AKC Gazette

June 2006




What is the breed standard, and how do we interpret it? This is the question. The Bulldog Club of America - and all the other parent breed clubs – serve the important function of protecting the standard and preserving their breed, but we must remember that the living and functioning dog antecedes the written standard.

Usually the breed standard was arrived at by a committee trying to put into words the goal of perfection. (Another important function of a standard is to define undesirable traits and disqualifying faults.) Interpretation of the stand involves using its words to create a mental picture of the perfect dog; it is the criterion of what to look for in a particular breed. Living examples of each breed are compared to the hypothetically perfect dog and to each other in order to ascertain which animal has the best qualities of type and balance.

We are to breed to the standard, and there are breeders who conscientiously accept this challenge. They read the standard, study bloodlines, and watch dogs in the ring. They develop a mental picture of what they are looking for, and strive to achieve it through their breeding programs.

This being said, let me digress for a moment with another question: Have we reached the point where the only thing that matters in the ring is showmanship, rather than breed type? We hear that a particular dog is a “showing fool.” That may be true, but it does not make him a good representative of his breed.

A dog show is not a beauty contest. It is the evaluation of breeding stock, and if dogs continually win because they show well, regardless of their type, the effect on a breed is negative. Too many newcomers breed to the winning dog. They never evaluate the dog’s qualities; they think that winning good type.

Breeding to the standard should be reinforced by judging to the standard. Certainly a dog that is handled well, shows well, and is of good type should prevail over a dog that is typey but not showing well. The problem arises when the judge rewards the flashy dog with good ring manners – which does not possess good breed type – over the dog of good type who does not show as well. I ask myself, “How can the newcomer value good breed qualities if they are not appreciated in the show ring by the judge?” Standards are to be used: They are the measure of quality.

Amelia Averil, 8 Willow Brook Rd., Hillsdale, NJ 07612.