Dog Breed Standards – Use Them Wisely

Today I thought I would say something about breed standards for dogs.

All pure dog breeds we know today started life when someone, or a group of people, wanted to create a dog for a specific purpose.  That purpose could be hunting, guarding, herding, companionship or a mixture.  Often this meant crossing certain types of dogs (some existing pure breeds, some possibly not) until they got what they were after.

Once the ‘breed’ was set, the enthusiasts in the breed would establish standards for the dog so that the purity of any future puppies was protected.  Once national kennel clubs were created, they took a role in maintaining breed standards, helped by the enthusiasts (who were the breed association or breed club).

However, if you look closely at many of the registered breed standards in place, they emphasise how the dog looks.  How a dog looks is important to the breed, because it is part of what defines it, but it’s only part of the story.

How the dog acts is also a key part of what you should look for. You want to know what the dog’s personality is likely to be.  However, breed standards usually contain hardly any description of temperament and character.

And then there’s the most important question as far as I’m concerned.  This is ‘can the dog still do what it was bred to do?

A few years ago I was sent a transcript of a talk by an expert in salukis.  This brought home to me in just a few words the flaws in many breed standards that exist today.

“Ears – Long and mobile, not too low set, covered with long silky hair, hanging close to skull. Bottom tip of leather reaches to corner of mouth when brought forward. Provided ear is covered with silky hair which may grow only from top half, the standard is complied with but longer hair also correct.”

The standard does not say the saluki should be able to HEAR.

For me, ‘can it still do what it was bred to do‘ is the most important question of all.  Every day I see examples of pure dog breeds that can’t perform their original function.  I see German shepherds whose hips are so sloping they can hardly walk, let alone run down a criminal.  I see Labradors which are simply chunky barrels on legs, not built to be active field retrievers.

However I realise that some people maybe don’t want a pedigree dog from strong working stock, and that’s fine.  Getting a quality dog is whart matters with pure breeds.

But when you look for a pure bred dog, look for a balance between LOOK, ACT and DO that works for you:

  1. Does the dog LOOK like it should for this breed?
  2. Does the dog have the right character?  Does it ACT the way it should?
  3. Can the dog still DO what it was bred for?  Can it perform it’s original function?

An ethical dog breeder can help you with all these things.  You can download your free ethical dog breeder checklist here

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