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A Weighty Issue 

 

 

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

  For casual consumption only;  Not to be ingested without the proverbial grain…

 

  Lisa Warren

                                                A Weighty Issue

 

Why is it that our dachshund stands with only one other breed in the hound group having size specified in its standard by weight only, with no suggestion for height?  (We’ll return to the subject of the other breed later.)  I do not know the history behind the absence of a height suggestion in our standard, and would be delighted if someone who does would inform me.  Being ignorant of that bit of breed history, it is not difficult to conjecture just why ideal weights rather than heights were written into the standard at a time when the breed was not so low to ground as it is today.  Imagine the controversy that might have preceded that decision when the standard was being drafted: Breeder X, with dogs a bit higher on leg and at the wither than those of Breeder Y, would have been adamant in opposition to a height limitation.  But I am only guessing. What I am certain of, however, is that there is room to question whether a weight disqualification of our miniatures is the best way to keep them small, and if it doesn’t, in fact, do them a disservice. Miniature varieties in this country have made great strides in the past ten years.  The breeders who have contributed to that progress have done it, I feel, in spite of the albatross of a weight disqualification in the Open Miniature class. They deserve admiration for their vision and perseverance. Most miniature breeders probably know of a few dogs who would not have “weighed in” but have thrown excellent, small stock, or made a significant contribution to their varieties a generation or two down the pedigree.  Consider for a moment that it took courageous breeders who were willing to look further down the road than the next litter for these dogs to have been used at all.  Without those breeders of vision (or desperation, perhaps?) those dogs would have never made their contributions because the average mini breeder, in the “weight paranoia” mode, passed them over for fear they would have thrown stock too heavy for the ring. Emphasis on a weight limit focuses on only one aspect of the miniature dachshund, distracting breeder and judge concentration from type, a far more important (and difficult) element to achieve and maintain.  Now, I am the first to argue that size is an important aspect of type for a mini: he must be appropriately small to look like a miniature dachshund.  But notice, I say that I will argue for size, not weight.  Should we not be placing emphasis on how much space the dog occupies rather than what he registers on the scales?  At least part of the point of the smaller varieties originally had to do with the game they were to hunt and the holes they were to go into, altogether a function of size, not weight.  Contemplate for a moment a pair of identical twins, two dogs of precisely the same height and length, with identical rib cages. One is not fat, but is in slack, soft condition, while the other is of excellent, hard muscular fitness.  Given the fact that muscle weighs more than fat, which dog is more likely to be disqualified for “excess weight”?  But which one is more likely to efficiently do the job he was designed to do?  Ironic, isn’t it?  Let’s not forget that one of our breed’s original primary purposes was to go to ground on badger.  Now, pound for pound the badger is  perhaps the meanest s.o.b. in the woods, and if a dog is going to take him on in his own turf, that dog had better be packing some muscle to back up his “bold to the point of rashness” attitude. Miniature dachshunds had best not  be allowed down a hole to take on so large an adversary as a badger, but they are judged by the same breed standard, and should ideally be a true dachshund in miniature.  The German, English, FCI and Australian standards call for a compact animal.  So did the American one until its latest revision, which continues to require “robust muscular development”; (remember, the more muscle, the more weight).  A consultation with a dictionary has yielded the following:  “Compact:  closely packed together, solid, dense”, and: “Miniature:  represented on a reduced scale; anything small”.  Notice, please, “small”, not “light in weight”.  Now, bring in the scales, and our minis are automatically penalized for compactness, a trait required by dachshund standards around the world, while no consideration is given to the animal’s actual dimensions.  So breeders, adaptable, eager to win creatures that we are, keen to exhibit and therefore willing to try to satisfy whatever requirements are imposed, breed finer bone and lesser girth, underfeed, withhold water, or do whatever is necessary to get around a requirement which penalizes compact muscular development while considering actual size  not at all. It seems less than fair to me that a dog’s eligibility to compete on a given day can depend upon whether or not he has had a drink of water or had a productive session in the exercise pen.  And consider this, please:  surely it is somewhat arbitrary and unreasonable that a dog might be Best in Show on Saturday, and, having altogether the same dimensions, be disqualified from competition on Sunday!  Try as I might, I cannot get the guides on my logic grid to line up over that one. Perhaps our breed standard, which is extensively specific regarding structure and the relationships of various bones to each other, could be improved by the addition of height at shoulder guidelines to the weights now suggested for the big guys and required for the miniatures.  Ideal body proportions have been adopted by D.C.A., and to my mind, are conspicuous in their absence from the breed standard.  Surely this is among the most important aspects of the physical appearance of any breed of dog.  If the ideal proportions were outlined in the standard, the next logical step would be deal with heights at the shoulder.  I propose that a suggested range of height for each size of dachshund would be of greater benefit than weights to both breeders and judges in their attempts to develop and assess this breed whose outstanding identifying characteristic is its lowness to ground!  Such a suggested range just might give judges a benchmark they could better measure against, helping to slow the progression of some of our standard dachshunds toward the size of basset hounds.  And someday, it is hoped, judges could concentrate on assessing miniatures for type, balance and soundness rather than being distracted by deciding which of the various faults will be forgiven on the day, faults resulting largely from a concentration over the years on the weight restriction. About that other hound breed with no ideal range of height in its standard: it is the greyhound.  Try to imagine yourself going into the ring as a greyhound judge armed only with these words from the standard regarding size: “dogs, 65 to 70 pounds; bitches 60 to 65 pounds.” Which ones are the right size?  Are all of these open bitches correct except for the small one, or is that smaller bitch the ideal 65 pounds and all of the others over the line and into the ideal dog range?  My point is again, of course, that most people probably cannot accurately assess an animal’s weight by looking at it and touching it.  Any breed standard that leaves out height and proportions misses an opportunity (neglects an obligation?) to properly inform as to the correct size of the dog it describes, and thereby under-equips its breeders and judges, the breed guardians. Having said all of that, a disqualification for weight or size makes no more sense to me than one based on sloppy rear action, upright shoulders, or a swampy topline. It is more objectively determined, of course, but dealing as it does with only one aspect of the animal, is no more reasonable, and points our miniatures, in particular, down the road towards weediness and mediocre type. Breed standards offer guidelines to judges and breeders, who then have the responsibility of deciding where to draw the line on a particular point of a breed.  That is a very large part of what the dog game is about, and that is as it should be. I hope you’ll think about it.  The Piano Man said it best: “I may be wrong, but I may be  right.”

  Author’s Note: Let me dispel any doubts that the reader might have about where I am coming from:  every one of the five miniatures of our breeding that has finished from 1991 to 1994 has been weighed in at Roundup or Expo as an adult.)

   

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