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Just curious as to the requirements for someone to judge and how judges are generally choosen

 

Qualifications are; you must be willing to do it, and someone must ask you to do it. It helps if the prospective judge has read the judging guidelines and has some experience running dogs in Open.

 

How are judges chosen? Trial hosts ask around. Maybe you've run under someone before and liked their judging style so you ask them. Maybe you know them by reputation. Maybe you get recommendations from people whose judgement you trust. It's actually hard to find good judges. It's 10 - 12 hours a day for three or four days. Pays OK but not great, and most judges would rather be running their dogs.

 

Pearse

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Dear Sheepdoggers,

 

There are three requirements for a sheepdog trial: even sheep, a course that doesn't reward or punish depending on the time of the run and an experienced, hard working judge.

 

Each of these requirements adjust to circumstances. In the east many trials don't have enough sheep and the course is what it is. Many years ago at the Oatlands trial, spectators lined up beside the course so runs were better before the crowd arrived and after most had gone home. When the difference between the best run and the next best is a single point, sometimes judges get it wrong.

 

As a trial host, I look for a judge who will take his/her arduous task (the judge is only one one at a trial who must watch every second of every run) as seriously as the runner he's judging does.

 

Donald McCaig

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What recourse do people have if a judge is blatant in favoritism in the judging? When big hats dogs grip, or make other obvious mistakes and the scores do not reflect the errors. When this happens time and again with certain handlers but others get dinged for similar or lesser errors?

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Dear Ms. Wolf,

 

Er . . . it doesn't. There are too many judges handling dogs at every important trial for any one judge to blatantly favor a particular handler.

 

Ignoring obvious grips? Phooey.

 

You might argue a more conservative and unsurprising view that top handlers often get the benefit of the doubt more often than unknowns but I think this mental laziness is more common in the UK than here.

 

 

Donald McCaig

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Pam, I'd say a a couple of things about that;

 

First, a person I respected as a judge once chided me not to make assumptions about how fair the judging was, or how the judge was scoring the runs, unless I was prepared to sit and watch every run because otherwise you aren't seeing the runs as the judge sees them.

 

Second, the rules say a judge must be impartial so if a judge is clearly not impartial or is incompetent, and it is a USBCHA sanctioned trial, then you can file a protest with the HA (if you are a member). You can't use video, so you'd better have a long list of supporting witnesses who would also attest to the judge's unfairness or incompetence to have any chance of prevailing.

 

Third, make your displeasure known to the trial host or course director (privately and quietly since criticising a judge, in the hearing of other, at a trial is not taken lightly).

 

Finally, don't run under them again if you feel strongly about it.

 

To be honest, I haven't seen a lot of biased judging at the trials I've been to. I can think of two judges I would not care to run under or ask to judge a trial. I've seen some lazy judging, and I've seen some idiosyncratic judging but flat out bias is rare. I think, in general, "big hats'" scores reflect the overall quality of the run, not just one infraction you may have seen and grips are one of those things that will always be the subject of great debate.

 

I prefer to invite people I respect to judge trials, and then respect their judgement.

 

Pearse

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Thanks Pearse, the questions were posed to me by someone new to trials. Other than voting with your feet I didn't know if there was a way to 'inform' the USBCHA of problems noted from the judge. There is one judge here about that I will not go out my back door to run under as too often I hear people complain about the same things I do with him-he always lets the person writing his check win :)

And the rules regarding qualifications were as I thought.

(I'll take Donald's post as it should be)

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" I hear people complain about the same things I do with him-he always lets the person writing his check win"

 

You know, I have heard this about a couple of judges too. So, I went and looked at the scores from a number of trials that they judged. The numbers don't lie, and the numbers just didn't support the rumours. So, before I would believe that of anyone, I'd want hard proof, and even then I'd want to see someone have a truly dreadful run and somehow win the trial with my own eyes.

 

If I've learned anything in the 10 years or so I've been competing in trials, it's don't listen to most of the s#$t said under the Handler's tent, or anything that anyone whispers behind their hands.

