March 24, 2022

Episode 305: Interview with Judge Sheyla Gutierrez

In this episode (54:19)

In this podcast, AKC judge Sheyla Gutierrez shares how she came to be a judge at the National Agility Championship as well as her thoughts on course design and responsibilities of a judge.

You Will Learn

  • Why AKC courses can be difficult to design.
  • What course design trends are happening in AKC agility.
  • How Sheyla came to judge at the upcoming NAC.
  • What judges can and can not control.

Mentioned/Related

(upbeat pop electronic music) - Welcome to Bad Dog Agility, a podcast helping you reach all of your dog agility goals. Whether it's competing under the bright lights of the televised finals at Westminster, or successfully navigating a homemade course in your own backyard, we'll bring you training tips, interviews, and news about the great sport of dog agility. Are you ready? - I'm ready. - I'm ready. - I'm ready.

- The show starts with your hosts, Jennifer, Esteban, and Sarah. - I'm Jennifer. - I'm Esteban. - And I'm Sarah, and this is episode 305. Today's podcast is brought to you by HitItBoard.com and the new Teeter Teach It!, an easy-to-use tool that controls the amount of tip on your teeter so you can introduce motion to your dog in a gradual way. Go to HitItBoard.com for the new Teeter

Teach It! and other training tools and toys. Use discount code, BDA10 to get 10% off your order. That's HitItBoard.com. Today, we have a very special guest joining the podcast. We have judge Sheyla Gutierrez. Welcome to the podcast, Sheyla. - Thank you, thank you guys. Thank you very much. - We're excited to have Sheyla on for two reasons. The first is that Sheyla is one of the judges for

the upcoming, as in like 10 days, something like that, AKC National Agility Championship, so we are very excited to hear what she has to say as a judge, but we're also excited because we are starting a series of podcasts about the behind-the-scenes of trials. So I think that a lot of agility competitors don't necessarily understand all that it takes to put on a trial, what happens behind the

scenes, the work that different people do, but also who's responsible for what, what the judge controls, what they don't control, and so I wanted to put together a series, and today is the first in that series, and we're gonna be talking all about the judge role, so what that judge does, and so welcome to the podcast Sheyla. We're very excited to have you on. Let's start with just

kind of those general responsibilities, and I will put the caveat out there that I'm sure there is a little differences between organizations, so you have to take everything with a little bit of a grain of salt, but give us an idea of how you get a judging assignment, and then kind of where it goes from there. - I judge AKC, UKI, and USDAA, and I will tell you,

I find the way to get assignment's kind of different for each one. I think for, I think AKC is at this point the more formal one, the more you get, very ahead of time, I mean I have people contact me for 2025, which to me is mind-blowing, whereas for UKI, you'll get them maybe a couple months, maybe a year out ahead. Usually people send me emails. A lot

of these days are sending Messenger. I do usually prefer and revert to email 'cause it's a little easier to search and just kinda keep track of, but people, it goes very much by word of mouth, so you'll go to an assignment and you'll judge, and all of a sudden, you go home and you get a couple emails from a couple people (laughs) messaging you asking for different dates

or things like that, so that's usually how it goes, yeah. Keeping track of that can be, I tell you, it's one of the biggest challenges. I, with work and all that stuff, a lot of times email does get buried, and keeping track of answering people, so I do tell clubs a lot of times, check back with me if you don't hear again. I try, but it's just, it

can be a lot, it can be a lot, so. - Right. All right, so then once you get that assignment, what goes into, I guess the next thing you would do would be start to design your courses. - Well, not really. For AKC especially, usually the first thing you gotta do is check, COVID days are a little bit different. We used to have a distance and dates, we

had to check, we couldn't judge in the same area within 30 days for 200 miles, for a 200-mile radius, and so that always created conflicts with clubs. So you'd have a club, let's say, in Indiana and a club in, I don't know, Ohio or Kentucky that would contact you, and if they were within the 30 days, you really had to check to make sure before you accepted the

assignment, otherwise when the club submits their assignment, they used to get, that right now is waived I think until the end of this year, and due to COVID, they're being a little bit more flexible, but that was usually one of the big things, and just to kinda check the dates and make sure you have 'em available, make sure, and then sometimes, like you said, going into the course

designing, but I tell you, tracking clubs and getting the information on what's their facility like, what are the size of the facility, what's your ring like, is there columns, is there no columns, do you have a sketch of your facility, do you have your equipment list, and just kinda getting all the details as far as the, I for one really like to try as much as possible to

nest my courses, and so I like to have my courses designed off of each other so that the day runs a little bit more fluidly, and so getting a good idea of what the actual order that they're gonna be run in for me is important before I design. So, and sometimes you can get that, sometimes you improvise. (laughs) - (laughs) Right. So I have, one thing that I

have been interested in is the judging process, and I've said it many times on the podcast but I feel like everybody should at least read the judge's handbook, because there's so much interesting stuff in there that people just don't think about. I don't think your average competitor thinks too hard about the 250-mile radius and things like that. - No, (chuckles) yeah. - But I am curious, for you,

