DANELINKS.COM                                                                                                                                                         3/1/05



Where do the choices end and standards begin?

by CinDee Byer


Although this column deals with docking and cropping the battle cry of "choice" in breed standards is a thriving cancer in both performance and conformation worlds. Where it actually began no one really knows. Some breed people point at obedience (performance) exhibitors who may have a lower quality of dog and want to justify their position in the breed. However some of the newcomers on the breed side have not been taught the proper history of their breeds and hence apathy is on the rise in the world of conformation as well.

The "hot topic" today is adding ears and tails to the standards of historically cropped and docked breeds but the battle cry of "choice" can be heard throughout the entire fancy.

We have all heard members of the "Boo Hoo" club as they leave the ring crying, "Foul".

We have all heard them knocking at our standard's door screaming, "choice, we should have choice".

You can hear them complaining, "so what if my dog is not the right color, shape or size". "So what if he isn't cropped and/or docked, and is missing ten teeth, or three legs for all it matters. I SHOULD HAVE A CHOICE on how I want to show my dog. And I should be able to win every time!"

Choice, choice, choice, yeah and I want to wear a string bikini when I run around the breed ring on a hot summer's day. Believe me it won't get any points with the male judges but it may scare my competitors away.

The problem is, we do have a choice. We choose the breed of dog from the hundreds that are available to us. We choose the breeder from the thousands of breeders around the world. We make the choice on whether we choose the good, the bad or the ugly and we should be held accountable for those choices. We choose how we will raise our dog or dogs. We can choose to show a particular dog and if we exhibit that dog it is we who decide what shows we will enter and who we will exhibit under. We decide if we want to breed our dog, special it or give up and resign ourselves to watching dog shows on Animal Planet. If our dog doesn't excel we can choose whether to grumble about our dog's shortcomings, strive for a better specimen next time or choose a different breed of dog.

Along with the "Boo Hoo" club there is a new club crying "choice". It is the "Club of Justification". These are the people who actually come up with ridiculous arguments as to why their dog is better than the one described in the breed standard. Membership in this club is growing fast. It includes some competitors of performance events who ended up with a dog that perhaps was not docked or cropped and is not up to the breed's standards, now they feel they need to make a statement. Included in the "Club of Justification" are those breeders who have decided to crop only a few pups out of a litter for the savings of money and the convenience and now they are using "choice" as the sales pitch to the less informed. And the newest members of the "Club of Justification" are up and coming chiropractic "experts" who are in the process of building a practice based on myths, claiming that dogs need their tails and ears to balance and without them they need A LOT OF CHIROPRACTIC ADJUSTMENTS!  Oh yeah, at my house we're always picking up our poor cropped and docked Dobes because "they've fallen and they can't get up"!

Recently a person who I admired and who competes in Agility with Rotties said to me, "I don't care if they get rid of docking tomorrow. My Rotties would have better balance in agility if they had tails". Hey people, if tails and ears are so great for balance why aren't we seeing more basset hounds and bloodhounds winning top awards in agility? What about the one hundred fifty pound Saint Bernard? They've got tails and ears, heck they should be at the top of the agility list as well.

To some I'm preaching to the choir so bear with me but apparently it needs to be said!  Each breed was designed to do a specific task. The Rottie is a powerful, intelligent and magnificent breed but the "butcher's dog" was not walking tight ropes to prove it's worth. That is what a standard is all about. If you can't understand this, perhaps to prove a point, I should buy a Chihuahua, then complain because it can't pull a sled and enter the Iditarod. Do you see how ridiculous this argument is? If we spent more time studying standards and the history of a breed instead of complaining, perhaps we would make better selections when choosing a breed and /or an event that we wish to compete in. We might even pick a breed that is compatible to the sport we want to over achieve in, imagine that! If the breed you selected does not excel in the event you chose, and you're "boo hooing" about it; BUY ANOTHER BREED OF DOG!

Another problem with the "choice" argument when it comes to cropping and docking is how choice seems to go only one way. You don't hear anyone wanting to add cropping and docking to breed standards that have historically dropped ears and long tails and why not? Can't you just see it now? Cockers and Bassets running around the ring all neatly cropped. Sure we can have separate classes too, just adds to that good ole choice. Yes I can see it now, any owner, of any dog, who is experiencing chronic ear infections should have a choice to crop, to show that dog cropped and of course TO WIN, after all it is only good animal husbandry!

Gee and that's only the beginning.  Afghans, Whippets or what have you with broken tails can now have them docked and can be shown in the new improved tail-less class! Where does it end? Once we open Pandora's box we could have special classes for Poodles who aren't properly groomed, the flat faced Borzoi, the long muzzled Pug and don't forget the classes for spayed and neutered dogs and bitches. All these can be someone's choices as well, be it good or bad. With the new addition of choice in our standards, dogs and bitches in the breed rings will look more like Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head with interchangeable parts. And with standards that say, "Have it your way" we will have to start handing out paper hats to our judges as their job will resemble that of a fast food restaurant manager rather someone who is judging a breed of dog. .

Personally I really don't care if you have an uncropped Dobe or a Rottie with a gay tail. That is your choice. I don't care if you have a bald Boxer or a dog with five legs. You have every right to own what ever you wish in whatever way you like it, but don't bring Kool-Aid to a wine tasting competition and complain because it hasn't won a gold medal. Don't expect the vintage wine maker to change his Bordeaux into a "Fruity Punch" because you want all the wineries to offer the sugary goodness of a powdered drink mix! Occasionally we have to stop allowing people to hide behind the choice word and stand up for our breeds, their history and the standard.

The real point here should be to make people responsible for the choices they do make. When you order steak don't complain because it doesn't taste like lobster! We must make people realize that when they choose a breed they accept all the pre-existing conditions of that breed's standard.

They must
understand that choice added to a breed's standard is just another tactic used by animal rights radicals to divide and conquer the fancy. When we are talking about docking and cropping changing standards in any way is the opening that the radicals need to force their views on us and our breeds. By opening our standards to this kind of review we give the radicals the opportunity they need to accomplish their goals.

Experts around the world agree that the radicals work in incremental steps. Once this kind of "choice" is in place the resulting action later on then becomes the banning of these wonderful procedures and finally the elimination of each of the affected breeds! Yes, my dear, the radicals are using "choice" as a weapon of destruction; don't allow them to manipulate you! Defend your breed's standard!

These radicals are also known to "work on the personal weaknesses of powerful people". Judges, be aware, don't allow yourself to be a tool of the radicals, if it is too difficult for you to make a decision based on how a breed's standard is written, don't apply to judge that breed. The choice really is up to ALL of you.
"Where do the choices end and the standards begin?" Do you want breeds of dogs with individual standards or single breed with endless choices? We are the AMERICAN Kennel Club don't let the radicals take that choice away.

Celebrate the wonderful breed you chose, be proud, and continue to keep that bar high. And when members of the "choice" club come knocking at your door just tell them to cry on someone else's doorstep because you made the right choice the first time around!

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