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de Americans vs de Europeans

European and North American show dogs differ considerably when it comes to conformation. In many more breeds, two dogs from different continents would look like fifteenth cousins if put next to each other. While it is a known fact that many North American dogs of the toy breeds are the best in the world, it would be impossible to tell the best in the case of many sporting and non-sporting breeds. For example, the best Golden Retrievers from Europe and champion quality American Goldens, although quite different, still correspond with the breed standard and remain very typical. The same is true for Beagles, Shelties, Shih Tzu, Kerry Blue Terriers and many others. However, as we look at the rings of any of the working breeds, especially molossoids, schnauzers and pinschers in Europe and America, we notice vast superiority of the Old World dogs over their NA counterparts. Further, a knowledgeable observer will undoubtedly notice that the problems and faults of the North American working dogs of several breeds seem strangely similar, e.g. lack of bone and substance, weak long necks, excessive length of leg, overly dry heads that border on being untypical, poor shoulders, etc. In this article we will try to look at the causes of this great structural difference. We will talk about temperament and working abilities here, but only if they are relevant to the discussion. At the end of this article you will find a small gallery of the dogs of working breeds from North America and Europe placed side by side.

Discussing modern tendencies in the development of the working breeds in the world, we always come to the question of who is responsible for the breed and for its current and future appearance. Some say it is the judges who decide the future of the breed by making the cut in the ring and rewarding certain traits over others. Some are convinced it is the breeders who should be either blamed or praised for the state of the breed, as they are the ones who produce what judges see in that ring. Some also mention handlers, who present the end product of the breeders?work for the judges?approval. Either way, it is expected that all three groups of dog people know their job and care about doing it well. But as in any field of human activity, abilities differ from person to person, and not so much because of the presence or lack of inborn talent, but more because we all have different experiences and goals. Experiences, including education, and goals make the difference between an excellent engineer and a wannabe. The same goes for dog people. Let's look at how the experiences and goals differ from continent to continent.


Both the U.S. and Canada have large territories, and the dog fanciers are scattered all the way across. Many communities have their own clubs and hold their own dog shows, where the number of entries in each breed is relatively small. Thus we have thousands of small shows with small entries every year. Because of the small number of entries, a regular club can not afford to invite breeder-judges for every breed entered. A JUDGE with forty breeds on his list has more chances to be invited than a JUDGE who is licensed for just one breed. Thus, a North American JUDGE is forced to be an all-rounder if he wishes to have regular appointments. Being an all-rounder automatically means that the level of knowledge of each particular breed is very uneven. It takes years to learn about one single breed, it's type and characteristics, so even if one? ultimate goal was to be equally well-educated in all hundred plus breeds of dogs, his lifetime would still limit his in-depth knowledge to a few. So how does an all-rounder JUDGE manage to handle the task of confidently judging many breeds? This is accomplished by having an image of a typical Best-In-Show winner in mind. Let's introduce the term "generic show dog" to the scene, as this is exactly what our successful all-rounder JUDGE knows well: how to tell a good show dog from a not-so-good one. Forget "type" and "essence of the breed," he looks for similar traits in the dog of any breed - elegance, striking color, smooth lines, absence of obvious structural flaws and of course the famous show attitude. Our regular JUDGE would rather award a dog who has no major faults but lacks the type of its breed than the one that screams Boxer but drops in the croup more than the dog in front of it. Further, the American show system does not value or "respect" each entry. There is an absolute lack of what we call The Institute of Critiques, where each and every dog entered receives the written opinion of the JUDGE by the end of the class. Instead, the whole process is simplified to the two sets of points available for each breed. Two sets of points mean two winners, and the rest of the entered dogs receive virtually nothing. Thus, a dog show which was originally created to be a tool for evaluating the breeding stock becomes a race in which you either receive the points or get to complain to all your friends how political and unfair your JUDGE was. This win-or-lose situation cannot possibly benefit the breed, as it is all about winning now rather than getting the JUDGE'S opinion. This has become even more obvious with the current trend of finishing puppies. The earlier the dog finishes his championship, the more quality he is thought to have. This puts the dogs who mature fast into a more favorable position, while a late bloomer will most likely be pulled out of the ring before he has reached his full potential, as he has no chance against those gorgeous, all-filled-out miniature adults. This further does a disservice to the breed as that beautiful puppy has every chance of going sour in a few short years, but the already obtained title and a few photos of him as a youngster in the glossy magazines will secure his breeding career.