I'm sure everybody is different, but when you design courses and you want to nest them, what do you start with? What is your design process? - For me, so judges, I know everybody does something different, I tend to start with my master standard. Believe it or not, my master standard is my hardest course to design. Once I get that first one, everything just seems to flow for me,

and I can design a premier course in no time. Master standard is quite a bit more challenging for me, and I will be the first one to say, I actually struggle with my course design. I don't know if it's 'cause I'm a perfectionist (laughs) or something like that, I really don't know, but it can be very challenging and it takes me quite a bit of time to get

one master standard course out. Once I have that, everything else seems to flow, but that's usually what I go from, so then from that, I finish, I go onto my open and my novice and depending if it's a one-ring trial, I usually start with master standard and then once I've got my master standard, I'll go into jumpers and time to beat and all that stuff. I tend to

like, I like the nesting but I do want different flow, or the course has to be different. As a judge, I do like to see the course be from open and excellent and novice, I like the different levels and I wanna make sure, if you look at a course for open, that it looks like a slightly easier version of the excellent course, but there has to be a

difference in flow. I'm not usually a fan of just taking out one obstacle. I do like to see a difference in flow that somewhat shows the essence of the masters course, but at the same time, it's very much an open course or very much a novice course. That's my thing, yeah. (chuckles) - That's super interesting. I've never thought about it, what order you design courses in if I

were a judge. I never thought about it, and then when you said that, I was like, what course would I start with? So that's pretty interesting. Do you do the same thing on the jumper side, like you start with the masters jumper, then you'll do the premier and open and novice? - So for sure, I tend, I mean, there's usually things that I, I may have an element

that I like that I saw somewhere, I do like to look at courses and just kind of look at things that come up on Facebook and things like that, so I may have an element that I'm like, ooh, I'd like to incorporate that, but I usually will start from that masters course, and because like I said, in AKC, it's actually interesting to me, I find the masters, the

design for masters to be a little bit more restrictive, and so, because there are so many elements to the rules that you have to follow into your course design that kinda limit what you can and cannot do, it's easier for me to take that master standard course and just kind of make it into premier than go the other way around. I find that easier. But that doesn't mean

some other people might not do something different. That's just my style, yeah. - Yeah, I also like the other thing that you said about the differences between open and excellent, because I feel like for years, open is a lot closer to excellent than it is to novice, and sometimes I feel like, every once in a while, the open course is, I think, is a little bit harder than

excellent sometimes, because of the elements, yeah. - I agree. Yeah, I agree. - Interesting. - And I know sometimes it's also, I will tell you that not every course runs like we expected, not everything, - Right, good point. - you know, not everything comes out like we thought when we saw it on paper, and then when you see it run, but I do try. One of my personal

rules, because I am a competitor, not that I compete that much but I am a competitor, and one of my biggest things is I don't like to put stuff out there that I couldn't see myself handling it. If I don't have a way, and I don't have, my dogs are good but I'm not, you know, I wanna make sure that if I put something out there, I could

find a way to handle that course. And also looking at the whole course, again, as a whole, not just looking at a part, a piece or obstacles nine through 12, I wanna see the whole thing flow and make sure that everything flows nicely and that it can be done and that there are options on how to do it. There may be a segment of the course that I'm

looking for specific handling, but overall, I want them, I want there to be different choices. What if the person doesn't have this skill, can they still handle it with a rear cross instead of a front cross? Can they handle it from in front as from behind? As much as possible, again, doesn't always happen, but as much as I can, I try to make sure that's the case. -

Yeah, and you were mentioning the, a lot of the rules that kind of constrain your design. Can you give just like one or two examples for people, 'cause these are the kinds of things that I think the casual competitor has no idea, and it would give them a better appreciation for what the judge does, 'cause I think too many times, people are like, well, why didn't they do

this? Why didn't they do that, with course design, and a lot of times you just can't because of these rules. - Well like you said Sarah, one of the things that I agree with is people should read the rules, because there's a lot in there that pertains to course design that can be quite challenging, and I think it's important and it's not just there, it's there for a

reason, we do have, for example in AKC, there's a limit to how many tunnels you can use, typically you can use two, these days you can use up to a third one as long as it's a 10-foot tunnel, but typically you're limited to two tunnel passes on a course, and so that right there, a lot of times people are like, oh, I love my UKI courses, why can't

we (laughs) be more like UKI, it's just, we can't. I mean, we can't have six tunnel passes on a course, and AKC, one of their biggest things is agility for all flavor of breeds. We want the little dogs to be able to run as much as big dogs, so you want those Leonbergers and those Great Danes technically to be able to handle these courses, and so when you're

putting a Great Dane into a 24-inch tunnel, no matter how, they still have to bend and get low, and so I get why the rule is out there, but it does, one of the biggest ones I think that's, comes into discussion a lot is the sight switches and options, and AKC has very clear definition of what the course challenge is. For novice, you need two sight switches at

least in every course, and two options. Once you go into open, that becomes six options, and I think that's why a lot of times, it feels like an open course is a lot more like an excellent course than a novice course, because you think it's not that much, but to go from two to six, it really changes the spacing of your design, especially when you consider that the

options have to be, those wrong course options have to be within at least 23, if not 21 feet of your current course obstacle, and so that really makes a difference, and then once you go to excellent, it's nine, at least nine options or wrong course option or nine challenges, as they call them, so it does, I think that's the biggest one, and I find, at least myself, that

