Judges listen up! A reminder on how to attract puppies and novice handlers, boost entries, re-examine the approach, refresh your judging style and discover a winner.
HOW JUDGES SHOULD EXAMINE PUPPIES
E. Katie Gammill, AKC Judge, TheDogPlace.org Exhibition Editor - March 2012
Some judges used handlers or have forgotten how we had to reassure a puppy frightened by an aggressive approach, or a clumsy, heavy-handled examination.
We judges are under pressure too but remembering how it was those many years ago can go a long way towards being a judge who attracts puppies like a magnet and earns the respect of handlers and owner-exhibitors.
Those who choose to become judges have gained stature and years, and they should be very aware of their body language when officiating in the ring. A judge’s behavior has a profound effect on a dog. Examination techniques and body language may determine which dogs move forward and which dogs or owners are forever ruined.
Consider this: Today’s judge is usually a “take charge” person, often rushed, and who having watched the previous pup move, may turn abruptly and appear aggressive as he or she approaches the next puppy. Taking a firm hold on the head, some judges will twist the head this way and that to view the stop, muzzle to backskull ratio and skull. This makes even the bravest puppy drop to the table or cringe. After it has been restacked, the bite examination can become a contest of will against fear.
When the examination goes wrong no amount of cajoling convinces the puppy the judge isn’t going to hurt it. There is NO show pose, NO ears, and NO confidence. All of the lead and table training, classes, and prior exposure to the show scene was for naught. The breeder or owner is back to square one and the dream of a Championship on a promising puppy may very well have vanished.
Judging is a privilege which requires professionalism and awareness. Judges who step forward into the dog’s space with hands on hips can easily “turn off” a promising prospect. Dogs read body language. To avoid this, consider how the dog you are examining views YOU.
How NOT To Judge or Examine A Puppy
(from the puppy’s point of view)
Measuring a Dog
If there is a disqualification for size, call for the wicket. Ask the exhibitor‘s preference regarding table or floor measurement. Ask the superintendent for a flat surface if the ground is uneven. Carry a measuring tape. Set the wicket according to the required size in the standard (listed in back of judge’s book). Once set, measure it with your tape. Show the wicket to the exhibitor.
Judges can only touch a dog on the withers. Ask the exhibitor if they are ready. Come over the rear slowly and place the wicket on the highest point of the withers ONE TIME. If you aren’t happy, have the exhibitor reset the dog. If the exhibitor doesn't comply “excuse the dog and mark your book accordingly”. Ask your AKC rep to assist you regarding proper procedure. We do not want to disqualify a dog for weight or size unfairly so understand both procedures before you enter that ring.
If the animal twists away or shows fear, EXCUSE IT. Don’t make the examination or measuring an issue. If a dog is on edge, measuring may be the “final straw.”
Judging To The Standard, Courtesy, and The Clock
Judges should judge to standard. Exhibitors should be aware of faults and disqualifications of their breed. Judges must adhere to a time schedule, mark the book properly, and be courteous to each exhibitor while giving each dog the time allocated in the ring. A judge’s best friend is a good ring steward.
A judge’s responsibility is to make the exhibitor and dog as comfortable as possible in the ring. If you, as a judge, prefer NOT to judge a particular breed, tell the judge’s selection committee. They will assign another judge and the exhibitors will appreciate it. If problems arise, call the AKC rep.
Judging each dog to its advantage in the time allotted is a challenge. A judge’s day is long but very rewarding IF it goes smoothly. That is almost always up to you, not the dogs. The important thing is “A JUDGE SHOULD DO NO HARM” to the sport, the dog, or the exhibitor. I hope this has helped you see the examination and judging from the novice dog’s perspective.
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