One of the many aspects of the field trial game is getting asked to judge. Some guys love it and seek out judging assignments. Personally I’d rather run my dogs, but once in awhile I say yes. I’ve judge a number of different breeds in a wide range of venues, but mostly I get asked to judge in the woods. I think a lot of people make judging too difficult and complicated. Your job is to pick out the top one, two, or three dogs out of the dogs that entered. If none of the dogs perform at what you consider a championship level then you revert it to a shooting dog (or all-age) stake. I know what I want to see and I pick the dogs that come closest to that ideal. In all the times I’ve judged I can’t remember having a serious disagreement with a judging partner although there’s been a couple a times that I’ve turned down judging assignments because I didn’t think I’d get along with the judge they already had. At the end of each brace you take a couple of minutes to talk about what you saw, what you liked, and what you didn’t like, decide if you could use either dog and then go on to the next brace and repeat the process until you’re done. There should be no big rehashing of all the performances at the end as you have been carrying dogs from the beginning and replacing them when something better comes along. Some handlers will try to work the judges and give them explanations of what the dog just did. I never listen. It’s just about the dogs. I’ll help a handler find a dog, even remind him or her to keep the dog to the front, suggest they slow down and let the dog hunt — I’m judging the dogs and often the handlers are their own dog’s worst enemy.
So, today we head up to New Brunswick where Tony and I are judging the North American Woodcock Championship. In 25 years of going to trials together, this will be the first time that we have judged together. It should be interesting. Sunday we have 4 dogs in the Woodcock Futurity — LJ, Frankie, Trash, and Little Thuddy. If I have Internet service at the motel I’ll file a report from the trial tomorrow and Saturday. If not, my next post will be Sunday night.