"Ideal" conformation of the working Labrador

Discussion in 'Labrador breeding & genetics' started by JulieT, Apr 9, 2016.

  1. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

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    A discussion started today (on the thread about fox red puppies) about the ideal conformation of working Labradors and I thought it would be an interesting topic for a thread.

    I wonder if we can have a rule though? Before you hit 'reply' just check your post to make sure that it is free of irrelevant negative comments about show line dogs or working line dogs (fine if it's a relevant comment that's part of the debate, but not if it might just be interpreted as a 'dig' at the type of dog you don't own). That way, we keep the debate on topic.

    it would, I think, be helpful if we all had read the same versions of the breed standard:

    The UK 1916 (which specifies Labradors are black :) ) and today's UK breed standards are described here: http://www.thelabradorretrieverclub.com/Articles/Coulson/Breed Standard 1916.htm

    And for Australia the extended breed standard is here:
    http://www.nationallabradorretrieverbreedcouncilaustralia.com/breed-standard-extension.asp

    The issue is this: some people say the breed standard is irrelevant to working lines dogs. People with show line dogs, wonder how that can be the case. And if the breed standard is irrelevant to working line dogs, then what does a 'good' working line dog look like?

    I find it hard to accept that all working line dogs have an ideal conformation even if there is a wide variation in what is fit for purpose - it's easy to spot conformation that looks basically unsound, cow hocks and very straight upper arms for example, and while it very may well be the case that a dog with this conformation could do 6 or 7 or even 20 retrieves to win a Field Trial while relatively young, that's not the same as saying this is the kind of conformation that is desirable in the working dog. Or, if it is, then it would be good to understand why.

    It seems (to me anyway) that it is not the case that any conformation will do, or is suitable, there is at least a basic structure and soundness that is required. So if it's not the angulation etc described in the breed standard then what is it? How does someone setting out to buy a working line dog judge what good looks like in their future working line dog?
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2016
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  2. bbrown

    bbrown Moderator Forum Supporter

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    I will have to write more later but I don't think the breed standard is irrelevant I just question if it accurately reflects the 'best' working dog. I actually believe having a standard is a good thing, I'm probably not in favour of very tight standards.
     
  3. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

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  4. snowbunny

    snowbunny Administrator Forum Supporter

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    I'm just popping in and out for a few minutes here, so no time to read the links just yet, but could there be anything to do with people not necessarily breeding for anything physical when it comes to many dogs? If someone has a dog that works well, is "biddable", picks up well on shoots etc, they might consider breeding it to continue the personality traits with little consideration for conformation. I assume that in the real world (outside of trials and tests), the speed of the dog is less of an issue, so as long as it is strong enough and fit enough, it would come down more to temperament? Similarly for pet dogs, it doesn't "matter" so much what they look like, more about how they fit into a family.
     
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  5. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

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    Isn't this saying it doesn't matter? That any conformation of dog makes a good working Labrador? I don't think that can be true. Otherwise the GSD that won Crufts would qualify....and any show line dog (that owners of working line dogs say can't work) could.
     
  6. snowbunny

    snowbunny Administrator Forum Supporter

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    I'm not saying it doesn't matter. But I'm wondering if most people who breed their dogs consider it.
     
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  7. snowbunny

    snowbunny Administrator Forum Supporter

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    Take those Labs with dwarfism, for example. They're obviously not conforming to standard, and they're clearly not optimised for speed, jumping high or wide etc, but they're still working. If any Lab, whatever lines it came from, made a good real-world working dog (as opposed to trials or test) or a good pet dog, then I think people would potentially consider breeding from it. I may be completely off the mark, but I think when talking about "show" vs "working", we're often talking about the successful ones as far as champions are concerned, and that's not necessarily indicative of the general Lab population. I, personally, would like to see more conformity over the breed, which would exclude ones that look like mine - basically, I'm a sucker for a broad Lab head - but does anyone other than those people involved in the show world actually breed for conformation?
     
  8. Jen

    Jen Registered Users

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    I agree with Fiona that maybe if a dog is a good Gundog it will be used to breed with without much consideration for its conformation. Maybe that's why the conformation of working line dogs seems to vary. My old lab was working line he was big, big head, big paws, perfect otters tail, big build the opposite to Scott and Scout. I got murphy 20 years ago. I haven't seen many working line labradors who are built like that anymore. Having said that I was told by a Gundog breeder/handler that gundogs should be small so they can get under, over and through easily so maybe conformation is important but they now look for different thing to make the "perfect" gundog.

    I would assume guide dogs for example aren't bred for conformation but for their ability to do the job. Although if they are usually crosses that's probably not a good example.o_O
     
  9. snowbunny

    snowbunny Administrator Forum Supporter

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    By the way, I'm not saying that ignoring a dog's conformation when breeding is a good thing, at all. The standards are there for a reason, and if they prevent joint issues etc then people should be doing more to ensure litters of puppies conform for the good of the breed.
     
