The Measure of Balance Amongst Dog Breeds

Why do breed standards differ on their definition of balance?

By | Posted: Thu Jun 23 00:00:00 PDT 2005

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The Search For Clarity
I thought it might be a relatively simple matter to check breed standards and find them to have some sort of consistency in regard to how we judges are supposed to "measure" the balance or proportion of their breeds. This measurement has to be made relying on our eyes' interpretation of what is correct for a particular breed. There are breeds that have disqualifications for height measured by wicket at the withers. There is no breed standard that requires actual measurement of body length. Clarity was not to be found with any consistency.

The Breed Standards
A few years back the American Kennel Club asked parent clubs to reformat their standards so that there would be consistency of presentation. There was a good deal of resistance and discussion because this request was interpreted to mean that the AKC was going to rewrite the breed standards. My search here reveals that there was no such intent. Some standards were reformatted with a section on "Size, Proportion, Substance," while others hid their definition of proportion in the section on "Body." Still other standards just ignored the request.

A majority of breed standards has some version of height (at withers) in relation to length as measured from the prosternum/forechest/point of shoulder to the point of rump or back of upper thigh. No matter what their particular definition was, these standards at least give us an idea of how to look for balance in the breed. Two standards couldn't keep it simple and drive us to anatomical definitions because their length goes to the "rear edge of the pelvis."

Too many standards give absolutely no hint of what is wanted in regard to balance, height, length, and proportion. As a judge you are on your own. The only way to "get it" is to immerse yourself in the breed so that you develop knowledge from breeders and an eye for what is correct.

Many standards require square, or off-square, or slightly longer than tall, but give no specifics on how to measure the length that would make it so. Other standards, especially in the Working breeds, emphasize weight rather than length or proportion.

Two standards require the breed to be taller than long and give instructions on how to measure this. (Note: because this proportion is different from the usual, dogs of this proper proportion are rarely seen in the show ring. Exhibits tend to revert to the generic "longer than tall.")

The prize goes to the Basenji standard, where "Ideal height for dogs is 17 inches and bitches 16 inches. Dogs 17 inches and bitches 16 inches from front of chest to point of buttocks." This is as clear as it can be, with no room for doubt.

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