Well this is interesting.... The United Kennel Club (UKC) - the only serious rival to the American Kennel Club (AKC) in America - has taken the bull by the horns and revised six of its breed standards, with six more to be added next month. The reason? It is alarmed by "the paths of exaggeration that many breeds have taken" and feels a "moral duty" to do something to address the problem.
As opposed, that is, to sticking fingers in its ears and singing la-la-la in the hope that it can continue to breed dogs to standards that clearly - in some cases - encourages dogs that will suffer from health and welfare problems. Yep, I am referring to Dennis "NEVER!!" Sprung and the other diehards at the American Kennel Club.
I met UKC President Wayne Cavanaugh in the US at the Purebred Paradox conference last year, and was impressed by his contribution to the workshop that followed the conference. He clearly got that there was a problem in some breeds and seemed keen to be involved in helping to put things right.
There is much about the UKC that I like - including that it long ago accepted the registration of the LUA Dalmatians; that professional handlers are not allowed at its conformation shows; and that 60 per cent of its events are performance-related - not just the usual agility, obedience and field/hunting trials but other events that 'ordinary' dog owners can participate in, such as Dock Jumping and Terrier Racing.
I hear two main criticisms of the UKC. The first that it is a commercial registry and that it does not contribute to canine research in the way that the AKC does; the second that it sometimes talks a better game than it walks. But it's doing well - with registrations on the rise (while the AKC's are dropping)
and it clearly appeals to many for being a lot less stuffy than the AKC - and increasingly, for representing - as its tagline says - "real dogs for real people".
So far, the UKC has changed six breed standards, which come into effect on May 1st, 2012 - the Alaskan Klee Kai, Barbet, Basset Hound, the German Shepherd, Peke and Shar-pei.
General appearance: A short-legged, long-bodied, well-balanced hound of considerable substance, Any good hound color is acceptable. The coat is short, close and smooth, and a certain amount of loose skin is desirable.
General appearance: A short-legged, long-bodied, well-balanced hound of considerable substance. Legs are short, but with enough length to afford proper movement at all times. Bone is heavy in relation to the size of the dog, but movement is not compromised and is not clumsy. Any good hound color is acceptable. The coat is short, close and smoth, and a certain amount of loose skin is desirable. There must be adequate clearance between the lowest part of the chest and ground to allow the dog to move freely over all types of terrain.
This is a working hound and therefore must be strong, active, and capable of great endurance in the field.
Working dogs are not to be penalized under any conditions for scars or vlemishes that are due to hunting injuries.
Serious fault: dewlap so exaggerated or excessive as to appear "sloppy", which would be a detriment in the field. Excessive wrinkles. Overweight.
The new standard does, however, still allow for the third eyelid being visible ("although not excessively") and it does also still specify a lozenge-shaped eye - which may be incompatible with the new disqualifying fault of "entropionism/ectropionism".
...From the pasterns to the elbows, the forelegs are straight and strong with oval-shaped bones. The pasterns are strong and supple, sloping at about 25 degrees.
...From the pasterns to the elbows, the forelegs are straight and strong with oval-shaped bones. The pasterns are strong and supple, sloping no more than 25 degrees.
Serious Faults: Pasterns slanted more than 25 degrees. Pasterns so long and weak that proper movement is compromised.
....The croup is long and sloping.
...The croup is long and slightly sloping.
Serious Faults: Any measure of a roached back. Shelly appearance.
...The rear pastern is short and strong. Powerful hindquarters are necessary to enable the effortless movement that is an essential feature of this breed.
...The rear pastern is short and strong, and should remain upright and functional. Powerful hindquarters are necessary to enable the effortless movement that is an essential feature of this breed. Rear pasterns should remain upright and functional.
Serious Faults: Over-angulated rear, with anything exaggerated beyond a mild slope. Rear pasterns so long and weak that proper movement is compromised.
Correct gait is an essential feature of the German Shepherd Dog. When trotting, it moves with a long, efficient stride that is driven by a powerful forward thrust from the hindquarters. The rear leg, moving forward, swings under the foreleg and touches down in front of the point where the forefoot left an imprint. The result of this “over-reaching” is that one rear leg passes outside its corresponding front leg and the other passes inside its corresponding front leg. This is a breed characteristic and should not be penalized as long as the body is straight in relationship to the direction of movement. As the rear leg moves backward, the body is propelled forward. The front and rear feet remain close to the ground throughout. When trotting, the back remains firm and level. As the speed of the trot increases, there is a tendency to single track. Correct movement must be evaluated from front and rear as well as the side.
Serious Faults: Any fault that affects correct movement is a serious fault.
Absolute soundness of movement is paramount.
