Thursday, July 19, 2012

Oh, That Darn Standard!

The written and associated illustrated standard are the guidelines for people involved in Collies whether as breeders, exhibitors or judges.  Merely being able to read what is said or complete an open book test is no indication that a person remotely understands the intent of the standard.  Far too often it seems that the only interest some folks exhibit in this guideline is to change it to  conform to their breeding ideas rather than to breed toward what the standard defines as correct.

Over the years there have been changes made, some which were designed to clarify and others, which may have muddied the waters.  My intent is not to separate these two categories.  Indeed we shall only view some “tips of the iceberg” and explore further at another time.

Each new administration in the CC of A creates a standard committee along with many other such groups.  They will review our standard and make recommendations as to the need for change or clarification.  Some of these committees feel honor bound to change things or feel they have accomplished nothing.  Obviously the makeup of the committee and personal interpretations of the standard will strongly influence their direction.

Some years age, when Doris Werdermann was president of the CC of A, I chaired the standard committee.  We didn’t make any changes in spite of one member who seemed convinced that we should do so.  The rest of the committee, myself included, felt no change was warranted and opted instead for a booklet which simplified some things into a format we felt was an improvement.  After it’s completion and printing in sank into the black hole of CC of A “lost stuff” to be seen no more.

Some of the things noted in our booklet were items which I had gleaned from my early mentor Bill Van Dyck of Honeybrook.  Things such as the resemblance to a can of evaporated milk that the properly rounded muzzle presents.  It is straight on the top, but smooth and without indentation on the sides.  The Collie with proper eye size, shape, and associated chiseling must point it’s nose at what is wishes to see.  Recently I received a similar booklet from the Doberman Pinscher Club of America with the same intent of clarifying the standard and procedure for examining the mouth.

When I was president of the South Jersey Collie Club we devoted one meeting each year to a round table discussion of the Collie Standard.  While its goal may have been to help newcomers, everyone learned from a comparison of various points of view.  Much as a Bible-Study group in church can give us some food for thought even if we think of ourselves as theologians, so can a discussion of the standard  bring some fresh thinking to the mind of even the most experienced fancier.  Knowledge is where you find it and is not limited to dinosaurs.

I remember well lamenting a dog I owned who loved to play in his water bucket and spill same every day.  Many means of securing the buckets had failed when a novice gave me the solution.  Take an old bucket (galvanized) that leaks and can’t be used, secure it in the corner, and set the water bucket in it.  Problem solved!  Knowledge is where you find it .  I’ve known people in dogs for years who couldn’t compare with some who were relative newcomers, but who had the gift.

A background in other animals can be very helpful to one who wants to interpret the standard.  Horse people and breeders of other livestock can unlock some of the keys.  Be honest with yourself and remember that real understanding of the standard is a combination of many things.  Watching puppies develop and observing and handling different dogs are all part of the prerequisites to being comfortable with the Collie Bible.  (I don’t mean to blaspheme but it is just that ( Van Dyck used to ask when I would apply for a judges license and my reply was “when I’m completely comfortable with the task”!  I had been some years in Collies and won my first BB at the National before I filled out an application.

One last note before the dinosaur says “until next time”, we have a bred which many describe as a “head breed.”  Indeed our standard devotes much importance to the head and its various parts.  While I in no way wish to detract from the importance of proper head qualities to a good Collie, there is an observation that seems apropos to this discussion .  The first paragraph of the standard on “general character” paints a picture of the whole dog and it’s hard for me to accept any one part, head or otherwise, as more important than the whole to which it belongs.

Any judge will tell you that before they touch a dog in a class they know which one they like best.  It’s a matter of how all the parts including head, expression, coat, etc., etc.  fit together.  The dogs are examined so that “your hands verify what your eyes think they see.”  (clever grooming tricks abound)  You check movement as a test of structure and condition of muscles, but it’s the whole dog that draws your eyes.

Many moons ago I sat with another dinosaur named Steve Field looking at some puppies.  Two ladies had come to see them as well and were leaning over the fence feeling their heads.  Steve and I were sitting on two bales of straw just watching the pups do their thing.  Later after the gals went on to see some other dogs Steve said, “the way to judge puppies is to just watch!”  Steve was a great observer and a very gifted person in many ways.  His reputation as a breeder and judge was such that when he spoke you listened.

We’ll talk more about the standard, I’m sure.  It does need to be understood not just read.  Meanwhile don’t become so infatuated with any one portion that you fail to remember the significance of the whole dog. 

Think About It!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment