But I Don’t Need a Show Labrador!
(Originally Written about Newfoundland Dogs by Terri Lewin Gilbert)
Adapted for the Labrador Retriever by Margaret Wilson.
Many thanks to Terri for allowing me to adapt her wonderful article.
Why do people recommend choosing a breeder who shows and titles their dogs to folks who are just looking for a pet and have no interest in showing? Why should breeding to breed standard be important to a pet home? Does it seem excessive, or “snobby”?
It’s not, and here’s why.
Dog shows are a means of evaluating dogs against the breed standard, to evaluate soundness, movement/gait, type, and temperament.
Soundness: The state of physical and mental health when all organs and faculties are functioning properly, each in its rightful relation to each other.
Type: Breed type encompasses appearance, character, condition, bone structure, temperament, and movement; "breed type is all these things." Breed type also includes a character specific to each breed, a combination of behavior, temperament and carriage that demonstrate an essence of the breed.
Size – The height at the withers for a dog is 22-1/2 to 24-1/2 inches; for a bitch is 21-1/2 to 23-1/2 inches. Any variance greater than 1/2 inch above or below these heights is a disqualification. Approximate weight of dogs and bitches in working condition: dogs 65 to 80 pounds; bitches 55 to 70 pounds.
Proportion – Short-coupled; length from the point of the shoulder to the point of the rump is equal to or slightly longer than the distance from the withers to the ground. Distance from the elbow to the ground should be equal to one half of the height at the withers. The brisket should extend to the elbows, but not perceptibly deeper. The body must be of sufficient length to permit a straight, free and efficient stride; but the dog should never appear low and long or tall and leggy in outline.
Substance – Substance and bone proportionate to the overall dog. Light,”weedy” individuals are definitely incorrect; equally objectionable are cloddy lumbering specimens.
Gait: The gait of a dog is its quality of movement. You want to see ease of movement, unimpaired by illness or poor structure.
Temperament: The general attitude a dog has towards other animals and people. From the AKC Labrador Retriever Breed Standard: “True Labrador Retriever temperament is as much a hallmark of the breed as the “otter” tail. The ideal disposition is one of a kindly, outgoing, tractable nature; eager to please and non-aggressive towards man or animal. The Labrador has much that appeals to people; his gentle ways, intelligence and adaptability make him an ideal dog. Aggressiveness towards humans or other animals, or any evidence of shyness in an adult should be severely penalized.”
Color: The Labrador Retriever coat colors are black, yellow and chocolate. Any other color or a combination of colors is a disqualification. A small white spot on the chest is permissible, but not desirable. White hairs from aging or scarring are not to be misinterpreted as brindling. Dilute colors are a breed disqualification
Black – Blacks are all black. A black with brindle markings or a black with tan markings is a disqualification.
Yellow – Yellows may range in color from fox-red to light cream, with variations in shading on the ears, back, and underparts of the dog.
Chocolate – Chocolates can vary in shade from light to dark chocolate. Chocolate with brindle or tan markings is a disqualification.
So. That’s a very basic intro to what goes on at a show... why does this matter? You want a pet, a companion, not a show dog, right? Well, you chose Labradors for a reason. You’ve done your research, and have read that they’re great with kids and other animals, they’re gentle, biddable, stable, and not aggressive, they make excellent companions and love spending time with their people. That their good and kind nature predisposes many Labradors to be excellent therapy and service dogs. That they are a strongly built dog of medium-size, short-coupled, possessing a sound, athletic, and well-balanced conformation, with the character and quality to win in the show ring; and the temperament to be a family companion which makes them admirably suited to a variety of lifestyles and occupations, and which has made them the world’s most popular breed for good reason.
Ethical, responsible breeders seek to preserve and protect these definitive and positive characteristics and not deliberately breed for disqualifying conditions which are alien and detrimental to the breed.
An aggressive dog is no joke, and an oversized, powerful aggressive dog even less so. Aggression can run in lines. Wouldn’t it be difficult to show an aggressive, reactive, fearful, or excessively shy Labrador? Do you want to take the gamble and trust someone about their dog’s history, or would you rather buy from someone who has taken their dogs into the ring and had the dog’s temperament proven over and over, consistently?
What about type and structure? How the dog is put together, able to move freely and comfortably? Would you rather buy from someone who has proven publicly, over time, that the dog they’re breeding can move well, free of limp, or a structural problem? Or just trust someone who has no interest in proving their dogs? It’s your puppy’s quality of life and comfort (as well as your wallet) that’s at stake.
Not every dog in a well-bred litter is going to be show quality- there will ALWAYS be pet-quality puppies. Well-bred, but maybe with a slight imperfection, and those are the puppies placed in pet homes. You don’t have to want a show-quality puppy to get a well-bred puppy!
Show quality litters are bred by people who actually show their dogs, and these breeders are the ones who are most qualified to determine what is, and what is not a show quality puppy. Having some titled ancestors in a pedigree, even two generations back, is no indication of being show quality.
Here’s the bottom line.... every day, Lab rescue is seeing more poorly bred aggressive Labradors and Lab mixes. Labradors in pain because they were poorly bred. Labs requiring extensive vet care, expensive surgery, and serious behavior modification. People having to remand their dogs to breed rescue because they can’t manage the dog, fear the dog, or found out the dog needs costly vet care they can’t afford.
This is not about being snobby, being elitist, thinking that one dog is “better” than another, it’s about ensuring you get a puppy that acts and looks like the breed you fell in love with. It’s about ensuring that all Lab puppies have the best start in life, and will grow into a loving family member. It’s about loving our breed enough to want to see everything that’s good about them preserved for future generations to enjoy. If you want a healthy dog, with a properly sweet temperament, choose your breeder wisely
“I Don’t Want a Show Dog, I just want a Pet”
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 goldendoodle 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.
Posted on July 13, 2010 by rufflyspeaking:
I don’t want a show dog; I just want a pet.