Archive for October 2011

Writing judging reports

October 1, 2011

Animal Care College – caring for people caring for animals

Many of our Judging Reports are written by judges who are very experienced and provide exhibitors with exemplary critiques that are extremely helpful and show their understanding of the breed.  This article is not for them but every year new judges are appointed who are very knowledgeable about their breeds but, despite having read many reports over the years, have not had to write their own.  We hope this short explanation of some of the things which they should consider will be helpful.

Our policy at Our Dogs is to print judges summaries prior to the report proper, not to edit reports and to allow judges to critique to third place.

Most judges follow the tradition of writing their reports in their Judging Book while the dogs standing in front of them in their placed order.  This works and it is quick but in many ways it is sensible (and you get a more legible critique) if you sit down at the judges table and write the report asking the dogs to come and stand in front of the table in order.  The important thing to remember is that you should not rush this initial stage of your critique.  If you cannot read it or it is just a few brief words it will not help your accuracy when you sit down to do the report proper unless you have a memory much better than most people.  Some judges now use tiny digital recording machines.  These are now quite inexpensive (less that £20) and come with software which enables you to play the voice files back at a slow speed on your computer so that you can type the report easily and quickly.

Judges reports have changed over the years.  Reading those of a hundred years ago is an education in itself because in those days, judges did not pull any punches.  This is a typical example: ‘This dog belonging to Mr Smith is appalling although we must applaud his courage for bringing it into the ring when it is so far removed from the breed standard.  Its neck is too short, its legs are too long and its head has more in common with a bucket than any dog I have ever seen – and he moved like an arthritic crab’ and is not an uncommon critique as printed in Our Dogs all those years ago.

There have always been good critique writers and some who are not so good.  One well-known judge of the 50s and 60s used to write: ‘1st: Good head, good body, good legs, good feet, good movement, 2nd: Good head, good body, good legs, 3rd: Good head, good movement.’  Simply swapping the same phrases around at random.

As you will almost certainly agree, neither provides any satisfaction for or information to the exhibitor and it is the exhibitor who has to have priority when a report is written.

A report must be seen to be fair and must indicate that the judge knows and understands the breed.  It must inform and be constructive, pointing out failings but also provide encouragement by saying where the dog succeeds.  A critique which just concentrates on faults undermines the confidence of the exhibitor and does the judge no favours so it is always sensible to begin with those characteristics about which you can be positive.

We are very happy to print a summary of the judge’s findings in the report.  However these are most useful where the entry is such that it is good in relation to the number of dogs normally shown: there is little point in trying to generalise about the breed as a whole from an Open show entry of 10 or 12.

Reports need to deal with three main areas:

  •  Conformation
  • Breed Type
  • Movement

Incidentally, in general, exhibitors will assume that if comments are not made about any aspect of the dog these are correct according to the breed standard.  It has also been suggested that you should judge the dog in the order listed in the standard, then write your critique in the same order using phrases from the breed standard so that the exhibitor and those unable to be at the show can get as good an idea as possible of what you found on the day.  Personally, I feel that places something of a straight-jacket around your report but is probably a good discipline – especially when at the beginning of a judging career.

Conformation is generally about balance.  Is the outline of the breed what you expect?  The points below are not exhaustive but if you are going to judge, these are all certainly things you must consider.

  •  is the head in proportion to the body?
  •  is the length of the body correct in proportion to its height?
  •  is the depth of chest correct and in the correct proportion to its height?
  • are the lines of back and underline correct?
  • is there enough forechest?
  • are the shoulders correctly placed?
  •  is the hind angulation correct?
  • have you considered length of rib cage, length of loin, couplings and croup?

Type.  Again, in general, exhibitors will assume that if comments are not made about any aspect of the dog – they are correct.  For instance, if the tail set, length and carriage is correct then, under normal circumstances, there is no need to mention it in the critique. On the other hand where there is often a general problem with tails, as there are in many of the Spitz breeds, it makes good sense to mention when the tail set and/or  carriage is particularly good.  The same applies to the other characteristics which are specified in the standard including the proportions of the head and skull, eyes, ears, colour and colour combination, mask, coat, feet and all the other breed points that are highlighted in the standard.

It is helpful to remember that when the breed standards were first written there was a general assumption about the ‘average’ size and shape of the dog and the standards did not precisely describe each characteristic so much as focus on those aspects of the breed which were’ different’ to what at that time was perceived as the ‘average’.

It is a truism (so should be approached with caution) but many judges will say that if anything about a dog you are judging reminds you of another breed, then it has a fundamental flaw.

Movement.  A surprising number of dogs do not move well but movement is also often a function of type so what is acceptable in one breed, Chows and Belgian Shepherds are good examples, may not be acceptable in another.  However there are certainly a number of specific faults which you should look out for and can mention.  Again, in the breed where movement is generally poor singling out good movement for a mention is sensible.  But in most breeds if you do not mention movement then the exhibitor can assume that it is good or at least acceptable.  Most movement faults are tied in with conformation but this is certainly not always the case.  However be on the lookout for

  • overreaching and an uneven, jerky back line from the side
  •  crabbing
  • close behind and instability going away
  • loose shoulders and crossing coming towards you

A good test is to send two dogs around the ring together so that you can assess their ground covering ability.  The dog with good movement will usually cover more ground in fewer strides than one whose movement is poor.  It takes a little practice to see it but it is well worth the effort.

You can get a great deal more information about Judging, particularly about conformation and movement, by clicking here.  It is the outline of a Seminar which normally takes a whole day and, of course, answers many of  the questions posed in the slides.  However, if you work your way through them thinking carefully about the information on each one it should provide some signposts which could be helpful.

The very best of luck with your assignments.