  10. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

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    Maybe this is the case. But is it not the case that even people with just workaday bitches seek out the popular sires? Most Field Trial dogs are very much not good real-world working dogs. Many have never seen a real life shoot at all - and those are the ones that are bred from. And we seem to have ended up with a huge range in 'working' line dogs. Surely we have to be able to describe this 'fit for function' - everyone keeps calling for it.....
     
  11. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

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    The conformation of the guide dogs that I see around and about look sound. They look to have a good structure. They are variable in type (of course different breeds are used), but I've never seen one that I think has a poor looking structure. Their job is not really to be an athlete though, as we say the working dog is supposed to be.
     
  12. snowbunny

    snowbunny Administrator Forum Supporter

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    I don't know? Is it? Or do you find "owner of good working bitch" talks to "owner of good working dog on same shoot" and they get together to make sweet music?

    Absolutely. Maybe (although there would be huge opposition) there should be more regulation in breeding programmes, to try to get the breed back to a more unified physique. Rather than simply suggesting that health checks are carried out in breeding dogs, conformation scores could be given. I suppose you could also then bring in some kind of scoring system for natural retrieving instincts, too, to ensure that the resulting dogs are not only physically fit for purpose, but also mentally.

    I wonder, is there as much diversity in all breeds? I know we see it in spaniels, but is it just in working dogs, or would you find such a range in, I don't know.... Chihuahuas?
     
  13. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

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    I wonder if we even have a clear idea of what a 'working line' dog is? Is it from dogs that have reached some standard, perhaps? I mean, we don't just mean 'a dog that works' by running riot on a shoot twice a year......or do we? I've always thought that unless there is 'guiding mind' behind the breeding, some attempt to identify a specific characteristic, or develop a characteristic, then I'd describe the dog as 'pet bred' not working line bred.
     
  14. snowbunny

    snowbunny Administrator Forum Supporter

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    I can't answer that one in the slightest. I consider my two to be "working line bred" because their parents are both active working dogs. But there was probably little thought behind the actual coupling. I would probably say that "pet bred", to me, means dogs that were specifically bred to have the temperament to make good pets. If mine had any progeny (not going to happen), I think they'd just be "Labradors with no real purpose" since they're not working dogs, not perfect pet dogs, and certainly not show dog!

    This has made me look at pictures of my dogs' parents, and they certainly take after their mother more than their father. But they actually look little like either of them.
     
  15. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

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    I think there is a quite serious question here, if the concept of 'fit for function' is judged against the need to carry out a job (we'll assume it's shooting for the moment, but there are all sorts of 'jobs' of course) there has to be some answer to what, physically, makes a good working line dog. Otherwise, we can give up on trying to aim for the 'fit for function'. It'll reduce to:

    Working dog enthusiast: That dog is not fit for function.
    Show line enthusiast: Why not?
    Working dog enthusiast: Its legs are too short.
    Show line enthusiast: How long do they have to be?
    Working dog enthusiast: I don't know, but my dog works and has longer legs.
    Show line enthusiast: There is a working line dog (undefined) over there with short legs, so why isn't my dog ok?

    Or, instead, we can call in aid the breed standard....perhaps? That states short legged individuals are not typical of the breed?
     
  16. Nade

    Nade Registered Users

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    I think that there should not be a distinction between ,,show,, and ,,working lines,,. The standard( no matter if its FCI, UK, AKC ect) is clear and it describes the labrador in whole. Every dog should fulfill the minimum expectations that the standards ask about how he looks, then he must be able to work, have the drive for it and has to have the character for that. Its a mistake for me when people force one thing or another and end up loosing other things just for the sake of one. Because we still dont have a standard for ,,conformation labrador,, and a standard for ,,field or working labrador,,.
     
  17. Jen

    Jen Registered Users

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    Surely what defines a dog as working line is the same as what defines it as show line ie. it's pedigree, it's breeding, it's lineage.
     
  18. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

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    Is that alone is enough to define a show line dog though - or a dog that is 'fit for function' (that's what I mean here by 'working line' I suppose)? I find it a bit odd that some people think the vast majority of pets, that have not been bred by a breeder aiming for the show ring, are called 'show line'. I don't think they are show line at all. Well, 19 generations ago they might have a show line champion (or a Champion) in their pedigree but...well, I sort of think that's a bit irrelevant.
     
  19. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

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    There clearly are differences, though, and the proposition that we are discussing is if the breed standard does not describe a dog fit to work, what does? It is clearly the case that, overwhelmingly, the breed standards are rejected by people working dogs (not all people, but a lot). So, if that's the case, how do we recognise a dog that is fit to work?
     
  20. Nade

    Nade Registered Users

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    According to the FCI standard the labrador is a working dog and in order to get the Inter CH and in some countries the national Ch he has to pass a working trial. On those working trials judges score how the dog reacts on shooting, then different types of retrieving ect. People that reject the standard are usually people who cant do well in the conformation ring and they say that their dogs are working. And, it may sound cruel, but a labrador is not a labrador if he only works and does not meet the minimum according to the standard when it comes phenotype as well. Because, many years ago, some people sat down and wrote the standard, and in him it is well described the phenotype, the work and the character.
     

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