TYPE VERSUS SOUNDNESS

Being for one doesn't mean you have to dismiss the other.
by Ariel Sleeth, Sovereign Kennels, renowned breeder of Collies and Shetland Sheepdogs
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Writing in favour of type as apposed to soundness is somewhat like committing political suicide during an election year. You are definitely on the side of the minority, attacking the popular choice especially among working dog breeders.

It does not follow that being for type is against soundness. Certainly, we all want both in the same package but this is not always what we get. I maintain that lack of soundness is very much more penalized by the judges, not necessarily by the breed standards, and I think type must be put back in proper prospective. It should be the Degree of unsoundness and type that is the indicator of the dog's total worth. If this were the means of determining quality, no dog would become a winner if he lacked either of these qualities to a serious degree. I don't believe you will see a winning type dog lacking in soundness too often, but you will see a sound dog lacking in type all too often.

What is type exactly ? Type is the signature of the breed. It is the head quality combined with the balance and outline that determines breed type. Type needs protection and this is only forthcoming from a minority of licensed judges and breeders who have the experience and depth of knowledge. It seems we learn about our breeds in degrees. We become knowledgeable about correct movement long before we can fully evaluate and appreciate the detail of the correct type, which is a combination of many parts in relationship to each other. Those breeders who have gone before us, and brought our breeds to the degree of excellence that we have inherited, must have valued type as there were considerably fewer animals with this elusive quality, than those with soundness, on which to build. Type is more difficult to achieve in a breeding program, more difficult to maintain when you have it, and is not even recognizable by many, so no credit is given for your achievement.

It is infinitely easier to win under more judges with a sound dog lacking type than with a type dog lacking to the same degree in soundness. Therefore, the breeder cannot be blamed for giving more credit to soundness and less to type in his breeding program.

The late Ed Pickhardt, a renowned Collie breeder and judge of all breeds, stated most emphatically, "Give me a good head, the rest I can get from a mutt". A dog without type is common, lacking in that quality or "looK" that makes his breed different from some other, and when can common ever be fulfilling, even though the dog is sound?

It is a breeder's dilemma that the greatest head may go unappreciated while the dog is penalized for a straight shoulder. A competing dog may receive full value for his soundness and not be penalized for his lack of head quality because many judges are not type conscious.

This is where the specialty judges and all rounder judges compliment each other. The specialty judge is able to evaluate all aspects of his or her breed and give knowledgeable consideration for type and head qualities as well as structure and movement. The all rounder usually concentrates on movement, condition and showmanship, with head qualities being considered only to the degree that the all rounder is knowledgeable in each particular breed. It is certainly understandable that no judge could know, to the same degree of thoroughness, all breeds. The dog who wins under the all round judge and specialty judge is usually one well worth your consideration in a breeding program.

As a dog breeder I want soundness, don't ever mistake that, but as a responsible breeder with a deep love for my dog I want a total dog, one that has the beauty and elegance of his breed and with the structure and soundness of a working dog AND with the brain to make this dog capable of doing the work he was bred for. Type is the artistry of breeding, soundness the mechanics--both are a part of the total package.