Judging – Kennel Club Judges Education Programme 1999

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David Cavill offers a section by section guide to the Kennel Club Judges’ Working Party extensive plans for shows and judges over the next two years. This article first appeared in Our Dogs on December 10th & 17th 1999

There is still some confusion about the work and proposals of the Judges’ Working Party. Almost by definition, much of The Kennel Club’s pronouncements on its work on that issue has been reactive rather than proactive and has taken the form of formal announcements and answers to questions as they have arisen. I have tried to put the case for change as it was perceived by The Kennel Club in 1997, to explain the rationale behind those changes, assess the impact that they have had on the participants in each sector and give some guidance for those involved in the changes. I am aware that many people affected disagree with a proportion of the proposals but they have been introduced to make some fundamental and necessary corrections to a structure which is now not appropriate, or out of date.

Looking through cuttings from the canine press in the nineties there is no doubt that there were calls for change from every quarter. There was little agreement on what, precisely, those changes should be but The Kennel Club was the subject of increasing criticism and the focus was on the quality of judging and general concerns by almost everyone (other than the compilers) about judging lists. At the same time there was increasing dissatisfaction with the open show scene. Privately, The Kennel Club accepted that the licensing of open shows had been too liberal. Not only were there too many shows but the number of classes had increased to the extent that in many breeds there were more classes than the number of dogs available to enter them. The Judges’ Sub-committee was concerned that the experience of judges being put forward to give challenge certificates was limited and, despite changing the criteria, there were still serious problems. It was becoming increasingly clear that judges were being passed for tickets who had little knowledge either of conformation and movement or of The Kennel Club’s regulations and once passed, could go on to become non-specialists at every level – without there being any formal assessment of their competence. They may have had knowledge of breed characteristics but dogs being presented at group level at championship shows often gave group judges considerable cause for concern.

The Judges’ Working Party was set up to address some of these problems. From the beginning it was recognised that:

  1. a) the task would be extremely difficult
  2. b) short-term solutions were not likely to be effective
  3. c) whatever decisions were made they would only satisfy a proportion of participants
  4. d) it would be important to be able to review and change decisions if there was evidence that they were not working
  5. e) time would be necessary to ensure that future ideas were built on solid foundations
  6. f) a proper strategy for change would have to be agreed and implemented.
  7. g) the widest consultation would be necessary to ensure that changes could be seen to have the support of those they would effect.

The difficulties were summarised by Ronnie Irving when he said “Everyone, including the JWP and The Kennel Club, wants a simple and fair system and structure. The problem is that if we are to be fair the regulations will necessarily be complicated; while if we want to keep it simple then, given the range of regulations to be covered, we will find it difficult to treat every one equally and fairly. What we must do is to develop a playing field with a minimum slope in any direction”

First steps
The basic premise was not just to address the specific problems which had been identified but to create a structure which would ensure that in the long term, the world of showdogs in the UK could be seen to give every dog and every exhibitor a fair chance of success based on the quality of the dog. This requires a reasonable level of competition (little has been achieved from a first place in a class of one) and judges who are knowledgeable and unbiased.

It was always envisaged that the project would develop over a period of years and that some aspects needed to be put in place before others could be addressed. It was decided that the basic problems of the status of the open show and the development of judgeÕs lists should have the first priority. At the same time, work began on best practice recommendations for the three stages of judges training which were considered vital – show regulations and ring management, conformation and movement and the characteristics of individual breeds. It was felt that in most breeds, it should be more difficult to be passed to give tickets as a specialist and for the first few non-specialist appointments but should become progressively easier to be passed for further breeds as experience increased.

The JWP began by designing questionnaires to be distributed to all breed clubs. Full details of the JWP remit were published in the canine press and everyone was invited to put forward their views. Almost 4,000 questionnaires were distributed and over 40% were returned. Kennel Club staff carefully collated them and the conclusions were considered by the JWP before work commenced. On average there have been ten meetings of the JWP each year and in the meantime, both Kennel Club staff and members of the working party have put in many hours on every aspect of the proposals. It was agreed that members of the JWP should make themselves available to all those involved through a series of open meetings, not just to explain the thinking behind the project but to listen to the views of everyone and bring them back for discussion. As a result a number of decisions were changed, but most of the initial ideas were progressed so that a reasonable length of time could be allowed to evaluate the results of the changes. For the future, the changes implemented will be kept under review and, given the agreement of the general committee, the JWP will continue with the reforms in line with the original requirements and in the light of continuing input from the show community.

