Dog Show Judges, Family and Welcoming Exhibitors
Dog show judges, their knowledge and skill level are a constant topic of conversation in purebred dogs. This isn’t a new discussion. From the days when new judges were hand-picked by one of the “in crowd” to today’s more egalitarian system, the role of adjudicating in a subjective sport has routinely been akin to wearing a bulls-eye at a firing range.
Dog Show Judges Approval Always a Challenge
AKC Vice President of dog show judges, Tim Thomas, wasn’t born into the sport. He rose through the ranks as an owner, exhibitor, club member, breeder, handler and eventually AKC employee. His job today revolves around the always lively debate about how best to select, educate and promote judges for the conformation ring.
“… the process (by which) we approve judges is always going to be controversial,” Thomas said. “The last system was horrible, the current one is the worst ever and the next one will be the greatest one ever – that’s always the mindset.”
Thomas advocates that great dog people are born, not made.
“… the reality is, in anything, you’re going to have a broad spectrum of skill sets,” Thomas added. “You’re going to have from the most excellent, to those who are challenged and you’re going to have a whole lot in the middle. And that’s with any field and with any skill set. And we have to recognize it’s true in our judging community, in our dog show world too.”
Educating new judges and assessing existing judges is all part of the process, Thomas noted, so that exhibitors feel they are being judged fairly and haven’t wasted their $30 entry fee.
“…no matter what the process that the AKC puts in place to approve its judges,” Thomas added, “there will be individuals who will try to find a way around or look for the shortest path and there will be those that will prepare until they feel comfortable that they’re ready the judge a breed.”
Thomas strongly supports the recently re-established process of having Executive Field Representatives observe judges and discuss the entry with them to help ensure a nuanced understanding of breed standards and judging procedures.
Drawing on his extensive background in the sport, Thomas shared a deeply personal story about his favorite judge of all time. (No spoiler alert! You’ll have to listen to find out who it is… ) And why the “dog show family” is so important to the fabric of the sport.
And he shares this MOST important observation:
“…(O)ne thing that I think that we have to implore to all of us and whether it’s the way that we act at shows, to the way we conduct ourselves in social media platforms, that we have a bad habit of eating our young,” Thomas said. “..(I)t’s very easy to point the finger and blame to everyone else. But I think all of us are responsible for the way that we conduct ourselves, to have ownership in that if we want our sport to have longevity, we have to make a conscious effort to support those who are new into it. And that’s treat them with respect and nurturing them and mentoring them and not just as point makers.”
For more information about the AKC Conformation Judging Approval process, visit: http://www.akc.org/sports/conformation/judging-information/