Oh, American HANDLERS! These are very special people as they serve as a link between JUDGES and BREEDERS. The layman's opinion might be that the HANDLERS merely deliver the dogs to the ring, but the truth is that the HANDLERS deliver results! It is a known fact that if one wants to finish a dog, he'd better hire a handler, for nothing can compare with the "professional" touch. Most HANDLERS work with more than one breed, and a good half of them claim to be all-breed handlers. The paragraph on JUDGE'S education above also applies here, as it is as difficult for an all-breed HANDLER to know all the fine points of each particular breed as it is for an all-rounder JUDGE. However, it would seem that the average HANDLER simply needs to be more knowledgeable than the average JUDGE, as it is the HANDLER'S job to outsmart the latter. Most HANDLERS come from a dog family background, and many of them were raised to succeed in exactly this kind of competition. As children they were brought to the shows and entered into Junior Showmanship competition year after year until the show bug set in, and they grew up learning how to win. The success of a HANDLER'S career depends completely on the amount of winning he does, so no expense can be spared along the learning road. First and foremost, the HANDLER learns to hand-stack the dogs. Hand-stacking is an invaluable tool in bringing the best out of the dog. The author spent ten years showing dogs for others and agrees that almost any fault can be hidden by a talented hand. Winning Best-In-Shows, which are always judged by all-rounders, is a highlight of any HANDLER'S career, and that further teaches the fancy that generic show dogs are good. HANDLERS play an important role in a JUDGE'S education: they choose what they show, they set the trends in the fancy, and in many ways they are responsible for where the breed goes. JUDGES respect HANDLERS, and in many cases the JUDGE will close his eyes to a fault if the owner of that fault is shown by a famous handler. Respecting the authorities is a part of human's nature, and if a well-known HANDLER chose to show the dog with that fault, there are probably some rare virtues in the same animal, the JUDGE thinks. Granted, there are some JUDGES who do not judge the person on the other end of the lead, but let's face it, a good half of them do.


Let us say upfront that we do not see American Boxer BREEDERS as "evil" ?people who keep destroying the breed knowing what they are doing. In fact, being involved in Boxer breeding ourselves, we sympathize with them and truly believe they want the best for the breed. However, as was stated previously, experiences and goals are what determines the road each of us takes, and while most of us BREEDERS have similar goals, our experiences differ drastically. What does an American BREEDER learn when he enters the game? What does that bright young person with an enormous passion so rarely found, and with a desire to literally give his life to his breed see as he starts out? Where does the BREEDER take his knowledge and who educates him? He learns from day one that winning is good. Winning means he produces excellent dogs, and to breed superior dogs is the reason he started the game. Winning makes selling puppies and finding good homes easier, and that should not be discounted. This is rarely spoken of, but the truth is that breeding dogs demands a lot of sacrifice. A good BREEDER sacrifices his very existence to his hobby, or should we call it his lifestyle. Understanding spouses happen almost solely in movies, and most BREEDERS have children to support, too. Breeding dogs is expensive, and it is a fact of life for the vast majority of BREEDERS that they have to give up many things that no "normal" person would be willing to do without. Winning makes all of that worthwhile, as at the end, we all want recognition. Winning is the JUDGE'S way of saying to the BREEDER, "I see you. You've done very well. Your job is valuable. Please continue." BREEDERS do not have supervisors, their families rarely appreciate them for what they do, and a dog show is the only way for them to receive a reward for all their sacrifice. More experienced BREEDERS, JUDGES and HANDLERS set the example for our new dog fancier, and even if he had different ideas at the beginning, he will soon learn that he must go with the trend if he wants to be successful. They teach him that showing is the only way of evaluating his ability as a BREEDER. We once did an experiment and asked fifty experienced American Boxer BREEDERS what constitutes a good front to them. We could not believe the amount of mumbling, confusion and almost total lack of meaningful explanation we got. It is not an exaggeration to say that eighty percent of those BREEDERS were not capable of verbally describing one of the most important features of canine anatomy. We are convinced that the absence of written critiques is the one thing to blame. We assume that most JUDGES would not have done better if asked the same question, because just as the BREEDER is not accustomed to receiving critiques of their dogs weekend after weekend, JUDGES are not used to writing them! So, how is the young BREEDER supposed to learn when even those he calls his mentors cannot clearly explain the points of the standard without visual aids? (We should also mention, although this is not completely relevant to the discussion of fronts, that in addition to the above question we also asked the BREEDERS what was of more importance to them - the reach and drive of the dog or it's gait coming and going. Thirty eight out of fifty BREEDERS named clean coming and going as the most important tool that helps them evaluate a dog's movement. And this is in a working breed!) At first, our novice BREEDER may know too little to ask himself why that oversized ballerina-giraffe cross keeps winning month after month. Then later, after all the "experienced" people he admires praise the dog, he makes the eye-brain connection and comes to believe that is what a good specimen of his breed is supposed to look like. Chances are that ballerina-giraffe cross will sire our BREEDER'S foundation bitch, her puppies will start winning, and within a few years he forgets his stupid little ideas of wanting more bone or better temperaments. The dog show monster has succeeded. Our BREEDER has become "evil." Even if he is brighter than the rest and in ten more years learns about his big now "name" kennel's problems, it would take superhuman strength to give up everything he has and start from zero again. Bringing in a different dog in place of one of his own will mean fewer ribbons, and breeding to a different dog will mean fewer good homes for his puppies. Even mentioning that he wants something different in public is dangerous, as other BREEDERS are not going to approve it, and we all know contacts are everything in the modern world. It is very likely that our BREEDER will become very biased and unwilling to accept the fresh ideas of a new generation of BREEDERS. Kennel blindness is another danger lying in wait for him. In conclusion, the BREEDER who started with the right goals but had the wrong experiences has no chance of achieving those goals. Not in a million years.
American male                                     European male
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American bitch                                     European bitch