Changes affecting the exhibitor

  • Restriction of size of shows by applying a surcharge to classes over 200
  • Establishment of supported entry shows
  • Regulation to ensure variety classes (including groups and Best in Show) are judged by someone who is already passed to award challenge certificates
  • Limit on the number of classes which can be judged by anyone not supported by the breed
  • Changes to the structure of the Junior Warrant award

The long-term objective is that entries in breed classes at open shows, where they are currently very low, will see significant increases. It was felt that simply to restrict show society licences by, say, only allowing one show a year would penalise those societies which were running two successful shows and still allow those shows which did not have the full support of exhibitors to hold an event.

There was a great deal of discussion about the best way in which one could assess whether a show was or was not successful and it was decided that the key element was the number of entries received. It was finally agreed that a class average of three was reasonable. If a show could not command those sorts of numbers from its exhibitors then it would be better off holding a Limited Show.

There was no doubt in the minds of the JWP that many societies were putting on classes for which there was no demand so shows were limited to 200 classes unless the society was sure enough of its entry to put on more and pay the appropriate surcharge. At the same time, the principle of supported shows was established. As a result, clubs of the smaller breeds (i.e.: the ones most likely to be affected by the change) are encouraged to select those shows which their members would want to support. This would enable show managements to put on the extra classes with confidence.

The JWP was also concerned that a number of show secretaries were using their positions to give and receive judging appointments. To ensure that more judges were appointed who had the support of the breed it was decided to restrict the number of classes which could be judged by those who did not have the positive support of a breed club. These restrictions, to three classes (five for the most popular breeds- those in Stud Book Band E), would still enable potential non-specialists to gain experience but help clubs and exhibitors to focus on those shows and judges which the breed felt were capable of properly judging the breed. Faced with reasonable sized classes exhibitors would also have a better chance of assessing the quality of the judge.

Another change adopted as part of the strategy to improve the status of the open show was a change in the structure of the Junior Warrant award. By insisting that a proportion of points had to be obtained at open shows those quality dogs capable of gaining the award would have to be exhibited at open shows. The award was also given increased status in that it is now more difficult to achieve. A certain number of dogs have to be present before the points can be awarded or specific awards must be achieved. Exhibitors are prevented from ‘chasing’ points by the clause which ensures a rest period between qualifying classes.

Changes affecting General Show Societies

  • Shows to be held within area of society name
  • Loss of license for succeeding year if average number of dogs per class is lower than three – KC suggests changing show status to Limited Show
  • Requirement to ensure judges are on breed club judges list if judging four or more classes (six for breeds in Stud Book band E)
  • Surcharge for classes over 200
  • Development of supported classes for smaller breeds
  • Restriction on the section of judges
  • Responsibility for training

Larger shows have led to difficulties finding suitable venues and so societies have often moved their shows many miles from their ‘home’ area, often to venues that are used by many other shows. Originally, general societies were set up to provide training and show services in their home area and The Kennel Club has felt for some time that it is in the best interests of dogs and the services that local general societies provide if clubs really reflect the needs of their home base. This view was clearly supported in the responses to the questionnaires that were received by the JWP – largely by societies close to popular venues who felt that distant clubs were poaching ‘their’ exhibitors. It was therefore decided that, as one of the objectives of the JWP was to reduce the size of those shows which did not have the support of exhibitors, it should be possible for them to find suitable venues closer to the home base. Although 25 miles has been suggested as a suitable radius from a society’s home town or area, there are many clubs which could be much closer and some which would find it impossible to comply. The Kennel Club has been particularly flexible over this requirement and few shows have found this to be a serious problem.

