Bo Bengtson Opening Space: Who Are All These Judges?

How many AKC judges are there? Where do they come from and where are they going?

By Bo Bengtson | January 1, 2007

"Who are all these people?” That’s a spontaneous and sometimes exasperated question from long-time fanciers who encounter the list of new names published each month in the AKC Gazette as applying for approval to become judges. How many are there? Where do they come from and where are they going? If you’ve been around dog shows for a while you probably have some friends who are judges, and you most likely know at least something about a few dozen more, but the rest — between 200 and 400 judges for most breeds — are probably just names to you. As for background and credentials, that’s unknown territory for the most part.

I know AKC frowns on what they perceive as "self promotion,” but wouldn’t it be great if judges came with a little box of pre-packaged information: started in dogs so many years ago, involved in breeds Y and Z, bred X champions, won Q National Specialties and Best in Shows... I think most people appreciate an opinion from someone they know has first-hand experience of great dogs. At the very least, if you know a judge’s background you will be able to accept his or her decision with a degree of reverence that’s appropriate to the judge’s background. It’s entirely too easy in this sport to build up an overblown "expert” reputation because the hard facts get lost in the mists of time...

So, really, who are all these judges? To begin with, there are about 4,000 individuals listed in the AKC Judges Directory. According to my estimate, about 800 are approved to judge only obedience, rally, tracking and/or Junior Showmanship.

Let’s say, as a conservative estimate, that there are a little more than 3,000 AKC conformation judges out there. Only 25 of these are licensed to judge all breeds, but an additional 784 are approved for at least one Group. That leaves more than 2,000 judges who are approved for one or more breeds but not for a whole Group; about 600 of these may be considered hard-core breed specialists, regularly approved for just one single breed.

A large majority of the Group judges, 681 to be exact (including many who are approved for just one Group), are also approved to judge Best in Show. This leads to the interesting but seldom acknowledged fact that our governing body allows its highest award to be determined by hundreds of people who are not approved to judge all the BIS finalists at the breed level. How much effect does this have on the results and, as a consequence, on the Top Dog situation? How likely are you to award Best in Show to a dog of a breed you have never judged before? Sometimes, in fact, six of the seven finalists may be dogs the judge is not approved for at the breed level.

Nobody thinks this is an ideal situation, but I don’t think it’s possible to change it as long as we have as many shows as we have today. Otherwise those 25 judges approved to judge all breeds would get no rest; they would each have to judge at least one Best in Show finale every week of the year... In the United Kingdom, the requirements for Group and Best in Show judges are a little different than ours. You may be approved to judge a Group even if you have not awarded Challenge Certificates in all the breeds in that Group; you just have to have judged a representative number of those breeds. On the other hand, to judge Best in Show you need to have judged more than one Group, which guarantees a somewhat more well-rounded experience.

At the FCI level, I’m not aware of any written requirements for either Group or Best in Show judges. "General dog knowledge” seems to be what’s taken into account, and as a rule that seems to work about as well as our more formal requirements.


Canada and the FCI Ban

As we go to press, the Federation Cynologique Internationale — the international body that governs international dog shows in most of Europe, Asia and South America — has announced that Canadian Kennel Club judges will "no longer be allowed to officiate at FCI international CACIB shows as from January 1st, 2007.” In addition, pedigrees issued by the CKC from that date on will no longer be recognized by the FCI, and the Canadian Champion title will no longer be accepted for entry in the champion class at FCI international shows. The reason given is "continuous lack of communication and response from the Canadian Kennel Club,” the fact that CKC does not recognize pedigrees from some FCI member countries, and a "lack of common orientation between the two organizations.”

During the AKC/Eukanuba weekend in Long Beach, CKC representatives met with FCI officials in an apparently unsuccessful attempt to resolve a situation that could have serious consequences for the international dog community. We’ll print updates as they become available.


Anniversary Issue

This issue marks the 10th anniversary of the first issue of Dogs in Review and we’ll cover our first 10 years in the next issue. I will never forget when co-founder Paul Lepiane and I brought the very first, 46-page issue to the January shows in California and then to Westminster in 1997... We have grown a lot since then, and many have told us that the magazine has, in effect, changed the face of dog show publishing in America by keeping the focus as much on good reading for the fancy as on beautiful ads. Wherever I go and whomever I talk to I am always amazed, and deeply grateful, for the level of appreciation that dog show fanciers show for the magazine.

We, in our turn, are grateful to all the readers, contributors and advertisers who have helped us make the magazine what it is today.

Here’s to the next 10 years!


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