that's the one that limits me more, especially as far as the spacing. I have big dogs myself, so I am the first to say that I like big courses with flow and open lines, and so I do see where a lot of times the competitors, but I also can see, I used to run pugs, so I also can see where, the bigger the course, the more the dogs

have to struggle, the more the dogs have to run, the more distance they have to travel, and so it is one of those things that, it is quite challenging to find a balance between the two. - Right, and as a non-judge who has looked into it, I'm gonna try to explain a little bit about the off courses, and you correct me if I'm wrong. But, so basically what

you're talking about with the off-course traps is you have to have a certain number of off-course traps, but you have to look at the off-course trap as if the dog was going to actually take it, and then that off-course trap has to then be within legal spacing, so it can't be too close 'cause then if they fall for the trap, they could be in danger, right, but it

can't be too far away either, and so that's what you're talking about, it compressing some of that spacing. - Yes, we call it, (chuckles) we call it, believe it or not, they call it the SAD, being within sight, so S, and then accessible and desirable, so it has to be within a distance, and so it has to be within a certain distance, and yes, there's a minimum distance

for safety reasons, which I believe is 15, it may have gone up to 18, but it has to be within, if it's straight-on, it can be up to 23 feet, if it's at an angle, it can be 20 to 21, so it has to be quite close if it's at an angle, and so you do got about a 90-degree cone of sight that the obstacle can be within,

yep. - I think one of the judging rules that competitors don't think a lot about that I know comes into play for the judges is judge's path. I don't think as an exhibitor, we think much about how your course design has to work with the judge's path, so again, correct me if I'm wrong, but there are particular rules that you have to be within a certain distance of

the contacts, you have to be able to see all of the run-out planes, you have to be within a certain distance of the table, so I think I've seen exhibitors say like, why are all the contacts compressed in one area, or why are we doing this particular flow, and it's so that you guys as judges can get into position to see what you need to see, that is

something that an exhibitor would completely overlook without being aware of some of the rules and the restrictions that judges are dealing with, so I know that your courses go through an approval process, and I've seen judges or heard judges talk about, well I had to move this or switch this because my judge's path wasn't approved. - Yes, even something as simple, and I know we haven't really talked

about the reviewing process yet, but there is, like you said, there is a reviewing process, and AKC's kind of unique, I find, as far as you are kind of attached to your reviewer, and so your reviewer can, in my opinion, kind of influence what your design is in the sense that they have to approve it, so if there's something they don't, they particularly don't like to do or

don't want you to do, it doesn't matter (laughs) it really, you have to kinda stick with it, and so my reviewer for example is very big on, you have to see the double and the triple, not from the side, you have to see it from in front or from behind, and so I'm not only looking at contacts, I'm also having to look at those spread jumps, and yes,

we have to be within like 15 feet from the triple, I mean from the teeter, we get about, I think we get 30 feet for the broad jump, and there is also a cone of sight, and like you said, the run-out plane is important, and AKC is very, again, is kind of unique in that our run-out plane is live at all times, and so we have to really

see that run-out plane. As far as the three organizations that I have right now, the other thing that I find hard for myself is being able to see the entrance and exits of the tunnel from wherever I'm at, so I need to be able to see both the entrance and the exit at the same time, and so AKC does not allow a lot of straight tunnels. That's a

question I get a lot, how come your tunnels are always C-shaped, how come, it comes down to the approach into the tunnel, it comes down, and the off-course approach into the tunnel can be a problem, so if you present a tunnel as an off-course possibility and the dog is approaching it at a bad angle, it may be flagged as a non-safe approach, and so all of that is,

comes into play for sure, so yeah, I've thrown away, - Yeah, that's a-- - I've thrown away so many courses that I love that had great flow and I look at it, and when I go for my last, which is, sadly that's my last step is, oh okay, let me draw my judge's path, and I'm like, uh-oh, I can't judge this, (laughs) I can't get to it, and

my reviewer knows, I don't mind walking and I can get there and I do have, I tend to have myself pretty long judging paths, but there is only so big they'll let you do it. I think I, the maximum they usually allow is 150 feet as far as your judging path, and the argument which is good, I think, is if something happened to me and another judge had

to judge it, physically they need to be able to do it so I can't make it just for me. I mean, if I were little miss the speedy and I could run from one corner to the other, that's okay, but if somebody else has to judge it, then they can be in trouble. (chuckles) - That is a great point, because that is exactly what I thought when I

saw that rule. When I first was reading the rule book and I was like, well, I'm young and fit and if I wanna walk more, that's more my business, you know? But that's a really great point, that somebody else might have to do it. So the review process, so we touched a little bit on that, is there anything kind of else in the review process that we need

to understand as competitors? - I think, as I was saying, I think the timeline. I think, we tend to, for AKC, we have to submit our courses 45 days ahead. Each reviewer is different. Some reviewers want you to send it in as an agile course design, others want it in PDF, sometimes they sketch by hand, some of us, and a lot of it talks to our preferences as

far as, do you like dealing with paper or (laughs) computers, but it really, I think it really is interesting to me, 'cause in the other organizations as UKI and USDAA, their reviewing process is similar but their reviewers, for example, USDAA, each reviewer is assigned an area of the country, so there's a reviewer that's in charge of certain states and another one in charge of certain states, there's a