The requirement for a reasonable average number of dogs per class has caused some societies to feel discriminated against. In fact, only a very small number of clubs has been unable to fulfil this demand – leading some to think that the average was actually set too low! In the first year of the scheme The Kennel Club has, in many cases, negotiated either a sensible reduction in classes or a conversion to a limited show for most of them. It is difficult to understand the reasoning of those who find this demand unacceptable when they must be disappointed that their efforts are not appreciated and where the alternative, a limited show or regular ring training classes, might be much more acceptable.

The demand that those judges officiating at more than three classes (five for breeds in Stud Book band E) should be on a breed club judging list, initially appears to be very demanding on open show secretaries but, of course, the onus is on the judge to ensure that they are on an appropriate list. All that is required is a small amendment to the contract.

General societies also need to be aware that anyone judging varieties, groups or best in show at open shows must already have been passed to award challenge certificates in at least one breed, in the same way as anyone officiating for such classes at championship shows must have been passed to do a group at championship show level.

Raising the standard of judging is not easy and, in the future, as judges awarding tickets will have had to completed the approved training programme, this is one way of ensuring that at least the basic knowledge required has been acquired.

It is also no secret that these measures have been introduced to help prevent the ‘swapping’ of judging appointments between secretaries and committee members of general open show societies. No longer will it be possible for a person who has not enjoyed success in his/her own breed to award CCs. How widespread the practice has been is difficult to assess but much of what might have been is now prevented.

The question of the surcharge on classes over 200 has led to considerable concern. The rationale behind the move was to ensure that societies gave serious thought to the classes that they intended to schedule. The lack of restrictions on the number of classes led to many societies scheduling breeds where there was very little likelihood of a worthy entry. The JWP would certainly want to encourage shows to schedule smaller breeds so the concept of the supported entry show was introduced to ensure that the classes and the judge had the support of the breed concerned. The scheme does require more commitment from both canine societies and breed clubs but the approach is already proving effective for the surcharge is small when compared with the increase in entry that many shows have achieved with supported classes.

On the recommendations of The Judges’ Working Party, The Kennel Club has agreed that as well as experience of showing, judging and stewarding, judges training should comprise three elements:

  • understanding rules, regulations and judging procedure
  • understanding construction, conformation and movement
  • understanding individual breeds

After July 2001, no one will be considered for approval to award challenge certificates unless they have completed an approved programme of training. The third element of the training structure is the responsibility of the breed clubs but general canine societies and other training organisations may organise training days for the first two elements using Kennel Club Accredited Trainers. Accredited trainers are listed each month in the Kennel Gazette. They have been appointed by The Kennel Club and are accredited for one year at a time. They are expected to provide feedback to the KC and meet formally once a year to be kept up to date with the ongoing work of the JWP.

Changes affecting Breed Clubs

There is still some confusion about the work and proposals of the Judges’ Working party. Almost by definition much of the Kennel Club’s pronouncements on its work on that issue has been reactive rather than proactive and has taken the form of formal announcements and answers to questions as they have arisen. I have tried to put the case for change as it was perceived by the Kennel Club in 1997, to explain the rationale behind those changes, assess the impact that it has had on the participants in each sector and give some guidance for those involved in the changes. I am aware that many people affected disagree with a proportion of the proposals but they have been introduced to make some fundamental and necessary corrections to a structure which is now not appropriate, or out of date.

  • New criteria for the compilation of Judges’ Lists
  • Introduction of supported entry shows
  • Responsibility for training judges
  • Responsibility for assessing judges

Many breed clubs have found the demands being made on their organisation resulting from the recommendations of the JWP very difficult. A great deal of guidance has been provided by The Kennel Club and the relevant guidelines on club judging lists and breed training programmes are included as appendices.

It was clear from the outset that the compilation of lists was one of the most complex problems faced by the world of dogs. There were some lists which were constructed fairly – but it has to be acknowledged that the majority were unsatisfactory in that they were too short, too long, included judges who were recognised as not being very good or excluded judges who were known to be competent. The working party decided that the first requirement was that the compilation of lists should be as transparent as possible. To this end they set out a series of requirements for those that should be involved in nominating judges. If a club committee did not have at least 75% of its members authorised to award challenge certificates the club must now establish a sub-committee to nominated judges for the list that did fulfil the criteria.

