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‘Bent’ judges: (Part 5) 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

Are Judges Bent? An interesting question, is it considered bent judging to put up a dog based on your own lines? Surely those lines are what appeals to you in your breed so therefore as a matter of course you will like them.

Is it bad judging because you lose? I have never heard anyone with a winning dog say the judging was bent. Really bad judging in my opinion is when someone puts a dog down the line because he/she knows the ringside expects it to win.

If it is a good dog then is should go up because it is a good dog, not because of who is on the other end of the lead or because of how well it is turned out but because it fits the standard in the judges opinion. People will always complain about the judging it is human nature and competative spirit, no-one likes to lose so they will look for someone to blame when they do and more often than not it is the judge who has the finger pointed at them. In my opinion the problem at the moment is not bent judges but poor sportsmanship on the part of the exhibitors.

I don't think Dog Show judges are any more bent than those in other animal exhibition groups. I have seen really bad judging in sheep and cattle over the years and when I have questioned it I have been told that the judge is related to winning exhibitor or said exhibitor wined and dined the Judge the night before the show!

Carol Moore, North Wales

I maybe should not comment on your Judges in the United Kingdom but having seen them in "action", at both Open and Championship shows I will.

I think training is the key to being a better Judge! prior to when your KC decided to observe Judges,a lot of your judges were selected on who they knew and not what they knew about certain breeds or even one breed, its not enough that you have been in a certain breed for many years, there is more to judging than that.

Here in this country all our Judges have to be retested every five years just to keep them abreast of changes to Rules at Shows, new breeds etc, now maybe thats not required in the UK but keeping the judges informed of changes is also a good idea.

On-going Seminars are also a good idea too, with respect.

George Edward Levecque,
Belwood, Ontario, Canada

The GRC has sent the following letter: "The GRC Committee has received much critical comment about the competence of judges at Open shows and, more worryingly, at Championship shows. We believe that lack of confidence in the fairness of many judges is the critical factor in the steady decline in Golden Retriever entries at all show levels. This disillusionment stems from the real or perceived judging bias, people seeing themselves as makeweight exhibitors and the realisation that they stand little chance of the quality of their stock being recognised. It is no joke to pay today's entry fees and travel costs solely to be ignored. Perhaps another contributory factor comes from the Foot and Mouth hiatus and the realisation that there is life and enjoyment outside dog shows.

Of greater concern, however, is the impact of bad judging on the breed and the breed standard. The breed stock is slowly changing because the standard is ignored when it is expedient so to do. Whilst much of the breed standard is objective, there is much room for subjectivity but this must be within the standard and not outside the same. Unless the current trends can be reversed at some stage either the standard will have to be rewritten, or ignoring the standard becomes the norm in judging to the detriment of the Golden Retriever.

The Judges Sub-committee, which is the custodian of the GRC Judges Lists, is frequently criticised - damned if we do and damned if we don't. The Kennel Club initiative concerning the qualification of people serving on Judges sub-committees has improved the process of preparing the annual lists, but there is still the problem that some decisions are based on limited information and knowledge. The Kennel Club Assessors/Evaluators for the first time Championship show judges are not required to comment on the actual judging compared to the breed standard in preparing their assessment. Even so, sadly there is no feed back to either the Breed Council or the Breed Clubs. We wish to change that with the launch of a two year pilot project through which the members of the GRC will have the opportunity to comment on a judge's performance at Open show and Championship show levels.

A questionnaire - an initial copy has been sent to all members of the GRC - has been developed to facilitate both positive and negative feedback from the membership. Strict requirements must be met in completing the form so that emotive outbursts are minimised and identified. The data generated will be held in confidence and will only be used by the GRC in matters relating to judges for Golden Retrievers. Specifically the data will be used in preparing the annual Judges Lists. The information will not be passed on to any third party. At the end of the pilot study the project will be reviewed and conclusions and recommendations made to the membership.

Six years ago, at my first championship show, I was approached by a championship show judge connected with my puppy’s line. He said he was going to show the dog - an offer I declined - he said “Don’t you want to win? It matters if your face fits.” I replied that if my dog won, I wanted it to be because of the bottom of the lead not the top. His parting comment was that “I would learn!” We did not win, but took a place in the line-up and I was thrilled. Always handled by me, this dog went on to win at all levels, and has produced some lovely quality puppies including two champions to date.

When I began exhibiting one of his daughters, I was approached by another championship show judge who told me he would make her a champion. Again I declined the offer, maintaining that if it was her detiny to be ‘made up’ - she would be. I was told my naivety was touching, that I didn’t understand ‘the system’ - the ‘face’ mattered, and that I would never do it. I have, she has five CCs and RCC at Crufts 2002.

Perseverence, determination and commitment play their part for any exhibitor in the face of all that stands against them. I have observed many times, a dog doing well, exhibited by its owner, but all of a sudden the famous face takes over and the CCs seem to come. Better handling? Maybe.

Then there is the ‘dynasty exhibiting’ - the famous name walks in the ring with an exhibit not owned by them but out of their dog/bitch and by sheer association it must be good! Mustn’t it?

KC regulations for the exhibition of dogs (F) Nos 2 ab and 3 ARE flouted but difficult to prove.

Then there are the subtle pressures brought to bear. If the exhibitor before you also has the power to influence your proposed judging appointment have you got the bottle NOT to give them first? For some judges, it seems not.

What a tragedy, Mr David Stevens’ letter OUR DOGS November 15, ‘Nothing has changed’ is a dire warning. Come on KC, do something!

There are times when people of good conscience must stand and not walk away accepting what they see as the inevitable control of those more powerful.

There are corrupt people involved in self seeking behaviour. Illegal operations are performed.
Fearful of their future prospects some do not judge as they know they should.

The extract you printed from the KC’s statement mentioned that rumours would not be ignored. This also must be carefully evaluated, as no doubt those who have no personal integrity would see even this as an opportunity to bring down those who have interfered with their agendas. The small hobby exhibitor is still the backbone of the open show and we are increasingly disillusioned.

Sue Paterson