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The LYC Basset Hound Club, along with other breed clubs, realized some years ago that education and training was necessary for any up-and-coming judge.
Unlike some countries, the United Kingdom does not have a mentoring system whereby judges who already award CCs are allotted a candidate whom they school for a year. The idea behind this is that the candidates listen and learn from someone with experience in the breed. After their year of schooling, provided that things have gone according to plan, they can enroll for a breed club seminar.
We had been trying to help people who are new to the breed by discussions at the ringside, but clearly some more formal education and training structure needs to be agreed and formalized.
In the early days of the LYC Club, we held "breed talks" and "vet talks" and these, in the main, were very successful. However, eventually it was realized that, although these talks were very informative, a more precise and detailed presentation was required which afforded at least a degree of quality and consistency.
The Club has tried various methods, e.g., getting a breed specialist to give a presentation, after which a hound judge gives a personal interpretation of the breed. One can learn a great deal from judges of other hound breeds, since they are not as inhibited by trivial "hang-ups" as breed specialists often are. Hound judges consider the hound as a whole, as it should be, taking any slight faults into account, whereas breed specialists can sometimes have a particular hang-up, whether it be head shape, depth of muzzle, eyes, ribs or some other feature.
Over the last few years the Secretary has put herself in the firing line by giving the presentation, either using a flip chart or, latterly, a Power Point presentation.
Seminars are not easy to organize but are most rewarding for all concerned if you get them right: one must find a suitable venue with enough rooms so that some candidates can be taking a written examination whilst others are judging a class of dogs or bitches. It is not easy either to find the right "mix" of exhibits: several excellent ones, several with a fault of some kind and several that are typical of the breed, but no world beaters. This is a change in approach from the past where there was a very good example, a very poor example and others in the middle. That format provided a distraction in itself in that candidates were more focused on first and last and not focused on the overall class! It is here that one has to rely on the generosity of Basset Hound owners to bring along their hounds. However, in the main, assessors listening to candidates' reasoning for their placings can, and often do, appreciate why the candidate has placed a particular exhibit. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder - it is all subjective. But if at least we all agree on a starting place it does make life a lot easier.
Some candidates dread the written examination, but most questions are multi-choice, so that all candidates need to do is to be able to tick the correct box. However, even this can prove daunting for someone who left school many years ago. Of particular concern to candidates is the section asking them to explain what a judge meant by a certain comment made in his or her critique. In this section a one-word answer will simply not suffice. For example: "Very smart male; would like a little more of him!" Obviously on this occasion the judge must have liked the hound or he would not have placed him and there would have been no comment on the exhibit. What stopped the hound from getting first place? Obviously, in the judge's own words, there was not enough of him. Perhaps he was a little on the small side for a male, or perhaps he did not have sufficient body (could have lost his appetite if the exhibitor had bitches in season). He could have been a little on the short side, since there was no comment on his being well balanced. Perhaps he could have done with slightly more bone to complete the picture. In those few sentences a candidate will have come up with some reasoning as to the comment made by the judge.
Another example of a possible question: "Liked the hound, but for me he was a little plain in head."
One answer not to give is: "As stated, the hound was a little plain in head"! This does not convey anything to the examiner. The candidate could have thought why the head was plain - was it the shape that caused it to be a little plain? Perhaps it had a more rounded head without a pronounced occiput. Perhaps the skin was so tight that, when the head was lowered, there were no wrinkles to be seen. Points are always awarded for a candidate’s efforts, but points are lost for not taking sufficient time to write a sensible answer to the question.
As with teaching in schools, not all students are at the same level in a classroom; so it is with the candidates: some are comparatively new to the breed and come along mainly for the presentation because they have not yet learned enough about the breed; others may have been in the breed for a good many years and already have a good knowledge of bone structure, etc. Some already award CCs in another hound breed and want to progress with a further hound breed. All have to be catered for.
Seminars take a full day, usually starting at 9.30 or 10.00 a.m. and finishing at about 4.30/5.00 p.m., depending on how much time is given to individual assessments. These things cannot be rushed.
Normally there are at least 2, if not 3, assessors - sometimes members of the Club’s committee or people invited from outside.
A seminar can be successful only if there are sufficient hounds for the candidates to go over, if the presentation is pitched on the right note, and also if the candidates have done some homework before attending the seminar. Pre seminar documentation is very important to candidates and will give them confidence in the seminar organizers. There is plenty of reading matter obtainable at the library or by buying some good books on the Basset Hound. The more you read about the breed the more you learn. It is not worth going into something "cold". There is no harm in asking someone to help with picking a good hound, etc. Future candidates are advised to listen and learn. They should read critiques from shows that they have attended and study the terminology, so that they can at least write a critique for the hands-on section. Good luck to them!
The reason why we advise candidates to read before attending a seminar is simple: our pass mark is set high. There is no point in having a 50% pass mark because that means you know only half the story and, to put it politely, it might not be the good half. A Pass Certificate is awarded only if both sections reach the required mark.
A successful seminar is a seminar the Club and Committee have enjoyed organizing and the candidates and other attendees have enjoyed attending. Obtaining feedback from participants is most important if you are to progress in the future and learn lessons. One of the most interesting pieces of feedback I received recently followed on from a Breed specific seminar at which I had given the ‘Breed talk’. A candidate, somewhat a veteran of the dog world, commented that not only was the seminar thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish, but more importantly that the candidates were left in no doubt as to the expectations of the assessors in the context of judging the Breed. That I believe is all we can hope to achieve.
Finally I believe that participation in the delivery of a Breed seminar should be unconditional. By that I mean all those involved should be giving something back to the Breed and not using it as a means to enhance any personal agenda. This should be probably left unsaid but should merely act as a reminder.
It should be pointed out that LYC seminars on the Basset Hound are run under the Code of Best Practice of The Kennel Club.
The LYC Club is proud that many of its successful candidates are already awarding CCs in the breed!
The next LYC Seminar will probably be held in the autumn of 2012 - so anyone interested should start reading now!
A new breed standard has been issued by the Kennel Club but much information can still be gleaned from reading books of the past from such authors as: -
Mr George Johnston; Mrs Jeanne Rowett-Johns; Mrs Marianne Nixon all well-known breed specialists.
Another interesting book on the Basset Hound is by E Lanyon.
The following people are thanked for all their help in organizing a seminar:
Mrs Vinnie Ness,
Miss Patricia Clayton,
the Basset Hound Club of Wales
especially Mrs Tina Watkins
not forgetting my poor husband Dennis.
Our most recent seminar held in conjunction with the Basset Hound Club
LANCASHIRE, YORKSHIRE & CHESHIRE