21 October 2011

no one's being persecuted here...

I just wanted to touch on a topic that is one of my pet peeves today. Judges. Namely, that they are there to judge your dog, not to "get you". Judges aren't out there wishing your dog would fault. They're not out there getting distracted and then calling a fault just because it's more fun that way. They aren't being paid off by the "big name" handlers. They are just as likely to call Johnny Never-been-to-National's contact or refusal as they are to call mine or Susan Garrett's or Linda Mecklenberg's. I was a judge once. I was approached by a few competitors who told me flat-out that I had called their contacts wrong. I knew I had not, but always there are "friends outside the ring" who saw it and agree with them.

When a judge is watching the course, they aren't really watching your dog that closely. When your dog is on the contacts, the judge is staring at the yellow and waiting to see if feet appear. When the dog is weaving, the judge is watching the weaves to see if the dog is on the proper side of each one (this is harder than it sounds). When the dog is going down a line of jumps, the judge is watching the dog peripherally but if they veer or slow down in any way, they are trying to visualize the "thirds" or watch the plane of the next obstacle so that they can correctly call the refusal or lack thereof. This is partially why it's hard for a judge to remember your dog - they aren't staring at it directly. This is also why the judge is usually right, and your "friends outside the ring" are usually wrong. Your friends are watching you and your dog running around the course. In the long years I've been doing agility, I think I've had ONE bad contact call... There were many others that people TOLD me were bad, but I usually side with the judge.

Judges are not out to get you. They are watching the contact. They want you to succeed! They don't want to make you cry. Judges are people too, and often they are even fellow agility competitors. They know what it feels like to come THAT CLOSE to achieving your goal, whether it be Finals, a MACH, a Regional bye voucher, or whatever.

So give judges a break. They're usually right. They are, in fact, hired to stand there and stare at contacts and jumps and weaves all day and do exactly what they do - judge whether your dog hit the yellow, weaved correctly, or ran past the jump. Hovering over the yellow doesn't count, running next to the jump doesn't count, and the judge calls what they see. In my 19 years of agility, I have to say, the judge is almost always right. So if your friends outside the ring tell you the judge is wrong on a regular basis, perhaps you shouldn't believe them. They are watching your dog, watching you, and want you to succeed. But they are not judges. Judges are watching the obstacles, watching your dog, and also want you to succeed but have a DUTY to call the fault if you don't.

Did Drifter hit this contact? It was practice, so I don't remember, but judging from his footfall pattern, it must have been very close...

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