Your question has been excellently addressed by the preceding members. This blog post is often quoted to help, especially newer, members understand why each of those triangle sides mentioned by farleysd are all part of the blueprint or recipe of a well bred purebred dog.
"I don't want a show dog - just a pet." (Updated for 2020)
This is one of the most pervasive sentiments that puppy buyers, especially families, express when they’re looking for a dog. What they really mean, of course, is that they don’t want a show BREEDER – don’t want to pay the high price they think show breeders charge, don’t want to go through the often-invasive interview process, and think that they’re getting a better deal or a real bargain because they can get a Lab for $300 or a Shepherd for $150.
I want you to change your mind.
I want you to not only realize the benefits of buying a show-bred dog, I want you to INSIST on a show-bred dog.
And I want you to realize that the cheap dog is really the one that’s the rip-off.
And then I want you to go be obnoxious and, when your workmate says she’s getting a puppy because her neighbor, who raises them, will give her one for free, or when your brother-in-law announces that they’re buying a cheap puppy for the kids, I want you to launch yourself into their solar plexus and steal their wallets and their car keys.
If I ask you why you want a Maltese, or a Lab, or a Leonberger, or a Cardigan, I would bet you’re not
going to talk about how much you like their color.
You’re going to tell me things about personality, ability (to perform a specific task), relationships with other animals or humans, size, coat, temperament, and so on. You’ll describe playing ball, or how affectionate you’ve heard that they are, or how well they get along with kids.
The things you will be looking for aren’t the things that describe just “dog”; they’ll be the things that make this particular breed unique and unlike other breeds.
That’s where people have made the right initial decision – they’ve taken the time and made the effort to understand that there are differences between breeds and that they should get one that at least comes close to matching their picture of what they want a dog to be.
Their next step, tragically, is that they go out and find a dog of that breed for as little money and with as much ease as possible.
You need to realize that when you do this, you’re going to the used car dealership, WATCHING them pry the “Audi” plate off a new car, observing them as they use Bondo to stick it on a ’98 Corolla, and then writing them a check and feeling smug that you got an Audi for so little.
It is no bargain.
Those things that distinguish the breed you want from the generic world of “dog” are only there because somebody worked really hard to get them there
. And as soon as that work ceases, the dog, no matter how purebred, begins to revert to the generic. That doesn’t mean you won’t get a good dog – the magic and the blessing of dogs is that they are so hard to mess up, in their good souls and minds, that even the most hideously bred one can still be a great dog – but it will not be a good Shepherd, or good Puli, or a good Cardigan. You will not get the specialized abilities, tendencies, or talents of the breed.
If you don’t NEED those special abilities or the predictability of a particular breed, you should not be buying a dog at all. You should go rescue one
. That way you’re saving a life and not putting money in pockets where it does not belong.
If you want a purebred and you know that a rescue is not going to fit the bill, the absolute WORST thing you can do is assume that a name equals anything. They really are nothing more than name plates on cars. What matters is whether the engineering and design and service department back up the name plate, so you have some expectation that you’re walking away with more than a label.
Keeping a group of dogs looking and acting like their breed is hard, HARD work. If you do not get the impression that the breeder you’re considering is working that hard, is that dedicated to the breed, is struggling to produce dogs that are more than a breed name, you are getting no bargain; you are only getting ripped off.
RufflySpeaking | A blog about all things dog
And if you're into history, you might like this from The Poodle History Project. There's links on this page to some of the older kennel/breed club poodle breed standards.
Show dogs (archive.org)
Show dogs and their cousins
Conformation exhibition as we know it is a relatively modern phenomenon--is only about 125 years old. For a critical analysis (from the perspective of social history) of the early development of dog shows and of breed standards which are the essential prerequisite to judging individuals according to breed type, please see: Harriet Ritvo, The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures of the Victorian Age
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987), pp. 82-115 (part Chapter 2: "Prize Pets").
The first recorded dog show (that we know of) was in 1603 when the Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolf II, organized a field trial in which 480 dogs competed. Another show, for Schipperkes only, was held in Brussels in 1690; this event "appears to have been one of a regular series organized by Brussels shoemakers to show off their dogs in their ornate, intricately worked metal collars," states Frank Jackson, editor, Faithful Friends: Dogs in Life and Literature
(London: Robinson, 1997), p. 359. Jackson continues, in his prefatory essay to Chapter 12, "In Competition": "In 1791 Ignaz Cernov and Father Martin Pelcl visited a dog show which took place in Prague....It lasted three days. There were 128 dogs on exhibition...[including] 10 Poodles..." A show for sporting breeds took place in June, 1859 "as part of a well-established poultry show held at the Corn Market, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The event has since erroneously come to be regarded as the first dog show, but its significance is as the first dog show to attract a high proportion of its entries from far away, something which had become possible with the advent of the railway." (Ibid, p. 361.)
Assessment of dogs' conformation according to principles of soundness is an ancient skill which has become rare only since automobiles replaced horses as a main means of transportation. Most of us no longer possess once-upon-a-time-ordinary abilities to judge locomotion on four legs: we pay attention to four wheels, both riding on them and avoiding them. However, through concentrated attention we can regain this skill, and the best of the modern study-tools is cineradiography ("moving X-rays") pioneered by Rachel Page Elliott and described in her book,The New Dogsteps
, 2nd edition (New York: Howell Book House, 1983) and the corresponding video: "Dogsteps": a study of canine structure and movement
For on-line study materials literally at your fingertips, go to Gaits: gait footfall patterns
, and other valuable information in the University of Minnisota's College of Veterinary Medicine's Veterinary Anatomy website
After careful study at home, there's no better way to develop skills than to sit all day at ringside at a big modern dog show.
