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Wednesday, 07 June 2017 14:33

AKC judges approval process

Written by ODi Editor

Our Dogs was interested in a letter published recently in USA's dog magazine the Canine Chronicle. The American Kennel Club introduced a revolutionary - rather than evolutionary - new process for judges two years ago, which includes a Canine College, Mentoring, Workshop Study Groups and Judges Education Coordinators. We will not know for some time how successful the Judges Competency Framework introduced by our Kennel Club will be, but perhaps during the pilot stage of its introduction, we can learn from the AKC experience. 

Our thanks go to Tom Grabe, publisher of the Canine Chronicle for permission to publish this letter from Charles Olvis, a distinguished all round judge in the United States. An Open Letter Regarding the New Judges Approval Process: 'After giving some serious thought to the outcome of the new Judges Approval Process, it seems that I may owe the Board of Directors of the American Kennel Club an apology…I was wrong in thinking this new system wouldn't work….it IS working just as they planned.

'More judges are getting approved for more breeds faster than ever.  One instance I can cite is a judge who got over 50 breeds in an eight month period, and several others close  to that!  How can anyone on the Board think this is the right direction for judging approval to take?   And judges getting even MORE breeds on subsequent applications before they've even done the minimum assignments on their existing permit breeds…how does this help the judge or the sport?  Has anyone else noticed that the online list of judges recently approved for permit breeds no longer lists the month and year of the permit status granted….is that so no one is supposed to notice how some judges get more and more breeds at breakneck speed?

'You, the Board, wanted to "fix" the system, and perhaps it needed improving, but this is ridiculous and not fair to the exhibitors, breeders or handlers who have devoted many years or their entire adult lives to this sport and now have to deal with these many judges who are getting approved for breeds after breeds and showing some serious lack of good judgement in the ring.

'It may be time for the Board to tweak the system to slow the ridiculous fast track of some of the judges who are flying through applications and approvals. Nobody I know, who started with one breed, or even a few breeds, or even a group, can competently take on 52 new breeds in less than a year with an adequate understanding of each breed's individual characteristics, nuances and what makes that breed unique.

'The AKC Field Reps hear plenty of complaints from exhibitors who feel that these fast trackers are not doing a decent job but you have removed the Reps from having any influence in the process.  I might feel a bit differently if you had let the AKC Field Reps be part of the equation, giving them an opportunity to help some of these judges as they take on so many new breeds in a short time.

'There is no other business where a "newbie" is not accountable for his actions.  If a judge feels that he or she is competent to get so many new breeds at a rapid pace, why should that judge object to discussing their judging with the AKC rep?  If this were still allowed, it surely might help these people, unfamiliar with many of the breeds they are judging, do a better job next time.

'What is wrong with accountability?  Instead, it's "do whatever you want without consequence" or one more example of entitlement.

'I cannot believe that the AKC Board of Directors really feels that this is a better system…take a test, watch an entry of four while talking to your friends, or better yet, a "mentor" you just met, sit through one seminar and, like magic, you are entitled to do what you choose with that breed in the ring.  I can't tell you how many have asked to "pick my brain" for 30 seconds and then pull out a form to sign, or better yet, I had a steward ask me to make comments so she could get a form signed. How can a steward who is busy handing out armbands, verifying awards, and calling classes in the ring possibly concentrate enough on the entry to even think this was a mentoring or tutoring experience??? Yet I am sure she wasn't the only one who thought this was adequate education to get a form signed.

'I suppose the Board can tell me the sport has improved under the new Judges Approval system and that everyone is happy - exhibitors, breeders, handlers, and that the office is receiving complements one right after the other about how great the new judging approval system is.  But I won't believe it!

'It is my feeling that it is time for the Board to re-evaluate the Judging Approval System to make it a bit tougher to get more breeds.  Wouldn't it make sense to have someone or some system to evaluate a judge's progress in the new breeds they have before giving that judge even more….before giving out more breeds to judge, before having the opportunity to even prove that one can judge the breeds that are still permit status?  Learning the nuances of a breed at the exhibitors' expense rather than before stepping into the ring will only hurt entries and further diminish participation in the sport we love.

'And I don't believe that this system helps clubs, either.  Unpopular panels result in lower entries, and diluting the pool with too many poorly prepared judges doesn't make it any easier to assemble a panel that will maintain a show's past numbers.

'There are good doctors and bad, good lawyers and bad, good handlers and not so skilled, good breeders and those who keep on producing mediocrity at best.  If you go to a new practice, for example, and feel that your doctor wasn't that good, you don't go back again. It is the same with people in our sport. If the exhibitors feel that the judge isn't doing a good job, they won't come back. I know of one new exhibitor who already has a list of judges who won't get a future entry, not because they didn't win but because they could recognize that the judge selected inferior specimens to award.  Our sport is in critical condition and we need to do all we can to stop if from dying, not help it to an early grave.

'This letter may anger some of my fellow judges who like the idea of flying forward with no accountability.  I also know that there are many judges who have not gotten on the bandwagon of "how fast and how many" and are taking it slower in their application process, and I applaud their resolve to take seriously their responsibilities to the exhibitors and breeders of the dogs they are privileged to judge.  Please note I said privileged, not entitled.  But I feel that someone has to stand up and speak what others are whispering but afraid to say out loud, fearing the consequences of speaking against the AKC Board's decisions.  Giving all the people all these breeds too fast has harmed, not helped, our sport.  Sometimes the truth hurts.'

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