INCORRECT VS CORRECT JUDGE’S PERSPECTIVE ON BREED EDUCATION
By Patricia H. Gilbert
I wrote the following words in a discussion about the Afghan Hound. I believe that my words hold true for every breed if you change Afghan Hound to your breed and make other small adjustments. Ed and I chose to publish this in our e-newsletter because we feel these words do apply for all breeds.
A dog show person commented in relation to their breed: “We have to educate many of the Judges to what is CORRECT and get them to start placing quality. The more we breed away from the correct the more we are losing exactly what makes this breed so distinctive and unique and it just becomes another dog.”
Ah therein lies the rub. It is called education! I am going to be the cat amongst the pigeons for the purposes of this discussion. I think the acceptance of education in the purebred dog world is miserable. When it is available, many don't give a darn about it. Why? It does not give them a ribbon or a win. Extra education does not count towards qualifications to becoming a judge. You only need to attend one Parent Club breed Seminar! There are no more boxes on the application to check. Also anything over five years is considered outdated. Huh! Such as on an ancient breed, the Afghan Hound, with a standard that remains unchanged in the US and Canada since 1948?
In the last 6 years, I have been to 4 Afghan Hound Club of America (AHCA) parent club approved judges' education seminars. One was great, two were good, and one was awful. I can also tell you that if I did not have a background in the breed I would have been lost.
1. Who is doing the education in the Afghan Hound world? We all should be teaching at every opportunity. Tell me what the Afghan Hound is. Don't tell me what it isn't!
2. What are the instructors and mentors teaching? They should teach the positives and essentials, then the nuances.
3. Do the instructors and mentors understand canine anatomy as it applies to the Afghan Hound and breed specific movement? This is difficult because you have to teach with hands on and teach to see past hair.
4. What are the instructors and mentors living examples of the Afghan Hound for hands on evaluation? At one of the seminars I saw a gorgeous animal that was being overlooked because he was heavily patterned. I made a point of telling the other judges that this was indeed a fine animal and coat really didn't matter as long as the pattern was correct. Then they all looked at the presenter and asked if this was true. Answer? You take a guess.
5. Are the dogs good representatives with quality? All dogs have their faults. The great ones wear them well. Or are only their faults pointed out? The least faulty dog does not make the best dog. It makes the least faulty dog and often is a mediocre specimen lacking in breed type. It is so easy to be negative. Negativity requires no thought process.
When you get educated ask for three positive things a person likes about the dog and then ask what would you change. Train you mind to be positive. Train your eye to recognize perfection and quality.
6. Did you know that ringside mentoring for judges at the AHCA National is not done during The Specials Class!!??? It is done during some of the class judging. Why ever would you not want to educate judges to supposedly the best of the best in the Best of Breed (BOB) competition?
Many of the judges signed up for AHCA parent club education at the National are already on their way home when the BOB competition walks into the ring! At one National not one potential judge stayed to watch the BOB judging. They have their required certificate and are ready to judge our breed after a little over 4 hours of what kind of education? One and 1/2 hours of lecture, up to 6 dogs for hands on and 2 hrs. ringside mentoring.
If I was in charge, no one would get my sign off certificate until the BOB and Awards were done. Then the aspiring judges would have to follow me to go over the winners. If you can't spend a weekend watching the breed, why then would you think you are qualified to forever pass judgment on Afghan Hounds until you die or resign and possibly affect the future of a breed that I love so much?
News Flash - What is being shown and what wins defines the direction of a breed.
I am here to categorically tell you that the way the systems work (AKC & CKC) now for judging approval, that it is a rare and dedicated judge that does more than the necessary box checking and minimum education in order to get approved. They hear one or two people speak and that is it! They read the breed standard and view the breed video or at least say they did.
Then they are educated by sitting ringside and watching what you in your post feel is incorrect. I agree with you. It is not correct but how do you paint a correct picture in the mind when all you can see is wrong? We can only judge and study what is presented!
So often our eyes and mind are trained to the best of mediocrity at one major entry. What good is it to excel in mediocrity?
Think about this because the breeders and exhibitors share the responsibility. They are the ones putting these dogs in the ring for our evaluation and education.
Ed and I stress in our seminars that you must train your eye and mind to perfection. We always seek perfection and go from there. You have to prioritize what is essential in a breed and what you can live with and want you can't live without.
What can we all do? We (breeders, exhibitors and judges) can promise to get ourselves educated and to never stop learning. We can seek out those we know to be prominent and knowledgeable in the breed and talk with them. If you get one pearl of wisdom, then your treasure chest of knowledge is enriched. We can go to seminars. We can get books and correspond with the authors. We can view videos. We can pick the brains of people at shows.
WE MUST DO MORE AND UNDERSTAND MORE THAN THE MINIMUM BEFORE WE CAN POINT A FINGER AT THE SYSTEM.
Then, we are responsible for what we breed and what we show. We can volunteer good dogs for educational purposes. If you train a judge's eye to mediocrity, how then can you expect them to recognize quality?
An aspiring judge has to want to be educated beyond the minimum requirements. So, we need to get them so intrigued with our breed that they will begin to share our knowledge and passion. A judge can only judge what is presented.
Above all we must be true to and understand the Afghan Hound Breed Standard and the breed's basic original purpose.
Not an easy task but we are all a small part of the formula to great Afghan Hounds, and breed specific judging.