NOVICE - RECALL (Chapter 3, Sections 10 and 11)
The suggested location for a judge is off to the side of the dog and handler and slightly behind. A narrow angle gives a better view of the team and being on the side of the dog gives a less obstructed view. As the handler leaves the dog, both can be observed. When the dog is called or signaled the judge can move in (at a distance) and follow the dog. If the path of the dog is followed the judge will "give up" a good view of noticing if the dog sat out too far or came in too close. Walking in at the angle will afford a better view of the Front, and then the judge can step behind the dog to judge the Front and Finish.
OPEN - RETRIEVE ON THE FLAT (Chapter 4, Sections 9 and 10)
When the handler sends the dog to retrieve the judge is basically observing two Recalls plus the retrieving parts of the exercise. The dog must go out directly, at a brisk trot or gallop, retrieve promptly, at the end of the ring with the team or at the far end of the ring in front of and off to the side of the team. Both locations give the judge a constant view of the dog and handler at the same time. A judge who stands in the middle of the ring can only watch the dog OR handler - not BOTH at the same time. The same holds true for the Retrieve Over High Jump and Scent Discrimination. If you compromise your viewing of an exercise you also compromise your judging of an exercise!
6. The scoring of a performance.
Judgment is based on knowledge and experience and as a judge scores a performance they will be drawing from these resources. Having a good knowledge of Obedience before you start judging is important, but one's knowledge and understanding will grow with experience. In Chapter 2 of the Obedience Regulations, Sections 1, 5 and 24 need to be reviewed. Before stepping into the ring to judge you will need to be aware of the various faults and have an understanding of what penalties are to be applied to said faults. From reading the Regulations one will obtain an idea of what constitutes a minor or substantial penalty. The Glossary of Terms defines a minor penalty as 2 1/2 points or LESS and a substantial as 3 or MORE points. The Regulations also mention some of the more common faults and state whether to apply a substantial or minor penalty. They also give the latitude of applying a minor or substantial penalty. Sounds simple, but good judging comes from knowing when to apply which penalty and the assessment of points to be taken off.
The heeling exercises are among the most challenging to judge. The scoring is not all clear-cut. For example, what point value will YOU apply to a dog that does NOT sit as the handler comes to a halt? The Regulations list some of the faults associated with heeling and the scoring in Chapter 3, Section 6: "Substantial or minor deductions shall be made for such things as lagging, heeling wide, forging, crowding, poor sits, failure to sit, handler failing to walk at a brisk pace, occasional guidance with leash and other imperfections of heeling." These are imperfections in heeling, as the dog is not performing the exercise to perfection as described in Chapter 3, Section 5. YOU now have to determine if this is a minor or substantial penalty and then what point value to deduct.
Let's say you had three different dogs come into YOUR ring and on the first halt during the heeling exercise each dog failed to sit. As you penalize the no sit do YOU have a preset value of points to assess? For example, do you feel a no sit is a substantial penalty and therefore subject to a three or more point deduction? Or, are you going to consider the different actions that took place as the handler halted before making your decision?
To help make up your mind, consider a few of the variables in regards to the three dogs not sitting:
A. The handler halts and the dog stands in perfect heel position.
B. The handler halts and the dog stands on the handler's left side but out at a 45 degree angle to the direction in which the handler is facing.
C. The handler halts and the dog forges ahead and then comes back and stands in front of and facing the handler.
Each dog made the error of not sitting but the degree of error differed from dog A to C. Are you still going to deduct a set number of points for a no sit or develop a scoring system that might be a little more flexible as to the seriousness of the error? Keep in mind, one of your responsibilities is to separate the top four dogs and handlers in the class. What if dogs A, B and C only had that one error. Will you have a three-way runoff, or will you have separated their work by scoring the differences in their work? These are some of the tough decisions YOU are going to have to make!
In all exercises the first thing to keep in mind is the principle part of the exercise and did the dog and/or handler meet the requirements. If in question, refer to the Regulations for that exercise and if still in doubt read the first sentence of Chapter 2, Section 3, QUALIFYING PERFORMANCE. In the scoring of a performance, another area to consider is the penalizing of SEVERAL serious faults during an exercise. The Regulations may state when a substantial deduction is to be applied but the judge must also keep in mind if the dog and/or handler are fulfilling the minimum requirements of that exercise and if the performance warrants a qualifying score.
