Multi-Group Judge on piece-work virtues or overall symmetry in the show ring, starting with a balanced breeding program.
PIECE WORK DOGS OR SYMMETRY?
E. Katie Gammill © TheDogPlace April 2010
Judges prioritize according to a breed standard. Obviously, some breeders gear their breeding programs toward “pieces” of the standard rather than the whole dog. Specific virtues ARE important, but haphazardly used, they produce dogs that look like “piece work” rather than “filling the eye” with overall symmetry.
In seeking a single virtue, other virtues can fade in the end result. A dog that looks “different” may catch a judge’s eye but is quickly seen to be lacking in overall correctness. Incomplete, hastily crafted dogs influence the sport in a negative manner.
Just one exaggerated feature can affect overall balance in any breed. Symmetry is “no one thing out of place.” If your eye is drawn to any one part of a dog, it usually is incorrect because it is an exaggeration. Unfortunately, many dogs reflect such exaggerations today so that when a dog bred to standard appears, it can confuse the eye because it is so correct and without extremes. It looks “different” and judges lacking confidence may go with the more common “type” in the show ring, even if it is only a composite of exaggerated pieces.
Dog standards are not be treated lightly. They are not a peg to hang a personal preference on. Imitating another person’s success by breeding a likeness of a current fad may be quick gratification but it will be short lived and long paid for. In some cases, when one arrives at the likeness sought, type has changed again.
Judges, like breeders, have different priorities. Putting a cow hocked dog up because it reflects a beautiful single virtue defeats the purpose of a breed standard. Dogs come in a variety of shapes and colors but it is uniformity that makes a dog “breed specific”. When you exaggerate a particular virtue or fault, the result may be a dog having the appearance of another breed. Basic dog is one head, one tail, and four legs, all pointed in the same direction.
This business of leg, neck, and foot placement is visible on an eight week old puppy. If it isn’t present at that age, it will NOT improve with maturity. There are commonalities among the breeds. These guidelines assist in picking the best puppy. If a puppy appears out of balance or exaggerated, it will be the same when mature. Carry a template in your mind. If a breeding does not produce the desired potential, don’t use a crutch to explain the lack of quality. A valuable lesson to be learned is this: “Not all litters are successful. At times, you simply end up with pets. Sell them as such and move on. Puppies must be picked by the head, not the heart, if one is to reach the pinnacle of success.
Stretching an over angulated rear may seem to correct a top line, but a good judge sees through this and that structural fault comes home in the whelping box. These are the “piece work dogs”. Breeding to a current dog because it wins may produce a product that sells well and works in the show ring, for a time, but without first seeing the offspring to insure a proper foundation, the results may prove useless in a breeding program. A “flash in the pan” may appear, but once the ring is no longer flooded with that “type”, it will be of little value to the breeder.
Balance is a word tossed around a lot. A bad front and corresponding rear appear as an acceptable gait, but “two wrongs do not make a right”. This is just perfecting mediocrity. Unfortunately, some judges will put that dog over a better dog with a missing tooth, short tail, or one lacking in rear because these faults are more visible. True beauty is a symmetrical dog, which means no one thing out of place. Reward the dog that fills the eye and brings pleasure to the beholder. The fact is “there is no perfect dog”.
Like balance, elegance can be a misconception. Dogs assuming “the pose” with the hind legs stretched back do NOT represent elegance. By watching carefully, one sees these dogs continually move their hind feet forward to reach the center line of gravity for balance. Stretched dogs generally have no “follow through” movement in the rear.
It’s a thrill to see a carefully crafted product in the dog world. They are rare and should be rewarded! These dogs represent dedicated breeders who protect virtues with fervor and avoid mediocrity like the plague. They address faults when they appear and do not adjust them. Breeding (and judging) to a standard is not for the faint of heart.
True craftsmen do not “compromise” and dog breeders do not use pieces and incomplete animals. They keep puppies that are as good as or superior to the sire and dam. Each breeding is a step forward to introduce new virtues and retain the established virtues. Tying the threads of type, soundness, health, and temperament together, the end product is true worth. When a dog like that appears in the show ring, a judge’s heart beats faster because they know this dog will impact the future.
The best breeders and judges accept nothing less than the complete package. Exceptional puppies generally do NOT go through “ugly stages”. They simply “grow up”. Always search for the dog that “fills your eye”. Remain true to the standard and the reward will come, not only in the breed ring, but in a lasting contribution to the future of your breed.
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