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  #1  
Old 06-24-2007, 08:24 AM
LappieLover LappieLover is offline
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Default Working vs. Conformation

For those of you that work your dogs and don't show, how can you be sure that your dogs are on "standard?"

Hopefully, this won't offend anyone. I'm just really curious.
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Old 06-24-2007, 08:39 AM
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Who's standard?
If they are sound in health and temperment, and they excel in their work or job, then that is what is important to me.
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Old 06-24-2007, 10:15 AM
doberkim doberkim is offline
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By studying the breed standard and learning all there is to know about your breed.

Rah will never enter the breed ring - aside from being a rescue, he is neutered. However, I can still appreciate his structure, both its flaws and its strong points. I can evaluate his temperament, I know his working ability, I can still health test him. I know that he is straight in front and rear, but he still makes a functional package because both are to the same degree. I know he is tall and long, but he is still square. I know his croup is rounded, which is accentuated by a low tail set, and aside from being straight in front, he also lacks chest and hes narrow.

But he also has marvelous tight cat feet, he has great movement when he stops pacing , he has a great head, a well muscled neck that meets his withers well, he has full and proper dentition and a wonderful bite. He has well set ears and is in superb shape.

I know he is stable and affectionate in the right situations, but will respond appropriately to a threat. I know he is trustworthy around all sorts of people, and that he is better trained than most dogs out there.

I know structurally my dog is NOT standard. But I also know that in every other way, he exceeds most dobermans in his drive, temperament, and working abilities. Dogs can not meet standard and still be good dogs - its being honest and knowing where their faults are.
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Old 06-24-2007, 10:45 AM
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I think most people who have working dogs don't care about standard. (I mean "real" work like hunting or herding, not someone who is doing agility training or something.) But if the standard was written up properly, it should reflect the condition of a proper working dog of that breed. Unfortunately, either this doesn't happen or people just ignore the conformation guidelines . . . For example, look at the heavily feathered show ring English setters versus the very lightly feathered working English setter. Obviously very heavy feathering would be a detriment in a working setter, so why do the English setters have them? Is it because heavy feathering got written into the breed standard or is it because the breeders ignored the standard and then were rewarded by the judges for their "flashier" dogs?

Another example would be border collies. A conformation-perfect dog is useless to a farmer if the dog is a lousy herder. A dog with a crooked ear and mismatched eyes who is an excellent herder is a-okay with them.

Or take Alaskan huskies. Not to be confused with Siberian huskies, Alaskan huskies are a "type" of dog, not a breed. They're mixed with many breeds, including hounds. They're bred PURELY for sledding and no conformation standard exists for them. But because a medium sized dog with a hearty coat is best for pulling sleds in a cold climate, most do look very husky-ish.
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Old 06-24-2007, 11:23 AM
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Well the idea of the standard is that in order for the dog to excel in what he was bred to do he must be built properly for the job and so a dog who is awesome at his work should be very close to standard anyway. I like to see both showing and working but as long as the breeder does health tests and temperament tests and does one of those I'd say they're good. Of course not all breeds were bred to do work, like the Shih-Tzu was bred to be a companion. A dog like that I think needs to be a champion show dog.
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Old 06-24-2007, 02:27 PM
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Ideally, the best breeders would both show and work their dogs. That way, they are covering every aspect of what makes their breed what it is. Looks, working ability, health, and temperament.

I'm not against non-working breeders who show, do health testing, and have mentally sound dogs. Nor am I against non-showing breeders who work their dogs, do health testing, and have mentally sound dogs. I wish they would do both but that isn't always possible. If they have a market large enough to place their puppies in either pet homes, show homes, or working homes, I guess what's the best you can do.

I wish it weren't true but sometimes the breed standards in show judge's eyes can get off track from the actual standard for the breed. On the way token the working breeders standard for the breed can get off track from the actual standard of the breed, to best suite that breeders needs/lifestyle.

Nothing is perfect. We are all human. We get off track sometimes. Sometimes it make the breed worse, and other times it makes the breed better.
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Old 06-24-2007, 03:21 PM
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The work sets the standard for these dogs, and form (usually) follows function. If you look at border collies, there's a reason why they are generally a medium size, a slight/moderate build, with a stealthy stance and smooth movement. And it's not because of the kennel club's breed standard, it's just because that's the type of dog that is physically best suited to a certain kind of work, and that type has been unintentionally selected over hundreds of years, creating the sheepdog we have today. A dog that is physically unfit to work (poor, unsound structure) will not work as well, regardless of how much ability it has. People would normally breed to the first dog I mentioned, and remove the second from the gene pool.

