JUDGING JACK RUSSELL RACING
By Bob Franklin
Jack Russell Racing is a popular event at JRT
trials and is a big money maker for trial organizers.
However, racing is sometimes not all that well organized, is late
getting started, frequently runs past noon time and all too often is not
well judged resulting in mistakes in dog placements.
When any of these problems occur, they take much of the pleasure
and excitement out of racing for the participants and can even cause
loud words and complaints from dog handlers/owners and on occasion near
fights have occurred.
Over the years, I have written numerous articles
for “True Grit” about various aspects of JRT racing sharing suggestions
and innovations by many racing enthusiasts around the country.
These articles have helped promote improvements in race-track
construction and quality of equipment especially in regards to providing
a safe environment on the race track for our dogs.
Such things as foam jumps (instead of hard wooden or pvc pipe
jumps) and a foam, finish barrier (instead of a hay bale finish barrier)
have reduced racing injuries to a bare minimum.
However, one aspect of successful
racing that has not been well addressed are the skills and techniques of
accurately and fairly judging JRT racing.
Judging racing is not something that can be done successfully by
everyone although with guidance, there are many folks who can do an
excellent job of judging racing.
A major obstacle for getting the best
racing judges is General Rule #9
which is printed in all Trial Flyers and states as follows:
“Terriers owned by judges may not be entered in any division in
which they are judging but may enter the competition in any other
division.”. Since the most
interested and qualified folks to be racing judges come to trials
because they are racing their dogs and they do not want to give up the
ability to race their dogs because they are judging racing.
Soooo, someone must give up racing his/her dogs or else racing
judges must be found among the other trial attendee population who do
not race dogs which may mean they really do not know a whole lot about
racing or they do not have experience or serious interest to be able to
judge racing effectively.
Once a judging candidate is found,
he/she must have certain abilities to do a good judging job.
First, the person judging must have excellent eyesight and MUST
NOT BE COLOR BLIND. Since
we use colored, clown collars to identify dogs, the judge must be able
to quickly see and identify the colors on each dog’s collar as they come
through the finish barrier and remember the order of their emergence
long enough to record the results on their judge’s sheet.
It is important that the judge do their own recording.
Involving a second person to do the recording, introduces another
possibility for error because of the transfer of information from one
person to another.
Secondly, the judge must have a strong
enough personality to withstand and deal with complaints and sometimes
taunts from dog handlers who may disagree with the judge’s decisions.
Of course, the judge’s decision is final, BUT a judge must also
be flexible enough to listen to complaints and weigh their worth before
just rejecting totally. No
one is perfect and a good judge must be able to recognize if he/she has
made a legitimate mistake.
Thirdly, a judge must be an organizer and leader in
that he/she must organize the catching crew in the best possible way to
help minimize errors. Six
catchers are needed and these catchers should adults or near adults
(usually at least 15 years of age) and they should be reasonably
athletic to be able to catch and handle an excited JRT.
most effective way to organize catchers is to assign a race placement to
each of the catchers. The
two best and most experienced catchers are assigned 1st and 2nd
places and they stand at the far back of the catch area.
The next two best catchers are assigned 3rd and 4th
places and they stand a yard or so in front of the back catchers while
the 5th and 6th place, least experienced or
physically capable, catchers are nearer the front of the catch area.
The judge stands just behind the finish barrier and looks
straight down at the finish to see the dogs as they emerge through the
finish opening. The judge,
from the perspective of looking straight down at the back of the finish
barrier, does his/her best to see the placement order
If it is a heat or semi-final, of course only three placements
are needed, BUT for a class final, all six dogs must be placed in order
of their finish.
It is almost impossible to catch a fast
moving dog coming through the finish area so each catcher must sort his
color out of the pile of dogs trying to get at the lure.
Each catcher picks up the dog he has chosen and takes the colored
collar off of that dog, but DOES NOT REMOVE THE DOG’S MUZZLE.
Usually it is wise for the catcher to continue holding the dog
until the catchers and the judge agree on order of finish.
But, for especially difficult dogs to hold and if the catcher has
the colored collar off the dog, the dog can be handed to the dog’s
owner/handler. When the
catcher is holding the dog, the catcher should try not to “scruff” the
dog by the skin on its neck because some dogs do not like that treatment
and owners get irritated when they see “scruffing” being done.
Best method for holding a dog is to place hands around the dogs
chest just behind the front legs with the dog facing away from the
catcher and try to keep its hind feet off the ground.
Sometimes it is necessary for the catcher to actually kneel on
the ground or bend over with the dog clamped between the catcher’s knees
to help control the dog’s struggles.
Obviously some dogs are more difficult to hold than others but
this is why catchers must be adults or near adults since young children
are often not strong enough to hold a struggling dog.
The judge records the order of finish
as he saw it first of all (a later paragraph will discuss the judge’s
finish recording sheet and how this recording is done).
