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Did You Know – Breed Standards Are Anything But “Standard”

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108 – June, 2024

By Michael Canalizo

There is an important technicality that everyone who decides to enter the sport of purebred dogs must embrace. I should capitalize the word “EMBRACE” because every little (or big) thing you’ll experience in the dog sport will have some relationship to this word. The word “Standard” is the elusive word. I will try to break down–at a basic level–the role the Standard plays through various levels of our participation. Understanding a Standard isn’t just reading the words. Many of the details of specific structural details have to be coupled with the many “non-tangible” elements of a Standard that typically highlight a breeds purpose and functionality. And as the well-known saying of Alva Rosenberg goes, “Any Mutt can be sound.” We have the Standards to keep breeds unique and predicable unto themselves.


We all know that many people acquired their first purebred dog as an impulse to have as a family pet or a dog to take running or hunting, etc. Chances are they weren’t aware of the printed Standard of their chosen breed. But those who ventured to a local show would soon find out that the concept was to compare an exhibit to how closely it conforms to the written words of the Standard. The excitement of that first ribbon at a show is strong; it pulls you in and before you know it, you’re buying show stuff and seeking a training class to learn more about the sport. At some point you’ll be introduced to someone within the same breed, or maybe a kind judge will share a word with you about the quality of your dog. They might explain to you how the judging process works and ask you if you have read the Standard of the breed. Once you are aware of the Standard, something changes, and you investigate how your dog measures up to it. When I have an obviously enthusiastic and/or nervous newcomer in the ring it brings me back to when I first started. I will always find a little more time to spend with them. Sometimes I will ask them to stay around after the ring time for a chat. Often they will also come into the ring and ask how they did. That is when I have a conversation about the Standard. I share an honest assessment of their dog buffered with encouragement about how to move forward, whether it regards presentation, conditioning or lack of merit. My “go-to” chat is to advise them to add up what they might have spent if they went to 10 shows, and I say if they were awarded at least reserve or better at half of them, they are doing pretty good! Most don’t hit that mark, and then I tell them the cost of those events might just equal the cost of a good show prospect. I let them know about other AKC events they can participate in and will recommend them to seek out a solid breeder with hopes they get a better dog if conformation showing is what they really want to do. Those who continue on will have an awareness of the Standards role in the evaluation process; and hopefully they will absorb the contents of it to use when comparing their entry against those showing against them.


Click here to read the complete article
108 – June, 2024

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  • June 2024