Friday, January 14, 2011

Judges and Rules

As you know, in all my agility nerdiness, I follow quite a few international forums, so the recent suggested KC rule changes regarding no judging of spouses and double handling, immediately caught my attention.  What? Do you want to tell me we have the exact same problems all over the world?  I have to admit, it did make me feel a little bit less third world-ish, well for about 5 seconds until Eish-kom cut our power again for no particular reason...  So I am writing this post in the dark, hoping that my laptop's battery lasts long enough for me to write this post.  If I don't do it now, the loose screws in my head will just jumble all the thoughts around again and I will have no idea what I wanted to say.

As for the no judging of spouses or people that reside at the same address as the judge...  I have been around since Agility became official in South Africa basically and went through a lot of rule changes as the years went by.  We actually STARTED off with having that rule in place, as some parts of our schedule was just adapted from the general schedules for breed classes.  Since we have such a small amount of competitors, this really affected us.  There are quite a few husband/wife teams that run 6 or so dogs between them.  Now since we have an average of 35 dogs entered into a 'normal' show, this would mean that 17% of a class would dissapear if one of the spouses judged.  And unlike the UK, a show only consists of a maximum of one round per discipline.  We have three disciplines:  Contact Agility; Non-contact Agility (which would be 'jumping' in most other countries) and Dog Jumping (which is similar to Non-Contact Agility, with a few distinct differences).  So we had this rule changed about 6 years ago (if I recall correctly).  Not once, since that change have I heard one complaint or even one grumble about a spouse being biased to his/her partner... and since there are generally A LOT of complaints and A LOT of gripes, not once, has ever anyone questioned the changing of this rule.  To me it is simple, agility has rules, if the judge does not follow theses rules it is noticed, end of story.  Whether it is your husband or your grandmother or your long lost great aunt's toyboy running, it does not matter, a dropped bar is a dropped bar...  This is one of the reasons that I got stuck in Agility as far as dog sport goes, well there are a million reasons, but the biased in the rest of the dog world is like nails on a blackboard to me, a real pet peeve.  Unfortunately a judge still cannot compete in ANY discipline held under the same license on the same show grounds where he/she is judging.  To me this is also slightly retarded, of course your first duty should lie with judging.  BUT if you have completed your class entirely, without rushing and taking short cuts and you have put in a hard day of judging, why should you not be allowed to run in another class if it is still running?

Now on to the second rule change, which the guys in the UK seems to be taking quite well, has become a huge, massive cat-fight inducing problem around here.  Mainly on the baiting aspect of the double handling game.  We had frequent instances where friends would stand outside the ring and throw a toy, or where a handler would ask someone to place there lead at the last jump.  We are a lot more informal than European countries and never have more than two rings running at the same time, so dogs are often allowed to just run full speed out of the ring and romp about.  I was reminded about the dangers of this last week when a dog shot straight over the last jump and charged another dog that was loose outside the ring.  But that set aside, for years, people have been getting away with double handling, baiting and general assistance from outside the ring.  In a recent spate of judges trying to crack down on the problem, they went completely overboard, being too rigid and penalizing dogs for nothing.

We ended up losing quite a few entries over certain debacles.  My point is that double handling will ALWAYS be subjective.  If I leave my own dog to his ways, he would shoot straight over the last jump and to my camping chair where I leave my ball, but since I don't feel this is right I will always recall him.  Yet he is still making an attempt at going there?  Would some judges fault this? Maybe. For me it is an issue when the handler has LOST control.  Being it to another person or another dog or a toy or a lead or a butterfly or a train crash... When the handler loses control to something outside of the agility ring, that is when I start thinking about faulting.  But there will never be a black and a white.  Personally I think that is what makes good judges and bad judges, judges that have sense will know when to fault.

In the South African rules a dog continually 'jumping up and snapping at the handler' is cause for elimination, which I do agree with tbh.  Not talking about the odd Border Collie nip in a baby dog/awkward handling 'wtf do  you want me to do stupid handler' kind of thing, I am talking about a dog that actually runs into wings because he is too busy doing manwork on his handler.  Now lets say hypothetically there was a dog and handler that was particularly guilty of this sin.  I mean this particular person runs with long OVEN MITTS to avoid walking of the course with blood dripping down her arms.  Yet,  I have taken so much sh!t for eliminating that dog every single time, so yes, I guess some things will always be biased...

Me?  I am a strict judge, people know that, so they obey the rules when I judge.  I also try and have enough stewards to take leads etc. but this is very hard, as we are such a small community.  But damn I try to be fair...

Just interesting that the same rules and rule changes arise on the other side of the equator too...

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