I can’t say that I’ve never cheated. I have. I’m not proud of it, and I haven’t done it in a long, long time.
But I totally understand the desire. Of wanting to succeed so badly that the very definition of success becomes warped. It degrades real, substantive success to the mere appearance of it.
So I understand it, but, still, it leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
The AKC defines double handling as:
The act of someone, other than the handler, getting a dog’s attention in the ring to help the dog to show or look better.
The AKC Obedience Regulations also state:
A judge who is aware of any assistance, interference, or attempts to control a dog from outside the ring must act promptly to stop such double handling or interference and must penalize the dog substantially. If the judge feels the circumstances warrant, the dog will receive a non-qualifying (NQ) score for the exercise during which the aid was received.
In this case, a man stood just about 5 feet outside the ring, directly in line with and facing a particular dog during the whole out-of-sight Long Sit and Long Down exercises. He was standing behind the judge enough that the judge didn’t see him, although just glancing around a little would have made his position obvious.
All three of us stewards in the neighboring ring could see what was going on, and the most experienced one went to inform the table steward of the ring where this was happening. We could see that the steward then talked to the judge, but the judge did not do anything about it, and the man kept standing there through the 3 minutes of the Long Sit and the 5 minutes of the Long Down.
After the handlers had returned to their dogs in the ring, they then left the ring with their dogs, and this dog’s handler went right into a big hug with the man who had been standing opposite her dog. Not a stranger, then, who just happened to be watching.
This made it so much more obvious, and we three were sure that something would happen, but no, the judge qualified the team. During the ribbon ceremony, the judge was even heard to comment on the pleasure of awarding the third qualifying score to this GCh. dog, who had earned that breed’s versatility award, and was the now first of that breed with those achievements to also earn the CDX. The handler laughed and clapped with delight as she accepted her ribbon.
So, I suppose the possibility exists that that team’s performance was so exemplary that even with a substantial deduction of points, the dog still passed. But the judge certainly did not act promptly to stop it nor ask the stewards to do so.
After the ceremony, the judge did call the man over and said something to him quietly. But by then, score was given and recorded in the judge’s book, and the dog will get a CDX title after its name.
So in thinking about this, I wonder: who, really, was hurt?
- The dog doesn’t care.
- The handler might feel a little bad, but maybe the relief of getting that last ribbon will outweigh any feelings of guilt. Or maybe, just maybe, she and the man didn’t know any better.
- The judge’s reputation might be damaged somewhat, but on the other hand, how does one prove double handling? The judge could argue that the man was just standing there.
- The other competitors weren’t hurt. The team in question did not get a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th place, and the nice thing about Obedience is that it’s not winner take all, as it is in conformation.
The damage is subtle. When you go into a competition, you have to trust the judge and judging in general, so a bit of trust has been broken. Other people besides me observed this situation, and that can’t help the reputation of the sponsoring club or the sport in general. It could persuade those on the edge that a little cheating won’t hurt anything, and anyway, everybody does it.
Getting any sort of Obedience or performance title is an achievement to be proud of, but only when the success is real and not an illusion.