WHEN DOG WORLD reporter Simon Baillie interviewed respected all-rounder and Crufts 2017 best in show judge, Jeff Horswell, at LKA championship show the conversation soon turned to the future of dog show judging in the UK.

Mr Horswell, who had been judging Mastiffs and Estrela Mountain Dogs on the day, was asked if dog shows were doing all they could to attract exhibitors and newcomers.

“Shows are run to a very high standard and the shows in the UK are probably the most professional in the world. However, there is always more we can do,” Mr Horswell said.

He went on to say that being welcoming and nurturing newcomers is important to encourage people to continue in the sport.

The next Crufts best in show judge felt there were signs the Kennel Club was listening to exhibitors and with slight increases at the majority of general championship shows said the future was looking more encouraging for dog shows.

He agreed that the judge was one of the most important factors for exhibitors when they make a decision to enter a show.

Mr Horswell, who was involved in restructuring the recent deal with the FCI, said that it hadn’t gone down well with the FCI when they had previously felt the KC had suggested this country’s judges were better than those elsewhere. He said this was never the case and that there were excellent judges from all around the world.

The new agreement was important, he said, because it gave UK exhibitors the chance to have their dogs judged by someone outside the country and possibly from a breed’s country of origin.

He said now there was a new agreement and trust restored that the future would be productive between the KC and the FCI.

“Judges who judge here will have to fill in a form stating the experience they’ve had of judging the breed and likewise those judging abroad from here may be asked by a local kennel club to fill in a similar contract. So everyone is very much being treated the same,” he said.

When asked about new judges Mr Horswell stated that the KC was looking at the judges’ training and approval system. He agreed that KC chairman Simon Luxmoore’s view that the old way of judges ‘clocking up numbers’ is no longer fit for purpose. He feels the current system lacks a ‘structured approach’ and that today people don’t get the experience they need from judging small numbers at open shows.

He said it was sad that sometimes some judges gave the impression of not having the knowledge they should have and seeming uninterested when judging at shows.

Mr Horswell has made a proposal to have independent officials watching judges at shows to monitor their performances. He agreed the system wasn’t a ‘million miles’ away from how judges are monitored by field reps in the US where they are employed by the AKC.

He didn’t see a problem in judges having ‘different interpretations’ but said it was professionalism that was most important in a judge and that this is where he saw some room for improvement.