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So You Want to Judge Agility?

So You Want to Judge Agility? Everything Agility looks at the current training options.

Did you know there are at least 900 days of agility shows in 2019?  Let’s conservatively estimate that each day requires 6 judges… that’s 5400 people who are going to be marking you and your dog, albeit not at the same time!  Even taking into consideration the fact that some people judge multiple times in a year, we still need a phenomenal number.  Are they all up to the job?  These days, our main avenue to find out is via social media, mainly competitors thanking judges for a job well done, or commenting on the course plans that the judges publish themselves.  However, courses and how they are judged need to be critiqued, not via trial by Facebook, but in private groups whose aim is to constantly improve judges’ skills. For example, there’s the KC Agility Judges group, and the Global Judging group for those who have gone through the program.

For a while now, all UKA judges must have taken the organisation’s online judging course and, from 2020, the KC is introducing a similar ruling….

The Kennel Club

Although it has offered its judging workshop for many years, the Kennel Club has never required agility judges to take it or any other training – until now. (Well 2020 actually.)  The current wording for the ruling is “All Judges must have completed and passed an Agility Judges examination on the Kennel Club Academy every five years since passing the Regulations and Judging Procedure examination.” 

Requirements of a KC Agility Judge

Before you become an Agility Judge you must have sufficient knowledge and experience of agility so that you are able to judge fairly and accurately. Most judges will have already competed in agility for several years and will have assisted as ring managers or on show committees with the running or organisation of agility shows. This experience provides the prospective judge with vital experience and knowledge of all the elements of running an agility class safely and efficiently.

Before you judge for the first time at a Kennel Club licensed Agility Show you must meet the following criteria:

  • You must have completed and passed an Agility Judges examination on the Kennel Club Academy prior to attending a Kennel Club Agility Judges Seminar. The exam consists of a short multiple-choice question paper based only on the materials hosted on the Kennel Club Academy
  • You must also have attended an Agility Judges Seminar and passed the accompanying assessment. The assessment is a straightforward practical assessment of the candidate’s judging practice on the same day as the seminar

Mentoring?

The Kennel Club offers a mentoring scheme for new judges, which pairs an existing Championship Judge or Accredited Trainer with new judges who will help them before, during and after the appointment. For more information, please email agility@thekennelclub.org.uk.

Editor’s NoteI have emailed this address and wda@thekennelclub.org.uk and not received a reply from either.  Not for the want of trying, I can’t find out anything at all about this mentoring scheme.  However, I just found out that private mentoring is available from highly experienced judges such as Neil Ellis.  If there’s a judge you particularly admire, always worth asking them. Might cost you, but probably worth it, especially if you are new.

Kennel Club Publications

Also on the KC website you can find all the publications you need including a ‘Guide for Agility Judges and Stewards’, ‘Judges’ Guide to Agility Equipment’ and the ‘Guide to Calculating Agility Course Times.’

After January 1st 2020, all KC judges, not just new ones, must also have enrolled in the Kennel Club Academy and taken the online test.  It takes a while to upload, apparently, but it’s free of charge. According to a member of the KC Agility Judges Facebook Group “You get 40 minutes to take the test. It’s multiple choice and you need to get a minimum of 80%. There are 40 questions but most are dead easy. I finished in about 17 minutes which included confirming a couple of my answers in the H regulations. I did get one wrong though. It was one about the process of booking a judge for a show.”

Katie Lines

Katie Lines Passes Her KC Judging Exams

Young Katie Lines has recently taken the two-day KC workshop with instructor Jackie Gardner.  This is her story.

“The KC Judging experience was an invaluable lesson to learn and to appreciate the amount of consideration, time and analysis a judge puts in to ensure competitors enjoy their runs whilst feeling assured that their dog is safe at all times.

During the course itself, you must first pass your theory exam to be able to pursue the practical workshop across 2 days. Day 1 of the workshop mostly consisted of valuable knowledge-based theory in which participants assessed various aspects of course plans (all of which participants had previously submitted to the instructor prior to the event) including dog lines, handler lines and judging position. Other lessons learnt that day included the testing of our ability to successfully analyse scenarios in which you would write and describe how you as the judge would react, e.g., giving 5 faults due to the dog missing the contact on the equipment.