reviewer for the tournament classes, et cetera, whereas in AKC, as a judge, you're assigned to a specific reviewer, so I get a reviewer and I've been with my reviewer, I wanna say, probably eight years now. I think eight years, yeah, and so you learn what they like and what they don't like and you learn not to try what they don't like, but there is some communication also. You

just learn what buttons not to push, so to speak. (laughs) - Right. - One of the things that I always think about is I watch course design in Europe kind of flow and change, and I wonder how much of it is competitor and judge-driven, and I feel like ours is not necessarily as easily judge-driven. You hear a lot of competitors, especially these days with Facebook, you hear a

lot of competitor comments and complaints and just what they want, and I for one, I would love, again, I'm a competitor myself, and I don't run easy dogs. I mean, my dogs, my carvers is big and enthusiastic, and so I hear it and I would like, and there's changes that you can do, but it has to be little by little I think. Patience is important, yeah. - Right.

I had a million-dollar idea while you were just talking. We should put together a book of every judge's courses that couldn't get past course design. We'll just put a big, - Oh my god, yes, yes. - old disclaimer, put a big disclaimer on the front that these are, - Just like, these are not legal. - may not be safe. (both laugh) Like, these are not legal. - These

are not legal. (laughs) - And then put out a book of all of these trashed courses that are amazing. (laughs) - Yeah, no, you come up with this course and it's lovely, and sometimes it's interesting, sometimes you get carried away, you're like ooh, I like this course, then you look at it and it has four tunnel passes. I'm like, oh, save that one for UKI, save that for

(indistinct speaking) (laughing) Those are easy fixes, but the non-judgable can be a problem, so yeah, yeah. - I had a question about specifically nationals. So I feel like the courses, especially the hybrid round is very short and quick, so as judges, and I'm not sure if you're allowed to answer this question, (laughing) do they put limits on you? Do they say, hey, don't take a course - Oh,

for sure. - that takes forever? - I think we are allowed to say, I think that's a fairly, for anybody that has gone through a judges clinic hears the, or has tried to apply for judging, we hear the, don't do this on Sunday or don't do that on Sunday, or make sure you don't put a long lead-out on Sunday, and that's kinda the things that they do limit

us on at nationals, they're like, don't put any big lead-outs, we really don't, because they are looking to move people. I mean, nationals is a much bigger event - Yeah, big event. - as far as judging. We judge more runs than we would on a regular trial, and so they are looking to keep the day going, so they do have, you're also always limited by the equipment for

example, and that happens on a regular trial too. They may say, I only have two tunnels or I only have one tunnel, or my tunnel is a 15 and a 20, and so you know what kind of things you have to play with. You go to facilities that they say, I only have so many jumps, and if you have that many jumps, depending on the number of jumps,

you might end up having to design your course to match that, but for nationals, for sure, I do know, and I think that's not a question that's wrong, they do tell us, try to keep it to a certain number of obstacles and use this size tunnel, this is the tunnels we're gonna have available, and so on and so forth, and so they do give us those kinds of

information, which is, again, kind of what you'll get for regular course, but they do try to keep the courses a little shorter for nationals, just the days are long. - Okay, I think that makes a lot of sense. I have one more. - Yeah, the days are long. Yeah, - Yeah, I have one more question, - oh, and no, yeah. - about, go ahead. - Yeah, yeah, no,

no, that's fine. - I had one more question about nationals. Specifically for yourself, and again, don't answer it (laughing) if you can't answer it, how tightly do you think you judge the teeter, the seesaw, compared (laughing) to most judges, and how tightly do you think judges should be judging it at nationals? - Ay-ay-ay. (laughs) I-- - You can say no comment, no comment. - No, no. I think

everybody should be judging the teeter at nationals. I think, you know, oh my god. Contacts are one of those things that I am really struggling with as far as judging. Not judging them myself, but you go to trials and people are like oh, you gotta watch this judge, she really judges contacts, and in reality, every judge should be judging contacts. (laughing) - Agreed. - I don't know if

that's something, I will say, I don't know if that's something, but it is something that I know is a problem. I mean it's, and it's hard to be the judge that's judging contacts on a day that maybe you're up against somebody that's not doing it or it's hard to make that call when there's a lot on the line. I will tell you, I mean I've judged national, this

will be my first national event, but I did judge tryouts, and it's, and I judged the Premier Cup and that was a call that people were, you know, and I will tell you, I felt very comfortable with my calls at the Premier Cup and I felt very comfortable with my calls at tryouts. There are, when you're running an event that, like the Premier Cup, and even more so

at tryouts, you're running dogs that are moving so fast, and everything is out on the line. I mean, they really are putting it all out there, and so you wanna make it as honest and as solid as possible. I try very hard to be at every contact and I try to be very clear about my call, and I will say, even on a regular day I try to

do that, and if I don't see it, it won't be called, but if I do see it, it will be called, and I will, especially on a big final event, I will make sure that you are watching and that you're paying attention, and with that, I think it's important to say that we are, we have the best seat in the house. And people say that jokingly, oh, you

have the best seat in the house, but it is really important. Nobody can see it like I can see it. I can tell you, even the competitor a lot of times can't see it as we see it, because you're moving fast, you're looking down, so you can't necessarily tell whether your dog's foot is over the contact or on the contact, and that is a big distinction. Whereas when

we're looking from the side, we are looking for that contact, for that touch of any part of one foot. I want people to qualify, I promise you that. For me, I love seeing people succeed on the course, and I don't want the contacts to be, or the call to be really what's creating the win or lose. I want it to be fast and I want people to be,

but at the same time, if somebody has a solid teeter performance, I mean I work really hard training my contacts, and I wanna make sure that if I have a really fast, solid performance, I wanna make sure that if somebody's dog leaped off that teeter and the teeter never hit the ground, that I'm not judged against them and I end up the loser, you know what I mean?