 

Pearse

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Dear Sheepdoggers,

It is undoubtedly true, long long ago, when Ms. Wolf and I were novices, some judges - British judges especially - rewarded their hosts (and dog importers). I was present when a British judge offered to "put Ethel Conrad up".

 

With American judges it just doesn't happen today - although judges are human and somebody who insulted them three dogs past may lose a close call. The most recent case of biased judging I know for sure was a British judge at one of our big trials 3-4 years ago. Handlers howled and he didn't get away with it.

 

Biased judging is rare. In 27 years of hosting with many judges I've seen judges make decisions I might not have but never spotted a bias.

 

A very few handlers have whined. Briefly.

 

Donald McCaig

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It wouldn't matter what area. What Pearce Said and sheepdogging Geezer would still stand.

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Pearce, having made the mistake of running under one of the judges that Pam mentioned, I can say will full confidence that not only was there favoritism, but blatant cheating. I found out the hard way that there is a reason the trial is small and had not filled the week before. In speaking with others, many in the area have had the same experience and refuse to enter any trial put on by that host or judged by that person.

 

What I saw just in one day included a near perfect run that scored 10 points below the host's run, which was not nearly as nice, the host practicing the course multiple times with the dog he was running later until said dog could do it quickly and efficiently and the judge not bothering to watch runs, which including not calling the shed, etc.

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Judges get paid?

I know they do. And they deserve it since they are spending a full day or two or four judging, plus travel time to the trial. If you don't have judges, you don't have trials. Fair compensation is only appropriate.

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I'd have to wonder why anyone would go to the trials as described by Pam and Liz. If the judging is that bad and blatant, why is anyone paying to enter? Seriously. I get that if you're new to the area you may not know, but it sounds like this is an established trial and at least some folks know what the deal is. Talk amongst yourselves? And then everyone votes with their feet? A trial can't be held without competitors, right?

 

J.

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Had I realized that trial was the one I was warned about, I would have never entered. That's the thing, people who have gone to this trial before or been warned don't go. The don't fill their entries. Not even close.

 

The novices would have been "safe" entering as the big politics happened with Open only. The novices are also less likely to have been warned unless their mentor had a bad experience there in the past. Of course, given the behavior I saw out of some of them, including storming off the course and slamming the gate into people, perhaps types like that deserve to run at this trial?

 

Most of the Open handlers who choose to enter year after year are part of a small group of friends/associates.

 

This is only the most blatant of the bad experiences I have experienced or heard about.

 

Political stuff happens in this sport.

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Just curious, as I don't have a dog in this fight, so to speak. Why is noone naming this person? Perhaps if the person's name were known, it could help some poor unsuspecting soul to avoid the situation,

A

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I'm pondering what trial this would have been, I by far don't know all the people in the area but am having difficulty imagining a trial in this region that is run like that with that type of attitude on behalf of handlers in attendance.

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I know they do. And they deserve it since they are spending a full day or two or four judging, plus travel time to the trial. If you don't have judges, you don't have trials. Fair compensation is only appropriate.

No idea if UK trial judges get paid but most dog activity judges don't here. They are likely to get expenses and maybe a moderate thank you gift. Different culture obviously.

 

I have more than the 60 we need for next year who have volunteered and they too spend long days judging in all sorts of weather.

 

I suppose payment and an activity where marking is to an extent a matter of opinion are bound to lead to allegations of irregularities. Bias is hard to prove though even if blatant.

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Are your judges traveling the distances ours do and judging during the work week?

As a reminder: UK map on US map

 

The last trial I attended in Virginia the judge came from Kentucky equivalent to the distance from London to Rosyth Scotland and judged Thursday - Sunday.

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Dear Doggers,

 

Many years ago the Texas Sheepdog assn had a rule that (open handler) members would judge in strict rotation. If they refused to judge they couldn't enter the next three trials.

 

When the Virginia Association changed from time trials to judged trials (84?) members did most of the judging at our small informal trials. It wasn't uncommon for someone to judge half a dozen open runs, then run a dog himself while one of the previous runners judged him. Worked pretty well too.

