The Penalty Box

The Penalty Box. It’s not just a hockey thing.

Depending upon the breed’s standard, the consequence of having a certain fault in a dog show conformation ring may result in getting penalized, heavily penalized, or severely penalized.

In so many words, some standards write that, “any deviation from the ideal described in the standard should be penalized to the extent of the deviation.”

Other penalizations are over something quite specific. Some “infractions” that can be penalized have to do with coat quality (a woolly, soft silky or sparse slick coat in a Labrador Retriever is to be severely penalized), and some are related to grooming (nn the Otterhound, “any evidence of stripping or scissoring of coat to shape or stylize should be strongly penalized as a fault).

Some grooming faults are so egregious that they call for elimination from competition such as is seen in the standard for the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: “Specimens where the coat has been altered by trimming, clipping, or by artificial means shall be so severely penalized as to be effectively eliminated from competition.” 

And then there are the “neck up” faults that can end badly in a show ring: In the Collie, eye faults are heavily penalized as well as over and undershot jaws (the latter more severely penalized – why? Because of the importance of the head in this breed. Prominent head faults are very severely penalized.

What are other “punishable” faults?

Penalties can be over movement (Briards “with clumsy or inelegant gait must be penalized),  proportions of color (from the Sheltie standard: Specimens with more than 50 percent white shall be so severely penalized as to effectively eliminate them from competition), bone or weight (“any appearance of excessive or inadequate bone or weight that would hinder the original breed function for mountain hunting should be penalized” – Japanese Akitainu), teeth (four or more missing teeth are a DQ for the Belgian Laekenois),  and even skin (penalize excessive wrinkles – Black and Tan Coonhound).

There is an important trait not mentioned thus far. Can you name it?

It’s temperament! And our “poster child” for this post is the Lakeland Terrier. As it happens, there is a phrase in this breed’s AKC standard that makes it a “one-of-a-kind,”  and without it (or to be more accurate, the polar opposite of the trait) is to be heavily penalized.  There is nothing like “show and tell” to make a point, so watch this Lakie, “CH Chelines In Excelsis, who won Best of Breed at Crufts in 2018:

Shyness, especially shy-sharpness, in an adult Lakeland Terrier is ‘to be heavily penalized.” Why? In part, it’s because the typical Lakeland is “bold, gay and friendly,” but the key words, in our view, come next: A Lakie has a “a confident, cock- of-the-walk attitude.” Though this dog appears to be held back by that darn leash,  it’s apparent that dog is confident, and in his own eyes, “all that.”

And we agree.

Image: Paul Doyle with permission


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *