It’s all in the approach.....................
          .............."Asking the judge for their opinion"

by Dana Cline...


Welcome 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 healthy recovery.

This month I decided to do something a little different with the column, so I hope  you enjoy it.
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 your day!

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 responses to danacline@danelinks.com.   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?


Yes, 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 from. 
Peggy Beisel-Mcllwaine

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. 
Judy Harrington

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.
Bob Moore

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 interested
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.
Sherry E. Wallis

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 a surprise.
Peggy Hauck

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 discussion.
Barbara Ruth Smith

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

 circumstance 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 interesting.
Jocelyn Barker

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.
Nancy Liebes

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.
Annemarie Moore

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