DANELINKS.COM                             2/1/05




Helpful hints,
Basic requirements and
How I got my start

by Dana Cline

Almost seven years ago to the day I received a letter from the AKC declaring I had been granted judging status in all of the 28 breeds I had made application for. As I began my new “career” as a judge progressing from my previous handler status, early on I found myself defending my credibility and eligibility to some skeptics who felt handlers were being granted breeds in excess of their abilities. These individuals felt that by merely being a handler, it did not qualify any person to pass judgment on the numbers of breeds they were being granted, and certainly never to the degree of granting entire groups to any such individual.

I was certainly not the only target of them, but perhaps because of the large number of breeds I was granted, I might very well have been their favorite target, at least for that period of time.


What I discovered was that I was not alone, many other young, multi- breed judges were being singled out as well. For the most part I chose to ignore, however on a few occasions it was necessary to explain how I came up through the ranks and felt I deserved and earned the status I now enjoyed.  After the dust settled a bit, and I established myself and got comfortable in my new role, I was generally accepted and respected…It seemed as though my former critics had turned and realized I had actually “earned my stripes.”


We may all joke from time to time and say things such as dog judging isn't “solving world peace" nor is it “brain surgery,” but I have always felt that if something is so consuming it holds your attention for great lengths of time, it must be worthy of the very best you can give it!  Through the years, I have seen friendships and relationships parted, homes mortgaged and in general all sorts of chaotic scenarios occur in the name of our beloved dogs and dog shows!  If the emotional impact of this sport could reach such levels then it is indeed, at least for the participants,
a “big deal!”  When I made the decision to leave my handling career behind to pursue my judging career, not only did I sacrifice a great deal of my income, but perhaps most important, I chose to give back something to the sport that had been so good to me for such a very long time.


Many times along the way I've been asked if I truly enjoy judging and if I could ever return to handling. Yes, I truly enjoy judging and no, I don't think I could ever handle again. I always felt as a student of this sport that I would one day find myself working in this capacity or something similar. I have provided for you my personal resume, as close to exact as possible, a guideline for anyone who might wish to become a judge or at the very least understand some of the requirements.


As a youngster, I could hardly say I had aspirations of becoming a judge, nor did I, in my wildest dreams believe I’d be judging a group at the nation's greatest dog show… but it has all come to pass. What I did realize was that I loved the sport both in the competitive sense and in the breeding sense. When I began devoting every spare hour, after studies and other activities, and attending dog shows as much as my parents would allow, I knew that this was the place for me. I wanted to go as far as I possibly could in this sport.

Being a stickler for detail, I was very efficient at keeping records, therefore I knew almost every dog I had ever shown, at what show, and to what award. (very important, essential requirement for judging applicants) . I suppose that in my earlier years, I focused my efforts more on the breeding aspect of the sport, not yet realizing that I could actually provide for myself as a professional handler of dogs. By the mid 80’s I had bred 20 + champions in at least 3 breeds combined. (according to the AKC, a specific number of litters bred, champions resulting from those litters and litters born on your premises is a requirement). After working the “normal” type job, I decided to devote my entire life to grooming, showing and breeding purebred dogs. In the 80’s I also opened my grooming business, taught conformation training classes and began my career as a professional dog handler. ( grooming and training and handling dogs fall under the AKC’S definition of enriching components) At the point I had made application to the AKC and retired from my handling career in late December 1997, I had amassed the following credentials on my application.


Had bred or co-bred over 60 champions combined in 5 various breeds.


Had handled both client dogs and my own dogs to championship status. (finished over 80 champions in several breeds within all 7 groups).


Had handled BISS, BIS, and multiple group winning dogs in multiple breeds and groups.


Had acted as a mentor in my breed to prospective judges.


Had judged over 60 AKC sanctioned matches and sweepstakes.


Had acted as a ring steward on several occasions. (5 required)


Had traveled to foreign countries and observed and handled dogs there.


Had been mentored by clients then and on a continuing basis, in all current and past breeds.


Had traveled and worked for at least two professional handlers as an apprentice.


There are perhaps a few reasons why one might not wish to pursue a judging career; if you lack confidence, have trouble making decisions, hate air travel, or just plain have no interest. For the most part, I feel that anyone who has devoted a significant part of their lives to a successful breeding program, or handling career, owes it to the sport to continue to share your knowledge in some way or another. I felt that personally, my best efforts would be spent through judging and educating and of course, constantly learning through each and every assignment.


The AKC lists all the required elements for judges on it's website @ akc.org.

For anyone who might one day be the least bit interested in judging, I hope that this information may be of some interest and assistance to you.  Judging is more than just what it appears, it is sharing knowledge, evaluating breeding stock, and yes your opinion does make a difference.


If at any time I can be of assistance to anyone interested in making application to judge, I am always here and happy to assist you.

Other articles by Dana Cline:


o material from DANELINKS.COM may be republished in any form without written permission.