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Interview with Obedience Judges

06 June 2016    10:00
 

To train obedient dogs is no easy feat, requiring patience and a strong bond between the dog and owner. Judging this trained obedient relationship is equally just as challenging. We talk to four Obedience judges about their experiences in Obedience judging - Kim Innes, Stella Henstridge, Nigel Slater and Krysia Wilenczyc.

An interview with Obedience Judge - Kim Innes

How long have you been competing in Obedience?          
Since 1981.

When did you start judging and why did you decide to start?     
I started in around 1983 firstly because I felt it was important to give back to the sport thereafter, (once I had recovered from newbie nerves!), because it is something I enjoy doing.

What dogs do you own and handle?   
I own and compete with Border Collies. I have Maddie who needs one more qualifier to work at Championship level, Rafa who is currently in Class B and a fabulous puppy called Chatta who is just starting out.

How do you prepare for an event like Crufts?     
Because of the new rules and regulations for the World Cup, my preparations started last October. There is a lot of work behind the scenes that I hadn’t dreamt of i.e. meet ups with my teams to practise timings, placing of the team within the ring and the round itself which was walked many times with my Steward and myself. I was determined that on the day we would be inch perfect and hoped we could achieve this on the day.

What is the most challenging aspect of judging an event like Crufts?    
The most challenging part is the preparation. I owe a huge debt to Richard Kebble who was there to help me all the way. As said above the practising beforehand is imperative as that is the difference between the whole event presenting itself as clean and slick. Having a good team around makes a huge difference and my team were superb. The judging, apart from learning new rules was the same as judging a ticket.

Did anyone in particular stand out in your judging?    
Not particularly, but I was very impressed with the overall standard from all countries.

What would be your top 5 tips for someone starting in Obedience?    
1) Look for a puppy that is going to be fit enough to do the job.
2) Find a good motivational Obedience Club or private trainer to help.
3) Don’t forget to get good pet manners from your puppy.
4) Work hard through play to connect a good relationship with your dog.
5) Do not be afraid to go to an Obedience Show and spectate. Ask lots of questions to the Competitors and Organisers. We are on the whole a friendly bunch!!  

What did you watch when you were not judging?   
I didn’t have time to watch anything!

Anything else you think will be of interest to Obedience enthusiasts and competitors?     
When I first started in Beginners back all those years ago, I could never have believed the journey it would take me on.  So to anyone who is starting out dreams really can come true!!

An interview with Obedience Judge - Stella Henstridge

How long have you been competing in Obedience?
I have been competing in Obedience for about 40 years.

When did you start judging and why did you decide to start?
My first judging appointment at an Open Show was 4 September 1988.  Prior to that, I had judged at what were then known as Exemption shows (now Companion shows). I stewarded at shows, while my husband worked his dog, before I had my first dog.  I then started competing and it seemed a natural progression to go on to judge.

What dogs do you own and handle?
I own four Collies, two of which are retired and the other two I am currently working.

How do you prepare for an event like Crufts?
Spending lots of time preparing the round, discussing with the stewards and rehearsing the days.

What is the most challenging aspect of judging an event like Crufts?
Finding venues large enough to be able to rehearse.

Did anyone in particular stand out in your judging?
The two winning dogs were obviously the best on the day. There were some other very nice teams working, unfortunately some made mistakes which took them out of the running. 

What would be your top 5 tips for someone starting in Obedience?
Enjoy your dogs!

What did you watch when you were not judging?
The Obedience World Cup.

An interview with Obedience Judge - Nigel Slater

How long have you been competing in Obedience?
I have been competing since the Autumn of 1979.

When did you start judging and why did you decide to start?
My first Open judging appointment was in 1985 when I judged a Novice class for Oakengates Obedience Society in Telford, Shropshire.

What dogs do you own and handle?
Together with my wife we own four Border Collies. At the moment I am working my four year-old Blue Merle boy Ciaran in Classes ‘B’ & ‘C’.

How do you prepare for an event like Crufts?
First of all you get yourself a good Ring Manager and behind this person you build a Ring Party of dedicated, educated and passionate people. Without this you leave failure a distinct possibility.

What is the most challenging aspect of judging an event like Crufts?
The Inter-Regional Competition was very demanding from a planning point of view. One day in particular had five classes all of which required equipment to be moved in and out of the ring. One other difficult matter was that we had to cope with the hurdle in the Novice class, the height had to be changed 10 times during the 14 dogs working.

This might sound crazy to some Obedience people, but preparing and judging the Obedience Championships in 2014 was a ‘Walk in the Park’ compared to this.

Did anyone in particular stand out in your judging?
They all stood out! Some exhibitors were making their Crufts debuts. If I had to pick one in particular it would have to be the Miniature Schnauzer that won the Beginner class. A simply stunning performance on the biggest stage in Competitive Obedience. Totally blew me and my whole team away!!

What would be your top 5 tips for someone starting in Obedience?

  1. Make sure you enjoy the journey from the beginning.
  2. Get yourself an instructor that believes in you and your dog and who is willing to be brutally honest with you when it’s not good enough!
  3. Remember that 99.9% of the time when things go wrong itis notthe fault of your dog.
  4. Learn from your mistakes because next week is the chance to put things right.
  5. Try to put back as much as you take from the sport.

What did you watch when you were not judging?
The Obedience Championships. This is the ultimate competition where the best dogs and handlers are on show and hopefully inspire the ‘watchers’ onto higher things!

Anything else you think will be of interest to Obedience enthusiasts and competitors?
One thing that stood out for me was the camaraderie that all the teams showed throughout the day of the Inter-Regional Competition. If they weren’t watching from the stands then they were in the Collecting Ring trying to motivate fellow team members. It was lovely to see and experience!

An interview with Obedience Judge - Krysia Wilenczyc

How long have you been competing in Obedience?
35 years.

When did you start judging and why did you decide to start?
I started in 1993, as I wanted to put something back into the sport.

What dogs do you own and handle?
I own German Shepherd Dogs, Borzois and Afghans.

How do you prepare for an event like Crufts?
I practiced judging the round to find the best place to stand. I also prepared the marking criteria ready to use.

What is the most challenging aspect of judging an event like Crufts?
The timing.

Did anyone or any team in particular stand out in your judging?
I was impressed with all of the teams.

What would be your top 5 tips for someone starting in Obreedience?

1)    Enjoy training your dogs.

2)    Laugh when it goes wrong.

3)    Don’t think that your breed is untrainable, all breeds can be trained.

4)    Don’t feel intimidated by other breeds.

5)    Take pride in what you have achieved, even if you don’t think it is much compared to other dogs’ achievements.

What did you watch when you were not judging?
Borzoi, Afghan and German Shepherd Dogs judging and some of the other Obedience events.

Anything else you think will be of interest to Obedience enthusiasts and competitors?
Never give up, don’t think that you have to have a certain breed to take part and enjoy your training. It’s just a sport and tomorrow is another day!

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