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Ask The Judge - Hold and Bark

Every issue we ask GSSCC Head Judge Jim Chrisp to provide some insights how he judges a particular IGP exercise. These insights will help our readers to focus on all aspects of that exercise. This issue’s exercise is Hold and Bark.

Hold and Bark is an important exercise. It is the first time the judge witnesses the dog’s interaction with the designated helper and as the saying goes, there’s only one chance to make a lasting first impression. This exercise is worth 15 points — 10 for the hold and 5 for barking.

Upon engaging the helper, the dog is required to promptly initiate Hold and Bark, demonstrating confidence, activeness, dominance, and attentiveness. The barking duration should be approximate 20 seconds. The judge then directs the handler to the call-out position, marking the next phase of the exercise.

In IGP 1, the handler has a choice upon a signal from the judge: either pick the dog up in the blind or recall the dog into the basic position. If the handler opts for the pick-up, he/she walks to the blind and heels the dog back to the call-out position. This can be done on or off leash. The level of assistance required in this maneuver may downgrade the exercise to an SG (0.5 - 1.5 pts.). Alternatively, the handler can recall the dog to the basic position. The dog should exhibit speed, directness, without handler help. Failure to meet these criteria may lead to a downgrade to SG or G (0.5 - 2pts.).

At the level of IGP 2 and 3, the dog is recalled to the basic position upon a signal from judge and evaluated according to the same criteria as for IGP 1.

Throughout the Hold and Bark exercise, the judge observes the dog’s dominance, continuous barking, and confidence while holding. The dog must remain undistracted by the judge or handler. Weak, inconsistent, non-energetic, or unfocused barking can result in a downgrade to satisfactory or insufficient (1.5 - 5 pts). A lack of barking is deemed insufficient (1.75 - 5 pts). Bothering the helper by bumping or pushing may be rated insufficient for the Hold (minimum - 3.5 pts).

If the dog happens to leave the helper and returns to its handler, the handler has one more opportunity to send the dog back to the helper. If the dog subsequently remains with the helper, protection can continue. However, such a second attempt will be rated as low insufficient (-13 to 14 pts). If the dog returns to its handler a second time, the protection routine is terminated, resulting in an ‘NG’ rating.

If the dog leaves the helper as the handler approaches, an insufficient rating will be given (minimum - 5 pts). If the dog goes to the handler in the call-out position before the command has been given, the exercise is also rated as insufficient (minimum -5pts).

If the dog bites the sleeve and fails to release, the judge will indicate the handler to walk to the call-out position. There, the handler has one opportunity to give an “Out-Here-Heel” command, in a one-word manner. If the dog complies and returns to the handler, Hold and Bark is deemed insufficient (-14 pts). Failure to release the sleeve results in disqualification. Thank you, Jim, for explaining the challenges faced in the Hold and Bark exercise.


K9Force (2023, December). Ask The Judge - Hold and Bark.

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