Clubs are also expected to establish reasonable and transparent minimum criteria for inclusion on lists so potential judges could clearly see what was required of them. Initially, many clubs submitted lists with their annual returns that did not fulfil the requirements of The Kennel Club – and these were returned, with suggestions, for the way in which they could be improved. For instance, the criteria set out for many breeds was set at too high a level and the criteria for judges who were already passed to give tickets were anomalous and often included demands which, by definition, they had already fulfilled – the stewarding qualification is a case in point

After July 2000, (as some clubs have to actually change their club rules to fulfil the requirements) those lists which are not structured in accordance with the guidance initiated by the Kennel Club, will not be referred to by the Judges’ Sub-Committee during its discussions on first time CC approval!

However, it has been made clear that the criteria are for guidance – they are not set in stone. A potential judge who more than fulfils the requirements does not have to be placed on a list and a talented judge who the properly constituted committee can trust to judge well may be added, even if they do not fulfil the criteria.

It was also suggested that those breeds that did not have breed councils could consider establishing joint lists or combined lists. At the same time, although there could be no question of canvassing for appointments, it was announced that potential judges could indicate their interest in joining a breed judges’ list.

The breed club secretary’s work has increased substantially as a result of these changes. Apart from the extra work involved in compiling the lists, those judges who are included need to be notified and a much wider circulation to open show societies is envisaged. That being said, there is no doubt that many societies have risen to the challenge but sadly there is a small percentage of secretaries which do not bother to reply to letters even though SAEs are enclosed.

The essential elements of The Kennel Club’s approach has been to break down the training of judges into three sections, the third of which -training judges in the understanding of breed characteristics – is firmly in the hands of the breed clubs. After July 2001, new judges who have not attended the relevant training programmes will not even be considered by the judges’ sub-committee to award challenge certificates and KC Questionnaires are currently being amended to make this clear.

The Judges’ Working Party has made some specific recommendations as to breed training and the outline should be carefully studied by those breed club committees responsible for training. The JWP feels that the same committee that compiles the breed judges lists should be responsible for training, as they will tend to be comprised of the most experienced people within the breed.

The creation of a formal structure for breed club lists has given breed clubs and council’s considerable power and responsibility in the selection of judges as well as a preferred route bringing judges forward. The JWP recognised from the beginning that the best way of ensuring that judges had the full confidence of the breed before awarding challenge certificates was for the breed club to train them. The A2 system list gives breed clubs that opportunity through the completion of assessments by three assessors. The club may then submit the name to the Judges’ Sub-Committee for approval prior to an appointment being offered. It is very unlikely that judges on A2 lists will be turned down when they are offered an appointment. Assessors are selected by the breed club or council carrying out the assessment from those considered to be suitable evaluators (see below). However, there was no doubt that this significant change could not be accomplished overnight so the JWP suggested that all judges awarding challenge certificates for the first time (unless they come through from an A2 list) should be evaluated by an experienced judge nominated by the breed.

The Kennel Club accepted this method of assessment while clubs developed their own syllabuses and procedures for moving judges from B lists to A2 lists. Of course, The Kennel Club is responsible for who may and who may not award CCs and the Judges Sub-Committee and ultimately the General Committee will still have the final authority.

Selecting those suitable to be evaluators is obviously difficult but it was finally decided that when a new candidate was approved to award CCs, the breed council or area breed club would be sent a list of the fifteen most experienced judges in the breed. The breed club is then asked to select one of them to carry out the evaluation. Taking the fifteen people who have judged most often (and at least once in the previous five years) does not always present breed clubs with enough choice. If this is the case, then The Kennel Club will provide a further five and also consider any other names put forward by the breed club. If there is still no one suitable the Judges Sub-Committee will appoint someone, usually a group judge who on occasions might not award CCs to the breed in question. Evaluators are expected to keep both their appointment and their report confidential

Changes affecting judges

  • Changes in approach to breed clubs
  • New criteria for inclusion on Judges’ Lists
  • Range of experience required before being passed to award challenge certificates
  • Range of records to be kept

Over the last twenty years or so, many breed clubs have developed sets of criteria to ensure that judges of their breed have measurable knowledge and experience before being admitted to judging lists. Some of these have been excellent but because they were developed in isolation, there was a tendency for them not to be uniform. The two major problems were that the criteria were too difficult to achieve, especially for experienced non-specialists and/or that it was more important who you knew than what you knew! There was also (and remains) a culture which, rightly, disapproved to canvassing for judging appointments but this also meant that breed clubs could not have some talented and experienced judges brought to their attention.

