D EAR OLD TRAINER: We are going to Mammoth Mountain for a ski vacation. Dax is a bichon and kind of short. We are afraid he will sink into the snow so our Mom said to ask you if will he be OK.
– Kaylea, 11, and Madison, 8
DEAR KAYLEA AND MADISON: Dax won’t have a problem unless there is a blizzard. Snow gets solid once it hits the ground, and Dax doesn’t weigh enough to sink into a snow drift. All dogs love to play in the snow, so take Dax out and have a good time with him.
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DEAR OLD TRAINER: I loved that sentence you used about dog shows, “unqualified people making capricious interpretations of arbitrary standards.” I have the same opinion about judges and their decisions, but never gave any thought to judging standards. What are the standards and where do they come from?
DEAR WARREN: Breed standards read like a skit from “Saturday Night Live,” Warren. Here is a sample for three different breeds:
• English bulldog: The nose’s distance, in inches, from bottom of the nose, between the eyes, to the tip of nose should be directly proportional to the axis of the line, but not exceeding the line, from the tip of nose to edge of the underlip.
• Labrador retriever: The body’s computed length, in inches, from the point of the shoulder to the point of the rump is equal to or slightly longer than the distance of the computed length from the withers to the ground. Distance from the elbow to the ground should be equal to one half the computed inches derived from the measurement from the weathers to the ground.
• Border collie: The ears must be of medium size, set well apart, and carried erect or semi-erect. Semi-erect is defined as varying from 1/4 to 3/4 of the total length of the ear when the ear is erect. When semi-erect, the tips may fall forward or outward to the side, but never inward or backwards. Both ears should be precisely the same length and the same color.
When we choose a dog in the real world we want to know the important things: Will he take a nap with me? Is he a lover? Will he chase a ball? Does he get along with other dogs? How about cats? Is he a good watch dog?
No one adopts a dog without looking at intelligence, personality and energy level.
Those traits are ignored at dog shows. You may have the smartest, sweetest and best-trained dog in the world, but if the line from his nose to his ears is not proportional to the axis of the hypotenuse, he may as well stay home and play Frisbee with the kids.
You will not be shocked to learn the standards come from committees. And how do they arrive at those arbitrary numbers? The members who have the most power give it some thought and, surprise, come up with measurements that just happen to be the same as those of their own dogs.
It is all good for a laugh, but the sad part is that breeders all over the country are making breeding choices based on inane standards.