The Learning Cluster: Judges

  1. When did you decide to judge the shows in Oklahoma?
  2. How many days were you judging?
  3. How far did you travel to get there?
  4. How well organized was the show in regards to COVID-19?
  5. Were rules noticeably enforced?
  6. Did exhibitors practice social distancing?
  7. What was it like to judge without spectators?
  8. How “clean” did you find the facility overall?
  9. Was everyone wearing a mask? Did your dog(s) react to them?
  10. Were you pleased with the ring set-up (separate entrances and exits)?
  11. How would you rate your experience overall?
  12. Would you say that the shows set a good example for other clubs to follow?
  13. Is there anything that could have been done differently?
  14. Are you planning to judge other shows that are held this year?
  15. Do you have a message that you’d like to share with the dog show community?

 

Fred C. Bassett

It was my great pleasure to judge the fourth day of the “Learning Cluster” dog shows in Guthrie, Oklahoma. First of all, kudos to the entire Onofrio Team for spearheading this venture, and doing such a great job with it. The 1,200 dog limit each day was reached within four hours of opening entries, and exhibitors literally came from all areas of the USA, anxious to be back showing and checking things out. Awesome!

My overall comments are that this was a huge success, and the new policies and procedures were easy to follow for me as a judge. The exhibitors seemed fine with everything too, and we were all just excited and happy to be back doing what we enjoy so much. I was asked to include my more specific comments and recommendations: First thing as I entered the building, I was sent to the official photographer to have photos taken with all the ribbons and rosettes I would be awarding. We did this without a mask, and there was no one anywhere close, except the photographer who was six to eight feet away. He used these later to Photoshop me into the photos he took separately of the dogs. Again, handlers were allowed to remove their masks for the photos, as no one else was allowed close to them. This is a good process, and went smoothly, but I missed the personal interaction with the exhibitors.

I was surprised that there was open access to the building, with no screening. I expected controlled access with temperature checks, which I think would be a good addition to the process.

Other than the above photo process, everyone in the building was required to wear masks at all times. Exhibitors were allowed to take their mask down briefly only when moving their dogs in the ring, which almost no one did. Judges were asked to leave theirs on at all times, including during the in-ring judging process. I would like to see us progress to judges being able to take their mask down while not examining dogs, and not close to anyone. Part of the reason people like showing to me is that they can see how much I enjoy it from my face and expression, and with the mask this was not possible. For the time being, we kept them on to convey the concern for the highest level of safety possible, so I was happy to comply.

I missed handing out the ribbons, and having a personal interaction with the exhibitors. Everything was very impersonal. Again, a precautionary safety measure. It worked well here as we had very experienced stewards. They were required to place the ribbons on their table for the exhibitors to pick up as they exited the ring. In the past, there have been many shows that I have judged where the stewards frequently pulled the wrong ribbons for me. This is going to be a difficult issue for the future with the revised process in place.

During the individual exam of the dogs, I found many more dogs than usual being resistant, and some spooky. This is very rare for me, as I have a friendly, gentle approach and process. I believe this was probably because of the masks which, of course, we will need to continue, so exhibitors need to use masks in their training and get their dogs used to it. Exhibitors are required to show their dogs bites/mouths, so be prepared for that. This is not new, but there are still many that are not able to do a good job with it. If I have to assist to see what I need to, then I have to sterilize my hands. At these shows, the committee was unable to find antiseptic wipes, which I prefer to bottled products. We only had a watery pump bottle on our table, which was messy and clumsy to use. My preference would be to disinfect between each dog, which for me is only practical with wipes. Show committees need to do their best to provide wipes for future shows.

These are truly minor issues, so again overall, I’m delighted to be back judging. I have a number of other shows coming up through the end of the year, and am greatly looking forward to them. I personally am not nervous or scared about the travel. I have a wonderful mask my wife made me with a highly efficient filter, so am confident that will keep me safe during air travel. Best wishes to all of you, and I look forward to seeing you at a show in the near future!

 

Danelle Brown

When did I decide to judge the shows in Oklahoma? Terry James called me in the beginning of June to ask if I’d come. I didn’t even have to think twice. I was more than happy to help out. I judged the last weekend of shows before COVID, so I thought it only appropriate I should do one of the first back.

How many days was I judging? I judged the first three days.

How far did I travel to get there? It was just short of 400 miles each way and took about six hours to drive.

