by Cheryl Healy
Published in the St. Fancier July-August 1995 Issue.
Published in Barry International, as well as other American and European Clubs.
Since 1971 I have seen a number of changes, in not only the St. Bernards,
but the entire subject. Maybe it's all gotten a little too fancy.
>From their heads to their toes have changed. Fanciers having problems
producing litters. Some have gone to artificial breedings. The life
span of the dog's is shorter. There are more Fancy Dog Foods than ever
before. More of our breed die from cases of torsion or bloat. More
cosmetic surgeries on eyes. This is one thing I never heard of years
ago. And recently I heard about steriods being used on show dogs.
Excuse me, I should explain, I'm from the old school, I learned the old
ways. If mine can't natural breed, they'll simply never reproduce.
And it is of my opinion, the knowledge of the majority of real breeders
back then was so much more than that of the Fanciers today, and especially
when it comes to knowing how to correctly breed St. Bernards. The dogs
seen today as proof of that. The multitude of faults seen today.
Now, if you don't believe your dog has any faults, due to the fact, that
it's obtained an American Championship, I need to continue. Yes, there
is also a big attitude problem, with people not being able to admit
their own dog's faults. Therefore, improvement is impossible.
Why are you producing St. Bernards? To better this breed, or to produce 10
more Champions next year? Years ago we believed in quality, or at
least I thought we did. I do remember people being able to admit when
they saw a better dog.
Yes, there were the popularity contest winners, even back, then and of course the
underdogs. But, most of us could recognize even when the underdog's
had produced a good one. Of course who ever had won the popularity
contest that year, had also produced some bad ones. And we could all
recognize that as well.
I've heard a lot of talk about how the standard does not explain things,
and is hard to understand. I personally have always found it to say
what it means and mean what it says. You can not add to, or substract
from, or stretch any part of that standard.
When it says "PROPORTIONATELY TALL" that means exactly that, it does not mean 'PROPORTIONATELY SHORT', it does not mean just "tall".
When it says "POWERFUL HEAD" it does not mean, a tiny skull with a muzzle twice the size of the skull. When it says "MOST INTELLIGENT EXPRESSION".
I love this one!! Now, how in this world anyone, even(a complete novice) could say a dog of any breed, much less a St. Bernard, could possibly have
"INTELLIGENT EXPRESSION" if you have to pull up the skin, on the front skull, just to find the eyeballs. Which on some Saints today, are hard as heck to find. If you have a Saint with this problem, all the surgeries in the world won't help the next generation. If you have a Saint like this, it has no expression, what so ever, much less "INTELLIGENT EXPRESSION" as the standard calls for. All dog's need eyes, to be sound and healthy. This is definantly not something you should continue to ignore. DOn't make it a champion, someone might want to breed to it, and have a bunch of pup's with eyes, that can't be seen.
When it says "MASSIVE SKULL IS WIDE< AND VERY STRONGLY DEVELOPED HIGH CHEEK BONES", that does not mean a narrow skull looking over top of the dog. It means a massive (large, wide skull). Now what's happened in 20 years with the strongly developd high cheek bones? Does anyone today understand cheek bones?HA!
When it says "A FURROW RUNS OVER THE WHOLE SKULL" and gradually disappearing toward the base of the occiput. That means a dog with a very narrow head with an occiput stuck up, and noticeable, cannot possibly have a furrow over the whole skull, or the dog's head would be completely caved in on the top. That's why the skull must be wide, to be correct and have this furrow.
When it says "TOO STRONGLY DEVELOPED WRINKLES ARE NOT DESIRED". That's what it means. Substance is one thing, the WRINKLE FACTOR, is another. In recent year's I've seen wrinkles strongly developed not only on the heads of some Saints, but all over the body.
When it says "THE BRIDGE OF THE MUZZLE IS NOT ARCHED". It says "STRAIGHT AND IN SOME DOG'S SLIGHTLY BROKEN" If your dog has an arched muzzle, that's incorrect. If your dog has a straight muzzle with a slight break just pass the top of the nose, that is correct.
