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How to Become a Dog Show Judge: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a dog show judge. Research the career requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in dog show judging. View article »

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  • 0:01 Should I Become a Dog…
  • 0:39 Career Requirements
  • 1:09 Steps to Become a Dog…

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Dog Show Judge?

Although there are various types of dog show judges, conformation judges, who evaluate how closely a dog fits its breed standard, are the most common. Dog show judges work for kennel clubs or registries of purebred dogs.

Some judges might be called upon for competitions at locations across the country, permitting them to travel extensively. However, the stress of judging and possibly being subjected to criticism by dog owners, trainers and handlers is also part of the job. Additionally, there is always the chance of being bitten by a confused or frightened dog.

Career Requirements

Training Required The American Kennel Club and United Kennel Club both have distinct requirements for conformation judges
Experience Years of working with and breeding dogs
Key Skills Thoughtful, well-schooled in various dog breeds, mindful, and accountable
Salary $24,870 (2015 median for all sports officials and referees)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, United Kennel Club, American Kennel Club

The American Kennel Club and United Kennel Club both have distinct requirements for conformation judges. Aspiring dog show judges should have years of experience working with and breeding dogs and be well-schooled in various dog breeds. These professionals should also be thoughtful, mindful and accountable. The median salary for all sports officials and referees is $24,870, according to 2015 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Steps to Become a Dog Show Judge

Step 1: Breed and Exhibit Dogs

Dog show judges must first have years of first-hand experience breeding and showing dogs. Both of the major kennel clubs, the American Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club, require conformation judges to have bred champion dogs.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) has two ways of qualifying conformation judges of what it considers new breeds. In the 12-5-4 method, judges must have at least 12 years of experience exhibiting breeds of dogs that they want to judge, and they must have bred at least five litters and four champions in each breed. If an applicant cannot qualify under the 12-5-4 method, the new breed alternate method allows judges to have 15 years of conformation exhibiting experience for one breed. Judges seeking the alternate qualification must satisfy four other criteria from a list of seven, including breeding two or more champions and having 25 years of dog conformation exhibiting experience.

For the United Kennel Club (UKC), aspiring judges need only prove that they have bred three generations and four champions of the same registered breed. An applicant must be an owner or co-owner of at least two of the champions. None of the dogs involved need to be registered with the UKC. Ten years of documented, active experience in the sport is also beneficial to aspiring judges.

Step 2: Gain Experience Working at Dog Shows

The AKC requires that aspiring conformation judges complete six stewarding and six judging assignments prior to applying. Stewards assist judges during dog shows, including notifying exhibitors of judging schedules and keeping the show ring tidy. The judging assignments must be at shows that the AKC has approved.

As part of the minimum requirements to become conformation judges for the UKC, prospective judges must have at least ten years of experience in the dog show sport. Like with the AKC, stewarding and judging assignments can count towards this experience requirement.

Step 3: Complete Training

Participation in the AKC Judges Institute is mandatory for aspiring AKC conformation judges. While the UKC has no such training requirements, attending a similar program would be beneficial for any aspiring dog show judge.

Step 4: Apply to Judge

Aspiring UKC and AKC judges must pay a fee and provide documentation of experience and education with their application. The AKC requires that judges go through an interview process and pass an exam before gaining provisional judging status. To become a regular judge, a provisional judge must satisfactorily complete five assignments, which are evaluated by the AKC. The UKC requires judges to pass two written exams covering UKC rules and physical attributes of dogs.

Step 5: Begin Judging

Upon completing all necessary application requirements, candidates earn the approval of either the UKC or AKC. Individuals are then considered conformation judges and are eligible to begin judging dog shows.

Step 6: Complete Continuing Education

Continuing education is required for both major kennel clubs. The UKC requires conformation judges to attend an educational judge's seminar every five years. By attending these seminars, judges keep their judging statuses active and their educational requirements up to date.

American Kennel Club or the United Kennel Club dog show judges, most commonly known as conformation judges, need to meet breeding and showing experience requirements and might complete specialized training.

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