How well organized was the show in regards to COVID-19? Extremely well organized! I can’t say enough about the Onofrio crew and Southern Handlers League. The way they had the rings laid out and marked for social distancing was more than I expected and a great reminder to exhibitors. I wasn’t in the grooming area, but I could tell exhibitors were spaced well and the aisles were
very wide.

Were rules noticeably enforced? Yes, they were. Onofrio employees, SHL members and AKC personnel made sure exhibitors and judges adhered to the practices.

Did exhibitors practice social distancing? For the most part, yes. I did see a few groups in the building congregating at times, but I think that was because everyone missed each other. Hopefully with the masks in place, it will be okay. I have no idea what took place out in the RV area, but praying that common sense prevailed and people kept
their distances.

What was it like to judge without spectators? To be honest, I never really notice the spectators, so it wasn’t any different. You still had people up in the stands cheering during Groups, so that was pretty much the same.

How “clean” did I find the facility overall? For an indoor arena, it was as clean as it could be. There was hand sanitizer and paper towels at each table, but I had brought my own hand wipes to use between breeds. When I went into the restrooms they seemed to have been nicely maintained. I never saw them dirty. Being a dirt floor there was a layer of red dust on my personal belongings and myself each day, but nothing can be done about that!

Was everyone wearing a mask and did the dogs react to them? Yes, everyone I saw was wearing a mask and the few I saw outside the ring who didn’t have them on properly were reminded rather quickly that both mouth and nose needed to be covered. It seemed the handlers were policing each other, but they were doing it in a very respectful way. I’d say 95% of the dogs didn’t care about the masks. I had a few young dogs that backed away, but on a couple of those occasions the handlers informed me it wasn’t the masks, it was just naughty puppy behavior.

Was I pleased with the ring set-up (separate entrances and exits)? It was great. I was a little concerned that with all the changes, judging might take longer; it actually went quicker! There were no traffic jams with people trying to get in while others were exiting and, with the exhibitors staying six feet back from the ring, there were no crowds to fight through. I also think the setting out of armbands for exhibitors to pick up on their own worked well. When I was calling dogs in, if one was missing my steward would just look on the table to see if the number was still there and if it was, we knew it was absent. I did find it necessary to divide many of my classes into groups, and send some out of the ring so I could give everyone the proper space.

How would I rate my experience overall? It was wonderful!

Would I say that the shows set a good example for other clubs to follow? Definitely. The use of separate entrance and exit gates, not making the stewards hand out armbands, and Photoshopping judges into win pictures should be implemented by all.

Is there anything that could have been done differently? Not that I could see.

Am I planning to judge other shows that are held this year? Yes, I have a show July 12th in Alaska, one the end of August in West Virginia, and the beginning of September in Iowa. I’m more concerned about the airline flights than the shows.

Do I have a message that I’d like to share with the dog show community? I was so proud of the dog show community for coming together the way they did to make this show happen. I found exhibitors to be on their best behavior and the camaraderie was evident throughout the weekend. I was a healthcare worker for 30+ years and I feel if people will adhere to safety protocols we can get back to shows, at least in some areas of the country.

 

Jon Cole

Overall, I thought the shows ran very well.

When did I decide to judge the shows in Oklahoma? Tim James and I talked on the phone as they were beginning to organize the event—maybe three weeks ago.

How many days was I judging? I judged four days.

How far did I travel to get there? I flew from point A to point B in a straight line, it was over 600 miles.

How well organized was the show in regards to COVID-19? The committee had social distancing and masks for each day. They also sprayed everything in and about the ring, and the building staff did a good job on the restrooms. They also had sanitizer available for everyone to use.

Were rules noticeably enforced? Yes.

Did exhibitors practice social distancing? The exhibitors, judges and committee people practiced social distancing in and out of the ring. Everyone wore a mask as far as I saw.

What was it like to judge without spectators? Lots of shows have few spectators. Your primary purpose is to judge the dogs and not worry about spectators around the ring. >

How “clean” did I find the facility overall? Everything was handled well by the committee and building staff.

Was everyone wearing a mask and did the dogs react to them? As I stated earlier, yes. I judged about 175 per day and only had one or two dogs react to the mask I was wearing.

Was I pleased with the ring set-up (separate entrances and exits)? I liked the two entrance/exit. It made the ring more efficient.

How would I rate my experience overall? I thought the whole four days went well and everyone, including myself, was happy to be back at a dog show.

Would I say that the shows set a good example for other clubs to follow? Yes.

