We’re going to set the stage for this post by saying from the onset that in the scenario we paint, the fictitious breeder is a conscientious, health-testing preservation breeder, and that our fictitious puppy buyer is not a fancier, he or she simply wants a canine companion, and has no interest in showing or breeding the dog.
We also mention that very rarely is every puppy in a litter a show dog, let alone a Best in Show dog.
We’ll add that some breeders charge the same for a show prospect as they do a pet puppy, while others charge more for a show quality youngster. This post is not about the pros and cons of either approach, so please move past that. This post is about aspects of a puppy that disqualify it from being a show quality dog, but are details that are usually unnoticed by a non-fancier. The issue comes up in our fictitious scenario when a potential buyer wants to know what it is about their puppy that makes it a pet quality dog, and not a show prospect. Our contention is that most of the time, it’s a detail that anyone unfamiliar with the breed standard even notices.
We use the Black and Tan Coonhound to make the point, and we caution that we are not Black and Tan Coonhound experts. It takes years to know a breed inside and out, and we’re sharing this example after reviewing the breed’s Illustrated Standard for a short time. The creators of that Guide, however, have done such a good job of illustrating a point that we hope to come even a little close to making our point.
Take a look at the three Coonhounds below, and consider their ears, for this is the aspect on which we are honing in. A Black and Tan Coonhound fancier may find other issues, but we’re just looking at ears. The AKC breed standard reads:
Ears are low set and well back. They hang in graceful folds, giving the dog a majestic appearance. In length they extend naturally well beyond the tip of the nose and are set at eye level or lower. Penalize ears that do not reach the tip of the nose and are set too high on the head.
Bearing in mind that we are not Black and Tan Coonhound experts, it still strikes us that the dog at the left (and seen below) has decently set ears, but they would be faulted for lacking “graceful folds” as written in the standard.
The dog at the far right (and seen below) seems to have ears that are set too high. We wonder, too if the ears would reach the tip of the nose….
The dog in the middle (and seen below) has lovely folds, but ears that are set too low.
Again, we aren’t fanciers of this breed, but we suspect someone wanting a Black and Tan Coonhound companion would probably not notice ear set, length, or folds. They would likely see a friendly face with melting brown eyes, a shiny black coat with rich tan markings, ears that are velvety soft – and fall in love. We would.
An exercise like this invites discussion, and we welcome it because this is the stuff of which National Specialties and Dog Shows are made. Our point here, however, is to underscore the details that go into a show quality dog of any breed. Details that anyone who is not a fancier might not notice.