When it says "THE FLEWS OF THE UPPER JAW ARE STRONGLY DEVELOPED",Not sharply cut, but turning in a beautiful curve into the lower jaw and slightly over hanging. It does not mean the top jaw is weak or thin, the cut of lip is sharply cut forming a point, it says a beautiful curve, into the lower edge. When it says slighty over-hanging, that doesn't mean a dog with pendant lip that hangs down past the dew lap on the dog's neck. Too much size and depth to the muzzle compared to the head itself, would ruin the appearance, not to mention it's incorrect. Muzzles are inportant so pay attention. If the muzzles are getting larger than the heads, that's got to be considered (out of proportion) and grossly (OVER DONE).
When is say's "EITHER A SCISSOR OR EVEN BITE BEING PREFERABLE'. tHE "OVERBITE BEING A FAULT'.That's what it means! How many times have you heard at ringside, "We got a Tooth Fairy today" I love to hear that because, that lets me know at least that judge has read our standard. STOP discounting what our standard say's. Or start a new breed, make up your own standard to fit your new breed.
When it says "THE NOSE IS BROAD WITH WIDE OPEN NOSTRILS< AND LIKE THE LIPS ALWAYS BLACK" Always, certainly doesn't mean once in a while you see a Saint with black lip or pigmentation. And this does not mean a Saint's nose is to be set up on top of the muzzle, nostrils close together. These Saints are not suppose to look like Bulldog's. And remember the nose and lips are suppose to ALWAYS be black. Not brown or liver colored, not pink. Pigmentation is a very important thing to the appearance of the head. Stop discounting this improtant factor.
When it says the EYES ARE OF MEDIUM SIZE DARK BROWN WITH INTELLIGENT EXPRESSION, SET MODERATELY DEEP> That does not mean yellow eyes, blue eyes, it does not mean set deeply, so you have to go fishing to find them.
When it says "SHOULDERS SLOPING AND BROAD, VERY MUSCULAR AND POWERFUL". It does not mean straight shoulders that are impossible for much muscle developemnt.
When it says "CHEST VERY WELL ARCHED, MODERATELY DEEP, NOT REACHING BELOW THE ELBOWS". It does not mean it's okay to have the chest, barrel shaped and way below the elbows. Or no chest what so ever, and a dropped brisket.
When it says "THE BACK IS TO BE VERY BROAD, PERFECTLY STRAIGHT AND GENTLY SLOPING TO THE RUMP". It does not mean narrow, if you look over top of the dog, or from a profile the topline can have 2 breaks in it, 1 at the withers and 1 about 4-5 inches from the withers. It does not say the back is to have a large hump, like a camel's back, or higher in the rear than the front with an abrupt stop at the rump. In otherwords our standard does not say it's okay to have seriously deformed back bones. Wake up St. Fanciers, look at the dog's, read the standard, it says perfectly straight. Not sloping, not sway back, not roached.
Considered as faults: Are ALL deviations from the standard, as for instance a sway back, and a disproportionatly long back, hocks too much bent, straight hindquarters, upward growing hair in spaces between the toes, out at the elbows, cowhocks and weak pasterns.
This standard says any one of these are considered faults, so it's time we all started adding up the faults of our dog's, before we choose to show them.
When it says "FORLEGS STRAIGHT, STRONG". That does not mean weak pasterns where the dog is walking back on the front forlegs. It does not mean the front legs are as crooked as a snake with the front feet turning opposite directions.
When it says "HIND LEGS, HOCKS OF MODERATION" It does not mean no angulation of the stifle, it does not mean a twisted stifle, it does not mean the stifle is as angulated as a good German Sheppard.
I'm going to skip over what the standard says about the coat. It especially doesn't seem to matter, to most people now a days, with all the grooming, clipping, sculpting that goes on and then you've got the hair spray. It's hard to believe people go to that much trouble to cover up the faults of their dog's.
When it say's "COLOR WHITE WITH RED,or red with white. Brindle patches with white markings. The color red and brown-yellow are of equal vallue.
Necessary markings are white chest, and tip of tail, noseband, collar or spot on the nape, the latter and blaze are very desirable. Never of one color without white. Color may be a personal preference, we all have our own favorite color, but we must go by our standard too. I saw a dog at a show recently that looked like a Merle Collie in color. I don't think our standard meant splotched patches. Nor did the standard say Black and white, now to have brindle you must have black in the coat, to create what is called brindle. Our standard did not say yellow-gray or washed out color, that's recessive and with no pigmentation (all pink lips, etc.)