Is there anything that could have been done differently? The committee tried several procedures: One being the two entrance/exit; [another was] marked boxes in the ring where exhibitors/dogs were to stand (social distancing).

The exhibitors had the responsibility to pick up their own armbands. The first two days the exhibitor picked them up at the ring, and the last two days at the super’s table.

I liked the first method as it took maybe three to five minutes at the beginning of the hour for the steward to place the armbands on the table next to the entrance, and then she/he was finished dealing with the armbands. The steward could then call the classes and handle the ribbons. The steward placed the ribbons for the class on a table next to the exit. The judge did not handle the ribbons or give anything to the exhibitor. The exhibitor picked the ribbons up as she/he left the ring. I think these procedures helped the flow of the judging, stewarding and flow of the ring. These procedures should be considered by other clubs.

Am I planning to judge other shows that are held this year? Of course.

Do I have a message that I’d like to share with the dog show community? I know it is difficult when cities and/or states place rules on events regarding people attending in a government facility, but the Learning Cluster did establish that dog shows can go on inside or out with sensible procedures. Also, they had a private facility that was willing to work with them. Great job by all the committee members for making this work. Thank you.

 

Carolyn Herbel

When did I decide to judge the shows in Oklahoma? The day I was asked.

How many days was I judging? I judged for four days.

How far did I travel to get there? I traveled 310 miles.

How well organized was the show in regards to COVID-19? Very, very well.

Were the rules noticeably enforced? Yes.

Did exhibitors practice social distancing? Yes.

What was it like to judge without spectators? Not as much different than I’d expected.

How “clean” did I find the facility overall? Very clean, especially with the packed dirt floor.

Was everyone wearing a mask and did the dogs react to them? Yes, even when, on the third day, the exhibitors were allowed to pull their masks down. I personally saw no one do so. Only two dogs reacted, but at least one of those I suspect would have reacted to me had I not had a mask on.

Was I pleased with the ring set-up (separate entrances and exits)? It was difficult for stewards to move from entrance to exit in some rings because of the distance in large rings.

How would I rate my experience overall? Excellent! 10 out of 10.

Would I say that the shows set a good example for other clubs to follow? Yes. My clubs have a four-day cluster in Elk City, Oklahoma, the last weekend in August, and a three-day event in Enid, Oklahoma, the second weekend in October. We will be using many of the practices used at this event, although the facilities vary, especially the Elk City facility.

Is there anything that could have been done differently? With the excellence of the facility, I saw nothing major that should have changed.

Am I planning to judge other shows that are held this year? Yes, any that I am contracted to judge that do not cancel. I’m judging a couple of Groups and some Breeds in Elk City.

Do I have a message that I’d like to share with the dog show community? I believe the four-day cluster went really well. Some new things to learn, like wearing masks at all times, keeping exhibitors six feet apart in my ring, letting winners pick up their own ribbons, and my ring steward much more than six feet away because of the entrance at the far end of the ring and exit near the judge, are all to name the most important differences to me as a judge. Judges stopped by the photographer in the morning to have their photos taken with appropriate ribbons, so very few photos were taken with both the judge and the dog and handler together, although with the photographer’s ability to join the two photos the result will appear as if we had taken the photo in the normal way.

I saw no exhibitors, owners, assistants or handlers without masks the whole four days I was there. This was even the third day when handlers were given permission to remove masks when running around the ring. It seemed to me that everyone who attended this event was so happy and grateful to be back at a show—as well as to be able to visit with their friends after the long time without shows. It made the event feel like a family reunion. It also seemed everyone was very careful to comply with all the rules as they did not in any way want to jeopardize any future events.

I think this event was a well run event and seemed like the usual four-day cluster from before the cancelling started, with only the exceptions I mentioned above.

 

Garry Newton

When did I decide to judge the shows in Oklahoma? Immediately upon them asking me to judge.

How many days was I judging? All four days of the shows.

How far did I travel to get there? From Houston, Texas, which was approximately seven plus hour drive. We drove, so my wife (who is also a show chair) could observe and assist those putting on the shows.

