Judging and ringside judging
Dog show exhibitors often talk about judging, I thought I’d add my input. Judging is not easy. And like everything in life, some are better at it than others. But the worst thing any breeder can do is sit ringside and complain that your dog was robbed, that it was the best and the others all terrible. You have to be able to see, in every class, who should win, or at least who your competition is. Work at this. As we all have said over and over, the most important skill a breeder has is to be able to see quality. Sometimes your dog was robbed, some judges are no better at seeing quality than some breeders. But I think for the most part judges do their best and judging is good.
Mary Roslin-Williams talks about judging in Advanced Labrador Breeding. She points out you must judge in the show ring differently than you judge your own kennel, and that fault judging keeps you from really “getting into the whole dog.” If you have a fault that really bothers you in your own kennel, sometimes emphasizing that fault while judging keeps you from finding the best dog. I think that is absolutely true, I have watched judges looking for something so specific many of the best dogs walk, and a dog wins that lacks any glaring faults but also lacks overall quality. That is not good judging.
As far as “politics”goes—well, I think it is much overrated. It is human nature to like some people and dislike others, but good judges put that aside every time they walk in the ring. To not do so is a reflection on them. Some people think a certain person wins all the time BECAUSE they win all the time. But let me tell you, a successful breeder knows exactly where their dog should be placed when they walk in a class, so putting them up when they don’t deserve it does not make that judge look good. Neither does NOT giving them a win because the judge thinks it will be unpopular, which also happens. The bottom line is a good judge judges the dogs, period. And to those who feel professional handlers win more that they should—good handlers make the dogs look better. Politics has nothing to do with it.
Judging is all about finding strengths and weaknesses and prioritizing them. It is true that some judges are better at it than others. While it is disappointing to not win when you believe you deserve it, try to see the quality in the dogs who won. If it just isn’t there, don’t make an effort to show to that judge again. One of the things I think is important in determining how well a person will judge is to look at their own kennel. If they consistently have quality dogs, they will likely be a good judge. If they have never produced anything you admire, how do you expect them to find quality in the ring? The other quality I hope to see in a judge is confidence. Even if they don’t breed much themselves, if they are confident in what they like they can do a good job, and usually exhibitors and spectators feel that confidence and accept their decisions well. Judging is an honor, and has a huge impact on our breed. The good ones are worth their weight in gold.