to be taken without the proverbial grain…
Some of the best dog people who
judge are on record as valuing type over soundness, stating that a dog must look
like its breed in order to be worthy of reward and that this is far more
important than good movement, and they note correctly that sound dogs can be
found at the local pound. That is
quite a popular opinion, it seems; but please, in any breed that still performs
a function, can type and soundness actually be divorced?
Can serious unsoundness be incorporated into the ideally typical (hence
the word “type”) specimen? I certainly hope that no one feels that there is any chance
that the ideal specimen of any breed with
a job to do can be unsound.
I want to be quite clear here and
make it known that I am not suggesting that we as judges should expect perfect
movement, or that it is not acceptable and absolutely necessary for a judge to
forgive, in any breed, a certain
degree of deviance from ideal movement. ( I’m also not talking here about the
Big Open Side Gait which is often seen in some breeds where it is not required,
such as Akitas, and rarely seen in some breeds whose standards asks for it, such
Very few dogs move perfectly and
many dogs with minor movement faults can perform their jobs admirably; most dogs
do not need to possess perfectly balanced movement or the ideal rear drive and
exemplary reach in order to put in a good day’s work. So, I’m not talking
about demanding perfection of movement, but about requiring basic,
get-the-job-done, functional movement.
What disturbs me is the rewarding
of dogs who possess lovely breed type but are clearly not sound enough to get
through a day of the work the breed has been developed to perform.
I should add that a big part of this issue for me is that I do not think
that it is fair for judges to build in their personal preferences as to
“kennel type”, “style” or “prettiness” when interpreting a breed standard until
they have pared their field of candidates for reward down to a group of dogs
that all display at least some degree of each of these: breed type, balance, and
The distinctive major aspects of
breed type or “form” in most breeds are there because they ideally adapt the
dog to its various functions, and it is with good cause that most of the
effective breed seminars begin with a “form follows function” premise.
Surely any purebred dog that is lovely to behold only until it moves
would probably be more of a burden than an asset to, for example, the hunter who
has to carry his earthdog from den to den or back home from the fields, the
dog’s unsound or inefficient movement having worn him out too early in the
day. So, isn’t functional
movement in truth an integral part of the dog’s form, the part that proves
that his form can actually function?
© Lisa and Andrew Warren, all rights reserved