How well organized was the show in regards to COVID-19? The shows were well thought-out with many elements that showed insight and innovation with the problem at hand. Entrance and exit for rings. Marked areas in the ring to assist with social distance. They tried multiple ways of picking up armbands and ribbon distribution to assist in social distancing. They worked with making sure crates were identifiable so that the people could show their dogs with ease, but also crates removed in a timely manner so that the next “set” showing had the same ability to do so. Photos were done > mainly through Photoshopping the judge into the pictures to minimize contact. This last element seemed to bring out an element of our community in a negative manner when social media “medical experts” expressed their displeasure with judges not wearing masks and standing too close to the exhibitors. The judge was not even in the photo area when the dog’s pictures were being taken. In my case, at the beginning of the day, I was photographed with the photographer and assistant social distancing while these pictures were taken. At no time at this show did I observe (as a medical professional) anything that would have put me, my personal family or my dog show family at risk for Covid-19.

Were rules noticeably enforced? Not only were the rules enforced by those putting on the show, the handlers and exhibitors went above and beyond to assist and make sure that the show was done as requested and required.

Did exhibitors practice social distancing? Yes, generally. It is a dog show and hard habits are difficult to break. Occasionally, there was a little clustering, but before anyone could point it out, the problem was self-identified and resolved. Indicators in the ring and around the ring assisted in this process.

What was it like to judge without spectators? For me personally, it was like any other show. My focus is in the ring, not outside.

How “clean” did I find the facility overall? The facility was a dirt floor arena. It was well packed and did not become particularly loose with use. It was clean, people kept it clean, and I for one would hope that many more dog shows are allowed at this facility.

Was everyone wearing a mask and did the dogs react to them? Everyone wore masks while they were in the building (during and after the show). The few that did not have masks with them (one policeman comes to mind) was offered a mask immediately and he took it with a heartfelt thanks to the show staff. Generally, the dogs did not react negatively to the masks. While I had a few exhibits that were not as steady under the exam, I came away with the impression it was the temperament on the day rather than the experience of the mask. Exhibits just are not getting the exposure to the show environment, but [I] believe that the handlers and owners are giving the canines exposure to the masks.

Was I pleased with the ring set-up (separate entrances and exits)? Yes. Initially, it took a few breeds for me to find a procedure that worked for me to optimize my time in the ring with the dogs. Initially the entrance and exit were almost as far apart as possible. Over the few days, it was observed and implemented that the same result could be done with slightly less distance. These modifications decreased the amount of walking for the stewards (especially if there was only one for the ring) as they not only called the class into the ring, in most cases also pulled ribbons for presentation as the exhibitors left the ring. These modifications maintained social distancing and at the same time increased efficiency.

How would I rate my experience overall? First, overall it was great to be back at a dog show. I thought I knew how much I missed them, but the impact did not hit me until the middle of the first day. I will say that while it was a great cluster of shows and I enjoyed myself, there was a difference that I felt. I enjoy that my peers ask me for my opinion. I am honored that my peers bring me canines that they love, and that love is seen in their faces, their smiles and their experience in the ring. I smile when I judge because there is nothing more fun and brings joy to my heart [than] to be able to have this experience with them. Masks impact this. Social distance impacts this. Not shaking hands or touching impacts this. I came away with a feeling that this experience was a little “sterile” when compared to past experiences. This is not bad or good—just different.

Would I say that the shows set a good example for other clubs to follow? I would say yes, these shows are a good example. But with that said, there is more work to be done. This is a baseline. Other clubs will modify, change and find innovations that might [not] as yet been thought of. Shows outside will present new challenges. With that said—it was a great start.

Is there anything that could have been done differently? Not that I observed.

Am I planning to judge other shows that are held this year? Every one that I have been asked to judge. If they put on the show and I am on the panel—and God willing—I will be there.

Do I have a message that I’d like to share with the dog show community? Again, most who have shown to me these many years know I smile when I judge. Good day or bad day, when I get into that ring I am honored to have the best seat in the house to watch the dogs each of you love. With the mask, you may not be able to see the smile, but please know it is still there.

 

Luis Sosa

Oklahoma was fine, I enjoyed myself, I only wish I could have had Patty for company and gone to eat at better restaurants.

When did I decide to judge the shows in Oklahoma? I was asked to judge about two weeks before entries closed, when Onofrio Dog Shows and the all-breed clubs finalized the Learning Cluster.

How many days was I judging? I judged for four days. I judged the Non-Sporting Breeds on Saturday, and Best in Show, some Working Breeds and the Working and Hound Groups on Sunday, and Hound Breeds and the Non-Sporting Group on Monday. On Tuesday, I judged a few Working Breeds and flew home. I did not judge any Groups on Tuesday, so I could fly home and save the clubs a night’s hotel. I also judged several NOHS Groups the first three days.

