5 terms you should understand as you enter the world of showing dogs
When you enter the world of dog shows, there’s so much to remember: your ring time, which ring you’re in, not to mention all the actual handling tips and techniques you’ve accumulated. There’s also tons of great conversations to have with all your “dog friends” who are actually humans. There are dozens of dog show terms that you will hear constantly while chatting ringside with your fellow exhibitors, but some, I feel, are very important to understand. Here are 5 dog show words you should get to know as you join the wonderful world of Conformation.
Finnish Lapphund by Eija Lehtimäki
Type refers to the combination of distinguishing features that add up to make each breed’s individuality. Type both defines a breed and separates it from other breeds. In order for a dog to be of correct type, or “typey”, the whole dog must be looked at and they must be strong in those features, considered by that breed’s standard as characteristic.
Be careful not to use the word “type” as an expression of personal taste.
Judge and author Anna Katherine Nicholas cleared it up by saying “There can only be one correct type within a breed. There are breeds in which the males are stronger in breed characteristics than are the females, but not of different type. In all breeds, type is never a matter of personal preference, but, rather, an adherence to desired breed characteristics
. A dog of good type is just as described. One of poor type is incorrect in those special features peculiar to his own breed. And one lacking type is weak in distinguishing breed characteristics.”
Variations within a breed exist, but do not make the dogs of different type. Dogs of the same breed can be smaller, larger, lighter or more muscular, however, this does not make them of different type. Differences in features and general conformation are simply differences. Dogs of the same breed are basically the same type.
A good way to understand type is to picture a Scottish Terrier, a Cairn Terrier and a West Highland White Terrier all standing together. While if you were describing them vaguely, they might all seem the same, but as you piece together individual features, they start to “paint” three very different pictures.
Being able to recognize and appreciate proper type is key to anyone hoping to succeed in the purebred dog world.
Dandie Dinmont Terrier by L. Stubbs
I love the way the American Kennel Club (AKC) simply and accurately describes balance on their website’s glossary of terms “Balance is when all parts of the dog, moving or standing, produce a harmonious image”. The Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) further defines balanced as “A consistent whole; symmetrical, typically proportioned as a whole or as regards its separate parts; i.e, balance of head, balance of body, or balance of head and body”.
Balance means proportion. A dog that is well-balanced is pleasing to the eye as they don’t have one outstanding feature nor do they have one huge fault. Features of a well-balanced dog are in proper relation to one another. For example the height to length, head to neck and body, width of skull to foreface.
Do your eyes tell you upon first glance that this dog looks right? Are their features fitting together to one another as the Standard described? Your answer when looking at a properly balanced dog should be “yes indeed”.
Former columnist for the AKC Gazette, Susan B. Lennard broke down the difference between Type and Style like this “Type may be defined as the quality common to a specific group that distinguishes the group as an identifiable class. Deviations from these qualities result in a loss of type. Style, on the other hand, allows for latitude in the expression of the qualities that make up type. The extent of expression may contribute to or deviate from aspects of the phenotype described in (a) standard. Style may be an adjunct to type, but it is not the same thing.”
In my experience, I know a dog has style when they fill my eye and I can’t stop staring at them. They have the full package. That “wow” factor. Style comes as a result of balance, carriage, flair, showmanship and a distinct personality. A stylish dog always seems to know how great they are with an air of pride and alertness.
Standard Poodle by Colton O'Shea
Soundness refers to how the dog moves. A dog whose locomotion is in accordance with their breed requirements for the job they were created to do. Although one must know all about soundness in the world of dogs, it might be easier for the novice think of a sound dog as a “good mover”. If you want to start a conversation at dog show, gather several fanciers and ask “What is more important, type or soundness?” then don’t expect to go anywhere for a while! Soundness is always breed specific and related to breed type.
Dogs in good condition are healthy, bright eyed, in-shape and have a shining coat. Condition refers to well-being. A dog being in good condition shows that they’ve been properly cared for.
These five words I feel are important to understand when venturing into the wonderful world of dog shows. Once you have a grasp of these essentials, a lot of what you hear at the dog show will click.
Cairn Terrier by Maud Montgomery
Nicholas, A.K. (1970) The Nicholas Guide to Dog Judging
. New York, N.Y: Howell Book House Inc.
Beauchamp, R. (2002) Solving the Mystery of Breed Type.
Los Angeles, C.A.:I-5 Publishing.
Retrieved from: www.akc.org