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‘Bent’ judges: (Part 4) the debate continues

Is it fair to say that the Kennel Club is not doing enough to prevent 'bent' judging?

Your chance to have your say by ringing our VOTELINE

0901 502 0010 - YES

0901 502 0011 - NO

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Fact or fiction?

Following our leading feature article, we have been inundated with comments and responses from readers.

We feature here some longer statements made either by letter or in our breed notes.

We know the Kennel Club is very interested in seeing and hearing people’s views, so why not let them know through this page. We will be featuring the best of your letters and e-mails over the next few weeks.

Constructive comments on how YOU would tackle the problem are particularly requested.

We can all give examples of the problem and say it exists, it’s what to do about it that’s the difficult bit.

We welcome all letters to the Editor by email, fax or letter.

Please reply to:

• Tel: 08707 31 65 00 • Fax: 08707 31 65 01

Your letters on the subject of Bent Judges (Nov 15th) reminded me of an incident in the late 70's. I was exhibiting my dog under a well-known judge (now deceased) and having put him on the table was asked to show his mouth. Knowing it was a good one I did so. "Oh dear, how very disappointing" the judge remarked. Dismayed I said "Why, what is wrong with it?".

"He doesn't have a ten quid note tucked between his teeth", he replied. Exhibitors wondered why I fell about laughing...

June Tomlinson, Buxted, Sussex

When I first starting showing in the mid 1980s I had strong opinions on judges. Any judge that did not place my dog first or at the least in the first four was either bent, stupid or both. It took some time before I did the sensible thing and looked at my dog and recognised his virtues and faults. As he got older he became better and as I learned more I discovered that political judges did not judge as frequently as I had first thought. They were still there, just not as many.

Over the years I, along with everyone else, have heard all the reasons for Judges to be political, at least in the eyes of the exhibitor. A classic example of the reasons is 'Judge A has used Exhibit B on his bitch and therefore he will get the CC'. This may be true - but stop and think about this statement and some may change your mind. The majority of exhibitors/breeders use a dog at stud that is going to complement their lines and quite often the dog is a known producer. A championship show judge with an appointment is no different from anyone else, if they like a dog enough to use that dog then it is not beyond the realms of possibility that they think that dog is worthy of a CC.

Some say they should not mate a bitch before judging at a confirmed championship show appointment but that is not fair. Why should anyone delay mating a bitch because of what others may say? It may be the last chance to mate a bitch, some people have preferences for summer or other times of the year to have a litter. Just because the Judge has used a dog at stud and then promotes that dog does not make this political. What if the same dog is already a Champion or a multi CC or Res. CC winner? Why is the Judge who has used that dog political when awarding a CC or other excellent Championship Show wins when other Judges who have also promoted the same dog are not?

Another example is 'Exhibit A only won because it goes to the same training Club as the Judge'. This can also been seen as being political. But if anyone thinks about all the dogs that have been at their training club over the years as well as dogs that are currently attending the club, there will be some dogs that they like and would be proud to have owned and others they just would not pay the money to feed the dog. The same could be said of friends’ dogs, some are good and some are not so good, some you may like to own and some you would not. Judging them and placing them highly or winning does not make that a dishonest decision, it means that you like the dog. And if that dog is usually there or thereabouts why is one Judge political and the others not?

It may be easier to establish political judging by awards being given to dogs that aren't normally in the running for high placings. In GSD judging under Specialist Breed Judges all dogs are placed, first to last. If a dog is normally in the bottom half of the class or not near the front then goes on and wins a CC or Reserve and a connection is established that may be political. If a puppy is not usually in contention for a high place then goes on and wins a BPD or BP award and a link between the owner and Judge can be confirmed, this may be political. But how do you prove it?

There are times when dogs are winning when they are not worthy of doing so. There are dogs who are not winning who should be. Some of this may be political, some may be lack of knowledge and sometimes it is suspected of being both. Political and lack of knowledge because the Judge does not know who the owner/handler is. I am sure that I am not alone in having seen some Judges look for guidance from outside the ring. Are they looking for divine intervention or to see if they can find out who the owner of the exhibit is?