And so I wanna make sure that the performance follows the rules as stated, which is basically one, part of one foot has to be one the board when the board hits the ground and I'm touching yellow, (laughs) so, before exiting, so that's how it is, yeah. - Yeah, I'm 100% with you on that by the way. I totally agree. I think judges-- - But it is one of

the biggest complaints. I mean, I know people, I've been up against judges in a certain area or whatever and I know people that are friends and they'll contact me and they'll say, I would love to come to your trial, I love your courses, but I'm gonna go judge under so-and-so, and it's horrible to think that, but that's the competitor's perspective, that's what they think, and I think it

can become a problem. It can become a problem. - Yeah, yeah, 'cause ultimately it's going to hurt them at a big event when you get some real high-quality judging and the calls matter, - Oh yes, and that's what I tell students, - and then, yeah, yeah. - That's what I tell students, for sure. That's always what I tell 'em. - Well it's, it's also interesting because there are,

there is so much structure and consistency around your course design, and then there is not the same level of consistency among the actual judging, right? They're just given a lot of leeway in how things are judged, especially at a weekend trial basis, but you can't have people - I, yeah, I think-- - there all the time to look at, people are looking at every single course design, but

there is not necessarily somebody watching every single call, (chuckles) you know? - Well, competitors, competitors. (laughs) - Right, well yes, yes, yes, that's true. - Yeah, yeah. - I will tell you that. As I judge, it's interesting to me, after an event, you'll get good, you don't really think about it, and these days, again, Facebook can be brutal. It can be great and it can be brutal, and

you get messages from people, personal messages saying thank you, loved your courses, it was amazing, and surprisingly to me, because to me it's something that I, I'm like, how do you do this? You'll get messages from people saying, oh my god, you called this, why didn't you call so-and-so, (laughs) and for me it's like what? - Oh, like call someone else, wow. - Oh yeah, (laughs) oh yeah.

- Wow. - And so it's fascinating. This sport is very interesting. But you know. (laughs) (laughing) - All right, so let's get to, let's get back to the responsibilities, 'cause we have more questions about nationals, but I think the two things that people think of when they think of judging is they think of course design, which we covered, and they think of the actual judging, right? So, but

there is a little bit more to your responsibilities on the trial site, day of trial, so kinda talk us through what is required of you. - Well obviously, when you get there, first thing you do, you gotta introduce yourself if you haven't been to the area in a while or whatever, meet your committee, at least who the chair is or make sure somebody's there, (chuckles) meet your trial

secretary, I think that's gonna be, I look at it as your partner for the day, 'cause a lot of the, they get a lot of the comments or messages from, there's a scoring mistake or something's going on, so you're gonna be dealing with them all day, and then you identify your workers, who's your course builder, who's your, and get your course, if your course is built, you go

right into tweaking and checking the safety things, checking the teeter, checking the tire, but if the course isn't built, a lot of times I'll pick up and just kinda start numbering it or start tweaking it or building it if it hasn't been built. I get antsy, I get, I'm the one that I always wanna be doing something, so a lot of times if something hasn't been built, I'll

just pick up and go, but yeah, that's kinda where you start, and then while you're there, like you said, every time a class finishes, everybody's rearing to go, they wanna get their ribbons, they wanna know their scores, and I think sometimes people don't realize that until the class is finished and that means every single dog in that class is done as far as the height at least, we

can't release ribbons, we can't release final scores, so if there's a conflict, if somebody hasn't run for a reason, they had a conflict with the other ring or whatever and we're running them with a different height, we can't release ribbons as far as the final results until that person has run, so a lot of times people come back to the table and drive the trial secretary crazy, I'm

sure, when you talk to the trial secretary you'll hear that, asking for their results. But before those go out, we have to check up on them. Like I said, each organization has slightly different approach to it. UKI, you don't have to do much, USDAA, you do have to sign your results. AKC actually, interestingly, they require you to check each scribe sheet, so we match each scribe sheet, oh

yes, we match each scribe sheet to the catalog, technically, we check the score, make sure, it's probably one of the reasons I hate fast, because (laughs) you have to actually do the math. I mean, people think, oh, it's fast, you know, and yeah, it's written out on the sheet, but I gotta make sure that what they wrote on the sheet as far as the adding of the numbers

matches the numbers that are marked, and people think, oh, the computer does it, no, we check it. We, I mean, we're supposed to check each scribe sheet, and I for on check at each one, (laughs) and so you have, use the little cheat sheets and things like that, I have a little cheat sheet for fast that we use, but we're checking the math, we're checking to make sure

there wasn't an input error, somebody put their finger where it wasn't and the dog turned up as an E and it was not an E, it's just a refusal or something like that, so we'll present it. Overall, if it's a big, big trial, we at least check the qualifiers, but I tend to like to at least look through, if I can and I have the time, I'll look

through everything, so we try to as much as possible do that before the scores are released, and then at the end of the day, we sign the catalog, which we take home a copy of the catalog, these days we can take it electronically, and we take home all the scribe sheets and we save 'em for a year. You have no idea how much paper is in my house.

