How To Classify Faults in the Purebred Dog


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In the purebred dog world, dogs are bred to adhere to a written standard. For those breeders who are striving to improve the breed, they carefully breed to this standard, using it as a guideline for future litters. But given that it is very rare to have a “perfect” dog, there are always a fault or two, or three, that needs to be taken into consideration.  These faults can vary from the aesthetics to the structure of the dog. The difficulty arises in knowing how to judge these faults and whether or not to discard a dog from the breeding program or not because of these particular faults. Stan Zielinski does a very good job of taking apart these faults and assigning them a level of importance in his book Saint Bernards from the Stoan Prespective.

The basic formula would group faults into categories and assign them a value. These categories are:

  • Current Function – What is the current use of the dog? This includes actual work done by this breed, such as guard dog, police work, trailing, herding, etc., as well as any competitive sports such as obedience, agility, flyball, etc.
  • Past Function – Why was the dog developed originally? What was this breed’s original purpose?
  • Aesthetic Function – This pertains to his overall looks and function as a source of pleasure or well-being. Specifically as a pet, companion or status symbol.

Breeders must also define how difficult a given fault would be to eliminate from the genetic makeup of the dog, not only in the present generation, but in future generations.  He suggests that we determine the significance of the fault in proportion to the degree of difficulty in eliminating it.

  1. Trivial – These faults would be non-genetic in nature, such as a scar, torn ear or bad grooming.
  2. Minor – These faults would be something which would easily be removed in the next generation and not show up again in future generations.
  3. Difficult – With strict breeding practices, these faults would only show up at a small rate in future generations.
  4. Very Serious – These faults would take true diligence in eliminating in several generations and would need to be carefully watched for in successive generations.
  5. Forbidding – These faults are those that are very difficult to eliminate due to the laws of genetic inheritance and will require very strict attention in a long period of time.

Here are some examples of the Fault Categories.

When looking at the table, keep in mind that this was created by a breeder that puts a lot of emphasis on the genetic aspects of the various faults. Each individual may have a different idea of where these faults may actually be placed.

Being able to place faults in a proper order will help those who participate in dog shows or who breed for work or performance make more knowledgeable assessments of the dogs in the show ring or the work field. It will help to evaluate the dogs that are in their kennels or others and which dogs would be better to be used to move the breed forward.

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