Communicating with Exhibitors

Judges and tracking test committee members have an important responsibility when it comes to communicating with exhibitors. Tracking test participants should be well informed before the event, warmly welcomed at the test, and encouraged by their judges.

The AKC Tracking Regulations guidelines for judges’ state: “Judges are expected to be friendly and courteous to all. Without exhibitors, there would be no tests. For every experienced exhibitor there are many newcomers. The future of this sport is in the hands of the novice.”

Exhibitors are always going to have a few nervous moments when they are faced with having their tracking performance evaluated in a test environment. So much goes into preparation and training before the event, that it is understandable that the handler may feel stressed. We cannot know all the stressors, but we can do our best to alleviate some of the anxiety.

Judges should strive to be friendly and approachable. Take a few minutes at the test track draw meeting to introduce yourself and your co-judge. Thank the club and exhibitors for their participation and let them know that you are rooting for them. Explain the details of traveling to the tracking field… which car to follow, who will oversee the gallery and special parking restrictions. Ask if there are any questions, then give them time to use the facilities.

When you arrive at the tracking area, judges should let the exhibitor know where they can walk their dog and if the track is ready now or how long they will have to wait. Just before the team is directed to the start flag, take a minute to ask the handler if they have any questions and wish them good luck. Do not unduly hurry the team and be sure to give them plenty of space between your position and the start flag.

Once the dog has started the track, communication with the handler would be limited to granting permission to restart (TD/TDU only), to warn of a potentially dangerous situation or if the team has been failed. Judges should not acknowledge whether items found are official test articles until the celebration at the final article.

If the exhibitor requests information regarding individual dog’s performance, the conversation should be delayed until after the judge has completed the assignment and turned in the judge’s book. However, a judge should never continue a conversation with an angry or aggressive person. This is a wonderful time to point out all the things the team did well, and to encourage them for their next try at the title.

Happy Tracking!