(laughs) It's really, it's like you end up saving all this paper for a long time. And if there's a mistake, when things go back to AKC, they will contact you and say hey, can you pull the scribe sheet for so-and-so, we need to check, they're contesting a score or whatever, and we do go through those, not often, but that's happened maybe, I don't know, three or four times

within the 10 years I've been judging, 12, over 12 (indistinct speaking) - Wow, I had no idea. - 12 years I've been judging. (laughs) - Yeah, I would've thought that they would've sent all of that back to AKC to store or something. I had no idea that the judge had - No, I know. - to hold onto all of that. - I know. That's for AKC. For UKI,

we don't save anything, I mean I don't save anything, and for USDAA, I don't save it either. I think the trial secretaries save it for USDAA, but I'm not 100%, but we have to save the, the secretary saves a copy of the catalog and all the paperwork as well, but we are the ones that take the scribe sheets, so yeah. - Wow. And so then at the end

of the last class of the last day of the trial, then are you basically done other than storing that stuff? - Well, so when the classes are done, they'll give us that. A lot of times they'll give us what people call our percentages, the secretaries give us a sheet where it says, oh, you had so many dogs qualify in this class, so many dogs, I don't, I personally

don't look at it a lot. I might take a look at it depending on how a course ran or whatever, but I get a pretty, I feel like I get a pretty good feel about a course on the day based on what I saw, and that doesn't necessarily reflect the queues, and I think that's one of the biggest things for people to understand as far as AKC, and

one of my biggest things I find as a trainer and competitor is people get so hung up on the queue, and the queue is down to so many external elements that people always wanna blame the judge for it, and to be honest, it really is, I mean it can be something as simple as the heat that day. I just did a trial here in Florida, and I swear

I was dying from the heat, and I didn't have a great day, and I kept forgetting the course which is very unlike me, and it's not the fault, the judge's fault, it's not their design's fault, it's not, you know, but people are very quick to do that, and so I don't tend to look at percentages because sometimes they can be deceiving. If the dirt today was a little

loose, you might have a lot more bar knocking than usual, and things like that will affect your percentage and there's nothing you can do about it. Or if you put out, let's say you put out a challenge that was fair but in that area is not very common, or you had a smaller trial because it was close to nationals or something like that, all of that will affect

your percentages and your queue rate, and so people always ask, oh, what's your queue rate? I don't even know and I don't really wanna know. (laughing) I don't think it's a fair question, let's put it that way. So we'll get that, and then after we go home, we do have to submit a report to AKC. It's just a general, was there any reportable incidents, because we do have

to, we are the ones that get to report incidents in the ring, so dog that attacks somebody in the ring, a dog that attacks a person or a dog in the ring, so big incidents, unsportsmanlike conduct that happens inside the ring or is related to the ring, we will be involved in the reporting, and so a lot of times we have to report that back to AKC. If

there was something, like let's say this club doesn't, I don't know, I've never had to do that one, but let's say the club doesn't have safe equipment or it doesn't, those are the types of questions that they will ask you. Did you have trial committee present all week and things like that, I mean the whole weekend, and so yeah, so we do have to send back a report

to AKC, electronically, again, these days, and that's when it really is done (laughs) for us. - Right. So you've mentioned a couple of these things, but if there anything off of the top of your head that is something that people think that the judge can do but the judge can't? (laughs) So like things that people come to you and ask you to do this or to do that

or why did you do this, or something, - I think-- - you don't have that control. - I think most of them are, as far as AKC which is interesting to me, AKC's very thorough with their rules. They're very thorough with their rules as far as, I mean there's things in the rule book that you would not believe, like you're not allowed to have an umbrella on a

walkthrough. That's one of the things that's in the rule book, and people don't even know it. (chuckles) But it's, which is fascinating, it's odd, but it is, and I think a lot of them that people come to ask you are in the rule book. I think a lot of times when people come to ask you questions and say hey, can't you do this, I think a lot of

the ones that people ask me that I wish I could do are based on course design these days, because I do see a big difference within, with different styles and different personality types, and there are different agility organizations and I think there is agility flavor so to speak for everybody, but I know even within the AKC community, there is more of a call for changes in course design,

so I do think that things will be coming, and I think, like I said, a lot of we have to be patient, but I couldn't pinpoint one. I know, there's always, when there's a special call, oh, maybe leashes, leashes in the ring, and I think, again, a lot of them have changed through COVID, so it's hard to tell 'cause COVID times are kinda different, and so now, we're

allowed to have our leash in our pocket and things like that, but it used to be, one of the biggest things was when, once we went to the enclosed rings, now the whole dogs leaving the ring off-leash is a big deal and coming in off-leash is not allowed, and oh my god, it's one of the biggest rules that I don't understand, I honestly don't understand why people have