I think that to most people who rely on their dogs to work, their conformation to the breed standard isn't important. But if you really wanted to know, then read the standard and evaluate your dog from an objective state of mind. Have someone else do it for you, a bonus if it's someone who is a judge, breeder or professional handler for your breed.
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Old 06-24-2007, 06:25 PM
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Along the same lines, if your conformation dog isn't out actively doing the job it was bred for on a regular basis, how do you know the dog has the correct working ability and ethic that it is supposed to?

If I had to choose, I'd rather buy a dog from lines that were truly doing the work the breed was bred for and take a chance on not meeting "standard" than buy a dog from champion show lines that met the standard, and not get the temperament and ability I was looking for. As others said, form follows function.
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Old 06-24-2007, 06:35 PM
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If the standard is written based on a working dog, then someone who works their dogs would be preferable over someone who shows their dogs. Although ideally, they'll do both.
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Old 06-24-2007, 08:14 PM
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You gotta remember too that today's standards keep changing to suit what breeder's are bringing into the show ring. If this weren;t true then how did we get the English Bulldog of today? Why is it that the one that looks the least likely to be able to catch a bull is the one that wins BOB??? The standard gets interpreted differently by each person and then that breeder breeds to suit their interpretation. If all breeders interpret the standard differently from what it is supposed to be (ex. accentuate a certain trait because its what draw's the judges eye and then eventually it becomes the norm) then the breed club feels compelled to change it which IMO is very wrong.

IMO on average those who breed for work have dogs that are more similar to what the breed looked like back in the day and those who breed for show have what's flashy and pretty enough to catch the judge's eye whether or not it could survive a full day's work.

At the kennel we have one dog in particular who is way out of standard for a Sibe but looks a lot like a Seppala Siberian. Just for sh*ts n' giggles one day my mentor decided to enter him in a show just to see what would happen. The judge that day does competive sprint racing as well as showing and judging. After the day was complete she came up to my mentor and told her "That dog is a STUNNING animal - for a sled dog, but I never want to see him in a show ring again because it will just be a waste of your money." My mentor knew that from the start. This boy is phenominal in harness and can give Alaskan Huskies a run for their money but he will never win ribbons in the ring. Why? Because the Siberian Husky standard has changed soooo much over the years that what wins ribbons in the ring (especially in AKC and CKC) is almost a completely different breed of dog from what places on the trails. The dog I am referring to will likely be bred, and if he isn't then his brother will be because their goal for that line is NOT show dogs, but rather sled dogs. They dont care if he is a bit out of standard, his conformation and health is amazing for a sled dog and that is what they care about.

I personally would take a working breeder over a working/show or show only breeder on average. RD has explained to us on another thread how if you take a working line BC and cross it with a show line BC you don't get the best of both worlds, rather each side gets compensated by the other. You get a lesser herding dog than the working line parent and you get a lesser show dog than the show line parent. It's a good idea in theory to excel in both worlds but with a lot of breeds, each world has been so seperated that it's hard to excel in both with the same dog. You pretty much simply need to have two lines in your kennel.

This is why puppy buyers really need to research the kennel they are thinking of going with. Lets say someone is looking for a Siberian Husky and they decide on a working line kennel, they are very likely going to get a dog that temperment-wise is exactly like what a Siberian Husky should be BUT then the looks may not be what they were expecting if the only Sibes they have seen were the ones in shows. If they go for a show-line husky then they may end up with the looks they were after, but then temperment-wise, they may be very watered down in order to make them calmer for the show ring and more accepting of their lack of work. Heck they may not even have any drive to work at all!

The nice thing about going for working line dogs is on average, if you are looking at reputable breeders, they will be healthier and more sound because an unsound or unhealthy dog will not be able to perform very well and a dog that doesnt do his job properly will not be bred as it is no use to the owner. Heck, the owner may not even keep the dog. Whereas some show breeders, so long as the dog can make it around the ring and win the ribbons, there is a good chance of it being bred regardless of health tests (not saying ALL show breeders, but some).

At the end of the day and the end of my rambles though, everybody has their preferences and I guess if everybody is happy and their dogs are well taken care of, then who am I to judge who has what? All I know is what I want and what I look for.
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