Toy Fox Terrier Information
Judges Critiques of Specialty Events can be as vague as the response to ‘would you critique my dog?’ but this judge reveals amazing Toy Breeds insight.
American Toy Fox Terrier Club Parent Club Specialty
It was a pleasure of the highest order to be invited to judge the First Parent Club Specialty of the Toy Fox Terrier Club of America that was held in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 12, 2012. The club’s request to submit a critique of the assignment was not accompanied by a deadline and therefore like so many of us who write professionally, requests with a date tag are dealt with first--seldom before and hopefully not too much later than the assigned date. Those noted “soon” do get attention “just as soon as we get a minute”--thus the tardiness of this article.
Those who know me are aware that my association with the TFT goes back many years--back before AKC recognition, back to the days of Miscellaneous, and before that to the days when the breed was supported by sizable entries in the United Kennel Club. It was my pleasure to know and learn from many of the breed's earliest breeders and fanciers including a true TFT doyen, Eliza L. Hopkins, author of the iconic breed book, “The Toy Fox Terrier.” Mrs. Hopkins, I am happy to report is still very much alive and thriving in her Northern Michigan home.
The entry just short of 60 (25 Specials) with few absentees represented a good cross section of the breed and the bloodlines that exist around the country. Having judged a good many specialties of a wide variety of breeds I can say with confidence that the overall quality of the TFT can stand proudly along side breeds that have been recognized by the AKC for decades.
My four eventual top award winners pleased me greatly in their overall silhouettes, correct bone for size, attitudes and beautiful expressions. They maintained that delicate balance that breeders strive to achieve based on the breed’s terrier and toy heritage. GCh. Barbary’s That’s So Raven, The Best of Breed bitch, a seasoned campaigner, epitomizes this balance. She is very much middle of the road in size, substance, and balance, excelling in soundness and head properties. Best Opposite to her was GCH Ultra Quest Go For The Gold, a young male whose elegance is hard to match. Very correct angulation front and rear with rock hard topline. His youth shows but as I have always maintained, there is absolutely no fault in being young. I look to this youngster to make his mark in the not too distant future both as a sire and a show dog.
Browsing my catalogue after the show I was fascinated to find that Best of Breed, Winners Dog (Barbary Go, Diego, Go), Reserve Winners Dog (Barbary’s Number Eleven), Winners Bitch (Barbary Joan Jett), Select Dog and Best Stud Dog (Ch. Barbarry Rough ‘N Ready) were all the result of the same Barbary bloodline. In addition the Best Opposite Sex dog, Reserve Winners Bitch, and several individuals taking placements and wins through the classes shared Ultra Quest Kennels as their source.
Consistency of kennel names is noteworthy and commendable. Far more important to me as a former breeder however is the fact that the dogs and bitches emanating from these kennels are of a style that both express the respective breeder’s vision of the breed while fully conforming to the breed standard. In this day of numbers and mega-winners we have many kennels producing dogs that can be found at the top of the numbers charts but upon closer examination bear scant resemblance one winner to the next. They come from breeding programs based on "breed what you have, keep what you get, and campaign the living blazes out of what you show until it achieves one standing or another.”
The TFT breed standard lists a large number of disqualifications (9) but I am happy to report that none caused me to eliminate any dog from competition. Serious faults were in the minority but as a word of caution, breeders should exercise diligence in the area of slipping patellas (malformed knee caps). All breeds, particularly the Toy breeds, are susceptible to the problem. While the incidence in the Vegas entry was minimal it is always wise to be vigilant in this respect. Strong well-made and muscular upper thighs with sufficient angulation help to safeguard against this problem.
Isolated problems appeared here and there but other than the two I will address the breed can take great pride in being among the healthiest I have judged in the past several years. The two problems of conformation that the breed must seriously deal with are movement and topline.
Movement in the breed runs the gamut: restricted fronts and rears (little reach in front and rear movement totally under the dog with little if any follow through and drive), crossing over in front, out at the elbows. The only fault of movement the standard calls attention to is “hackney gait” which interestingly I found literally non existent in the Vegas entry nor have I found it a matter of concern in entries that I’ve passed on country wide.
What I have found to be a genuine movement problem in the breed is “goose stepping.” There is a marked difference between “hackney” and “goose stepping.” However, neither of them is correct for the TFT whose standard calls for movement that is “smooth flowing with good reach and strong drive.” Hackney movement, typically found and correct for the Miniature Pinscher, is that in which the foreleg from elbow to pastern is lifted parallel to the ground. The remainder of the foreleg (pastern to toe) bends downward perpendicular to the ground. Reach is minimal.
Goose stepping on the other hand is movement similar to what is seen in the Italian Greyhound. (It should be noted however, that IG breeders do strive for as much forward movement as can be obtained with this movement.) It is similar in some respects to hackney but is first of all less exaggerated in that the foreleg does not rise completely parallel to ground. Elbow to toe is almost fully extended but instead of reaching forward from the shoulder the foreleg is lifted rapidly up and then quickly returned to the ground with little or no flexing of the leg joints. The movement is primarily up and down with little forward reach. The front problem that runs rampant through the TFT breed is what is considered goose stepping. It should be obvious that following the standard, a judge, looking for the nearly nonexistent hackney, is likely to overlook goose stepping which is not mentioned in the standard yet is totally contradictory to what the TFT standard asks for concerning movement.
A problem that I noted far less in the Vegas entry than I have in most other large entries I’ve observed over recent years is in topline which is required to be straight, flowing smoothly with a gentle arch from behind the skull down over well laid back shoulders to the dead straight topline withers to set on of tail. Too often we see an abrupt juncture of neck and shoulder with a drop off directly behind the withers and then commencing on to the topline. Although it can be disguised somewhat in setting up the dog, it becomes glaringly obvious when the dog moves. The problem here is in shoulders lacking proper layback. Shoulders should be long, sloping and well laid back. I quote directly from Ms Hopkins “The Toy Fox Terrier” in which she states, “There should never be an abrupt break where the neck and the shoulders join. Similarly, a dip in the back, behind the shoulders (sic) blades, usually indicates insufficient layback.”
No dog, no breed for that matter exists that is entirely free of faults or flaws. Some problems are transmitted from the earliest beginnings of the breed. Outcrosses to other breeds help breed founders move forward to their goal but along with these fortunate crosses come problems that stubbornly refuse to be eradicated. It is up to future generations of fanciers to keep on their toes and work to make sure that they preserve the good and do their best to eliminate as much as possible what is undesirable.
You can decide as you view winners and results, also judged by Richard Beauchamp, at the 1st Toy Fox Terrier Specialty Match in 2001 which was held in conjunction with the famous Del Valle KC shows.