 

At the Bell Grove 1 Finals, I was surprised how little variation there was among three judges scores - rarely more than a point for a particular phase of work.

 

Judges do differ, commonly on circling the sheep on the drive, one or two sheep going in front of the post instead of behind and shedding the lead sheep rather than the last sheep on the head.

 

Those differences probably don't matter much because any of these faults would likely keep you out of the ribbons.

 

UK handlers - who may have another trial to run that afternoon are much readier to walk off than US handlers and British judges may only "judge" a dozen runs of 70 entrants.

 

The US judge - particularly for novice classes - is expected to differentiate between 'bad' wrecks, "worse" wrecks and PLEASE STOP DOING THIS wrecks.

 

The old Virginia Triple Crown (Blue Ridge SDT one weekend Seclusival midweek, Oatlands final weekend) used to fly top British judges over to judge all three - six days of trialing, four classes. By Oatlands the best judges in the world were making mistakes from exhaustion.

 

Judging is really, really hard work.

 

Donald McCaig

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I think there's a lot more nuance in judging sheepdog trials vs. judging agility trials. Can any of the agility folks explain the role of the judge at an agility trial? Is it to call dogs off course and mark errors at obstacles? I realize it all happens very quickly, but I get the impression that the judging is pretty much yes/no (as in, was the contact made, was the bar knocked down, did the dog go off course) vs. how far off the perfect line is that group of sheep, did that dog lift them too hard and how bad was it compared to all the other dogs who have run, were the sheep unsettled at the top/lift because of something the dog did on its outrun (too tight?) or is that just the nature of these sheep, did that sheep pop up because it's flighty or did the dog actually grip or bump it, did that handler step in to the opening at the shed, did the handler help the dog too much at the pen, etc. And at the end, did my scores place the dogs correctly given the overall work? And the judge has likely made those sorts of decisions on every run for up to 10 hours in a day, knowing that the handlers are also "judging".. Add in the novice classes, where the work is less clean and things go much more quickly and one can see why it might be difficult to get good judges and why they deserve to be paid. The work is so good most of the time now that it can be very small differences in runs that decide who wins and who doesn't. It requires skill, consistency, a thick skin, and good attention to detail. I have judged, and it's a hell of a lot of pressure. I don't like doing it at all. In fact, I'd rather do most anything else at a trial. One time a host asked me if I wouldn't rather judge than set sheep, and my response was that I'm less likely to get complaints setting sheep. Her reply to that was that people will complain about set out too. My answer: but at least I'm not within hearing of them while they're doing it.

 

I think the two cultures/sports are really too different to compare judging between them.

 

J.

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I agree with Julie's post, but do want to point out that judging agility can be quite strenuous and is not always a yes/no . First, an AKC or USDAA agility judge must stand in the ring for 8-9 hours a day. (Note: I have often (but not always) seen the NADAC judges standing or sitting on the sidelines to judge - depends on the class.) And depending on how the course is laid out, they must move from one point to another during each run to make sure that they have the correct angle to judge the running contacts that are becoming more common nowadays. [And there can be up to 330 runs per day in AKC, and more at a large USDAA trial.] If they are smart, they design a course that doesn't require them to move much to be in position, but I remember one judge a few years ago that had to be mad at himself since he had designed the course with two contact obstacles fairly far apart and at such an angle that he had to sprint from the first to the second for each run in order to be in position to correctly judge the contact zone. In addition to walking, running and staying on your feet for a long day, they also have judgement calls: Did that dog spin half-way to the next obstacle or did the spin happen 2/3 of the way? Different call depending on where it happens.

 

It sounds like both judges [herding and agilty] have a strenuous job, but the pressures are different.

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I'm not suggesting that agility judges jobs are easy, or can't be strenuous and tiring. But I don't think there's the level of nuance and complexity in agility judging as there is is trialing, at least not that I've seen.

 

I'm sure the politics can be just as discouraging in each. Wherever people are involved you'll unfortunately have that. And I'm sure that each can be thankless jobs.

 

Apples and watermelons are just different, not necessarily one better than the other. I happen to like both. ;)

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