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Here comes 'da judge. Yes, that's you!

You've been asked to judge for the very first time. You're pleased. You're flattered. You're terrified. You've suddenly realised there might be some things you might not know or havenít been told about. Experienced judge Lesley Wilks passes on some tips for 'debutante' judges on what to do before, during and after the class.

First of all, there are four essentials you need to have with you.

  1. A copy of the rules and regulations. No doubt the club hosting the competition has a copy, but you might want to instantly refer to something at the ringside.
  2. A measure or rule of some sort for checking the height of jumps, tyre, weave pole distances etc. Never assume they are correct.

  3. A whistle

  4. A stop watch

It is also useful to keep a copy of your course with you. Even if you have sent it on to be set up, you may well arrive at your ring and the obstacles look nothing like the course you had in mind!

Ensure everything is well pegged with the pegs in a safe position.

Try to have a separate start/finish for efficient throughput of competitors. A few seconds saved between runs can add up to a lot of minutes at the end of a long, hot day.

Ring party
Before briefing the competitors, you should brief all your ring party so everyone is clear which job they are doing and what is expected of them.

  1. Suggest to the ring manager when you would like to stop for a break.

  2. Place jump stewards where you think poles are most likely to fall.

  3. Make sure they know they must not interfere with the dog/handler working in the ring.

  4. Make sure the exit of the floppy tunnel is pegged or have someone there to straighten it after every dog.

  5. Suggest which way you would like the queue to go. (Away from the caller, score table, finish etc.)

  6. State the maximum number of dogs you would like in the queue according to weather conditions.

The scrimer is your closest ally.

  1. Show them how you will signal the different faults  -  pole, refusal, missed contact, handling dog, ELIMINATION etc.

  2. Once the dog has cleared the first obstacle, make sure they know to glance quickly at the timing thus ensuring the 'clock' has started.

  3. Remind them they have the unenviable task of watching you and you alone throughout. They must not be distracted by laughter, a commotion, something they think theyíve glimpsed out of the corner of their eye!

  4. If you are able to do so, have the score table near the scrimer although not in the way of start or finish.

  5. Always check the results at the end of the class.

Judge's briefing
From the moment you do your Judge's Briefing, you are in control. You will be judging to standard Kennel Club rules but donít forget to mention anything extra you personally will fault that may not be covered by the rule book such as the Clock failing to start because dog runs round first obstacle, failure of timing equipment etc.

In the ring
Walk into that ring and take charge. Remember, anything that happens in that ring is  your responsibility... mostly.

You will probably be nervous for the first 10-20 dogs, especially if there is no clear round. After the first clear, however, youíll begin to relax and then youíll really start to enjoy yourself.

When there are contacts, remember to watch the yellow or whatever colour. Concentrate on that one patch of colour and if you see any part of the dog touch it they cannot be faulted. If you have any doubt then the dog must be given the benefit.

Applaud clear rounds. If you think a dog has run well yet collected faults donít be afraid to clap. Did you ever watch Alan Hale? He claps everyone who has handled their dog well.

You will see strange things occur, especially in the lower classes. You will have to make an instant decision and stick to it. As long as you are consistent and judge every dog the same way, it doesnít matter.

Happy ending
Make the most of the presentation. These are competitors who have enjoyed your course, who have run it well and are happy to be receiving their rosette.

Remember to thank those you think deserve it! Be gracious in accepting whatever gift you may receive. Finally  --  donít forget to claim your expenses or donate them to charity or whatever!

Best of all - Go out there and enjoy it because it can be fun.

About the author...
Having played around with ponies for many years with some success in Prince Philip Mounted Games, show jumping and one day events, Lesley Wilks saw agility at Olympia and decided she wanted to take part. After all, you canít fall off a dog, only over it!!

It wasnít until she moved to Daventry that she found a club that trained the discipline. After sailing through their Obedience course, she commenced agility training, and five months later was let loose on the agility circuit at her very first show. That was it. She was bitten by the bug and has been an addict ever since!

Lesley was thoroughly  spoiled by her first dog as he achieved a clear round at his first show, went from Starters to Advanced in six months (although the category wasnít around at the time) and qualified for every major final cumulating in a win at Crufts in 1995.

Since then, she's had two other Senior dogs - one now retired - as well as a superb Flyball dog who helped her team qualify for every final they contested, a 'failed' sheepdog that she took over at 22 months old from her husband  who has turned out to be a super little Novice dog with ten seconds and eight third places, and she is now training yet another youngster.

Lesley has traveled the length and breadth of the country, met some super people and, best of all, had fun with my her Cherwell Collies.

Photos: Janet Baxter (Flynn the Rogue Runner), Ellen Rocco (ring parties) & Eric Trafford (weave poles)


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