The stated aims of FCI (Fédération Cynologique Internationale) are “to encourage and promote the breeding and use of purebred dogs whose functional health and physical features meet the standard set for each respective breed and which are able to work and carry out different functions in accordance with the specific characteristics of their breed … To promote and support … dog welfare worldwide…”
Have modern dog shows abandoned these basic guidelines? Dog shows and the breeding of pedigree dogs are often criticized, sometimes justifiably, for promoting exaggerations that constitute hazards for the health and soundness of individual dogs, as well as of entire breeds.
A conformation judge should guard the characteristics of each breed within the framework of the breed standard, but never at the expense of soundness and health. Judges must be acquainted with the health issues that exaggerations can cause.
A breed standard never proscribes exaggerations, but is often neglected or misinterpreted. A few years ago the Swedish Kennel Club (SKK), a member of the FCI, took the following initiatives in order to prevent the destructive influence that “hyper-typed,” or over-typed, animals may have on the breeding of pedigree dogs:
1. In 2006, 10 Scandinavian judges, all approved to judge all FCI breeds, scrutinized the FCI list of approximately 350 breeds in order to identify breeds at risk for overemphasis of type characteristics. A list of 50 such breeds was drawn up.
2. In 2007 cooperation with the breed clubs for those breeds was established. The majority of the clubs greeted the initiative to make judges more aware of the risks as a positive change.
3. Veterinary knowledge and insurance company statistics were integrated. The number of high-profile, at-risk breeds then rose to 60.
4. In 2007, the SKK organized a general judges conference focusing on the listed breeds. Another 10 breeds were added, for a total of 70.
The material above was then again evaluated, with a strong case found for a total of 47 breeds to be included in the first edition of the Breed Specific Instructions (2008). (See page 4 for list of breeds).
The intention of the BSI project is to raise judges’ awareness of health and soundness issues in general, and the risks of exaggerated type characteristics in particular.
The BSI identify areas of concern in order to prevent these from developing into problems. Judges should be particularly observant of trends of exaggerations. The BSI are not meant to be a manual prohibiting dogs with certain faults from receiving specific awards. The judge’s freedom to evaluate flaws versus merits for the ultimate improvement of a breed is not formally restricted by the BSI.