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Meet Tom Kula!

A personable and popular judge from Michigan, Tom is one member of the Cynosport World Games team of judges. Interview by Tania Chadwick.

[Editor's note: It's time to get ready for the 2008 Cynosport World Games!  We begin our pre-event coverage by taking a look at one of the judges at the big event.]

TC: How did you get started in agility and then judging?

TK: I had been teaching obedience and taking advanced obedience training with my JRT, Chewbacca. One of the other instructors where I taught had suggested Chewbacca and I take an agility class she was teaching with a local club.  The teacher/handler was Kathy Wells.  We took the class and Chewbacca loved it. We got our Agility Dog Title after our first two shows.

We abandoned obedience and began to focus on Agility.  I really enjoyed the sport and wanted to stay involved.  I was considering getting another dog, or perhaps becoming a judge as a means to stay engaged with agility.  I decided to try judging and took the judging clinic.

TC: In general, what is your approach to course design?

TK: I think, overall I present a more technical course.  I try to maintain speed to some degree, but focus on a number of technical challenges.  I've heard the term 'relentless' recently describing some of my courses.  They were fair challenges, but the courses have enough of them that you move from one challenge to the next without a break.

Tom Kula at work at a recent trial. Photo by Karen Moureaux (

TC: Do you design a course differently because it's a big event?

TK: I will pay more attention to my path and the handler's path.  I want to judge every dog fairly and consistently.  I need to assure that my position at obstacles is the same for dogs early in the day, as well as the 600th dog to enter the ring.

TC: What do you like about judging big events?

TK: The overall atmosphere; it's electric.  The other thing that I love is the exhibitor spectators.  The same exhibitor in the stands cheering for the team on course was, earlier in the day, competing against that team.  It brings out the best of good sportsmanship.

Tom gets a good look at the contacts.  Photo by Karen Moureaux (

TC: What skills are you looking for exhibitors to use when you design courses for events like this one?

TK: I want to see exhibitors think on their feet, while their teammate is moving at 5+ YPS.  I want to see how they'll handle the unexpected, the challenge they did not see during their walkthrough.

This is my first year judging our Finals and I am looking forward to the event.  We have a great panel of judges and I think the level of competition will be tremendous.

Tania Chadwick has been competing in USDAA for over 12 years and currently runs her Border Collie, Kidd along with keeping up with her 4-year-old son and 5-month-old daughter.


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