THE PROCESS NEEDS FIXING
BY WALTER SOMMERFELT
F or as long as dog shows (and any other event that uses judges) have been around, the officials have always been—and I am sure will always be—the tar- get of criticism from participants and observers. There is no question that when the human element of interpretation is involved, there will be numerous views, both in favor of as well as opposed to, the decisions made by the adjudicating officials. In our world of conformation dog shows, the trend of complaining about judging seems to be on the rise. Could it be that the multiple changes to the “System” over the years have destroyed the credibility of today’s judges? For many years, Len Brumby was the sole decision-maker in the approval and advancement of judges. That would be a flawed system today, but back in the day, that’s the way it was. The judging approval system has changed many times since 1985 when I applied for my first breeds. In my opinion, many of these changes have not been made to produce better judges, but to appease those wanting to judge and advance through the system. Let’s just take a look at the changes made over the years. When I was applying in the mid-1980s, the requirements were a minimum of ten active years in the sport, with the applicant producing at least three champions as a breed- er. You were required to have judged numerous “B” matches and have ring stewarded a significant number of times. You had to take a “closed book” test, with an AKC field rep monitoring the test. A passing grade of at least 70% was required, and getting any ques- tions wrong on the breed’s disqualifications was an automatic fail. As it still is today, you had a private interview with the field rep (usually off show grounds at the hotel where the field rep was staying), and usually a day or two before the beginning of the show weekend, most often on a Friday. If you were fortunate enough to pass the test and get through the interview, a few months later you would be notified that you had been approved on a “provisional” basis. You then had to get at least five assignments, with dogs present, before you could request regular status and become eligible for additional breeds. It is also important to note that “solicitation” of assignments was prohibited. You could not get on the Internet or make phone calls looking for assignments; you were at the mercy of show-giving clubs providing you with the opportunity to officiate. These invitations often did not take place until you were “published” in the AKC Gazette —a process that usually took a few months. After the completion of your provisional assignments and your approval to regular status, you were permitted to apply for additional breeds under the one-for-one, two-for- two system. This meant that if you had been approved for one breed, you could only apply for one breed. If you had two, you could request two. This was the system; 3 for 3, 4 for 4, and so on. As you can see, it was a very, very slow and tedious process. As new judges, we were observed by the field reps just as judges are today. Observations were for the quality of judging, judging procedure, and maintaining a timely schedule. Much like today’s judges, we would have preferred to advance at a slightly faster pace. But those were the parameters at the time. It was not uncommon for a new judge, who had aspirations to judge a full Group, taking 5-10 years to accomplish the task. Later, AKC added a “Hands-On” test to the procedure. In that case, a group of eight dogs from a specific breed would be placed in front of the applicant to sort and place, and then explain the choices to the panel that was scoring him or her. The panel consisted of a breeder-judge, an all-arounder judge, and one AKC field representative. The panel would grade the applicant, and those with a passing score would then be considered for the breed while those who failed would be denied the breed.
88 | SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, NOVEMBER 2021
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