For example, the Retrieve On Flat is a twenty-point exercise. In order for a dog and handler to have a qualifying performance in AN exercise, they must earn OVER 50% of the points available in that exercise. In this case they must earn at least ten and one-half points. Now, let's look at a dog's performance on the Retrieve On The Flat.
A. The dog SAUNTERS out to retrieve the dumbbell on command.
B. The dumbbell is picked up, then dropped and again picked up.
C. The dog SAUNTERS back to the handler and performs a perfect Front.
D. The dog SAUNTERS into a Finish (on command) and has a poor sit.
The errors listed in A, B and C are substantial deductions, depending on the extent, as per Chapter 4, Section 9. Are YOU going to deduct the minimum points (three) for a substantial deduction for EACH occurrence in A, B and C? Then are YOU going to score the lack of being prompt and smart in the performance of the Finish along with the poor sit? Let's say you take JUST a half-point off for the Finish and another half-point off for the poor sit. Look at your total deductions. You may have taken off ten points from a twenty-point exercise. That is NOT MORE THAN 50%. Are YOU going to fail the dog? Or, will it be your philosophy of judging to score harder during the first several major faults and ease off as long as the work is still qualifying in your mind? The dog did perform the exercise by responding promptly to the handler's "Fetch" command and completed the exercise as per the requirements in Chapter 4, Section 8. These are just a FEW examples of things to THINK of when you step into the judge's shoes. Who said judging Obedience was easy!? It is a challenge and very rewarding when you leave the trial knowing you did your best for the sport.
7. How are the ribbon prizes presented?
After the last dog in the class has been judged, the scores are recorded and the judge calls the qualifying teams back into the ring for presenting the prizes and awards.
The American Kennel Club wants like the presenting of ribbon prizes to be a bit of a ceremony. Winning the blue through white ribbons is a big deal and the judge should present the winners to the spectators, who are on the outside of the ring. A good judge will first address the onlookers and briefly state what constitutes a perfect score, and may go into detail describing a qualifying score. The judge should keep their comments to a minimum during the awards ceremony and then announce the prize winning dog and handler. It is suggested to mention the score BEFORE the armband number. If armband number is announced first the spectators will clap and cheer and miss hearing the score.
As a judge you will want to "present" the first four prizewinners and separate the four teams away from the rest of the qualifiers in the class. This way the spectators can observe and take note as to who won. Have the winners come forward to receive the ribbon prize and ask them to remain in front of the group. Then do the same for second through fourth. Also, keep in mind to speak up when awarding the four placements so people in the second row outside the ring can hear.
After the placements are concluded the judge then goes to each handler and tells them their score. You then conclude the awards and turn in the Judge's Book. If time permits after turning in the Book you may speak with exhibitors about their scores. The judge is encouraged, but not required, to discuss the scoring, but a judge need not enter into any discussion with any contestant who appears to be dissatisfied. This sport is based on good sportsmanship and that is the image to project.
When speaking with exhibitors use the same words that appear in the Regulations. For example, don't tell the handler the dog lost points for bumping during the heeling. "Bumping" is NOT a word used in the Regulations. The judge should have chosen words such as crowding or not allowing the handler freedom of motion at all times, rather than commonly used obedience lingo. Using terms other than those found in the Regulations might be misleading and confusing, creating some doubts as to the knowledge of the judge. Judges bear the responsibility of educating exhibitors -- new and "old."
If you are considering applying to judge Obedience in the future, keep a good perspective...judging should be taken seriously but not to the point where the fun and common sense are lost. At the same time don't overlook the dedicated, experienced exhibitors who have invested countless time and work into the sport, or the Novices just starting out. They deserve and demand good, fair, consistent judging and it will be up to YOU to meet these demands. Don't let the title of judge go to your head, or form the opinion that you "know it all" and "have seen it all." NO ONE has a 200 in that department - so keep mentally fit by attending AKC Obedience Judging Seminars, training dogs, and observing other judges. Obtaining approval to judge is JUST the beginning!
This article only provides you with a LITTLE idea of what it takes to step into the shoes of an Obedience judge. If you plan to walk in these shoes always put the sport of dogs first in your thinking. We have a fun sport and it requires responsible people to keep it sound. Judges in Conformation, Tracking, Field, Obedience and other Performance Events have a BIG responsibility in protecting the integrity of the Sport of Purebred Dogs.
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