Some people are overheard discussing the merits of a particular exhibit. One of them is judging six months later and rumour has it that this exhibit is winning the CC because of the content of the overheard discussion. Do you encourage others to not enter because you know the Judge likes something else? This exhibit then goes on and wins, Yeah, there you are, proved right. Was it political or was it because the Judge really liked this dog?

Political judging does happen. But no matter how much discussion takes place about this issue unless it can be proven that a Judges' decision was 'bent' nothing can be done. Political or Bent Judging has to be defined before anything can be done to stop it. Action cannot be taken against a Judge because others think they are Political or Dishonest.

Evidence has to be produced and the case against any Judge proven before they are run out of town or removed from Judging Lists.

Linda Kitson

As a breeder, exhibitor and judge, I am able to look back over the past 50 years and see how the world of pedigree dogdom has developed during that time. The subject of judges has always been a complex one. They say nothing changes! As in any walk of life, where you have people expressing opinions, there will always be others who hold a different point of view! After all, as we know, it is only because judges come up with different decisions, that it is possible for dog shows to continue!

There are so many facets regarding judging. Knowledge of the subject and integrity must go hand in hand, and where we have it, we cannot ask for more. Quite frankly, I think dishonest judges are rare; what we suffer from, are many who are incompetent. Also, another part of the equation, is the disgruntled exhibitor, who will have a blinkered outlook, and considers all his geese are swans.

In the early days after the war, breeds were judged mainly by all-round judges and few breed specialists. In those days, the word ‘specialist’ meant ‘specialist’: people who were authorities on their breeds, noted for having bred and shown dogs of merit.

Gradually there has been a change in the way our dog judges have emerged. Now it seems everyone wants to be a judge! Why? Some of our numerically strong breeds have several hundred judges, now qualified to award CCs, referred to as ‘specialists’, which rather makes a nonsense of the word! Is this perhaps where we have gone wrong, and what is now causing such dissatisfaction, amongst some of the present day exhibitors? It would appear, in spite of more and more training, and more and more seminars, we are not producing better judges!

Good dog judges are ‘born with an eye’. Without that, all the training in the world is wasted!

The all-rounder now plays a small part on the judging scene, although when they do adjudicate, quite often new champions are started on their way.

It is interesting, that we are about the only country in the world that relies on the ‘specialist’ judge. In America and other successful countries, breed judges are rare, specialist judges usually emerge from the successful breeders, who are no longer actively involved.

All is not bad. As a judge of groups, I know that on many occasions, there is some excellent judging taking place. But I am aware also, that too many times I have Best of Breed winners presented to me, that are a disgrace! Not sent through necessarily by bent judges, but sadly grossly incompetent. Judges who, apparently, would not recognise a good dog if they fell over one, and will never in a thousand years.

However, there are good things in this world of dogs which we participate in and enjoy. The dogs themselves, gladden our lives. I am surprised too, that we have not as yet heard from those who reached the dizzy height of success as complete novices. There are a number of cases over the years, when raw beginners sailed to the top with the first dog. Let us hear about them. The great comfort must be - you can’t keep a good dog down!

Name & address supplied

I have been showing dogs for over fifty years and over the years judges have gone downhill. The powers that be brought in new rules to supposedly improve the standard of judging and this seems to have backfired .

All this has done is to make it into a money making scheme for the canine societies. It then allows in people who have not had the experience of seeing the good dogs over the years and learning about their breed; all they are doing is getting the exams and bits of paper that say they have taken the test needed but they haven’t got the knowledge and some will never have an eye for a good dog. You simply can’t judge a dog by getting bits of paper that say you can do the job if you haven’t got the hands on experience.

How many of the people who make the rules have taken the exams?

Pat McGee

In order to judge, all judges should have a licence. If they receive too many complaints against them then they should have their licence endorsed just like a driver’s licence.

Depending on the nature of the complaint against them will depend on the points allocated against the licence. In the event that the points are becoming too many they should be disqualified completely and put onto a blacklist. Any reputable Judge who has passed their diplomas will surely not mind this.

Also if the Judge’s name was withheld until the day of the show this would stop people following around their favourite judge...

Janet Ellis