When it says "HEIGHT AT THE SHOULDERS OF THE DOG SHOULD BE 271/2 INCHES MINIMUM, OF THE BITCH 25 INCHES MINIMUM. Females are of finer and more delicate build". More and more every day it is getting harder to distinquish who's a male and who's a female. I've seen judges get confused, but they shouldn't feel bad, when the dog's themselves get confused. When a male is shorter than a female, it's really pitiful. It should be called a Dwarf. Just read any good book on Breeding dog's.
Our standard is correct, and very easy to understand, don't complicate it by stretching it, or twisting what it means to fit your dog, or dog's you've produced. Don't add to, or substract from the standard. Not only will you continue to fool yourself into thinking you know this breed, you will continue to abuse the Great St. Bernard Dog, by making excuses for faults. Face the facts, face the standard, face your dog's faults. Then you can start breeding some better dog's. Try to remember when you over dress TOO FANCY, you are simply over dressed. When you take everything to the extremes, you've over done it. And Yes, it's just as far from correct, as if you'd under dressed for the occasion. Our standard does say what it means and it means what it says. WHY CHANGE IT? You'll never have one as good.
Don't spread your ignorance to new people in this breed, just because your attitude toward accepting the facts continue to be ( you are so much more knowledgeable than anyone else). Your are not knowledgeable in this breed if you do not have a good understanding of the standard, and a good image of perfection as per that standard. And it really doesn't matter how many champions you own, have produced, or how many shows you've judged, etc.
Do you own a Great St. Bernard today? Do you own great breeding stock, that's capable of reproducing some Great St. Bernards? Do you know and understand the breed standard? Do you know what is correct head and over al Type is as per our breed standard?
If you don't have or know these things, QUIT PRETENDING, and get into another breed, you've already hurt this breed more than the backyard breeders or puppy mills, you keep griping about, because you've promoted incorrect type.
I've set back, like most people and watched the popularity contest winners, who in some cases actually know very little about this wonderful breed. I personally never tried or cared to win any kind of popularity contest. MY only goal ever was to produce a better St. Bernard, and with each generation,improving and purifying the bloodlines, I was working with at that time. I've devoted my entire adult life to the study and improvement of this wonderful breed, I chose to enhance. I have owned most any bloodline you could think of, maintaining a large number of these dog's for a lot of years. And I've yet to see a perfect St. Bernard, a perfect Bloodline, and certainly I've never known a perfect St. Bernard Breeder.
I have noticed and heard many new comers today say, the arrogance of some of the members, of this club, and some breeders is umbelieveable. Maybe it's popular to be arrogant, or maybe those who are so arrogant are really just covering up their lack of knowledge of this breed. This may be the reason there is such a large number of the Over Night Authorities today. And to those O.N.A.'s you may think you know it all, but let me assure you, I can give you some statistics, you'd find shocking, the number of years, hours, and days of hard work, dollars, number of dogs, puppies,bloodlines, dog shows, champions, and dog people, etc. before you could really call yourself a DEDICATED BREEDER> Experience is the best teacher, and experience you can not obtain overnight. Real Knowledge comes from experience, so where are you at now in your breeding program? And if you really love ( not just your own dog or dogs) but this breed, get prepared to invest some time, money, and endless hours of hard work.
Now are you a Fancier and Show Exhibitor, or are you a REAL BREEDER? I have written this article in the hopes of some real changes, for not only the attitudes, but also for the Betterment of the Great St. Bernard Dog. I'm a concerned Dedicated St. Bernard Breeder of 24 yrs. and a member of this club.
There are of course a few Dedicated Breeders who are trying to improve this breed. And do realize what their dog's or bloodlines have as short-comings. But it is silly and not correct to discount faults, or breed every female in the U.S. to only 3 or 4 stud dog's. Everyone should study the pedigrees and if you don't know how, find someone that does know how to evaluate the pedigree.
P.O. Box 322
Hermitage, Tn. 37076