It’s all in the approach.....................
judge for their opinion"
home to all of those who traveled to the Nationals. I understand
it was a great success, in spite of some uncertainty early on. I
unfortunately could not attend, but because of Danelinks and the
GDCA website, I was kept on top of all the happenings.
On another note, I would like to extend my most heartfelt thanks
and gratitude to the countless numbers of Dane people and dog
fanciers alike for their cards, emails, and small gifts of
fattening foods, during the summer of my recuperation from
chemotherapy and subsequent surgery. While I am under the
watchful eye of my oncologist, all signs point to a full and
This month I decided to do
something a little different with the column, so I hope you
How many times during the years that we have competed, have we had
the notion to ask a judge for their personal opinion of our dog or
the entry in general? Did you ever wonder if asking a judge
might be misconstrued as challenging their decision, their
intelligence or integrity? Did you ever wonder if it was all right
to do so, might there be some rule against doing so?
This past week I sent out a request on a judge’s list and asked as
many judges that would like to respond to do so. I asked that
they respond in a fashion that would permit me to include their
names along with their responses. I believe that new trends in
education and mentoring have changed the views of some judges on
“exhibitor vs. judge” contact issues. For the most part, I believe
the “new age” judges coming along through the ranks feel this
interaction is an opportunity to learn and to hopefully, also
educate newcomers to our sport.
If you are indeed fairly new to the sport, this information may be
helpful to you in the future, your approach to the judges and it may
also dispel the myth that judges are mean and unapproachable. I am
certain in many cases that people are confident enough of their
exhibits that the judge’s opinion is merely something that they paid
for and that’s as far as it goes. However for some of us, especially
so under judges that we have great respect for, we feel fortunate to
have an opinion from such a judge, win or lose!
Your approach to such a judge is certainly the key to getting the
desired results. If you are truly sincere and interested in this
individual’s opinion of your dog, I think, provided your body
language and intentions are genuine, you’ll find it to be a
rewarding experience. Do remember that no judge is an expert in all
breeds, each opportunity to judge a new breed, is simply an
experience to broaden their base of knowledge. Please remember when
any judge applies for new breeds along the way, we depend on
mentors, education, and past experiences to make informed decisions.
As judges we are all eager to learn more, especially about breeds
that we are fresh new students of.
Listed below are the responses to the following question I put to
the judge’s list. In thinking through this article before I wrote
it, a particular quote comes to mind that may very well apply to
both judge and exhibitor alike. “Better to remain silent and thought
a fool then to open one's mouth and remove all doubts.” If you are
truly not interested in a judge’s opinion or as a judge you have
nothing kind to say, might be best to plead the 5th and move on with
One last note, if any of you would care to share your personal
experiences regarding this topic and would do so in a diplomatic
fashion, I think it might be beneficial to some of our readers.
Please know that to insure the integrity of the article, we will
reprint all responses with author’s name attached. Please send
I hope you enjoy!
If an exhibitor approached you to inquire about your choices
in a given breed, do you feel it is part of your job description to
provide him or her with an explanation?
I feel we have an obligation to educate exhibitors. Depending on the
person's attitude, if it is sincere and I could tell they really wanted
to know and not just argue, I would be happy to give them my reasons. I
have done it and most seem to appreciate knowing where I am coming
Dana, in answer to you inquiry, I think it would depend on the
individual situation and the approach of the person. While I am
NOT prepared to listen to the ravings of an irate "professional" handler
or long-time breeder owner, if the person truly exhibits that he or she
is asking to improve their knowledge of the breed or understand more
clearly my interpretation of the breed standard, I certainly would give
them a clear and concise answer without commenting on exhibits other
than their own.
I have a standard
rule when time permits. Anyone wishing to discuss a decision
in any breed is allowed to only discuss their own dog. Any
mention or discussion of another exhibitor's dog is off limits and
inappropriate and they are told so. In general I have found
that the person standing in the first place position understands the
virtues of the choice while those from second back only see the
fault on the dog in first place.
It is best that you do not discuss the merits or faults of a dog
with anyone other than the owner. As you know, we
are too often misquoted.
That depends on the
circumstances. If it is one of the exhibitors, I will discuss
his dog with him, but not the other dogs. If someone from the
crowd comes up, unless I know them and think they are actually
from an academic standpoint, I usually sidestep the question.
When people want to talk about placements, I ask them to come back
after pictures and after my assignment is finished when we have time
to talk. This gets rid of the ones who aren't serious or who
are just angry at not getting a placement they wanted.
First, I tell them
that I will not discuss other people's dogs. I then ask them if they
are truly interested in my opinion of their dog or are they upset
because they did not win. If they say they are interested, I
tell them to meet me with their dog and we will go through the breed
standard together. Most of the time they do not show up...What
To my knowledge, AKC (and I
agree with this approach) supports the position that a judge
should not discuss his judging of a specific dog with anyone
other then the person who exhibited the dog. If that person
would like a critique or the reasoning behind the placement
he/she was given, I believe that it would be appropriate to have
that discussion. If however the exhibitor wanted an overall,
more general or specific discussion as to the merits or lack
there of of the entire entry I would decline to have that
I try to meet all
requests in a positive manner, talk about what I look for in an
exhibit and that sort of thing. If there is a special
with the exhibit I am being asked about, poorly trained for
example, I try to address getting help to improve for future
shows. I know I asked judges when I was showing and
it was always interesting. Sometimes I found I didn't want
to hear what the judge had to say but listening was always
Since I have not actually had the opportunity to judge yet, my
opinion is probably not terribly relevant. I just wanted to
mention that judges in North America, unlike most of the rest of
the world, are not required to make a written critique of all
the entries - or at least those which place. I think we get off
pretty easy in that department, so providing a SHORT,
constructive critique to an exhibitor would be an appropriate
response to a POLITE query. I have learned a lot from
judges over the years. I hope that I can pass some of that
along to the next generation of enthusiasts in our sport.
Having said that, I don't plan to make unsolicited comments - I
don't EVER recall a time when a judge volunteered a comment to
me about my entry that made me think he/she was more
intelligent. Typically, it lowered my opinion of both the
judge and the outcome.
Maureen Sullivan Gamble
Yes. I would
phrase my answer in positive terms, using words from the standard,
and allow the person who asked the question a glimpse into my
thinking process. I have no problem saying nice things about
good dogs to anyone who asks.
No, I most
definitely do not feel that it is in my job description as a
judge to converse one way or the other with an exhibitor
regarding my opinions/choices or decisions in any given breed.
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