Judges at NACSW Nose Work trials are paid a stipend for their work. Most trials have 2 judges and between them they judge the four elements.
The Trial Judges are often hired from the community. They’re selected because of their interest in and experience with dogs and dog training. Oftentimes, the judges are from local law enforcement (K9 Police, Drug and Bomb Dog Trainers or Handlers).
While walking into a trial situation can be intimidating, know that the Trial Judges really do want you and your dog to succeed. They’re rooting for your successful run.
If you volunteer and are assigned to be a Judges Steward, you’ll have an opportunity to really see the judges in action.
The best judges take a moment to add comments to the trial score sheets. These comments range from praise to training suggestions on ways a handler might improve (or ideas to be aware of).
After spending their day watching the trial runs and filling out score sheets, during the awards ceremony, the Trial Judges will assess the elements and share any trends or suggestions they discovered during the events.
It’s worth noting that at so many of the trials I’ve participated in as a handler and as a volunteer, the judges (especially those from Law Enforcement) are amazed at the talent and skill that Nosework Handlers have achieved. Many of them are also a bit blown away by the small dogs and dogs with physical handicaps that excel at Nose Work.