such a hard time following it, and then get so upset at us when we have to call it because we have to call it, and so, but it can be a problem. (chuckles) It can be a problem, so yeah. - Yeah, I think a lot of the problems also come, it's kinda like you were saying with the teeter, the problems come when there is a judge that doesn't

call it, and then they get used to it and they say, but this is the leash I used last week and it was totally fine. (chuckles) Yeah. - Exactly, and you know what, honestly, the truth is, we are human, and we are, I mean, we are judging 350 runs a day sometimes. I mean, and so it's a long day, I mean I've had trial days where I've had

over 40,000 steps. It's a long day of going, going, going. And so yeah, not every day I'm completely on that I will notice every single leash that comes into my ring and I will notice everything that happens in there, but I try to be on the 50 seconds that I have to really be on, and so a lot of times I'll look away, and I can't 100% say

that nobody has left my ring without completely clipping their leash. There are days, especially going Sunday when you're trying to catch a flight, you will be going and so you look away, and god forbid, somebody slips by, but you, I also think we need to be better at the honor system. If you know it's a rule, why do you have to push it, (chuckles) you know? Just do

it. You signed on the rule book. It's clear on the rules, it's clear on the releases, it's clear, just if you wanna compete in AKC, just follow the rules, you know what I mean? And I think that's true for any organization also actually, I mean whether you're doing USDAA or you're playing checkers, I think it's important that people understand that the only way we can judge one thing,

apples to apples is if we all follow the rules. And if we let one thing to versus another, then it's not apples to apples, and I feel like then, how is it fair? - No, that's a fantastic perspective, and I mean, that should be the, there's a certain personality type that I expect gets drawn to judging a little bit, (laughing) (indistinct speaking) analytical, little bit, judging, you know?

(laughs) - Yeah, yeah. - Because I am right with you, I'm like, if I were a judge, maybe one day, but if I were a judge, I am like, there are rules and rules are made to be followed. - I know. And the thing is, I've always been one to know the rules and follow the rules, and I didn't come into AKC judging thinking I was gonna do

AKC judging, I actually, I started in Puerto Rico, and in Puerto Rico, AKC has a limited number of trials you can have as a club, and so in Puerto Rico, we only have one AKC club so we could only technically have two AKC weekends a year, and so we wanted to do more agility, and so we had a USDAA club, and we did mostly USDAA, and then we'd

have an AKC weekend a year, and so when I first started thinking about becoming a judge, I thought I was for sure gonna be a USDAA judge, but then the opportunity came to go to a clinic and I went to the clinic thinking, oh, let me go see how it is, and ended up passing, (laughs) I totally did not think it was gonna happen, and on the first

try. A lot of us don't pass on the first try. It's a very challenging process to become a judge. And so it was quite, it's mentally challenging, it's stressful. I will tell you, I've always thought I don't necessarily have the right personality as far as having the thick skin. I want everybody to succeed, and I want, that's why I struggle so hard with my course design (laughs) I

will tell you. I want everybody to be able to do it, I want people to have choices, I want them, I'm a pleaser in many ways, and so it's hard sometimes for me to take the negative comments and to have somebody fail and to see somebody fail, and no matter how good you are at course design, there will be a day that I, you'll put something out there

and you will have to see the whole class fail. And it's heartbreaking, and it makes you uncomfortable, and I don't have a poker face. If you've ever seen me judge, you'll see it, I don't have a poker face, I tend to, if a dog slip on course, I'm the first one that has a funny face on, but it's hard for me. I feel it. I'm very passionate about

agility, and honestly that's why I ended up becoming a judge. We didn't have a lot of judges on the island, and a few of us said, some of us have to step us, 'cause that way we don't have to bring people to judge and we might be able to do more trials and save some money, and that's how it happened. It wasn't, ooh, let me be a judge,

I wanna get a few people one these courses, which is what everybody feels. It's like oh, you're so tricky. I don't. I put out courses that I like. My courses can be more technical, but I think also that talks about, I don't necessarily just do AKC, and I think that's part of it. I think the people that don't necessarily do UKI or USDAA or study other flavors of

agility so to speak, don't necessarily see some of those challenges, and whereas they don't necessarily stand out for me, and so it might (chuckles) it might turn up on my course. (laughs) - Right. All right, well let's talk about nationals. So when did you find out that you were going to be doing this year's nationals? How did that come to be? How do you become a judge that

is tapped by AKC for the National Agility Championship? - So let's see, so the first time, actually, that must've been now three, well with COVID, four years ago, I just got a call out of the blue from one of the reps, and they said, "We want you to know, you're being considered "to judge one of the bigger events, "so you're gonna be under supervision for the next year,"

because that's the other thing people don't realize. When you're chosen or being considered to judge, whether it's invitationals or the cup or whatever, you all of a sudden have a rep follow you around at every single trial that you go to, (laughs) and so clubs are not very happy with you, I'll tell you that, because it changes things, I mean for the clubs, and it changes things from

competitors' point of view, it changes a lot. And so all of a sudden, people think you're under supervision, and you're not. I mean you are for nationals, (laughing) it's not because, - It's like the opposite. - exactly, it's an honor, technically. It's not, oh, you did something wrong. But all of a sudden, so they do warn you because of that, and in my particular case for some weird

