Tom Pantera | Johnson Publications

As a dog groomer and judge, Pam Gaston spends a lot of time with other peoples’ animals, but still grooms—and gives love to—Casper, her kerry blue terrier.

A dog life Dog show judge needs wide, deep knowledge base

As such things often do, Pam Gaston’s career as a dog show judge began by accident.
    She was leading a 4-H group in Benkelman in 1988 when a judge failed to show up. She was dragooned into judging the dog show.
    Not that Geston, 58, a dog groomer by profession and wife of Wauneta-Palisade FFA advisor Rod Gaston, wasn’t qualified.
    And in the years since, she has risen through the ranks of 4-H dog show judges to participate in contests at the Nebraska and Wyoming state fairs, as well as locally.
    It’s a job that sometimes requires a broad knowledge base.
    She judges basic to advance obedience, how well the dog obeys commands; showmanship, how well the handler knows how to present the animal; agility, where the dog goes through tunnels and over obstacles; and rally, which she describes as “a very relaxed” version of obedience, where the owner can have more than one try at getting the dog to follow a command.
    And in Wyoming, she also judges conformance, familiar to viewers of the annual Westiminster Kennel Club show. Judging there is based on how well a dog conforms to American Kennel Club standards for a given breed, which covers everything from the body shape, the head shape and size, tail length, coloring and height.
    The dogs in big-time events like the Westminster are high-end, expensive purebreds, but in 4-H conformance contests can often be mixed-breeds. In that case, Gaston must make a subjective determination of which breed predominates and judge it by those standards.

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