REALLY WINNING?"

by Dana Cline



Ever  wonder why some successful breeders of “type” minded breeds often don’t exhibit their best specimens at all-breed dog shows?

The longer I am involved in our sport and the more I watch judging within those breeds, I begin to completely understand their reasoning.  Are the best dogs really winning? In most cases, I’d have to say absolutely not!

As a breeder of reputation of many breeds, Danes, Mini Bull Terriers, Beagles, Borzoi and German Wirehaired Pointers, I have experienced a need for placing emphasis in a varying number of areas. I do however, find that in two of those breeds, Danes and Bull Terriers, type is hallmark, the one singular virtue that sets the breed apart from all others. Two breeds that have physically been manipulated and hybridized through the efforts of talented, conscientious breeders.  Is the breed standard a guide for breeders to breed better dogs?  Is the standard a guide for the judges to judge dogs better?  I am not certain we could ever agree on that answer, but I can say with certainty, most new judges of our breed, judge them with a “generic “ flare that does in no way contribute to, nor benefit the efforts of a well balanced, breed specific program.

As judges, our sole purpose is to judge breeding stock. Much too often is the case that judges are passing over the truly good specimens in a breed for dogs of much lesser quality who are lacking severely in breed characteristics.  Judges tend to error in the favor of performance related characteristics and reward dogs that tend to do nothing wrong, but when you actually study them, they rank terribly low on the scale of breed virtue, almost to the point of insignificance. If an individual had the confidence to judge our breed with the eye of a breeder, I feel that the results would be very different. Far too many judges concern themselves with how their decisions might be received by ringside, or the fact that someone might notice that the best dog in the class also has the most noticeable fault! When judging dogs, a certain phrase comes to my mind “the total sum of his parts” that says, averaging the good with the bad and the highest score wins!

Let’s say for example, a judge that is capable of recognizing good breed type in a Dane, has before him, two dogs:
Dog #1 Shows steadily, uses his ears, stands perfect for his examination and moves smoothly about the ring, BUT lacks severely in breed characteristics, ie, size, head type and correctness of bone shape.
Dog #2 Has correct angles but is restricted by the ring size, moves with hesitation and lacks flow. He has excellence in breed type, but stands with his back slightly soft although in motion, carried his top line correctly. This dog is slightly less experienced and not as well trained as dog #1.

Which dog should win?  Most of us would probably agree that dog #2 should win hands down, however, in most cases dog #1 is winning the higher number of times. As a breeder I feel that having a dog with a generic ability to show well and lacking angles and is able to negotiate himself around the ring fairly well and most offensively lacks any breed excellence is truly like having nothing at all! When you have a dog like #2 before you and you reward him for his positive attributes to the breed, it becomes no real contest! What is wrong with the system or our sport that allows this to happen weekend after weekend? Have we become more interested in personally winning than preserving the breed? Are we actually striving to produce dogs that fit that “show dog” mold instead of striving to produce the magnificent, remarkable creature we know as the Great Dane! Have the real guardians of our breed surrendered their efforts, discouraged by the fact that they are so easily and frequently passed over for animals that have no place or value in any breeding program?

If you are a judge or breeder who holds movement in high regard equal to physical breed virtues, please consider when it was, that you last saw a dog that exemplified the breed standard in motion, possessing long, powerful and strong easy strides holding his backline parallel to the ground.  It’s been a very long time since I have ever seen a Great Dane that exhibited these qualities and much longer since I’ve seen one with great breed virtues added to the mix!

Unfortunately, the lack of good education at many levels and the absence of quality mentoring, may very well be the cause of this atmosphere and rapid decline in true quality breed specific judging. If as a breeder, exhibitor or judge you should ever find yourself compelled to produce or select a dog based strictly on the most common denominators and judging “within the box” I can assure you that it will not be received by most as favorable. It takes courage dedication and knowledge to stand up and do what is right! It takes even greater discipline to be different from the rest and go where your conscience leads you, even if it may be against the flow. Whatever your interest may be or the extent of your involvement in our beautiful breed, breeding , rewarding or merely recognizing true Great Dane type will always be an asset and your gift to the breed!

Other articles by Dana Cline:

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