Day 2 consisted more of the practical side. This was when we were given a course plan – which is already designed by the KC – for us to put up correctly to fit the ring size. This concept may possibly be the most key factor you will learn as a judge – the importance of a course appropriately fitting the ring you are given on the day of the show! During the exercise, you are considered to be the judge and are therefore responsible for your ring – with your fellow participants as your ring party! Volunteers and their dogs across all 3 heights run your course and it’s your responsibility to correctly make a judgement on their performances.

Whilst you are judging, your instructor evaluates and assesses your decisions and provides instant feedback – which proved to be both constructive and useful for gaining insight into your weaknesses (to make improvements for the future) and your strengths. For me, the practical test was the most valuable experience of the workshop to be able to put the knowledge I had learnt into practise. 

After a few months of considering whether to do a judging course towards the end of the season last year, I am so glad that I did.   I would like to take this opportunity to thank those who encouraged me and would thoroughly encourage those considering the course to pursue it! It is safe to say that I cannot wait to start my judging career within our Agility community this season – with my first few appointments already booked – and I look forward to judging some of you in the future!” Katie Lines, 18.

UKA

Judges Assessment

Everyone who judges for UK Agility must have passed the Approved Judges’ Assessment which is available, free of charge, and can be completed on or off-line.  This multiple choice test has been formulated to ensure that current and potential judges have thoroughly read and understood UKA rules and the key differences between UKA rules and those of other agility organisations.  The test may be completed in your own time and you must score a minimum of 46 out of 48 to pass.  Any incorrect questions will be returned and may be corrected and resubmitted.

To download the judging assessment please click here.

Global Judging Program (GJP)

Firstly, I’d like to point out that GJP and UKA are quite separate organisations, even though their management has Greg Derrett in common.  Whilst there may be new agility judging courses in the offing, right now the two most established are the KC’s and the GJP.  GJP offers two levels:

In brief, GJP 1 consists of two whole days dedicated to non-organisation-specific agility judging and covers

  • Expectations of a Show Manager
  • Skill setting
  • Course analysis 
  • Safety in course design 
  • Judge’s path creation and analysis
  • How to deal with Social Media and confrontation
  • Refusal clarifications and judging techniques 
  • Judging analysis 
  • Decision-making skills
  • Dealing with scenarios

GJP 2 is further teaching with an assessment.  Day one covers:

  • Safety in course design
  • Designing from course templates & incorporating skills
  • Course measuring and dogs line
  • Judges path
  • In-depth refusal analysis looking at multiple organisations rules

On the second, assessment day, candidates will take 11 exams, 9 on the day of assessment and 2 prepared courses submitted on their arrival. All exams, unless otherwise stated are marked as follows:  Excellent 80%+, Good 65 – 79%, Average 45% – 65%, Fail below 45%.

To become a GJP Approved Judge candidates must score eight or more Excellent scores and no Fails.  To become a GJP Affiliated Judge, candidates must score eight or more Good to Excellent scores and no more than one Fail.

GJP 1 and 2 – a Review by Natalie Webb

Natalie Webb

Nat Webb has taken both GJP1 and 2 and she reports…

“As a little girl, I remember sitting in the main arena at Crufts watching in awe as Greg and his dog, Jay, flew round an agility course… Eight years later, I was back at the show being judged by Lee in my first ever YKC agility final! Having already played a hugely influential role in my introduction to the sport as a competitor, it seems fitting that Greg and Lee should also be the ones to have inspired me to become a better judge.

I originally took up judging as my way of giving back to the sport. I never imagined that I would eventually come to enjoy it as much, if not more so, than competing. Being very self-critical, I’m constantly on the lookout for ways in which I can develop and improve myself. Naturally, the Global Judging Program seemed like the obvious next step.

GJP 1

GJP1/day1 focuses primarily on course design. Ultimately it is the judge’s responsibility to set an appropriate level of course and be able to justify the skill set. Ask yourself this – how often do we see courses pitched too high or too low for the grade? Implementing something as simple as skill labelling during the design phase is an effective tool to prevent this from happening.

Course design ties in very closely with safety;  has the judge fully considered what the consequences of the dog failing a skill test or taking an off course obstacle would be? It is easy to focus all attention within the ring ropes but external hazards also need to be identified and addressed. In addition to dog safety, judges need to remember they have a duty of care to themselves, handlers and ring party.

For me personally, it was the judge’s path topic I found most interesting. The case study on Sascha Grunder demonstrates how the top judges make it look effortless- always following the dog, never needing to rush into position and ensuring they have “the best view in the house”.

