I've enjoyed reading all of these posts. As far as the judges portion goes, it's definitely tougher on a young judge to mark those minuses down than it is to mark down the positive. I think it's mostly due to the fact that they simply don't know what they are for sure more than it is they're scared to mark em. If they were 100% sure of themselves, then they'd mark em with confidence. When I first started this I printed out the rules for progressive pack. It is 37 pages long!! Read it a bunch of times start to finish. Can be a little overwhelming with all of the info! What I did then is printed out seperately the judging part of the packet. It's only a few pages! Then I printed out seperately the 12 ways a hound can get minused. Only 1 page! This way I can grab the "judge" part of the rules and read em the night before a trial without it being a pain. It only takes 10 or 15 minutes to read all the plus and minus points a hound can recieve. Before long, you'll be able to recite it by heart and only need to skim over it as a refresher before a hunt.
Once you've passed the test and read these rules, you've just scratched the surface. Your first few times as a judge, I think you should still go with an experienced judge before you solo. You can learn a lot and the results won't be all on you! When you do make your mistakes, and you will, accept them and learn from them.
When you're running your own hounds on your grounds, you should act like it's a trial and "judge" them. Run behind them and you'll learn a ton about what a minus looks like, when it takes place and where. It'll be a much more relaxed environment than when you're at a trial! Not to mention you'll see what your hound does wrong so you're not blown away if he gets picked up at a hunt. Like Shannon said, I don't think that perfect hound exists! It'll also keep ya in shape so you can actually stay with the pack and see those minuses! Anybody can mark down a non-produce or a leaving the strike, pop-off bark, etc. It's not as easy to see those running violations. Before long, you won't need to look as hard for those minuses...they'll stand out and you'll be able to mark it down with confidence. Forget about what is said afterwards. As a judge, you can't please everybody in the cast and you shouldn't be trying to. I've had plenty of "awkward" drives back to the clubhouse and I know I'll have more! COMES WITH THE TERRITORY
I don't think you should judge at the EMC or US till you've been judging at least a couple years. And if you're constantly getting protested in your own state, you shouldn't judge there at all.
If everybody practices this, even you veteran judges lol, I think we'll all make it a more level playing field. I know I still do and I still have a ton to learn!
Thanks for reading,