Posted on 01/27/2010 in Ringside Conversations.
Richard G. (Rick) Beauchamp
“New” breeds - or as folks here in the U.S. are apt to call any breed we don't normally see competing at our Group level - rare. There could be thousands being shown everywhere else in the world, but typically American - if it's not as we know it, it's not the real thing.
No matter what the breed and irrespective of how many there are here or anywhere else, you can rest assured there are three things you'll hear about the newbie:
1. It's a rare breed.
2. We don't need another breed - rare or otherwise.
3. No two look alike.
Are these criticisms that appear to be leveled at all new breeds actually valid or is it our normal resistance to change that doesn't like to see what's working (well, sort of working) subject to disruption? Let's take a look at what is said about these new breeds and see how much truth is involved. If what we say has foundation, is there any way to correct the problems that seem inherent in being the new kid on the block?
“It's a rare breed.”
Actually "rare" is just about anything we're not accustomed to seeing at the dog shows. There may not be many here in the U.S. for some reason or another but internationally they could be one of the strongest breeds going. Guess it actually depends more upon us than the breed. If we travel a lot and see what's going on around the world, the world "rare" becomes relative.
“We don't need another breed!”
That's according to whom!? Canada's Dr. Richard Meen, highly respected breeder, judge and former president of the Canadian Kennel Club, once wrote of our (our as in North American) "arrogance" in assuming that our breeds are the legitimate ones and anyone else's are not.
Should our assumption have actually been the case, no one would now be placing second to the Bichon Frise, or the Cavalier or the Crested or … well, I think you get my point. The question that has to be asked is why would we need a Poodle any more than we might need a Cavalier?
“No two look alike.”
Aha! Now this is where we find some validity. Now note I did say some validity because we have to be honest and ask ourselves whether all American Pit Bull Terriers "look alike," or all Toy Fox Terriers or most other breeds, are clones of each other? Hardly - and that's being kind.
The practiced eye has been educated to know what's right or wrong in a breed. It surveys what is presented, casting out the wrongs and retaining the rights. Of the rights, the most right wins.
If you aren't sure of what you're looking for, it isn't possible to make those calls. Common sense tells you didn't know as much about your breed - any breed - before you began to study it as you do now, years later. Gathering all the information necessary is what enables you to decide between the good and not so good.
We have to take some of the responsibility for the new breed's not having "two alike" in that we ourselves haven't developed the practice eye to separate the good from the poor, as we are able to in the breeds with which we are familiar. Therefore, it follows to reason that all members of a new breed stand on equal and undetermined footing in the uneducated eye.
Perhaps "no two look alike" might be better stated as, "I don't yet know which of those I've seen are correct."
However, all our lack of experience aside, a good part of the confusion that does exist in what constitutes type in the new breeds may lie elsewhere. It can be the direct result of internal confusion that exists within the ranks of those who champion the cause of the breed. In many cases new breed fanciers have not owned, bred or exhibited any breed of dog prior to their being to the UKC or any other purebred organization.
They may know what the dogs they own look like, and what the breed's standard says. However, they may not have developed the ability to define what is being asked for in terms of what experienced dog men and women need to know.
I think the breeds that do best in a new country are those that arrive with a well-written and time-tested breed standard. Even if the people within the breed aren't able to convey the breed's essence, experienced dog authorities in the new country of residence are most often able to keep the new arrival traveling along the intended path.
Breeds arriving without a defining standard, or those breeds whose owners in the new country of residence decide to "recreate" the breed by rewriting the standard, usually face long-standing difficulty. I find the latter are usually the result of the breed finding itself in the hands of either those who know no other breeds of dogs or on the opposite side of the coin - those who are not intimately familiar with the new breed.
The former are inclined to impose requirements on the breed that defy the normal rules - static and kinetic - that govern all canines. The latter concentrate on generic qualities rather than breed specifics.
When situations like this exist, it is critical that at some point someone knowledgeable and objective within the breed seek assistance from someone with a sound all breed knowledge. This enables the breed to develop a meaningful standard that is also within the context of what can be understood.
When knowledge precedes arrival
It's a fortunate thing when we have a breed arrive that comes fully equipped with a sound standard backed up with knowledgeable authorities within the breed. This eliminates the guesswork period and precludes judges who are only barely familiar with a breed determining which dogs should go forward to set the standard and which should not. When this happens it's the first dog up with the biggest record that will set, if nothing else, the "unwritten" standard.
Unfortunately there are the breeds that may fall into the wrong hands when they move to a new country or even a new registry source. There are always those individuals who are willing to reshape the breed standard to fit their own dogs, regardless of the hardship it may bring upon the breed.