Then the judge asks the 1st place catcher what color
he has and when the response is heard, the judge checks the color he/she
has recorded. If they
agree, the judge goes on to the 2nd place and so on until all
the necessary placements have been recorded AND AGREED TO BETWEEN THE
JUDGE AND THE APPROPRIATE CATCHERS.
If there is a disagreement, right then and there is the time to
sort it out between the judge and the catchers until agreement is
reached. The color blind
situation may be a factor with catchers too and a good judge must
quickly recognize if this as a problem and make necessary changes of the
catcher order by assigning any color-blind or physically less capable
people to 6th place.
Each colored collar should have an abbreviation of
just one letter to represent that color.
For example, a good set of colors would be red, light pink, royal
blue, light green, yellow and black.
These would be
abbreviated by R, P, B, G, Y and O (for black).
These placement abbreviations are recorded by the racing judge on
a specially made chart that resembles a blank pedigree chart in reverse
with little squares for each location on the chart.
The left hand column of squares represent heats (there can be as
many as eight of these heats or total of 48 entries in that class which
will handle any JRT racing with possible exception of
JRTCA Nationals which occasionally will have more than 48 dogs in
a given class). The left
center column with four squares is for quarter finals (if quarter finals
are required), the right center two squares are for semi-finals and the
single square on the right is for the finals.
(See Exhibit I for example of such a racing results chart).
Before each race the results board person communicates to the
racing judge what race is coming next, how many dogs are running and how
many places need to be selected.
Almost always, each heat, quarter final or semi-final race brings
back three dogs for the next level and of course the final is 6 dogs if
there are six dogs in that final.
As soon as the judge has determined the
order of placement in each race, he/she records the placement left to
right in order (ie, P G O meaning pink won, green was 2nd and
black was 3rd).
After each race the judge uses his hand held “walkie talkie” and
contacts the person operating the results board.
The judge simply states, “P G O
and signs off. The
racing results person records these results by writing numbers 1 2 and 3
for example in the column on the heat sheets provided for class
placement (See Exhibit II for sample of a racing heat sheet).
As soon as the results have been recorded, the results board
person uses his/her “walkie talkie” and states the same three letters
back to the racing judge.
If the judge agrees, he/she speaks back saying “okay” or if there is a
mistake in this exchange,
the correction is made right then and there.
The results board person then tells the judge what the next race
will be, how many dogs are running and how many places are needed.
Each race is a repeat of the same procedure.
The racing results board person
actually has the most difficult job of all.
He/she has complete responsibility for the racing results
recording. Prior to racing
beginning, this person is responsible for making corrections that always
seem to occur with dogs in the wrong classes, dogs scratched, dogs left
out, etc. As each race is
completed and the judge has been told about the next race, the racing
board person then records the dogs that qualified (1st
through 3rd) in the next quarter final races, semi final or
final races. This is done
while the next race is being run so the board person is then ready to
receive the results of the next race from the racing judge.
Movement of dogs from heats into the
next level is very important.
ALWAYS separate the placements so the same dogs so they run
against different dogs whenever possible.
In addition, make certain that all the first place dogs are
separated so not all firsts are in the same quarter or semi-final and
all 2nds are separated, etc.
This is a difficult concept to explain and understand, but the
example of a heat sheet in Exhibit II has been done correctly and
careful examination should help understanding of this process.
When the results board is kept in this manner any dog handler can
peer over the shoulder of the results board person and determine easily
when the next race will be for his/her dog.
There should also be a person equipped with a loud
speaker of some sort who is calling the dog’s names for each race.
The best situation is a PA system with a wireless microphone so
the person calling the dogs can peer over the shoulder of the results
board person and read off the participants for the next race.
A hand held megaphone will also work, but the person calling the
dogs must be careful not to aim the megaphone at someone standing
nearby. Also the megaphone
cannot be heard from as far away as will be a PA system.
This person should be one race ahead of actual racing so as to
keep the sequence of races going efficiently.
Using this system, a race should be run every 2 to 3 minutes with
the primary slow-down usually being the kids who return the lure from
the finish line back to the start box.
A plastic jar for collecting tips for the kids running the lure
works wonders for keeping the kid’s enthusiasm up throughout the entire
When a class is finished and the final results have been recorded, the
racing board person then records the 1st place dog from each
class onto the Run-off Sheet.
An example of this sheet is shown as Exhibit III.
Only 1st place dogs qualify for the Championship
runoffs and the combinations of classes in each of these runoffs are
listed in the Trial Flyers. Any
handler whose dog wins a final, should make himself and his dog
available for the appropriate run-offs.
Puppy runoffs are always run before the hurdles are changed from
puppy size to adult size. Then
the adult, veteran and senior run-offs are immediately after all the
regular racing classes are completed.
There are never more than 4 dogs in any given run-off but there
could only be two if the same dogs win their respective classes.
For runoffs, the results board person should instruct the person
opening the starting box to separate the dogs in the runoffs so they
aren’t all bunched into the middle of the box so as to minimize
“bumping” in the run-offs.