GJP1/day2 concentrates on actual judging skills such as decision-making, leadership and implementing rules. Role play is used as a fun exercise to act out difficult scenarios whilst video analysis is used to highlight how hard it can be to accurately call a see-saw contact. Refusal clarification is also carried out through the use of videos and provides a foolproof framework which can be easily tailored to suit any organisation. It soon became clear that, despite the small group size, there was huge variation in the way people were marking which just goes to prove the need for additional training.

Unsurprisingly, there is a whole topic dedicated to social media and handling confrontation. Judges need to be fairly resilient. Unfortunately “judge bashing” appears to be more acceptable in British agility than anywhere else in the world. The key point made here was the importance of being fully prepared and try not to give the competitors anything to complain about! Despite all the negativity surrounding it, social media is a great way for judges to network and get their name out there.

GJP 2

GJP2/day1 is a chance to recap what was learnt on GJP1 with safety in course design and judge’s path looked at in greater depth. There is also a practical session based around course measuring- centre to centre as well as dog’s path. In short, it is a day spent focusing on preparing for the assessments.

GJP2/day2 is assessment day. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. It was intense. 11 exams in total, nine taken on the day and two prepared in advance. The bar for approval is set high with 80%+ scores required in at least 8 of the exams and no fails. The day was run efficiently and professionally with a quick turn around on receiving results and feedback. I am proud, and slightly relieved, to have passed.  However this does not mean I plan on becoming complacent. My results did flag up some weaker areas which I plan on working hard to improve.

I honestly believe GJP is a fantastic resource that more judges should take advantage of. What makes this program unique is that the training is delivered from the ultimate all-round perspective- experiences are based on not only being international judges but also being international competitors and an international event manager thrown in for good measure. I particularly like the flexible and inclusive approach it offers, meaning it can be used for judges all over the world, no matter which rulebook they use.

We are fast approaching my first appointment of 2019 and I feel more confident and empowered than ever thanks to GJP. I look forward to what the future holds”.

New GJP Dates in the UK

December 6th Course Design Day. This is a standalone module for anyone, whether they have attended GJP or not. Read all about it here.
December 7th & 8th GJP 1
December 14th & 15th GJP2

Held at Wickhamford Village Hall – WR11 7SA. To book, contact Greg Derrett via email or Facebook Messenger.  (I believe that GJP2 is now fully booked, or close to.)

Proving its versatility, GJP was recently held in the USA and this is just what one of the participants, Chris Nelson, had to say:

GJP Testimonial

So day one of the GJP (Global Judging Program) With Greg Derrett and Lee Gibson is in the books!  It was a really fun day, lots of good info, presented in a GREAT format where everyone was able to take something from it.

I would highly recommend anyone who has the ability and time to do one of their seminars to attend. Even with NADAC being my main focus, there was still a TON of great info to soak in and lots of things to think about. I believe they are going to New York next, so check to see if it’s close for you!  Go in with the intent to learn and it will really pay off.

Kudos to Greg and Lee for setting it up and trying to improve the skill level of judges across all venues, and educating handlers as well since you don’t need to be a judge to attend. I have a lot of respect for them after yesterday in the way they ran the seminar and worked with people who do multiple venues.

GJP is trying to improve all judges’ ability in a way that is very much needed and I think that they’ve succeeded in creating a program that can achieve that goal.  Best of luck to them both! I look forward to seeing more judges attending and continuing to improve their skills to progress the sport to where it’s capable of being”.

No Excuses!

There really is so much on offer just from the Kennel Club and GJP for agility judges, whether total newbies or those of us who have been rain-lashed and sun-baked for decades. At least by taking the KC and UKA online tests, judges need to have read and studied the rules of each organisation, which is something. But as this article has reported, there is so much more to discover about what makes an agility judge great. There are few skilled professions that don’t require their practitioners to undertake regular CPD (Continued Professional Development). So much has changed in agility over the past few years, with unprecedented emphasis on safety, dog’s lines, judging paths. It is our responsibility as judges to design and judge grade appropriate, flowing and safe courses for all to enjoy.


Stop Press:  The highly experienced international and Champ judges Neil Ellis and Martin Cavill have started offering their own Xcel Judging Seminars which look, at first glance, as though their offering is very similar to the GJP.  Everything Agility will be talking to Neil and Martin about what USP’s they are bringing to the judging table.

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