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Can judging for type serve working dogs?

By Richard Beauchamp | Posted: Fri May 13 00:00:00 PDT 2005

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The diehards of the performance breeds often criticize judges for paying too much attention to type and not enough to working ability. The debate that arises from this criticism is whether or not the characteristics described in a working breed's standard are based purely upon esthetics, or if in fact they describe what is necessary for the given breed to perform.

Regardless of how one might answer that question, it must be understood that there is no way on earth that a judge making his observations under the controlled conditions of the show ring can possibly know if a given dog, unless lame or deformed, will or will not be successful at the breed's given job. A judge can only rely upon the information given in the standard, along with further study into origin and purpose, to make this determination.

Then too, there would be little point in judging and showing dogs if the only criteria for excellence were putting forward dogs that have nothing that apparently would keep them from performing. Dogs of many breeds (or of mixed breeds, for that matter) might well be capable of accomplishing a given end result, but we can only assume that specific construction is what allows the b reed to accomplish that task in a precise manner.

The question remains, do decisions made on the basis of what we are able to conclude from a breed standard contribute to maintaining the integrity of that breed?

Some months after I had judged the Anatolian National I was given a copy of a paper written by Erick Conard, who has kept and bred working Anatolians for over 20 years. The opening paragraph of the paper reads as follows:

"The focus of my breeding program is the selection of behaviors that produce superior working ability. Working behaviors will be lost if breeders cannot correctly identify and select Anatolians with superior working ability. Breeders must also make working ability a major consideration in all Anatolian breeding decisions. Responsible breeders will not breed an Anatolian with poor conformation or genetic flaws. Similarly, responsible breeders will not breed Anatolians lacking excellent flock guardian ability."

Conard continues by sharing his ideas regarding the physical characteristics he looks for from a working viewpoint. His paper provided me with an excellent opportunity to see if what I understood of type in the breed contributed to or detracted from what this longtime breeder demanded of his working stock.

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