“For many decades, BEING SUCCESSFUL IN A BREED REQUIRED THAT AN OWNER BE PART OF THE “CLUB” AND RECEIVE THE blessing of the old guard in order to do well.”
curly or wavy, black, brown or white, big or small? Did judges show a prefer- ence for owner-handlers versus profes- sional handlers? We tracked all of this because even the most rigorous breed standards allow for variations in judg- ing and we were curious about whether favoritism existed. As a statistician, Mike was look- ing for those standard deviations from the norm. The result? We found that the vast majority of judges are consis- tent, well-versed in the standards and diligent. We noticed that the rare judge who was of course attracted the AKC representative at a show to provide advice and input about the process and didn’t last long. After 400 shows with Ladybug alone, the Law of Big Numbers kicked in. Over time and with enough shows every dog will get a fair chance to win. The trick is to go to enough shows. The more you show the more you win! If you have a truly great dog your success will amplify over time. How? Judges are human and have great memories. The more Ladybug won, the more interest and buzz she created assisted by tons of advertising. Before she retired after Westminster, Ladybug became the dog to beat in the Working Group; that’s where you want to be. ARE YOU THICK-SKINNED? Over the years we have developed great friendships and relationships with the other performers in the circus.
because judging in the ring looks so sub- jective to new competitors. Once you understand how long and arduous the process is to become an AKC judge, you begin to appreciate the skills and time and talent required. As Cathy was going through the pro- cess and now has multiple breeds, we have both attended many judges’ edu- cation seminars and training. We’ve had the chance to get to know other judges and get a reality check about the world of an AKC judge. More than one judge has talked about the fact that it took years and tens of thousands of dollars to get to the point where they started getting regular assignments. New provisional judges get paid practi- cally nothing if anything. Instead, a new judge flies across the country to get the honor of paying their own expenses and maybe get a free meal, and hopefully an entry big enough to be observed by the AKC rep. The next time you see a person judg- ing at any show, much less the big ones, appreciate that they spent years in the trenches getting there. There are over 3,000 AKC judges in the country but only a few hundred have been approved to judge a group or a best in show. We developed a program to track judges who were assigned to PWDs and examined how 350 judges over several years looked at our breed in the ring. Did some judges prefer lion coat cuts over retriever? Was there a bias about
While there are many avenues of competition available, we opted for conformation and performance work. For us, if we were going to make the kind of plunge of time andmoney neces- sary to win and promote our breed, the conformation ring made the most sense in terms of time, money and exposure. Performance work gives our owners another venue to work with their dogs. Television networks, pet food manu- facturers and pet products and services providers spend millions of dollars pro- moting and showing events like West- minster, focusing on conformation. When Ladybug won groups on national television it advanced the breed as well as our own kennel. And we figured out a way to succeed in a different model. For many decades, being successful in a breed required that an owner be part of the “club” and receive the blessing of the old guard in order to do well. While we honor the many breeders and competitors of the last century who have built the world of dog shows for their efforts and the foundation they have built, things are changing. WHAT ABOUT THOSE JUDGES, ANYWAY? As with any sport, fans love to blame the umpires, referees and judges if things don’t go the way they like. Dog shows are no different. If anything, judges get a lot of heat from the fancy
42 • T op N otch T oys , A ugust 2018
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