reason, I hadn't been supervised in a long time, and so they said, "Yeah, and we do have to get a few people out there "'cause we haven't seen you in a while," and so they, I did have, for a whole year I had a rep almost at every assignment. And it was great, all my reviews were great. I was very happy to work with them and all that

stuff, and it was good 'cause I got to meet some of the reps that I hadn't met and all that stuff, but you get that call out of the blue, but they don't necessarily tell you which event. They do ask you which one you prefer, interestingly, and at the time, I remember I said, "Oh, I'd love to judge invitationals, "because the Puerto Ricans always come to invitationals," (laughs)

but shortly after that, I got invited to judge the EO tryouts, and that was my first big one, and then I got my first invite for Perry, for nationals in Perry. This time, I had a very crazy weekend, because on the same weekend I got asked to be assistant coach for EO team and then I got the invite, so it was in December, actually late November, and then

I got the invite for nationals. Carrie said, "Oh, by the way, "I know I told you about the EO, "but can you judge nationals this year?" And I was like, oh, oh, and so I took on two pretty big things that are gonna be somewhat close together time-wise, and earlier, when I said that we get assignments years ahead, you don't necessarily plan down the road, oh, let me

leave a couple weekends off in case I end up judging nationals, so the next few months are gonna be a little crazy, (laughs) but it's okay, I'll survive it. - Ah, so was the Perry, is that the year that got canceled for COVID? - That's the, yeah, that was the COVID year. - So you got invited but it didn't happen. - Invited but I never judged it, yep,

yep, that one didn't happen. - Right, right. - And so then they messaged me again for Oklahoma. The 2021 ended up being a bigger national than they expected, and so they need an extra judge, so they invited me very last minute, and they knew, just because they had to get some extra judges, and then, so I kinda knew that this might be a possibility, I just didn't know

for sure, so I found out in November. And I was very excited. I'm really looking forward to it. I think it's a great event. I've enjoyed going to it in the past and I'm really looking forward to being one of the judges, so. - And then when do you find out what it is that you're judging? - So they sent out an email, let me see, what month

are we? I wanna say February. I can check, but yeah, I wanna say February. We technically, I think it was late January actually. The courses for nationals are not within, are not constricted by the 45-day rule. We do have to have our courses in 45 days before the first day of the assignment normally, but for nationals it's not, and there's a little bit, they do want them early,

it's not like we're allowed to have 'em at whenever, but they do want them early and they wanna review them, and there is some give and take. It's not like oh, it's entirely mine or whatever, but you do have a little bit more flexibility, so I think we found out late January I wanna say, maybe early February. - Do you talk to the other NAC judges very much

or do y'all coordinate, or? - I, so I've talked, I talked to one. I haven't really talked to the others, and we don't really have a lot of coordinating that we have to do. There will be a meeting before we start the event, but that's the day before, like the same day, the day before it starts officially, there is a judges' meeting, and that's the same thing that

happens at EO. I actually had more coordination for tryouts for example, because the two judges, the two courses are, all the courses are run in the same ring at tryouts, whereas here, your ring is your own, and so whatever course you design is not gonna affect somebody else's design, so you don't have to coordinate at trials, but you can, and you can talk with your other, but for

NAC you don't need to. Each course is its own, and it's gonna actually be built in different arenas, so they do stress somewhat our judge's path, at least make sure it's not long or it's not too long or whatever 'cause there will be, it will be judged by everybody there, so yeah. - And since we waited to do this podcast until just a little bit before, we have

the schedules now out, we know that you're judging the finals course. - Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm really excited. - So that is like the premier, I shouldn't use the word premier, - Yes, no, no, yeah. - it has another meaning. That is the spotlight event. (laughs) - Yes. I, yeah, I'm really excited. It is the spotlight event, and I do think challengers is very exciting as well. I

think those two courses always, are always the ones that I really wanna watch, even if I'm not at nationals, I'm always hooked up to my phone, I mean, or to my tablet or whatever, kinda watching from a distance, but I'm really excited to be one of the judges. I'm really looking forward to seeing the event and seeing who makes it into finals, it's always an interesting thing, and

so I'm really looking forward to it for sure. - All right, well with that we will let you go. We are actually all, in various ways, getting ready for this big event. Jennifer will be there competing, I will be there spectating, you will be there judging, and so I will look forward to meeting you in person there, but thank you so much for joining us on today's podcast.

- No, I really appreciate it, I really appreciate the opportunity. I think there has to be more conversations like this and I'm really excited that you guys do all the stuff you do and put it all out there, 'cause it really, I love the growth of the sport, and I think all of this really pushes us in different directions and it's really exciting to see, so thank you

guys also for the opportunity. - Well thank you so much. And that's it for this week's podcast. We'd like to thank our sponsor, HitItBoard.com. Happy training. (upbeat pop electronic music) - Thank you for listening to Bad Dog Agility. We hope you enjoyed today's episode. For more information, updates, and links to all our socials, just check out our website, www.BadDogAgility.com. If you haven't already signed up for our email

subscription, we would like to have you join the BDA community. Until next time, take care.

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