How far did I travel to get there? Guthrie, Oklahoma, is about a 14+ hour drive so, needless to say, I flew from New Orleans to Oklahoma City and drove the 45 minutes to Guthrie. I flew Southwest Airlines and changed planes in Houston. The Southwest flights were on time, and went out “full” with the middle seat open, so roughly 95 passengers or less on a plane that normally holds up to 143 passengers.

How well organized was the show in regards to COVID-19? The show staff spent a lot of time getting the site ready. There were six feet markers on the floor and outside the ring for social distancing. There was a six feet demarcation line to the rings so you could stay six feet from those inside the ring. There was no seating on the ring’s aisle side, only seating on the first row of the bleachers. Each ring had an entrance and an exit so exhibitors did not walk past each other on the way in or out.

Were rules noticeably enforced? Yes, there were several “rules police” people walking about keeping exhibitors six feet apart. There was a grooming tent for anyone who wanted to use it; but due to the daytime temperature, I don’t think it saw as much use as it would have at another time of the year, or in a different part of the country.

Did exhibitors practice social distancing? Yes, I think most exhibitors were glad to be at a dog show. If we had large classes to judge, we split them to give the exhibitors room to social distance in the ring. Same thing for the Groups; the larger Groups were judged in two parts, with cuts to give more room for exhibitors to spread out. Exhibitors picked up their own ribbons on the way out of the rings. I did hand out the Group win ribbons, but not the Class or Breed wins. Everyone wore masks while inside the show building. Exhibitors picked up their own armbands on two of the days at tables by the rings; on two of the days the armbands were picked up by exhibitors at tables by the superintendent’s office. On one of those days, the armbands were at tables near the superintendent, separated by Groups, and on one day alphabetized by the agent’s or owner’s names. I thought the armbands laid out on a table outside each ring worked out the best, since the judge could see which armbands had not been picked up. It would also appear that this also required the least amount of work in getting the armbands ready. On the days when armbands were picked up by the super’s office, we could not tell which armbands had not been picked up (dogs absent), so we had to call dog armband numbers and see if they were there and came into the ring. Sometimes we marked them absent and then they showed up, so we let them in. I don’t know how the exhibitors felt about the different ways to pick up armbands but, as a judge, I felt that the armbands by the rings worked the best.

What was it like to judge without spectators? Frankly, I never notice what goes on outside the ring; plus a lot of shows don’t have much in the way of spectators, so that did not feel different to me. There were a number of exhibitors live streaming much of the show which gave owners and people at home a chance to feel part of a dog show again.

How “clean” did I find the facility overall? The facility was “clean,” at least as clean as a dirt floor arena can be. The dirt was very well packed.

Was everyone wearing a mask and did the dogs react to them? Everyone wore a mask in the building, or the “rules police” would ask them to put one on. There were masks at the superintendent for anyone who did not have one. I did not find any reaction from the dogs to the masks, perhaps they were used to their owners and handlers
wearing masks.

Was I pleased with the ring set-up (separate entrances and exits)? The ring setup was good, you could tell that a lot of thought was given to what would work and what would not.

How would I rate my experience overall? It was a positive experience. Hopefully we can get shows moving again. There were a number of show chairs from other clubs that attended to see how it would work. There were also several AKC Board members and staff who also came to see the show and get ideas to implement.

Would I say that the shows set a good example for other clubs to follow? These shows set an excellent example for other shows to follow.

Is there anything that could have been done differently? Most judges had their photos taken early in the day to be inserted digitally in win photos as recommended by AKC. I had one photo taken each day, as asked, but largely stood for the photos for the dogs I rewarded in the photo area and held the win ribbons. When judging, I usually have plenty of time between sets to stand for photos and, that way, the exhibitor has a photo with the judge, not one where the judge was digitally inserted. I did not feel that I was any closer to the exhibitor when having the photo taken than when going over their dog in the ring, and I stood away from the exhibitor for the photo for social distancing while standing for the photo. By standing in the show photo and holding ribbons, the exhibitor has a record of the win, and not a composite photo. This also results in much less work for the show photographer.

Am I planning to judge other shows that are held this year? Right now, I have one more judging assignment in Florida in November, plus I’d certainly consider other shows if asked.

Do I have a message that I’d like to share with the dog show community? Yes, stop cancelling shows; have shows, and practice social distancing with masks.

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