The Standard

by Bill Chambers

The Oxford Dictionary defines 'STANDARD'as the specification by which the qualities of something may be tested.

We of the Dog World, however, have taken this literal definition a little further, and its significance and importance in application to things canine, is absolutely inescapable.

Those dedicated people that recognised the need for a standard - in order to bring back a level of uniformity to their breed - were certainly on the right track. The original breed standards, laid down so many years ago, I have always believed, were prepared by people with considerable experience and knowledge of their chosen breed requiremnets. As well,I have a firm conviction that when they put their thoughts into the written form, the terminology used was couched in such terms as to be readily understood by equally well-informed people

Over the years I have heard the standard referred to in many varied ways-some which would be considered unsuitable to appear in print. However, my favourite is the one which Tom McGorion ( a well known All Breeds judge of years ago ) said. "The Standard is, at best, a most loosely worded document, suitable only for the guidance of wise men and the instruction of fools."

Certainly, none can deny that a great amount of detail is missing from many standards, and much is left to the individual's imagination, and this places even greater importance on the quality of personal interpretation. The unavoidable reality , which must be taken into account, is that the total value of interpretation is dependant upon the manner in which the written word of the standard is applied.

The breed standard is , of course, the 'blueprint' of the breed. It is at that high point of quality and excellence that all breeders strive to achieve in their own individual breeding breeding programs. The breed standard is an essential reference to aid breeders to evaluate puppies, whether it be to choose a puppy to be retained in order that a particular bloodline be kept, or to further the breeding shekel. On the other hand, it is equally necessary that this evaluation be carried out to select those puppies destined for a future career in the showring, so that the continuation of the quality of the breed is maintained.

On the other side of the coin, you have the judges. The Standard is most certainly the judges Bible, and I, for one, would have to confess a greater knowledge of the Standard than that of my Bible. Once we have set our feet firmly on the path towards a career as a 'dog Judge', a much closer understanding and appreciation of it is inevitable as a solid understnding of the standard is the foundation on which our knowledge base is built.

The point of critical importance that we must recognize, is that the progress and well-being of the dog world is in our hands, but the future of all breeds rests equally and fairly in the hands of the breeders and judges - this is a responsibility we can not ignore

Breeders, for their part, must continue their efforts to breed typical, sound and healthy stock. The judges, I believe, should lead by example and accept their measure of responsibility by applying the standard in practical judging situations with consistantly sound decisions, based on knowledge, and put into effect with understanding and fairness.

I wouldn't be Robinson Crusoe if I said that over the years I have had occasion to watch judges make obviously poor decisions, supported only, it would seem, by a total lack of understanding of even the practical basic requirements of the breed.

If this was to become a regular thing, then I can well hear the breeders saying, - "OK, if that is what they want, then that is what we will breed!" - and who could blame them? One of the most insidious diseases to afflict the canine world would have to be "popularity". Many are the breeds that have felt the blight of this malady. With 'popularity' there are many benefits to be enjoyed. More puppies being born, increased puppy sales, bigger entries at shows, giving the breed marvelous exposure.

But, as with all things, nothing is achieved without cost. New fanciers, attracted to the breed, certainly swell the ranks, but it would seem that there are always those to whom breeding appears to be absolutely simple, and that the ogre of profitability -"the quick buck" - raises its ugly head , and we all know how foolish this assumption is. Inevitably, it is the breed's quality that suffers - often to a degree that in many cases, recovery is extremely slow.

In a scenario such as this, once more the standard, we see, has been deigrated, and the level of the quality of the breed suffers. So let us recognize the standard for what it is and appreciate its value and importance, and that it represents the highest level of quality which we all must hold inviolate - never losing sight of the undeniable truth, that the pursuit of excellence must always be our constant goal

In this I wish you all well.

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