The JWP therefore suggested that one of the changes in procedure should be that judges could formally approach breed councils and clubs with a request that their names might be considered for the judges’ list. Many clubs have responded by publishing extensive questionnaires to help their committees (or sub-committees) to be able to reach valid conclusions and in most instances, this system is working well.

The club concerned is under no obligation to place applicants on the list. Some judges feel that if they fulfil the criteria their inclusion should be automatic but this is not the case. However, they may ask why they have not been included and, in my view, the demand on breeds that the method of compiling judges’ lists should be ‘transparent’ entitles them to an answer. Breed clubs and councils must publish their criteria for compiling judges’ lists and these are checked by The Kennel Club to ensure that they are ‘reasonable’. The first attempts by most clubs were not very successful but by July 2000 it is expected that all will be acceptable. After this date, any lists that have not been approved by The KC will be deemed invalid and will probably not be referred to by the Judges’ Sub-Committee who will then make its decision on the facts before it

Although the status of breed judges’ lists has been raised, potential judges not on a breed lists may still be asked by shows that have been allocated challenge certificates to officiate as the JSC will treat each application its merits. However, it is hoped that over the next few years judges and breed clubs and councils will work towards an active and valid A2 list and it this list which potential judges should have ‘in their sights’. To gain admittance to the A2 list, a potential first time judge must fulfil the requirements of the breed and The Kennel Club. These are:

  • To have passed the Rules, Regulations and Procedure examination set by a KC approved trainer
  • To have attended a seminar on structure, conformation and movement taken by a KC approved trainer
  • To have stewarded at least 12 times (if not have previously been approved to award CCs)
  • To have attended a breed seminar conducted in accordance with the JWP best practice advice and sponsored by a registered breed club.
  • To have judged the breed (the number of occasions and the number of dogs being determined, in the final analysis, by the Judges Sub-committee although the breed criteria will provide a guide

Other experience is also valuable. Judging other breeds (particularly similar breeds) successful exhibition of the breeds or other breeds, successful breeding of the breed or other breeds, certificates or diplomas which indicate study of judging and of dogs in general are all taken into account.

It is essential that judges maintain complete records of their experience. This has always been necessary and although the specific details required have changed in recent years, the JWP recommendations do not change the requirements for those already passed to award CCs except for the provision of an attendance certificate at an approved breed seminar for a new breed.

For new judges coming forward to award CCs for the first time after July 2000 they will need to provide details of the shows, their dates, breed/s, number of classes, and number of dogs actually judged and include evidence of passing the rules and regulations examination, the certificate of attendance at a conformation and movement seminar, a certificate of attendance at an approved breed seminar and details of their stewarding experience.

The Judges’ Department instigates a number of spot checks on questionnaires so it is vital that all the evidence is physically available for inspection if necessary. Computer printouts are fine as backup but originals of catalogues, judging books and certificates should all be retained.

The Judges’ Working Party is already working on ways in which those who want to develop a career in judging dogs can be helped to gain the right sort of experience. A Kennel Club video on conformation and movement had been produced and educational programmes in conjunction with national group societies are being developed for the more experienced judges to help them to progress at a faster rate.

This summary is designed to give an overview of the recommendations and changes incorporated as a result of the suggestions made by the JWP and should be read in conjunction with the two Kennel Club papers. Guidance for the Development of Judging Lists and Guidance for Running Breed Seminars. Full details can be obtained from the Judges’ Department at the kennel Club who will also provide detailed interpretation where required. There is still a great deal of work to be done, for the rapidly changing elements of showing dogs mean that further modifications to the recommendations of the JWP will continue to be reviewed and alterations made as required.

It is hoped that over the next ten to fifteen years exhibitors should be able to develop greater confidence in judges. In the long term this should ensure that both judging and dogs will be more consistent and acceptable.

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