A Healthy Balance for Breed Identity Picture

The responsibilities of the breed club should not end with the designation of outcross sources and the inspection of outcross candidates. If the fulness of breed identity is to be achieved overall in each population, then the breed clubs should take on responsibility for balancing the various facets of that breed identity. Realistic, meaningful and workable systems should be introduced for monitoring temperament, for proving working ability and trainability, and for evaluating type and appearance. Championship shows would then become breed-club events, since the methods of evaluation and the various events required to test such qualities as temperament, vigour and endurance, working ability, and trainability would be breed-specific and under the breed clubs' oversight. That is not to say that a number of breed clubs might not band together to stage events for several breeds simultaneously at the same venue, but the all-breed show with all-rounder judges, under CKC rules for CKC Championship points, would eventually be history. To ensure wholehearted support and participation by breeders, it would probably be necessary for CKC to evolve some means of making clear on the papers of every dog the extent to which that animal had been submitted to the testing and evaluation procedures of the breed club and with what result. Breed club input of information to the Club's database could be done by e-mail on the day of the event. Strong incentives for participation should be arranged and breed clubs should be so structured that they could not be autocratically ruled by individuals or cliques.

Registration certificates produced by CKC would carry much more detailed information under the new system than they now do. The computer power is now available to make this quite feasible. A certificate of registration should once again carry a pedigree of at least four generations. A two-tier certificate system would be necessary, as no dog would be eligible for breeding registered progeny until it had been inspected and evaluated by the breed club. Rating and measurement protocols are already being worked out by proponents of the Advanced Registry proposal. Broodstock certificates should carry a summary of the breed club's rating and evaluation of the animal, together with evidence of proof tests for temperament, working ability and trainability. All certificates should identify outcross lines and bear a quantitative estimate of the relative heterozygosity of the animal identified by the certificate.

Breed standards would require revision under the new system. The concept of disqualifications should probably be dropped in favour of a detailed rating system in which all breeding stock would participate. In the case of quantitative characteristics such as height and weight, a simple Bell-curve statistical description of the desired mean and range ought to be sufficient, without disallowing occasional extreme examples. Working abilities ought to be clearly defined in the breed standard and a basic performance standard given where possible. Clearer and more detailed descriptions of desired temperament and of qualities bearing on trainability ought to be part of the new standards. Prescriptive minutia should be minimal; it should be sufficient merely to describe the general distinguishing features of a breed, without an excess of cosmetic and conformation restrictions, except where indispensable breed points are involved. Type stringencies should be relaxed considerably, allowing most breeds to become moderately heterotypic; if qualities of working ability, hunting instincts and similar traits achieve greater emphasis, there will be correspondingly less need for extreme type requirements to distinguish breeds. Standards should be holistic descriptions of the breeds they identify, brief statements of essential breed qualities, rather than typological blueprints. It is imperative to subordinate typological thinking to considerations of utility, genetic health and hardiness. First a dog should be healthy, balanced, of sound mind in a sound body, able to fulfil his breed purpose; after that can come points of beauty and type but never again in the bizarrely exaggerated fashion that now prevails in the breed rings of championship shows.

It might eventually be found desirable to quietly merge scarce and consistently unpopular breeds, as well as closely similar breeds, with populations nearest to them in general characteristics, possibly initially designating them as breed varieties. Reasonable numbers are necessary for the maintenance of a healthy population. The number of breeds recognised has continued to grow, yet the total number of dog owners in the country may not have grown proportionally. A rare breed is not the same thing as an endangered species; breeds can come and go without damage to the canine species as a whole. Breeds known to be of low viability due to their dependence for breed identity on anomalies such as achondroplasia, may have to be dropped from the registry unless evidence is advanced that they can be upgraded to certain minimum standards of health and structural soundness.

To this article's index page