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Should we as judges critique?

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Recently I posted on Facebook, how disappointed I was in an exhibitor that took my feedback and turned it into something very different. The comments and attention to the post gave rise to my latest post about critiquing.

A few years ago IABCA reached out to me to judge for their organization, in Los Angeles. I reached out to a well-respected local judge and asked her if I should consider the invite. She expressed that any opportunity to judge was always welcomed opportunity to help sharpen the saw.

Sample critiqueThe IABCA shows are European style shows than incorporate critiques as part of the experience. This is a great opportunity to learn how to put your thoughts from pen to paper in preparation for future shows that may require you to do so. The shows are very laid back with a great respect for an individuals opinion and the opportunity to learn. The camaraderie  that is lost at many of shows was very apparent, and everyone in attendance seemed to really enjoy the show and open to learn.

North America is one of the few continents that does not embrace critiquing, in actuality the attitude at shows doesn’t even foster chatting with exhibitors to further the understanding or knowledge that we may posses. One common thread from my FB post was stay away from conversations at all. Allen Reznik had posted that several multi group judges in the US have even stayed away from publishing articles to avoid criticism.

Sadly now is a time in history that we should be embracing these conversations and learning platforms more than ever. Knowledge is being lost at an alarming rate as we lose icons and influencers in the sport, a generation of talent is coming to an end and how do we continue to learn from one another when we can’t engage in conversation that allow us to learn.

Times change, this is without question. When I started showing in the early 80’s we were faced with the end of an era of well- managed larger breeding programs that were influenced in partnership with handlers and breeders working together to create an impact on a particular breed. Still though to be considered a professional handler you had to but in your time 5+ years of working the crates. Now we have instant experts and animal husbandry is a thing of the past. Juniors one day, professional handlers the next.

dog-anatomyIf you we don’t have these powerful conversations, how do we learn? Mrs. Clark and I several years ago were chatting at a show, a lady came along and ask her if she could talk to her about her breed. Mrs. Clark leans into the exhibitor and asks “can I ask you one question first?”, the lady says “of course”, Mrs. Clark “have you read your standard?”, lady replies “certainly” Mrs. Clark ‘then we can proceed’. Fascinating and the most basic question but it has become apparent as I have judge over the past few years, many people have not. Basic anatomy and structure is lost on so many.

So I ask you this, if we have to steer clear of conversation with exhibitors, how are we to learn and continue to evolve in the sport of purebred dogs. Will history be lost, though you may not agree when asking a question with the response. Remember an opinion is just that 1 mans view on a particular subject or matter, we don’t have to agree with the opinion.  We must remember that from our differences give rise to the conversations that empower us to learn.

stick-man-thinking-stickman-thinking-3So I urge you all don’t walk away from the question, have the courage of your conviction to put an opinion to the question asked of you. We can’t govern want an exhibitor will do with are opinion or how that opinion will manifest into something else. But that’s not our responsibility, education and preservation of our sport is.

If you want to want to give your hand and mind a try at critiquing reach out to Deb at IABCA and put your name on the list. They’re always looking for licensed judges to work for them. Please check with your governing bodies  on policy and procedure.

As Tracey Champan argued “Give me one Reason, Why?”

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Shawn Nichols
My involvement in purebred dogs started in 1982 when I attended my first dog show. I quickly developed a keen interest in the sport of purebred dogs. During the summer of 1985 I went to work for professional handlers, Mark and Sally George, in Northern California. I soon realized the sport would become a life commitment and passion. I continued to work for professional handlers, Tim Brazier and the late Mark Shanoff , all of whom offered me the privilege of working with some truly amazing dogs. I have bred both Toy & Miniature Poodles under the Typecast prefix. Eventually I relocated to Calgary where, in partnership with Raymond Yurick, I handled many breeds. One of the dogs we showed was Am. Can.Ch. Clarion Camelot Communique, Canada’s top Non-Sporting dog and #10 All breeds in 2008. In 2007 I purchased the iconic Terrier Type magazine I was the Editor/Owner from 2007-2010, a unique magazine that chronicled the history and achievements of the Terrier since 1961. I currently reside in Vancouver, BC where I currently work for Kao Canada in Sales and Marketing. My career aspirations have me pursuing my Marketing Sales Management Diploma at BCIT. I started judging in 2012, since I have completed the Toy, Non Sporting, and ½ of Hound Group. This past spring I have recently moved on to permit status for the balance of the Hound Group. Judging to me has been a natural evolution to add to my experiences in the dog world. It also allows me to remain current with issues of importance to breeders and exhibitors and offers me a means to be involved with CKC.

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