Experience:Nancy Popovich started judging dog shows in 1994, but she was involved in the dog-show world well before that – she began showing her Airedale, Lakeland and wire fox terriers at the age of 18.
“I think everyone that’s in dog shows are in because they love dogs,” she says. “My parents bought a purebred dog, and it was just intriguing.”
Though she lives in Edmonton, Popovich has judged dog shows all across Canada, and the job has even taken her to Australia, South Africa, China and Brazil. She is licensed by the Canadian Kennel Club to judge all seven groups found at shows (sporting, hounds, working, terriers, toys, non-sporting and herding), as well as best in show.
She transitioned from showing into judging when her husband retired and she felt she was entering a new phase in her life. “It was to stay with my finger in the pie, I suppose.”
But Popovich has plenty to keep her going and keep her coming out to shows, like the Edmonton Kennel Club‘s annual shows and trials, to be held Aug. 4-9 at the Whitemud Equine Centre.
“I enjoy the camaraderie, because I’ve been around a long time,” she says. “There are a lot of people I know and we get to review old times. Contrary to popular belief, judges don’t discuss the dogs at dinner.”
“A dog show is to choose breeding stock, and each dog is judged according to its breed standard, which is usually international. Some of them have slight differences but, truthfully, every ruling kennel body has a standard of perfection for each breed, and you’re comparing them to that standard so they can produce better dogs.
” [For example,] an Airedale comes into the ring. The first thing I look for is general shape – does it look like an Airedale? Then I send it around, because I want to see if it’s lame and how the parts move together; if it’s lame, it must be excused. Then I examine it. Now, an Airedale was bred as a hunter. It’s called the ‘king of the terriers,’ so it should exude that ‘king of the world’ attitude. The head is supposed to be a specific shape. I always check the teeth, the nose, the proportions, the plates of the head and the ears. Then I check the front to make sure the bone structure is as it’s supposed to be. Then I go down through the ribs, the loin and into the backside. We always check to see males have two testicles – it’s a necessity. Then I look at coat texture and colour, then I send them down and back so I can see the front of them, as opposed to the side.
“You must be invited [to judge at a show] , and you have a contract with whichever club has invited you. … It’s about networking. [Clubs] will get your name from a friend or from a judge that they liked, and they approach you, usually by email. They send you a contract, and you carry on from there.
“‘Licensed’ means that the Canadian Kennel Club allows you to judge that breed or set of breeds anywhere in the world. When you’re on ‘permit,’ you have to judge X number of dogs X number of times – and you’re observed – before they’ll say, yes, you’re qualified to judge those breeds. … Normally it takes about 12 to 14 years [to graduate from permit to license for all breeds] .
” [There’s camaraderie between judges] because you’ve known these people since you started. They might live on the other side of the country, but you’ve met them many times. And then you meet new people and get into that network. I met a wonderful man from Ireland, and I met him in Brazil. It has become a small world.
” [If you want to get into dog show judging,] join a club and talk to the breeders. Most breeders are very happy to talk to you about what they do and what they like.”