SHOULD ‘impartial observers’ be appointed at shows to intervene if a judge’s performance is not up to scratch?
Could they be given the power to ‘have a quiet word’ with the judge, hold them to account and if necessary report them to the Kennel Club?
This suggestion comes from Board member Jeff Horswell who tackles the hot topic of how to increase entries and the popularity of shows in the pages of the Kennel Gazette this month.
All is not perfect in the show world, he writes, and judges are the biggest cause of dissatisfaction.
“Not every show, championship, open or breed club is well run; not every breeder or judge is a paragon of virtue,” he said. “All surveys taken suggest that the choice of judge is a major factor in whether people enter a show and that judging is what can cause the most dissatisfaction.
“All too often, of course, a bad judge is someone who didn’t put your dog first and a good one is the one who gave you BOB. Have you noticed how for some people the judging is honest when they win or judge but crooked or incompetent at every other show?”
There are judges who are not as impartial as they should be – and there always have been, Mr Horswell believes.
“Some have a better knowledge than others; some give good value to their exhibitors and are polite and professional, others can be downright rude and dismissive. Some might actually be human and just have the odd bad day.”
How can the KC monitor this and more importantly take action against those who do not behave in an acceptable way? There are various complaint avenues but they are rarely properly used and often the outcome may seem unsatisfactory.
“All too often a complaint is made, no real evidence is available to support it and of course the judge denies any wrongdoing,” Mr Horswell said. “I believe there is a strong case for having impartial observers who report directly to the KC but who also would have the power to intervene on the day if necessary.”
He was not suggesting results could or should be changed, he stressed.
“But a short, ‘quiet’ word with a judge about their procedure might be helpful and the heat taken out of a situation. Performance can be randomly observed and judges held to account for their behaviour and decision.
“A degree of independence would I’m sure, help the KC committees and the KC will then need to deal firmly with serial offenders.”
No judge is ever likely to please all exhibitors, he said, but professionalism and competence in the way they undertake their task were expected.
“Genuine concerns can and should be addressed. I’m sure improved judging would add to the ‘great day out’ that a dog show should be.
“But every one of us who goes to a show can help make it a pleasurable experience for all. Engaging of brains before speaking or typing on that keyboard would be a welcome improvement to the dog show scene. It is our hobby and it is what we all make it.”
Mr Horswell, who has been going to shows for more than 40 years, said: “If you were to believe some of what you read on social media you would wonder why anyone still bothers.
“Or importantly you would wonder why any new owner would want to come to shows let alone show their dog.”
But thankfully they do still come, he continued.
“If our hobby is to survive, let alone thrive, we all need to be a little more positive and welcoming and what’s more we need to tackle the negativity, both symptoms and where possible causes.
“Entries are currently below the very high levels we enjoyed in the ‘90s in many breeds but we are now seeing a small but steady upward trend, a fact that seems to have passed the moaners by.”
Attracting new people to the hobby has never been the biggest problem, he said; the key issue was how to keep them.
“Do all of us who have been around for a while do enough to encourage new people? Do we congratulate them when they’ve won? Do we even say hello to them? Imagine coming to a show knowing no one, nobody speaking to you and your pride and joy doesn’t get a place. Would you come back?
“Even worse is when a ‘helpful’ stranger tells you that your pride and joy is no good and not worth showing. We all started somewhere – plenty of us started with a much-loved poor example of our chosen breed – I did, but it got us into showing.”
Mr Horswell said he had heard of a case of someone telling a newcomer at their first show, an open show, that their dog was not good enough to show.
“Luckily that person entered another open show shortly afterwards and won BOB. He qualified for Crufts at the first attempt and has a Stud Book number.
“Thank goodness he ignored that first ‘well meaning’ person.”