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From The CC Vault: Judges Selection

by Peter Baynes

Originally published May 2013

“I am not one of the multi-group judges who judges numerous shows each year, 

but even so I have to be careful of conflicts

 when agreeing on the phone to judge a certain show.”

The judges’ selection committee has requested your availability to judge our next year’s show. If  you are available we will pay roundtrip airfare, and all other reasonable expenses including a quality hotel accommodation. Our shows usually draw over 3,000 entries, and the air-conditioned show building is regarded as one of the finest in the country. We look forward to your early reply, together with the fee you charge.”

An impossible dream? Although some clubs do follow, more or less, this protocol, wouldn’t it be nice if all invitations to judge a show could be written in a similar form, with a firm invitation to judge one of their upcoming shows. You will note that this is more or less a contract, where the fee charged is of little importance. They obviously want you, as they boast about their show. Unfortunately, most inquiries these days are not so formal; it is usually a telephone conversation from someone you don’t know, about a show you know nothing about, and they want an immediate reply as they are in a meeting at the moment.

Sometimes that meeting takes place in a different time zone; 10:00 PM on the west coast is 1:00 AM on the east coast. This is where things can go wrong. Someone hungry for assignments may agree to the assignment only to find hours later, suffering from a hangover, and digging into their cornflakes, that they remember they have a conflict, with the only other show they are judging that year. I don’t usually answer those calls, thinking it may be one of my bombed out desperate fans wanting to talk to me. I am not one of the multi-group judges who judges numerous shows each year, but even so I have to be careful of conflicts when agreeing on the phone to judge a certain show, especially if I may have a hangover the next day.

Also, not all phone conversations are too explicit, and when the contract is received, you may find that you are not judging as many days as you thought. However, even that is better than receiving no contract at all, and having to get the bad news when you receive the premium list. I understand the AKC does not like to get involved in situations of this nature.

On some other occasions, a brief conversation with a show organizer and a promise of an assignment does not always become fruitful, as they obviously may suffer from amnesia.

I can relate several instances where some phone calls have been a little suspicious. One, where some official from one club wanted to talk to me about judging their show, but noted I was judging a show where they would be, and they would talk to me there. That person showed to me, I didn’t do much for the individual, and so we never got to talk, and I never got to judge the show. On another instance, it was more or less the same situation, but this time it was a mystery caller. I again couldn’t do much for the transparent mysterious exhibitor, but the show chair hired me anyway. Sometimes honesty pays.

Occasionally, when I was a handler, one of the local clubs would let me know which judges they were considering for one of my strong breeds. On one occasion, they said the judges selection committee was considering one of three judges on their list. I agreed with two but definitely not the third. Of course, they hired that one. I’ve always been cautious ever since of giving my opinion about judges. Fortunately, this dope thought I got him the assignment, and he gave me the breed from the classes anyway.

Of course, not all clubs have a judge’s selection committee, and sometimes the show chair or president is the one who does all the hiring. Specialty Clubs usually let their members vote on the nominations.

A nomination by a breed club can sometimes be an embarrassing situation, especially if they ask for a biography. After pouring one’s heart out describing involvement in the breed, and the story of your life, covering several pages in the reply — and then very few of the members vote for you. It’s particularly heartbreaking when you feel the winner’s notes should be checked for accuracy.

At some all breed shows input from the members is taken into account. Unfortunately, some recommend a judge who appears to like their type of dog. It is sometimes a mistake as the judge they recommend is not liked by other exhibitors. I must admit that I have recommended judges to clubs but only those that are not only good all-round judges but also, and most importantly, easy to get along with. Some very good judges are very demanding and difficult to please; if they discovered that their lack of assignments was caused by their attitude, they may change their ways.

With novice members suggesting judges, in my experience they haven’t a clue as to the knowledge of the judges they recommend. They even recommend judges who are professional handlers, dead, suspended, or don’t even judge their breed, and of course, most of the time someone who was more than kind to little Tootsie.

I remember many years ago in England when a famous breeder, after listening to novice exhibitors for hours, expounding on something they obviously knew nothing about, she finally stood up, and exploded, “I HATE NOVICES.” I can’t say I agree with those sentiments, but obviously novices are now taking advantage of the internet, and expounding their views about judges, hoping that their opinions will bear some weight in the judges selection process. I wonder if show committees read that garbage.

I may have written about this incidence before, but a Specialty Club wanted to hire a Canadian judge whose surname was quite common. They instructed the correspondence secretary to write to him and offer him the assignment. He accepted, but it was not the person from Canada. Unfortunately, the secretary had looked in the AKC Judges book and wrote to the person with the same name. I believe he judged two breeds and this was his latest breed, and maybe a provisional assignment. Fortunately, he attended the banquet the night before, noted whom the important people were, and those were the ones that did all the winning. He made many members very happy!

In my last article, I said that I don’t always read all the instructions for the show too closely, but I am not alone. Several highly respected  judges did not obviously read that they had been selected to do at least one group, as on at least three occasions those highly regarded individuals left the showgrounds with group(s) still pending on their assignment.

Sometimes, in an emergency, a superintendent will have to be involved in the equation. Those that try to do it on their own may have a problem trying to replace a multi-group judge close to the time of the show. A friend of mine, a show chair for a popular show, had to call ten different judges to find a replacement. The replacement was a very vain judge who would have been shocked if he had known that he was the tenth choice.

Sometimes, I have had similar situations, whereas I was unable to help, and when I have suggested another judge, their reply, “We’ve already called him,” could have been a morale deflator, but as you know, I am a very humble person. Ask my wife.

With foreign assignments, they are usually straightforward invitations. You never know where they got your name. It’s never wise to ask, otherwise those individuals will expect special attention to their exhibits. Of course, the same can apply in this country, but we do have guidelines for conflict of interest, whereas I am sure it could be possible to excuse from the ring the person who picked you up at the airport. On one overseas incident, the nice attractive  lady who picked up two American judges at the airport and transported them to the hotel showed six animals to the two judges the next day. Incidentally, I was one of the judges.

There are always the assertions that show chairs will hire other show chairs in order to swap assignments. Sometimes, if it is not a strong panel, it can appear to be obvious that this may be the case. However, looking at some panels loaded with show chairs, if it is quite a good panel, and the show chair is not interested in doing too many shows, or even not a judge… the assertions can be false.

I have Judges Directories from 1985 to 2012, and the increase in size over the years is phenomenal. I haven’t bothered to count the number of judges in the two extreme examples, but it would seem that we have more judges than needed to compensate for the increase in the number of shows. Maybe if we curtail the number of shows, we should also cut back on the number of judges. Some judge very rarely as it is. The multi-group judges are the ones that are the most recognizable, and they are the ones that judge most often. The old days of sticking a pin in the directory and hitting a worthwhile judge would seem to be gone. In those days, one chair I know compiled a ‘Smith’ panel quite easily, without having to stick a pin.

Some naïve participants have suggested that the AKC should become involved in selecting judges for all the shows. Scary ideas, as we already know who their favorites are because of their selection of judges for their own AKC/Eukanuba National Championship. Maybe I’d better start being nicer to them.

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