One need only look at the Havanese that flourished for so many years in the hands of the UKC breeders and then fell into total disrepair when it moved into another registry source. Radical and contradictory changes to the new group's standard confused new breeders and created havoc for those who had been in the breed but wanted to show under the auspices of both organizations.
Fortunately, the plight of the Havanese is more the exception than the rule. The case of the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is far more typical. Here we have a standard that originally made sense to the knowledgeable dog man, and there were experienced voices within the breed to assist its traveling along the correct path.
In this case, one of the Toller's most highly respected voices is Canada's Alison Strang. Alison is co-author with Gail MacMillan of the “breed bible”, The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever (Alpine Publications, 1996).
Mrs. Strang wrote the following as a part of her regular column in the monthly publication, Dogs In Canada. I found what she wrote both enlightening and flattering - flattering in that she employed the approach to understanding breed type that I have so whole-heartedly espoused.
NOVA SCOTIA DUCK TOLLING RETRIEVER BREED TYPE
“Richard Beauchamp has devoted a whole book to his great articles on Breed Type which entitled Solving the Mysteries of Breed Type. Here are some thoughts on Toller Breed Type, using the Beauchamp classification:
“Breed Character - The Toller is the smallest of all the retrievers but is sturdy, powerful and athletic. I really like the line in the Flat Coated Retriever Standard, which applies equally to the Toller - ‘Powerful without lumber, racy without weediness.’ The Toller is a tireless and agile retriever, with a lively, alert, intelligent aspect that says, ‘I’m ready for action, Let's GO!’
“Silhouette - Measured from point of shoulder to pinbone and from top of shoulder blade to ground, the Toller is very slightly longer than tall, and has strong medium bone. The topline is level except for a slight rise over the loin and the chest is deep. Tuckup is moderate. The bushy tail should reach at least to the hock and is carried above the level of the back in a gentle sickle. When the dog is fully alert the tail can curve over, but not touch, the back.
“Toller males should be between 19-20 inches (47-50 cm), while females are 18-19 inches (45-48cm). One inch (2.5 cm) is allowed either way - my own personal preference is for a male 19 inches (47.5 cm) and female 18 inches (45 cm). Weight should be in proportion to the build of the dog, but Standard guidelines are males 45-51 pounds (20-23 kg) and females 37-43 pounds (17-20 kg).
“Head/Expression - The head is slightly wedge shaped, neither too broad nor too narrow. The skull is neither domed nor flat, but slightly rounded, and the stop is not prominent. The muzzle is strong and long enough to enable the dog to pick up a fair-sized bird, while the under jaw is strong. The almond-shaped eyes should blend with the coat. Black pigment is allowed, but flesh-colored is preferred; many prefer brown as this makes the dog more distinctively its own breed. The rounded drop ears are set fairly high on the skull. Expression is alert, friendly and intelligent, but our Standard also says, ‘Many Tollers have a slightly sad expression until they go to work, when their aspect changes to intense concentration and excitement.’
“Coat/Colour - There is a thick, double coat, with thickness being more important than length. The undercoat is dense except when the dog is out of coat, and is neither too soft nor too silky. There should be no trimming except of feet and ears.
“Colours may be any shade of red or orange, but should be strong and vivid. A bright coppery red is my own preference, as are the desired white markings. These, to my mind, are an almost essential part of Toller Type, although some would disagree and the Standard states that a dog of otherwise high quality should not be penalized for lack of white. The tail is a very important part of a tolling dog's equipment, and should be full, luxuriant and bushy rather than feathered. The tail, set on fairly high with little drop behind the croup, is carried above the level of the back. The tail will curve over, though never touch, the back when the dog is fully alert.
“Movement - Powerful, with good reach and drive, but a certain jauntiness can also be evident, in keeping with the dog's whole aspect. When moving, the topline is level and the dog will single track as speed increases.”
What a marvelous contribution to our pool of knowledge and a great educational tool having this essence capsule would be for all our breeds!
Would this then solve our problems, end our need for further education? Not at all. But it would serve to set us off on the right path, and if we were to stop right here and pursue no further knowledge, I sincerely believe we would remain well inside the ballpark of what is really important.
Richard G. (Rick) Beauchamp has been successfully involved in practically every facet of purebred dogs: breeding, exhibiting, publishing, writing. He is the author of numerous breed and all breed books including the best-selling Solving the Mysteries of Breed Type and Breeding Dogs for Dummies. He has judged all breeds throughout the world and was one of the United Kennel Club's first all breed judges.