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WHY HAVE BREED STANDARDS?

Judging today wreaks havoc; faults are awarded, breed standards change

 

 

by E. Katie Gammill, AKC Multi-Group Judge

 

Why do we have a breed standard and why should we breed to it? Why are there so many different types of dogs awarded under that same breed standard? AKC Group judge says it is to accommodate current trends.

 

An exhibitor may win the battle of pushing a single virtue at the expense of an entire dog but it does not win the war of genetic soundness. Early breeders wanted a dog capable of doing the job for which it was intended so they drew up critical criteria to insure function and breed type. These animals served a daily purpose and being incapable of performing such duties made them dispensable. Few pets were tolerated.

 

Too many breed clubs change their standard to meet current trends. When those trends change, will they ask AKC to incorporate new changes? There is a reason a standard is sacred and can only be tweaked at specific intervals. Should the current “powers to be” within a club have the final say over breeders who are dedicated to preserving the breed through the breed standard? Doesn't changing a breed standard keep breed that breed in a constant state of change?  What does that do to carefully developed breeding programs?

 

The Breed Standard Is A Blueprint For Breeders And Judges

These standards should be burned into their brains. Judge’s education is a great concept, however, is it working? If there is but one standard, why are there so many "opinions" about type, faults, and virtues in that breed?  What impact does using several dogs to show desired virtues have on breed education? Can one teach head virtues on a faulty dog and NOT have an observing judge-student understand that the rest of that type dog is not acceptable?

 

Seasoned judges direct their attention to the virtues addressed and separate the “wheat from the chaff”. Other judges may not. If prioritizing breed type isn’t important, why educate at all? Older standards offered point systems indicating prioritizing. Alas, those were removed in most cases and arguments are offered, both pro and con.

 

In most breeds, for the front assembly placement to be correct, the balance of length of head (from the nose to occipital bone) is approximately the same length as the neck should be (from the occipital bone to the withers). Yes, even on a Bulldog. IF you see that balance, you will find the front legs beneath the withers. If the balance is NOT there, the front legs will rest beneath the ears. Easily seen on short coated breeds, once the eye is trained, this knowledge can be taken to long coat breeds.

 

Why else has scissoring in the neck become so popular except to suggest something is there, when it isn’t? Balance means one part of something adjusts to enhance the other. Symmetry is a filling of the eye “no one thing out of place”. There IS a difference.

 

Examples of Breed Type Faults Accepted As A Virtue

How else did we allow over angulated rears to enter into our line of vision? If one changes a front by allowing the balance between head and neck to be destroyed, nature adjusts the structure. Straight fronts cause the rear legs to be set back further. This increases the length of the second thigh, which in turn changes the croup angle. Flattening the croup causes a gay tail. Nature offers us a hock joint in perpendicular line with the ischium (butt) bone. This indicates the upper and lower thigh is in balance and we see a perpendicular and parallel hock. When the second thigh is lengthened, the dog will hock in, hock out, sickle, or place the entire hock on the ground. In the extreme, nature “carps the back” to allow the lower assembly to hold the body in an upright position. The result is a sloped back. Straight fronts cause a distinct lack of balance between the length of the head compared to the length of the neck which results in legs in line with the ears. View breeds with little coat and measure the head piece in relationship to the neck length and observe the position of the front legs...

 

How important is this? One can start a breeding program with a sound dog that has little type. With further breeding, one can easily pick up coat, eye, head properties, foot, and type by selecting desired virtues as long as they started with the correct framework. Working from type into structure is difficult at best. If one attempts to build a typey dog on a weak foundation, they will find good fronts are as elusive as hen's teeth. Correct neck set and length will take generations of selective breeding IF it comes at all. Should type take precedence over soundness? Shouldn’t we look for a balance between “type and soundness” rather than “front and rear”?

 

If a judge is presented a dog of different type, he or she should analyze what and why it reflects this difference. Is this a true virtue or is it the enhancement of a common fault taking precedence over adherence to the standard? Good judges ARE the guardians of YOUR breed standard. If one watches performance animals they quickly understand why both soundness and type are imperative.

 

Today’s judging causes confusion. A judge’s responsibility is to award the dog that best represents the written standard. Why then, do dogs that are correct find themselves in the minority or overlooked because they appear “different?” Longevity in a a breed (or group) offers opportunity to observe changing trends. Today serious breeders are fighting “trends” and losing to “single focus thinking”.

 

If you hear something long enough it becomes truth. If you are shown something long enough it becomes the norm. Each person must decide, what is important? Winning, or breeding to standard? Why can't we do both?

 

Judging (and mentoring) to each breed's standard should take precedence over personal opinions or preferences.  Where do you stand and what do you plan to do about it?

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