASK. Maybe you will find someone who knows! Again, do not ask around for judging appointments as it does not create a good impression. Again, also, do not take on other breeds until you can safely and efficiently judge your own.
Do not forget to fill in your judge’s book correctly and sign the bottom slips and fill in the winning numbers correctly and clearly. Do not be a slow judge, indecisive or boring but, at the same time, do not be pompous or over-confident.
Judging is not easy. It takes years to become calm, collected and experienced. You are learning all the time. Do not copy another judge’s report or their method of going over a dog and do not severely criticise an animal in print if one is over or undershot. Forget it, or the world will know. Who knows, in time a mouth may change as they often do. We have many, many exhibitors of two or three years in breeds. They know it all. Some are judging after no time at all. Some I have watched in recent years are totally incompetent but they must judge. Their lack of experience and shortcomings are made absolutely apparent by their performances.