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IMHO – Judges Talk About Current Issues in the Sport

Click here to read the complete article
136 – September 2019

By Elaine Lessig

We asked experienced AKC judges two questions about current issues affecting our sport.

 Here’s what they had to say…

Carl Lippmann AKC Judge

 Describe three improvements you see in our dog shows.

 While it is difficult to find positives in the sport, there are those that have been introduced in the last few years. The Grand Championship program has encouraged many that would have quit early to remain active, especially in the breeds where a campaigned dog is difficult to beat. The National Owner Handler Series also has been well received by the community and has, in many instances, saved many a club from going out of business and, in fact, helped them look forward to future shows. I would also give credit to the AKC for their efforts to help clubs with their local communications through media alert templates and press releases.

Share your thoughts on three issues that are not positive for the future of dog shows.

 Without a doubt it is my opinion that the number of shows has diluted the sport and the consequence of that is the lowering of entries. One only has to look at almost any weekend to see 12 to 15 shows and that does not count the Specialties. In my 50-plus years in the sport I have watched entries peak and now drop precipitously to a point that I fear we will be unable to recover. It is also obvious that clubs are being priced out of their venues and can only survive by joining with others that are far out of their local area and thereby no longer providing community coverage. Along with that is the lack of quality venues–even at some of the fairgrounds. Lastly, I cannot understand the desire by AKC to keep approving breeds that we will never, or almost never, see. It seems to me that we have enough rare breeds at this point in time.

 Lee Canalizo - AKC Judge

 Describe three improvements you see in our dog shows.

 1. There are more educational possibilities available to those who choose to judge. Unfortunately, from my perspective, these possibilities are not always used to the applicants full advantage. Going to a seminar/workshop and not absorbing pertinent info seems to be a reality. And then there are those judges that know better than anyone! They read the standard and proceed to judge the dogs the way they profess to prefer over what the standard calls for! WRONG. The standard is the bible. It’s our blueprint, not a mere suggestion! There also seems to me that there many good representatives of most breeds. (BUT on the other hand also many less correct examples of same.)

 2. More young people and families seem to be involved in dog shows. This is a positive note and bodes well for the future. Many of the youngsters are second generation exhibitors with their parents being pro handlers and/or judges. I knew many of the newer judges and successful handlers of today when they were babies!

 3. Several more excellent show facilities are available. These places offer comfortable weather, safe flooring and better and, in some cases, more grooming room.

 Together the really qualified, pleasant judges and comfortable, safe show grounds make for better shows.

 Share your thoughts on three issues that are not positive for the future of dog shows.

 1. Extremely poor sportsmanship is very evident at many venues: Rudeness, exhibitor nastiness to each other, inconsideration to both people and dogs. Failure to observe the wishes of the show giving clubs regarding parking, grooming, etc., mouthing off to judges and displaying gross bad sportsmanship to a judge. Lack of observing AKC rules in ALL respects. Ladies dressing inappropriately for the ring, (provocative tops/skirts, too short, too low…you get my drift). Infighting and nastiness between people in the same breed–the breeds should be of the utmost importance, not the egos of the exhibitors!

 2. Judges! The good, the bad and the ugly! Who are some of these people? I’ve been involved heavily in the dog show world for almost sixty years and basically know who’s who and who did what in many breeds. Now there are people getting approved for groups that I know never had a good dog or, if they did, wouldn’t recognize it as such! I do not include all newer judges in this diatribe as there are some young ones that show much promise. Unfortunately, they are not recognized for any superiority that they may have. It seems all judges go along at the same rate. Much of this problem I lay at the feet of the AKC. Breeders/exhibitors and pro handlers are also at fault for showing anything they think they can get away with. Combine this with poor judging and you reduce the quality of any and all breeds. We need to remember that dog shows are all about choosing breeding stock!

 3.Social media is the most damaging thing with regard to dog shows. I include all aspects of online communication in that statement–the wins, the actual photos of dogs, the standings, etc. It’s always a race for bigger, better, faster, and not always accurately represented! Social media is also so bad for personal relationships. I’s so easy to type or text something in a fit of pique that you would never do face to face or without a moment to reflect. Again, more hard feelings and poor sportsmanship, sometimes leading to far more than was bargained for at the time.

 Dr. Robert A. Indeglia - AKC Judge

 Describe three areas where you have seen improvements in the dog shows.

 Since I began in 1961 I have noted these improvements.

 1. The facilities and the venues. While I have yet to find something that is perfect, facilities and indoor events make showing and judging much more pleasurable and generally safer for exhibitors, animals and spectators.

 2. Organization. The show superintendents at most of the shows have brought a sense of organization that was not always present. I can remember rings running late, conflicts with breed rings and group starts. That is hardly ever the case now.

 3. Most importantly are the dogs. The quality of dogs presented to me in the show ring for the past several decades have been better than when I first started. That is not to say there were not some truly great dogs in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. And I’m not saying that we didn’t have great breeders either. However, as a general proposition, I would have to say that with the refinement of our breed standards, the advancement of technology and communication, and our breeders’ improved general understanding of the anatomical purposes of purebred dogs, we as judges see dogs in the ring today that are an improvement of specimens from those I was first introduced to half a century ago.

 Share your thoughts about three issues that are not positive for the future of dog shows.

 I think as we get older we have more hope and optimism for the future than we might’ve had when we were younger. I find that I try not to dwell on the negative these days but seek rather to improve it. That being said here are three things that I’ve observed that could be improved.

 1. The judges approval process has become too mechanical and fails, I think, to properly assess each individual for the breed they seek to judge. The current process is a memorization test and not something that measures true understanding of the dog.

 2. Sense of decorum. Dog shows always seemed to me to be a hobby and sport for gentlemen and gentlewomen. There was a certain refined respect that went along with the show attire and formal ring procedure. That respectful demeanor also seemed to flow into a hardy camaraderie at ringside and afterwards. I think we have lost some of that over the generations. Maybe it’s just change and like many people, as you get older you resist change.

 3. Tolerance. People at shows have become less tolerant. The AKC has become less tolerant. I see a lot on the news today about how we are supposed to be more accepting of peoples views, rights, freedom of expression. However, I don’t remember so many bench show committees, disciplinary reports, strict and unbending application of rules applied by a small group of people or from a single individuals viewpoint. Likewise, I have noticed that there can be a pettiness and, in fact, in some cases I have observed nastiness among competitors speaking about one another and their dogs. I think the pettiness and nastiness coupled with an overactive and arbitrary disciplinary process is a negative for our support. It’s about breeding better purebred dogs. It was never supposed to be about the people.

 Click here to read the complete article
136 – September 2019

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