Choosing A Judging Panal
From the monthly column, "Learning All The Moving Parts", ShowSight Dog Show Magazine, November 2017 Issue.
Selecting a judging panel is by far the most challenging job facing a show chair. While club members and exhibitors are always invited to submit names of judges for consideration—at some shows exhibitors are encouraged to jot down names on their armbands—the final decision ultimately rests with the show chair, perhaps working with an assistant show chair.
The show chair typically pulls out the show catalog for the year before to review entries Group by Group. This helps the show chair decide how many judges will be needed. For clubs that offer a Saturday and Sunday event, the show chair is always looking at judges in terms of their ability to be assigned back-to-back shows. Show chairs learn early that the most expensive part of hiring judges is not their fees but their travel expenses; show chairs can allow themselves to hire judges from a distance away if they are approved for enough Groups to work both days.
Show chairs generally try to hire a judge for 150 dogs a day which gives them a bit of a buffer without going over the judge’s limit of 175 dogs.
Most show chairs try to hire at least one-all breed judge, if not two. If someone overdraws, the show chair can use the all-breed judge to do those extra dogs and breeds. Multi-Group judges are helpful to a show chair as are husband-and-wife judging couples, or partners, especially if they can drive to a show rather than fly. If a breed club offers to bring in a supported entry, show chairs will often consider a breeder-judge.
Hiring permit judges is usually a win-win situation. Bringing in new faces tends to make exhibitors excited and bump up a breed entry while the permit judge is appreciative of the assignment. The AKC also encourages the practice. The fact that a permit judge of even one breed can judge the entire Group in the National Owner-Handled Series is a great advantage to show chairs aiming to stay on budget.
Canadian judges are frequently hired for shows close to the border; this is another win-win situation as it provides exhibitors with a few fresh pairs of eyes while the clubs appreciate the fact that many Canadian judges choose to drive rather than fly.
Smart show chairs keep a running list of judges they would like to hire at some point in the future. A judge who is approached to do a 2019 show but is unavailable will usually be invited for the 2020 show; booking judges three years in advance is not at all unusual.
How long do show chairs wait before inviting a judge back? Most wait three years, or even four. One show chair, who replied two to three years, explained that current class dogs will have finished by then, and most current specials will have been retired. Show chairs will avoid repeating an entire panel but some judges always seem to draw well and those are the ones that clubs and exhibitors are happy to welcome back. By the same token, when it comes to some judges, “once is enough.” Breaking contracts is bad form, as is having the AKC notify a show chair that a judge cannot do a show because he or she has a conflicting assignment. We’re all human and that can happen once, but if a judge is careless in record-keeping and this happens again, word will get around among show chairs. No one needs the added stress and drama.
In an effort to provide exhibitors with knowledgeable judging, most show chairs will also try to assign a breed specialist for breeds that can pull in a big entry, even if the judge also happens to be approved for multiple Groups.