Pluperfect, Merrymoon
& Puddleduck
Top class breeders of high quality, healthy and happy Cardigan Welsh Corgis


About Us




In The Ring


Other Breeds

Contact Us

Why the Understanding of Superficial Faults is Critical

by jonathan jeffrey kimes

As a teenager I first came across the writings of Raymond Oppenheimer (Ormandy Bull Terrier Kennel, UK) and quickly grasped his perspective that focusing on superficial faults was an absurd and illogical practice and yet it is practiced by almost everyone.  He explained what superficial faults were and empirically proved how breeding programs could make leaps by correctly contextualizing them and how breeding programs could fail by their over-emphasis.  I found it intuitively obvious and as he was one of the greatest breeders of show dogs ever, I took his lessons to heart.  

Over the years – and I am saying decades here – I have expounded on his theories and have been able to demonstrate the point by examples from my own breeding practices.  What seemed terribly obvious to a thirteen year old boy are still not appreciated or understood or valued by the masses.  I have learned through the years the art of breeding show dogs is both a great natural talent and a skill.  Most breeders are neither born with the former nor seem to care to develop the latter.  I equate this to sports; without training and dedication you will most likely never become competent at your sport from the eyes of connoisseur.  As a golfer you will always bend your arm, lack the ability to shift your weight, twist your arm and the effort will always produce an outcome short of what is possible.  So it is with dog breeding.

In the last few years tremendous advances have been made in genetics research.  In addition, the culture of the world has expressed itself so that such practices as ear cropping and tail docking have become unacceptable in most societies.  Sadly, the culture of American dog breeders is much more focused on “the effect” rather than humanity so we disdain natural tailed dogs of traditionally docked breeds because, “they just don’t look the same.”  The Rottweiler club strongly criticizes anyone who rewards a natural tailed dog.  And I'm not referring to Nazi-era Germany either, I'm talking about land-of-the-free America 2008!

These changes in our modern world have only served to underline the tremendous wisdom on Raymond Oppenheimer’s breeding theories.  Over the last few years I have been amazed at how science has supported the soundness of this thinking and yet the vast majority of dog breeders and judges are still absolutely oblivious.  Americans have always prided themselves on their “best of everything” lives.  I think for generations this was true, we were young and changed with the times and brought forth new ideas and had fertile resources in order to accomplish our goals.  But in recent years, America has demonstrated it’s middle-age where changes and new ideas have no longer been embraced, but rather we look toward our past, we hold the way “we used to do” things or “have always” done things as our present ideals.  Nothing new there, it’s a characteristic of maturity.  It is not a characteristic of growth.

In researching ear cropping – which is a barbaric process to which I can attest – I was fascinated to learn that today’s Boston Terrier is largely shown with natural ears but if the ears are too big or don’t prick well enough then they are cropped.  There is no fault for cropped Boston Terriers but you can well imagine the faulting of badly shaped or carried ears.  And yet, with the effort by a surgeon, this failing is remedied and dog society completely accepts the alteration.  Is this not illogical?

With Affenpinschers they can be shown with a docked tail or natural.  Although the standard allows for a curved tail, the terrier outline of the breed lends itself best in the eyes of judges to a terrier-straight tail.  A gay tail can be docked and be perfectly acceptable.  A gay tail of natural length which is “fixed” to be carried straight is considered illegal.  (And a tail which fits the standard won’t win.)  Is this not illogical?

The German Shepherd fancy has always abhorred the white coat in the belief that white dogs were genetically inferior to those of rich coloring.  The white Samoyed is one of the oldest purebred dogs in existence who has lived its life in unbearable Siberia.  The gene which causes the white Samoyed is exactly the same gene which causes the white German Shepherd.  Is this not illogical?

The Cardigan Welsh Corgi fancy is horrified by the use of a “coated” dog in a breeding program.  They are considered completely “unworthy” of being working dogs, although it is the same genetics which gives the Shetland Sheepdog its “protective” weather resisting and much admired coat!  Meanwhile, in it’s effort to keep “type” most Cardigan fanciers overlook tremendously unsound fronts which would be disastrous in a working dog.  Is this not illogical?

This all points back to Raymond Oppenheimer’s theory that focusing on the truly critical breed features – those of construction, soundness, and proportions which manifest themselves as type – and tolerating the occasional otherwise outstanding specimen who has superficial failings is a much wiser methodology then deselecting puppies from consideration at birth because they manifest obvious - but ultimately unimportant – deviations from ideal.  It’s a concept I’ve always understood and yet have always had to defend.  It continues to glimmer as a key foundational gemstone that only a very few ever truly grasp.


Copyright © Pluperfect Kennels & Cattery - 2008