Correct gait is an essential feature of the German Shepherd Dog. When trotting, it moves with a long, effortless, efficient stride that is driven by a powerful forward thrust from the hindquarters. The rear leg, moving forward, swings under the foreleg and touches down in front of the point where the forefoot left an imprint. The result is that one rear leg passes outside its corresponding front leg and the other passes inside its corresponding front leg. This is a breed characteristic and should not be penalized as long as the body is straight in relationship to the direction of movement. As the rear leg moves backward, the body is propelled forward. The front and rear feet remain close to the ground throughout. When trotting, the back remains firm and level with no superfluous vertical movement. Hocks should be strong and straight, turning neither in nor out as the dog moves. There should be no visible “wobble” to the hock. Neither front nor rear pasterns should strike the ground; this is an unacceptable exaggeration and an indication of incorrect movement. As the speed of the trot increases, there is a tendency to single track. Correct movement and soundness must be evaluated from front and rear as well as the side.
Serious Faults: Any fault that affects correct movement.
Quite a few changes here, including the addition of:
Absolute soundness and proper muscle tone is a must. Excessive coat is unnecessary. Head properties should remain free of exaggeration so as to not compromise breathing and/or obstruct normal vision.
It should be free of respiratory distress caused from excessive face/nose wrinkles or insufficient nostrils and able to move freely and soundly. In proportion it is slightly longer than tall.
MUZZLE - Short and wide, with a firm underjaw. There is a wrinkle, either continuous or broken, that extends from the cheeks to the bridge of the nose in an inverted ‘V’. The wrinkle should not obscure either the eyes or the nose. The black lips meet evenly and fully cover the teeth.
Serious Faults: Heavy wrinkles that hang over the nose. Teeth or tongue showing when the mouth is closed.
MUZZLE - Must be evident and allow for comfortable breathing. Proportionately short, in comparison to the size of the dog, and wide, with a firm underjaw. There is a wrinkle, preferably broken, that extends from the cheeks to the bridge of the nose in an inverted ‘V’, without being excessive or affecting the dog’s breathing. The wrinkle should not obscure either the eyes or the nose. The black lips meet evenly and fully cover the teeth.
Eliminating Faults: Heavy wrinkles that affect breathing and/or obstruct normal vision. Muzzle so short as to affect breathing.
The breed standard changes are not perfect, by any means:
Inexplicably, the new GSD standard adds as a disqualification: "nose not predominantly black". (Could someone in GSDs enlighten me to whether this is anything more than a cosmetic issue?)
The new Shar-pei standard has added "excessive wrinkling on the head in adults" as an eliminating fault, but the standard still calls for small, deepset eyes and "extremely small" ears - both of which can cause problems. (The UK breed standard, in comparison, while still demanding very small ears, asks for medium-sized eyes, and while the UKC standard refers to a "hippopotamus" muzzle, the KC breed standard asks only that the muzzle is "slightly" padded.
And, actually, if the UKC really wanted to lead the way, it would encourage the breeding of the traditional, and almost wrinkle-free "bonemouth" Shar-pei rather than the Westernised "meatmouth" with its excessive wrinkling.
But it's a start... and a smart PR move by Wayne Cavanaugh - but not just that; for I did truly get the impression that the UKC President feels strongly on this issue. Most of all, of course, it surely puts a lot of pressure on the head-in-the-sand AKC to follow suit... ?
The press release that announced the UKC changes appears to be offline at the moment, so here it is in full.
The United Kennel Club, Inc., is first and foremost a worldwide registry of purebred dogs, but we feel our moral duty to the canine world goes beyond maintaining data. We are alarmed by the paths of exaggeration that many breeds have taken, all of which directly affect the health, function and performance of those breeds. It is an elemental fact that these breed changes have developed unchecked as a result of fads and fancies, as well as a lack of accountability on the part of breeders, owners and judges.
UKC feels something must be done to address this problem, and we are willing to do our part, hoping the canine world will follow suit. Toward that end, we have decided to revise all of our breed standards to reflect that goal. Breed standards are viewed as a blueprint to which dogs are to be bred. UKC believes that breed standards are more than that, and we will be including directives to breeders, judges and owners.
All of our breed standards will now include the following introductory statement: “The goals and purposes of this breed standard include: to furnish guidelines for breeders who wish to maintain the quality of their breed and to improve it; to advance this breed to a state of similarity throughout the world; and to act as a guide for judges. Breeders and judges have the responsibility to avoid any conditions or exaggerations that are detrimental to the health, welfare and soundness of this breed, and must take the responsibility to see that these are not perpetuated. Any departure from the following should be considered a fault, and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog and on the dog’s ability to perform its traditional work.”
In addition, each breed standard will be updated to include problems specific to that breed in order to clarify the direction to be taken when they are encountered.
All of these breed standard revisions reflect the foundation of the “UKC Total Dog” philosophy. The exponential growth in “UKC Total Dog” events is living proof that dogs can have the health, temperament and conformation to be excellent representatives of their breed. We understand that breed standards are left to subjective interpretation and are not a panacea on their own; however, combined with UKC Total Dog events and our UKC Judges Education program, they are a natural extension and essential continuation of our commitment to the future of purebred dogs.
The United Kennel Club, Inc., is very serious about this project and encourages all dog breeders, judges and owners to follow suit. As each standard is updated, it will be posted on the UKC website, www.ukcdogs.com, with its effective date.