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All about the Purebred Dog

Judging Type

JUDGING TYPE   In the judging of conformation in purebred dogs, there has always been a great emphasis on rewarding uniformity of type. The final lineups of knowledgeable breed judges are expected to show consistency of type, and if the dogs in the ribbons differ in type, the judge is assumed to be ignorant or incompetent, assuming he had a reasonable number of dogs to choose from. This phenomenon is very apparent in the German shepherd breed resulting in several distinct types.  A V (excellent) rated German showline dog in an American specialty ring will probably be ignored, unless the judge has a fondness for German dogs. On the other hand, a top rated American champion, assuming it could achieve a schutzhund title, would likely be completely ignored, or worse, in a German SV show. The FCI and AKC breed standards do differ, but not that much. Good German dogs are imported by American breeders and crossed into American lines with good success. Aficionados of both types claim their dogs show the most efficient working trot, and have true shepherd working ability.  And yet we have two radically different types of German shepherd.  I think it’s because judges, rather than judging the dogs, are judging type instead.
The bigger issue of course is the genetic consequences to a population of breeding a race of lookalikes within a dwindling genetic pool.  The desire for uniformity has created an environment that bestows an aura of quality on a group of animals simply because they look the same. Humans love consistency. We like things to match. However, rewarding genetically similar animals for similar virtues will result in elevating animals that often have the same weaknesses. How better to deal with this conundrum than to turn those flaws into virtues.  American judges claim the hyper-angulated  hindquarter shows stronger rear propulsion. It doesn’t – extreme American dogs virtually never achieve the AD (endurance test) or schutzhund titles that require jumping – but that’s what they believe and it is a fiction which has persisted for over thirty years. German judges claim the roach back is an indication of strength. It isn’t – slow motion video shows how a malformed back distorts in motion – but that’s what they believe and it is a fiction which has also persisted for over thirty years. When you have boxed yourself into a genetic corner with no acceptable genetic resource to correct a problem, make the problem go away by transforming the problem into a virtue. You won’t improve the dogs, but you can keep handing out awards. So now we have the sad situation of American judges who won’t reward a dog who doesn’t show an extreme rear, and German judges who won’t reward a dog who doesn’t show an arched back.
In the first graphic, I’ve shown a lineup of nice American dogs, with one nice German dog. They are different, but they are roughly equivalent in quality. But the poor German dog looks the odd man out because he spoils the uniformity of the class. The American dogs all show extreme angulation and, from a genetic perspective, the German dog could bring the qualities of correct angulation and firmness that the American dogs lack. The German dog should be in the ribbons if the judge is thinking of the breed, but if the judge is rewarding uniformity of type, the German dog will be excluded. Click on the image to show it full size.
 
Similarly, in the second graphic I’ve shown a lineup of nice German dogs, with one nice American dog. Again, it’s the American dog that looks out of place. The German dogs all show arched backs, and the American dog (leaving aside issues of working titles) could bring the genetics for good backs that seem to have been bred out of so many German dogs. The American dog should be in the ribbons if the judge is thinking of the breed, but if the judge is rewarding uniformity of type, the American dog will be excluded. Click on the image to show it full size.
 
It should be remembered that these types all have the same genetic roots, and isolating them into discreet genetic populations is a form of inbreeding that is not in the best, long term interests of the breed.




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