Another grumble from the growler

For those not yet aware, we now have a show world insider writing anonymously through this column and so far speaking quite a bit of sense. Today the Growler lifts a lip at the judges and judging.

We have new breed standards for a lot of breeds but I would question how many judges are reading and judging to them?
The judges also now have the responsibility of looking at general health and temperament issues, which seems a bit unfair.
Not many judges are vets.
 Surely any dog which has a health issue should have been somehow prevented from being in the ring in the first place. (Maybe vetting even on a random basis should be brought back?)
Breeders again have a huge responsibility here - after all a judge can only judge what is there on the day.
 It’s breeders who sell pups as a show prospect or not.
 Although looking at the adverts you could not be faulted for thinking a lot of breeders never have a pure pet-quality puppy born in their kennels.
Yes, some judges need to have a rethink.
 We get some who are rough.
 Some who do place friends and people who can do them favours and some who quite frankly don't have a clue.
 But the simple answer to all those who moan about it, day in day out, is keep a book.
If a judge does not like your 'type' or does a bad job, then don't enter under them again.
After all, we are the customers.
Although I think first take an honest look at your dog from every aspect. Even training and turnout.
But don't moan, just keep your cash in your pocket next time the judge is appointed.
 If numbers of entries drop, Show societies do take notice.
It is about time some of our judges - including those at the top - improved in a lot of things. Manners in some cases being among them - but so can a lot of exhibitors.
Also I have noticed the huge amount of other influences on our judges and I don't believe any judge who says these don't affect them as even subconsciously it does.
For example I have watched several now 'top dogs' who did very little until large amounts were spent on adverts and pictures in the dog press, then they seem to suddenly do much better.
 Unfair yes, but a fact of life.
Also those who are on committees of various clubs and show societies have an advantage as no matter what, many judges know who they are  - and you don't bite the hand that gives you an appointment.
 After all judging brings rewards as well.
Your own kennel does do better on some occasions if you are a judge. Top judges get overseas jollies paid for and status is suddenly elevated among dog folk, plenty of reasons to be a little less than ethical on occasion.
So Judges, yes things could improve - but I surprise myself by saying that they are certainly not as guilty as I thought.

I have to say that it does sound like nothing much has changed in the judging world except now judges are made by the KC to sign a piece of paper to say the dogs are healthy - and thereby allegedly making exaggerated cripples winning the judge's fault and not the KC's!
But as Growler points out, judges are very rarely vets!
And they don't have x-ray vision.
I know I am always banging on about how good the Swedes are - but at least every dog registered by the Swedish KC has two parents that have had all the appropriate health tests and had good results. Does kind of make the judge's job a bit easier if the KC boots out the most obviously unhealthy dogs from the breeding line.
And I have to say I'm skeptical about Growler's optimism about the size of entry reflecting how good a judge is. In my experience the very worst judges always drew the biggest entries - as it was like taking part in a raffle as every dog stood an equal chance of winning as the judge had not the faintest idea what they were looking for! The line up for the CC would look more like an  AV class as there was no pattern to the dogs that won.
I used to love allrounders like the late Bobby James and Joe Braddon. They knew so much about movement and construction that they'd slice through an entry in record time and end up with the best dogs effortlessly, no matter who was on the other end of the lead. They didn't need adverts in the show papers to let them know who the top winners were - they'd have the confidence to give newcomers their first CC if the dog deserved it. And judging for them was a passion, not a means to another end!
And I loathe little cliquey groups who exchange CCs among themselves. Judge X  gives the CC to Y's dog. Y judges next week and gives the CC to Z, Z judges and gives the CC to X. And so it goes on year after year. Passing back the favour regardless of which is the best dog on the day. Lots of dogs just scraping three CCs to become a Champion from the same short list of breeder/judges.
When questioned they'll all claim to like the same 'type'. And they'll all be so matey they'll be using each others phoney champions as studs, so they may end up all looking the same - probably having six toes and two heads by the time they've finished inbreeding. Brave person that spots a dog outside the cartel and risks giving it the top prize.
And then there are the wannabe allround judges whose training seems to involve reading the paper to see who won in the breed last week and trying to not look like they're looking at the wrong end of the lead too obviously when they judge. And the top breeders all know who they are and some of them will chance their worst dogs under these pointless fools! Or more amusing still, try to look like and dress like the top handler just to confuse them!
That's where dog showing goes very wrong, where it is seen by those involved as a 'game' to be played on any level. It shouldn't be just about winning by any means, it should be about the best dogs winning and being bred on from. But now we know the perils of the overuse of popular sires, maybe the odd phoney judges making up inappropriate champions are doing their bit inadvertently for more genetic diversity......!
I'm beginning to get even more grumpy than the growler! Time to sign off.
What sickens me is how ripped off all the lovely novices are being - those who enter their first shows naively with their pet dogs imagining they may actually stand a chance of winning under these 'judges' if their dog is up to standard. It's about as rare as hen's teeth.


Jo Lovell said…
I would like to see dogs going into the ring to be handed over to "handlers" at random. That way the owner cannot influence the behaviour of the dog or the judge. I have seen lame dogs win cc's and good dogs thrown out in the cut.

All dogs over 18 months should be required to produce health certificates if appropriate for the breed, ie. hips and elbows or eyes. Genetic evidence should also be taken into account. Even vets dont always get it right re health, as proven by the young gsd asked to leave crufts from a display class due to poor hips - late the BVA/KC test proved them very good.
Anonymous said…
Yes we have all seen some very odd decisions but when it comes down to it we can all choose to vote with our feet but instead we put up with it
Rowena said…
Rowena Smith . Many of these comments are very valid. We need brave people to make changes in the way we show dogs in this country. It needs to be seen to be fair and open. I think changing handlers is a good idea. This would be fair good judges will be able to select good dogs and poor judges will be shown up.
cambstreasurer said…
Can anyone comment on the amounts of money which are involved?

You occasionally hear enormous values quoted for some individual stud dogs, but the few people I've ever really had contact with who bred dogs were simply doing it as a hobby on the back of running boarding kennels.

I don't think they were making any profit from the breeding side of it at all and the major attraction was being able to have the daughter, granddaughter etc. of favourite dogs. That meant they had a strong incentive to breed for health.

Admittedly the show people I know would not be a representative sample.

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