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TYPE OR SOUNDNESS?

Barbara “BJ” Andrews,  excerpts from Akita World Magazine

 

 

 

"Do you select winners on the basis of type or soundness?" he asked.  "There's only one answer to that question..." she said  prior to judging Sweeps at the Akita National.

 

The interviewer raised a questioning eyebrow. "Akita breeders have the balance of type and soundness just right." Barbara J. Andrews motioned to the ring. "We settled that "type vs soundness" question in the 80s.  I thought everyone knew sound mutts can be found on the street but people purchase purebreds because of appearance and the TYPE of dog it is. "

 

Judging for Type or SoundnessWhether you're a newly approved judge or a seasoned BIS adjudicator, you should not hesitate over the Type Or Soundness question. In the July 1982 edition, AKITA WORLD asked top breeders: Would you personally select a dog for overall soundness or for type in considering an individual representative of the breed? 

 

I came across this reprint and three decades later, it is still applicable in every breed and should be refreshed in the minds of today’s judges.  Here is a condensed version applicable to the assessment of all breeds, from the Chihuahua to the Mastiff.

 

The ideal we seek is simple. A sound dog who thinks, acts and looks like a correct (insert breed). The show ring is still, even today, where breeders prove a dog is good enough to reproduce and represent the breed but every winner should be appealing to and capable of being a beloved family member.

 

Nothing, least of all advertising, promotion, training or grooming should ever influence a judge's choice which should be based on where that breed, and that dog is meant to spend the greater part of its life. Picture it in someone's living room, not the show ring, not just producing puppies.  An over-animated dog, the 'showing fool,' the hyperactive or rattlebrain dog, may catch your eye, but will never properly represent its breed to the public. 

Is it capable of being a flock guardian, of spotting distant prey and running it down?  Is your winner capable of flushing or retrieving birds all day, or is he physically and mentally strong enough to guard his family and premisis?  This is what should be on your mind to the exclusion of all else.

 

The below is extracted from the Akita World article but could be applicable to many breeds.

 

“Long ears, light bone, round and/or large eyes, rangy, unbalanced dogs; skimpy, flat, or soft coats; Shepherd heads, ratty or loose tails; these are all serious faults of Type. Oddly enough, many of these same faults seem married and will be found in the same individual. Show me an Akita with long, poorly set ears and rangy body and I’ll show you one lacking coat and proper texture. Note a Shepherd head and you'll find round, often light eyes. Rave about 'great angulation' but just don't notice the loose tail. Learning what is definitely NOT typey may lead the newcomer or kennel blind breeder to a better understanding of what IS correct Type.

 

Akita in motion“In selecting a dog on the basis of Type or overall Soundness, I think I have made myself clear in the past. Soundness can be salvaged from the local dog pound, breed type cannot. Type, once lost, can never be regained.  In every breed, temperament is synonomous with type.  Structural faults are easier to correct in the next generation than is lack of Type.

 

 "And I suppose the most important and practical point - it is not soundness which enables the man on the street to identify the individual breeds, it is Type!

 

If you are not judging Akitas you might skip through the remainder but hopefully you will glean insight into whatever breeds you judge or for which you expect to apply.

 

“There is one other area seldom touched upon when referring to Type or even to Soundness. That is mental soundness and proper, or typey, character and personality. Of all his unique features, the Akita is best set apart from other Working dogs by his personality traits and character. He must be dignified, reserved, self assured, instinctively protective and courageous. Too many newcomers describe their Akita as one "who just loves everybody,” "never met a stranger," "wouldn't think of hurting another dog…,” etc.

 

"It is more than worrisome to those of us who understand what the Akita was meant to be. It is downright frightening, for it wasn't structural faults, or even aesthetic faults which led to the downfall of the merry little Cocker; it was indiscriminate, uneducated breeding for coat and movement without due regard for characteristic temperament. Think about it before it’s too late for the Akita.”

 

In many "guard breeds" temperament has been modified to suit the living rooms of a somewhat softer society than existed in the 70s and 80s. The Akita was erroneously billed as a “guard” breed at a time when that was acceptable and fashionable but he was much more dog aggressive than people-protective. Fearless assault on mountian bear and boar, and Japan's version of pit-fighting was his heritage.  We suppressed that background while trying to change a century of purpose into a saleable show dog.

 

Akita TypeThat he was the Matagi, the hunting dog, didn’t sell because he had little interest in hunting. He wasn’t “varminty”, had only a mediocre nose, and with the German Shepherd Dog and Mastiff influence, the American Akita was too ponderous to follow or chase game.

 

Akita breeders valued him for his power and presence, his character and loyalty - and his dignity (he was after all, the Royal Dog Of Japan). Those admirable qualities were more than enough to earn the Akita a place in American living rooms and success in the AKC show ring.

 

Judges who understood the breed and who themselves fearlessly awarded type and character stand as a monument to what can be improved and yet preserved in the canine world.  I can not complete this without paying tribute to the past, to judges like Ginny Hampton, Roy Ayers, Kitty Drury, Joe Gregory, Lou Harris, Peggy Adamson, Don Jones, Dick Greathouse... The list could go on but these are judges who fearlessly and correctly approached, examined, and awarded a new breed.

 

Good job Akita Breeders!

1304172 http://www.thejudgesplace.com/Education/Type-Soundness_BJA-134.asp

 

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