As part of our series of articles Conformation Explained it is necessary to understand what is meant by the term Breed Standard, you will hear reference to it everywhere. 

The Breed Standard is the the description of a breed by which all dogs of that breed are measured against when evaluating a dog.  The dog that best fits its own breed standard is the winner.  It is the Judges job to interpret the breed standard when evaluating.  Breed standards describe all aspects of the dog from bite, tail set, coat color, and structure to the movement and character of the dog. 

The approved breed standard for each recognized breed within a particular club may differ, but are largely similar in description.

The Kennel Club – Airedale Breed Standard

American Kennel Club – Airedale Breed Standard

In the case of breeds that have multiple varieties, the difference between the varieties are described either in separate breed standards or as an additional item in the general breed standard.  In the case of the Collie which comes in both Rough and Smooth varieties, the AKC adds an additional item at the end of the breed standard to note how the Smooth variety should be judged, while The Kennel Club maintains separate standards.

The Kennel Club – Collie (Rough) Breed Standard

The Kennel Club – Collie (Smooth) Breed Standard

American Kennel Club – Collie Breed Standard

The breed standard also describes any faults of the breed and how those faults should be penalized.  A fault is any point where the dog does not match the breed standard.  A fault may be minor or severe and judging of faults should reflect this.  A fault in one breed may not be a fault in another breed.

Some breeds have disqualifications.  A disqualification is a fault so severe that the dog will be dismissed from the ring and not judged.  The Poodle for example has three varieties of sizes: standard, miniature, and toy.  A disqualification for a Standard Poodle is a height at the shoulder of less than 15 inches.  The Mini must be between 10 and 15 inches in height.  A Toy Poodle is less than 10 inches.  At the last dog show we attended we witnessed a Miniature Poodle disqualified for size.  The Judge brought out a metal arch which measures the height of the dog, this particular dog was over the maximum height allowance so it was dismissed and the judging of the remaining dogs continued.  Other disqualifications for Poodles include the Clip (grooming of a particular pattern) and Parti-Colors (any non-solid color). 

The Kennel Club sets the limit of a Mini Poodle at 11 inches and does not note height as a disqualification in the breed standard.  The Kennel Club does not list disqualification points in their breed standards, however, they are much more strict about the use of coat enhancing products to the point of random testing and disqualification.

The Kennel Club – Poodle (Miniature) Breed Standard (notes the size of each variety)

American Kennel Club – Poodle Breed Standard

Dogs may be disqualified from competition for other reasons than deviations of the breed standard, for example severe bad behavior.  Any disqualification is marked in the Catalog and Results as such and is different than being marked Absent meaning the dog was not present for judging.  In fact, there are many many markings for the Catalog, they are detailed in the Legend of Result Codes.  Reading a Catalog and Results is a topic for another article.

The Kennel Club has a great glossary of terms which are found in many breed standards which will help in explaining just what some descriptions mean.  For example, some terms in the Airedale standard which are defined include:  scissor bite, throatiness, and saddle.

Breed standards are a written narrative and description of the breed.  As such, the breed standard is open to interpretation.  Each judge may interpret a breed standard differently.  The dogs they pick as winners reflects a particular judge’s interpretation.

Now when you hear mention of the Breed Standard you should have a basic idea of what is meant by the term.  Let us know your thoughts by sharing your comments.