In a thread entitled “Derby Training,” Peter Balzer asked “What are some action items someone can take to improve their experience to begin judging?”
My thoughts follow. I hope others chime in:
1. Read the Rule Book. How can you judge a stake if you don’t know the rules?
2. Read the Blue Book “Retriever Field Trial Judging - A Manual.” Some of the best people in the sport worked on preparing the Manual.
3. Read the Articles in Retrievers Online on Judging: Dennis Voigt, Terry Rotschafer and I wrote a series of articles on judging.
4. Read the series of articles in the Retriever News on the “Design and Construction of Field Trial Marks.”
A great deal can be accomplished through careful observation. A person who studies dog behavior in training and in competition, learns what dogs like to do and what they do not. A good student can learn a great deal about bird placement simply by watching dogs in training and in competition. A good student can similarly learn what impact terrain, wind, and other factors have on a dog’s ability to run straight on a blind.
There is a danger in observing only dogs in training situations, as that may lead to a skewed perspective. In training we focus on teaching dogs the behaviors we desire (such as running a straight line to the area of the fall), where as in competition we should be focusing on the end result of that training (such as a good mark, regardless of the path taken to the area of the fall). The two often converge, but not always, and problems result when judges evaluate performance by the same standards that they employ in training.
To be truly valuable, observation in competition must extend through four series, so that the watcher can see dogs perform in both land and water marks, and in both land and water blinds. It is hard to gain a sense of relative performance and placements without seeing a group of dogs from start to finish. In this respect, I agree with the rule change which only permits those individuals who have run at least 15 All Age Stakes and obtained at least one JAM to judge in the All Age Stakes. So to some extent, I subscribe to the theory that to judge dogs, you must compete with them in the stake you are judging.
If you train your own dogs, when you set up a test give thought to:
a) What you are trying to teach
b) How the set-ups emphasize that for the dog
c) Whether at the end of the day, your test accomplished what you wanted it to do.
If a pro trains your dogs, ask the pro what he/she is trying to teach.
Watch the dogs ... don’t look at your phone ... watch the dogs and see how good you are at predicting dog behavior in the field. Learn through observation how terrain, wind, and gun placement influence dog behavior.