On the Pedigree Dogs Exposed Facebook group, debate is very common, and things have heated up in the aftermath of Crufts. So many controversies are going on with Crufts this year, but one of them that has me curious is one involving the issue of breed standards.
Last week, rancorous debate ensued when it was suggested that the golden retriever that won the breed at Crufts was overweight. I don’t have an opinion about the weight of the dog, but I was curious about why golden retrievers in Europe are so divided between show and working types.
The answer I was given was that golden retrievers in Europe were just pets, and it didn’t matter if they were built for the purpose or not.
Earlier I had posted an image of a golden retriever winner at Crufts in 1927, and I asked why they were okay with breed changing so much.
The answer I received was that the breed should just be allowed to evolve.
Both of these answers are problematic.
Everyone who gets interested in dogs learns that dog shows and breed standards were developed to preserve the breed, but if conformation is allowed to slide just because the dogs aren’t used anymore or are allowed to “evolve” based upon fashion, then how can anyone say that dog shows have anything to do with preserving the breed?
I got no answers to that question.
This evening things have taken an even more bizarre turn when the issues turned to those surrounding the tendency to breed for extreme type in conformation with dogues de Bordeaux. On my group, it was asked why dogues de Bordeaux were being bred to look like giant red English bulldogs, and it just so happens that we have video of the author of the FCI standard for that breed excoriating breeders for producing such extreme dogs.
So if the even ideas of the people who helped standardize the breed don’t matter, then the entire edifice of the dog show is pretty tenuous.
It ultimately comes down to people will breed whatever they like, just so long as the judges award them with prizes. Judging requires understanding the standard, but much of the standard is like scripture– quite open to interpretation.
If all it comes down to is what wins in the ring, then this appears to be one of the worst ways of selecting breeding stock. Breed type and what wins in the ring become self-fulfilling prophecies rather than objective ways of evaluating dogs.
I assumed that some of this was going on all along, but I did not expect it be articulated to me in such a way.
It is rather quite distressing.
And yes, people do use golden retrievers in Europe, but it is now all but impossible to have a dual purpose dog in the breed now.
And people still do breed dogues de Bordeaux that look and move soundly.
It is just that dog shows and breed standards aren’t what they are portrayed to be. They are not the final word on a dog’s quality.
I think it may be long past time for the pretense to be dropped entirely.