Maintaining Type

by Di Johnson

One of the most difficult words to explain, and yet one of the most widely used, is '"type", it is a word possibly used more in some breeds than other, due to the great diversity of Type found therein.

It is argued that there is only one Type - that which complies with the breed standard of a particular breed, and in theory that should be true. So how does a breed arrive at a situation where one glance at a Post Graduate class at a Championship show reveals an assortment of dogs more reminiscent of a variety class?

It is my contention that great variation in Type is the direct result of deliberate exaggeration. Certain breeders, either dictating or following fashion, will latch on to one particular feature of a dog and make that their major priority - invariably at the expense of other equally important aspects of the overall animal.

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Such breeders have forgotten that it is, in fact, the overall picture of the dog that should make the declaration "I am truly typical of my breed". The general appearance, the flowing outline, the balance of one part to another, the demeanour, the attitude, the coat texture and movement... all of these features combine to make a typical specimen. Each of these features is a crucial part of the whole - that is what breeders should, and must, be aiming for. A dog that is typical in all departments.

A glorious head without the correct body construction is just a poorly made, inferior animal who just happens to have a super head.

A sensational coat on a dog which moves well, but has a head like a bucket, is simply a sound well coated animal lacking true Breed Type.

It cannot be a "never mind the quality, feel the width" situation. Breeders must always be aware of the overall appearance of the dog with particular attention being paid to specific breed requirements.

Here we hit the problem! Here we move into "overkill". It is the "if two tablets do good, four tablets do better" syndrome. Not so!

The only thing that can be overdone to advantage is a roast leg of pork. Any dog that is overdone in any department has lost its overall balance and therefore its true breed type.

Exaggeration is the road to nowhere. My dictionary definition of "exaggeration" is: to magnify - beyond the limits of truth; to make (physical features etc.) of abnormal size.

In the quest for Breed Type, certain breeders will home in on a particular feature of their breed and concentrate on it, to such a degree that other equally important aspects of the animal are virtually forgotten.

A vicious circle begins, often dictated by the shortcomings of a breeder's foundation stock. For example, a breeder starts off with a good, sound, basically typical bitch which is rather plain in head. They get told time and time again that their bitch fails in head, and they become obsessed by heads. They breed for heads, and heads and more heads. They will use a stud dog for his head alone, safe in the knowledge that their bitch is well constructed. Within a few generations they have superb heads but are producing shoulders and hindquarters which are grossly inferior to those of their original bitch. You see what I mean.

Given that other breeders within the same breed have decided that some other feature is the one to demand their individual attention, we will watch the breed lose its uniformity. We will see driftings away from the norm, i.e. true Breed Type, to be replaced by dogs that excell in one aspect, only to fail miserably in others. And because the point of concentration will vary from breeder to breeder, the "variety class" appearance is arrived at.

Grave Disservice

The sad part is, that these often-well-meaning, always-intense, striving-to-accentuate-one-feature breeders are doing their respective breeds a grave disservice by allowing a deterioration of the whole for the sake of excellence of one point.

Of course we all want to see excellent heads and great hindquarters and superb coats. But please note that we link these virtues with the tiny word "and" - not "or"! And when we ask for "excellent" heads, that means just what it says... not so overdone and exaggerated that the dog looks so unbalanced that it might just topple over onto its nose at any minute.

Great hindquarters are wonderful when they are totally in keeping with the rest of the animal.

Superb coats cease to be stunning and merely become "a lot of hair" unless they complement and enhance an equally superb dog.

No breeder can afford to breed for one point alone.

Breed Type can only be achieved by overall excellence and quality. That there will be minor faults in the most typical dog is an accepted fact. You would perhaps like a little more hind angulation, perhaps a shade more depth of muzzle, maybe tighter feet or less throat. The perfect dog has yet to be born. Mediocre dogs abound.

But the heartbreak dogs are those who possess one glorious, much sought-after feature - and precious little else to back it up. These dogs cannot be wholly typical of their breed, and they are the dogs who can do most harm.

Take Stock

They are the dogs who so dazzle for their one overwhelming virtue that they are used by short-sighted breeders who may find themselves blinded to their faults.

In simple terms, take stock of what your bitch has going for her, and look to the future. By all means use a stud dog who excels where she fails, but only if he is no worse where she is good. Implementing a successful breeding programme takes time. You are not going to make an impact on your breed in one generation. It takes time and patience. In other words, if your bitch fails in hindquarters but has a wonderful head and reasonable front, don't rush off to use the dog who is superb behind if he loses to your bitch in head and forehand. Go to the dog who is equally good in those respects, but who is better than your bitch behind. It's a slow process, but with each generation you should improve and not at the expense of what you already have.

We must keep a sense of proportion, and we must keep our picture of the breed in perspective. We must at all times see the overall animal. We must keep Type as our priority.

And we all know what Type is ... don't we?

We have Type when we look down a line of dogs and say to ourselves not "What a wonderful head" or "What a wonderful outline" or "What wonderful hindquarters", but "What a wonderful dog"!

DOGS MONTHLY October 1988


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