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What Can A Dog’s Breed Standard Tell You?

Within the UK, the Kennel Club is the umbrella authority for dogs and dog breeds, and the Kennel Club dictates what breeds and types of dogs are formally recognised as pedigrees and so, are eligible for Kennel Club registration.

For every single pedigree dog breed recognised in the UK, which is 210 different dog breeds overall at the time of writing (June 2019) there is a breed standard in place, which is drawn up, published and reviewed as necessary by the Kennel Club and occasionally amended as a result of this.

The breed standard for each breed is one of the cornerstones of pedigree registration – no breed standard means no pedigree status, and if there are not enough common and uniting factors among a group of dogs of a certain breed or type to draw up a breed standard, they cannot be considered for recognition as a pedigree breed at all.

However, not all dog owners really understand what a breed standard is, what it can tell you and why it is important – which are all things we will explain within the article. Read on to find out what a dog’s breed standard can tell you.

What is a breed standard?

A breed standard is a formal document published by the Kennel Club for every dog breed, which provides a guideline of the ideals and norms for the breed in question. These ideals include every facet of the dog’s appearance and personality, including their temperament, core traits or talents, size, looks, colours, and it even covers how the dog moves and holds themselves as well as their fitness and healthy conformation norms.

Breed standards also sometimes dictate traits that a dog should not have as well as those they should, such as negative temperament traits or certain coat colours that are disallowed.

Ultimately, the point of a breed standard is to ensure that a dog is “fit for function,” or fit and healthy enough to live a normal life, and also to carry out any working role or other key task that the breed in question is associated with.

Breed standards are usually long and detailed documents that cover the fine points of the dog’s conformation from top to toe, indicating everything from the sort of shape and length the ears should be, how much feathering may be present on the legs, and the type of posture the dog should have when standing up. 

Additionally, breed standards are designed to avoid exaggerations, by indicating where certain physical traits should stop, before they become harmful to the health of the dog in question.

What is a breed standard used for?

Breed standards are used for a wide range of different purposes, because they serve as a description of the ideal example of a dog of any given breed. The breed standard is the benchmark used to judge dogs in dog breed shows, particularly in group classes that see dogs of different breeds competing side by side – because this necessitates the dogs be judged according to their breed’s ideal, and not compared to each other.

Breed standards are also valuable documents for dog breeders to use to assess the quality of their own breed lines, and to work to produce dogs that adhere more closely to the breed standard in future. They’re also useful for puppy buyers, particularly those interested in dog showing, to use to compare pups they might be considering buying in order to determine their relative quality and perceived value.


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What information is shown within a breed standard?

Most breed standards follow exactly the same format and cover a number of different headings, each of which is broken down in detail to outline the fine points it covers. The usual content sections of a breed standard are:

  • General appearance
  • Characteristics
  • Temperament
  • Head and skull
  • Eyes
  • Ears 
  • Mouth
  • Neck
  • Forequarters
  • Body
  • Hindquarters
  • Feet
  • Tail
  • Gait/Movement
  • Coat
  • Colour
  • Size
  • Faults (any traits that may appear in the breed that are considered to be deleterious)
  • Notes (any other points to mention about the breed)

Additionally, each breed standard has a range of accompanying information specific to the breed in question available alongside of it such as a detailed standalone section on what coat colour and pattern combinations are eligible for registration. These supplementary sections also cover any breeding restrictions, and for some breeds, “breed watch” information, which is tasked with monitoring health and improvement in breeds for which health is a widespread issue.

Breed standards and brand-new dog breeds

The creation of a breed standard is also integral to allowing any dog type to gain formal Kennel Club recognition as a pedigree breed in its own right from which dogs can be registered, and for this to occur, a number of factors need to come together. First of all there has to be a level of agreement between the Kennel Club and advocates, groups and organisations recognised by the Kennel Club as being spokespersons for the would-be breed in question, and also, there has to be a large enough population of such dogs in the UK and displaying a high enough level of uniformity of core traits to enable a breed standard’s creation.

The breed standard is just one element of new breed recognition, and the whole process is long, taking many years and more commonly, decades from the start of the process.

For instance, there are a number of hybrid dog types in the UK today that are not currently recognised by the Kennel Club but that are at least on the radar as potential candidates for future pedigree inclusion – like the Cockapoo and the Labradoodle respectively.

Where can I find my dog’s breed standard?

Breed standards for every recognised pedigree dog breed in the UK are published on the Kennel Club’s own website, and can be found using their search tool.


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