Judges Education Committee Defined

By: Judy Cheshire

In order to become licensed by the American Kennel Club to judge German Wirehaired Pointers in conformation, an individual must study the breed to learn its history, purpose and that combination of characteristics that make GWPs unique on to themselves.  It’s the responsibility of each parent club to help provide opportunities to educate aspiring, as well as current judges.    The GWPCA has a Judges Education Coordinator to help organize these opportunities and a Judges Education Committee to craft a process to do so.  Judges are obviously an essential part of the dog fancy and, before applying for any new breed, they must spend an extensive amount of time learning about and observing the breed in multiple venues.  This is often time consuming and resource intensive. 

The GWPCA JEC tries to respond to the needs of the judging community in a positive and responsible way.  How is that done?  The most obvious answer is to provide National Events to attract large numbers of dogs, breeders and exhibitors and sponsor a breed specific workshop to encourage the learning process.  AKC has very specific guidelines for judges’ education.  A seminar of approximately 90 minutes is required covering breed history, form and function, hallmarks of the breed and an in-depth interactive conversation about the standard.  There is also discussion about what constitutes correct breed type, prioritization of breed characteristics and how to approach a dog to complete an examination.  A “hands on” component is also offered, where a number of good dogs are available for the judges to go over, prioritize and articulate their reasons for placing them in a particular order.  Judges education at National Events also gives the judges an opportunity to talk to breeders, owners and exhibitors and develop mentoring relationships.  Ringside observation of the classes is usually provided by a parent club approved mentor.  There are about a dozen approved mentors in various parts of the country.  AKC also provides guidelines for mentors including the length of time they have been actively involved in a breed and specific accomplishments.  A mentor is called on to establish an ongoing instructive relationship for learning; a tutor can be a breeder, judge or handler with in-depth knowledge to share or discuss on occasion.   Because the GWPCA continues to hold its field events in conjunction with the National Specialty, participants in judges’ education are always encouraged to take the time to attend the hunt test or field trial to observe the dogs doing what they were bred to do.  This helps the judge better understand how form follows function. 

Besides workshops at National Events, the GWPCA JEC is often invited to give seminars in conjunction with judges study groups, at shows or on an independent basis.   Members of the JEC are also “on call” to answer questions and discuss the breed.  Two recent examples were a scheduled 1 ½  hour telephone conversation to go over the standard and a request to meet a judge at a hunt test to deliberate form and function.

The philosophy of the GWPCA has always been to keep the breed as one and not separate “field and show”.  By studying the history and purpose of our dogs, we hope judges will understand that the essence of the breed includes coat, athleticism, correct proportion and attitude – a versatile hunting dog that should be practical and working efficient.  Prioritize by function…………traits that enable a dog to do his job are virtues and traits that impede that job are faults.