Once you become a dog addict, addicted to the show scene, or just addicted to learning about every breed of dog created by man you will discover one thing, dog breeds change.
The Boxer of the early 1900s will barely resemble the Boxer of today. When we say barely, we mean none at all. The pictures you will look at, will not resemble the breed at all.
The same can be said for a plethora of dog breeds that have been around for decades.
The question why, will of course follow. After all, why would a breed of dog change over a course of decades when breeders who are supposedly breeding to the standard of the breed, have had a standard that has barely changed in the same period of time.
One of the reasons dog breeds change is because breeders are breeding to the standard.
The most precise standard often will leave places in its description that will allow for preference, and interpretation.
Words such as slightly, can be, but should not, and not excessively all allow for a breeder to be looser in the breeding practices, all while still claiming to breed for the standard.
The breeder that likes that slight exception in a standard will use his definition of slight and before you know something that was slight becomes excessive. The standard has not changed, but the interpretation of the standard may have in regards to the breeder. These loose words in the standard will allow justification for breeding away from ideal and strictly breeding for what a breeder prefers.
Another reason breeds change is due to function. When dogs were being bred for a job certain characteristics could hinder it from performing its job, therefore these traits would be undesirable. As times have changed many canine jobs have become obsolete, so working breeds have lost their work and sadly often lose their capability of work just in how they are built.
The dogs become more about looking the part than doing the part. The trials that showcase the dogs ability to do a task often pale to the actual work that was once required. The breeds ability to perform a task, by looking a certain way and being built a certain way slowly will wane and the result is a breed that over time will change in looks and sometimes even in temperament and attitude. Over decades the dogs that result from the lack of work will hardly resemble their decade old predecessors at all.
Conformation Dog Shows
The show ring and conformation show ring also has changed breeds drastically over time. The show ring where dogs should truly be bred to the standard and changing drastically in look would seem impossible, is often the very place where dog breeds can change the most.
Why? Well first is the show ring is about winners and losers, but those winners and losers are decided by one person, and that one persons interpretation of a standard. A single dog can change the look of an entire breed!
If a dog catches fire and becomes extremely popular through winning in the show ring, or a particular dog that is popular is bred at a rate that affects the gene pool, by adding thousands of dogs to the gene pool the look of a breed can change.
Breed Standards – Looking the part
The standard is created and is suppose to be protected by show enthusiasts and their breed clubs. Yet the show is about dogs that look the part.
If a dog is suppose to appear muscular, and heavy boned for its size it usually goes without saying that breeders will try to produce the most heavily boned, muscled up version of the breed they can.
If this impressive dog begins to win, or becomes sought after as a major stud the look of an entire breed can change. Again it is the skipping over, or the liberal use of the standard that will allow for this.
If the breed states heavily boned and muscled, but also states athletic and agile, one can not breed for a dog that loses the latter to entirely concentrate on the former.
Looks and desires of the times is generally the main reason dogs change from the ancestors of past decades. What’s in is in, and what’s out falls to the wayside.
The mighty green dollar will sway a breed from one extreme to the next. What is selling and what isn’t. If the standard becomes too common place, people will seek out the dogs of the breed that are unique.
Something different to truly show that their example of the breed is slightly better or more valuable than others, this will of course change what is considered desirable and cause breeds to change over time.
Advances in nutrition
There are several other factors that can effect a breed in regards to change, from nutrition advancements to environment changes. The very things that we would think wouldn’t will.
The fact that dog food and holistic feeding practices have gained speed in the canine industry is causing healthier pets, but in some cases it’s not only that they are healthier, but the breeds as a whole actually become larger all the way around.
All the factors that change a breed are not bad, but the changing of a breed has to be monitored to not lose the true essence that makes up a breed, and that essence stems from that breed actually looking like the breed it is.