Here's a short definition of breed type: "that collection of specific characteristics which, when taken together, separate one breed from another" (Patrick Ormos, "The Importance of Breed Type", American Kennel Club Gazette
, December 1991, p. 72). For example: Breed type enables us to tell the difference between the Poodle, the Barbet, the Portugese Water Dog and the Puli.
Closely allied with breed type is the concept of style. Here's a short definition of breed style: "the specific way in which the defining characteristics of breed type are expressed" (ibid). Ormos advises: "Breed type should be a priority for every breeder. Consistent style should be our goal."
Ideally, excellent conformation provides a platform for excellent performance, and the sum total is soundness. When type and breed-appropriate temperament are also present, an ideal is fulfilled: for example, "Am., Bda., Can., Dom., Mex. and F.C.I. Int. Ch. Stormy Lane to Sir with Love, Am., Bda., and Can. UD, Mex. PC, Best in Show and High Score in Trial winner both on the same day," (Poodles in America
, vol. V, Poodle Club of America, 1980, p. 472).
Unfortunately, type and (especially) style are vulnerable to fashion. Newcomers and old-timers alike may differ from a judge who typically chooses "typey" dogs according to current fashion; thus, an incorrect concept of type dominates and becomes, in effect, "correct"--even though it is explicitly precluded by the breed standard. Example: these days, many Poodles which are successful in the breed ring do not adhere to the breed standard in a matter essential to soundness: they are "too straight in front"; judges' eyes have become so acclimatized to this great fault that it has become part of the style they're looking for.
Another conundrum: the breed ring puts a very fine point on type. However, this is actually a mysterious and generalized concept. For example, we have no difficulty identifying a Border Collie, even though there's a broad variation between individuals. How do we know that a field-bred Labrador, slender and agile as a Whippet, is as much a pure descendant of the St. John's Newfoundland as a dog bred to the conformation standard and with appropriate working temperament? In both instances we "know" partly by demeanour, by the way of going, as well as by certain physical characterisics held in common. That we "know" indicates that type can vary more broadly than is generally accepted, and yet hold together as an integrated concept.
This broad interpretation of type explains how we recognize long-ago Poodles--proto-Poodles--in tapestries, woodcuts, wood engravings, paintings, in verbal descriptions, and so on (see "...Visuals"
and ...Lit 101
). It is probable that (but we have not yet found the documentation; we're commencing to delve) Poodles--proto-Poodles--used in falconry/hawking--always male--were exchanged along with the birds of prey at the annual late-fall auction held at Valkenswaard ("falcons' place") in Holland during the Middle Ages and continued to be exchanged there even after Poodles commenced their careers as gun-dogs ca 1600. This would explain the pan-European universality of type which we "click into" despite having eyes trained by the modern conformation ring.
For a coherent (very rare: many otherwise lucid people are rendered incohate by the subject!) criticism of breeding dogs "for" conformation exhibition, see: Konrad Lorenz, Man Meets Dog
(NY: Kodansha, 1994; first published in German in 1953, first American edition 1955), ch. 9, pp. 92-98, "An Appeal to Dog Breeders" which develops the thesis that it "is a sad but undeniable fact that breeding to a strict standard of physical points is incompatible with breeding for mental qualities..." After dryly observing that he doesn't know a single intellectual man who looks like Adonis, the author states that it is possible for breeders to compromise in choice of physical and mental properties, but conformation competition inevitably involves the danger of exaggeration "of all those points which characterize a breed...." a statement with which Poodle-fanciers must fervently agree. While you have this wonderful book in your hands, see pp. 141-3 for references to the Poodle, "rightly famed for his sagacity" and "extraordinary 'humanness.'"
Poodle Breed Standards
To examine Poodle breed standards from 1886 to the present day, go to Breed standards
"The Breed Standard is the Blueprint, the Breeder is the Builder, and the Judge is the Building Inspector" --Percy Roberts, breeder/handler/judge
Since building inspectors judge buildings in relation to building codes designed to ensure function--soundness--not aesthetics (don't we wish!), this analogy is accurate in relation to dog judging insofar as the judge selects soundness in accord with the breed standard, in preference to the preferred type of the day. In the instance of a judge who selects type in preference to soundness, Mr. Robert's statement is more accurate in the following revision: "The Breed Standard is the Blueprint, the Breeder is the Builder, and the Judge is the aesthetic-architecture-contest judge."
See: "The Judge is the Building Inspector", by Richard G. Beauchamp (editor/publisher of Kennel Review
, 1964-1993; breeder under Beau Monde prefix; judge), Dogs in Canada
, March 1999, pp. 27-9. Final article in series of six. "Soundness versus Type
-- This leads us to an area of judging that has been debated through the ages [sic--since ca 1880]. When evaluating merit, some judges begin by selecting the soundest in the class and then selecting from them the individuals with the greatest type. Others make their first cut based on type and then evaluate these on the basis of soundness. I am a staunch proponent of the latter.... The judge thus paints a visual picture of his ideal..." p. 29.