It is all about
Tradition, Unity and Solidarity

PARSING THE STANDARD

(PARSE: To Pick Apart, Reaching for Supporting Elements for revolutionary arguments)
Lisa Warren

There is a contingent of people in the dachshund community who maintain that the breed standard supports the double-dapple and piebald patterns as part of the ideal. They base their arguments on two passages in the standard.

The first phrase they quote is "…..base color is immaterial,….." The standard states that because base color is, indeed, immaterial. But white is not, has never been, and can NOT be a base color in the breed. The fact is that the only genetically possible base colors in the dachshund are the ones listed in the standard: red, cream, and the colors that appear with either black or cream markings. Again: white appears on the dachshund only when an actual base color has been effected by one of the genetic factors that creates white markings on that base color. Therefore, that phrase in the standard simply does not mean that dogs with white markings are acceptable, and the original writers of that part of the standard seemed to be well aware of what the base colors actually were since they went on to list them and did not include white. Furthermore, the writers of the 1992 standard were closely following AKC's 1987 "Guidelines for Writing Breed Standards." That document outlines a desired format and contains this passage: "In breeds where multiple colors or color combinations are acceptable, but not all colors are permitted, the complete list of all acceptable colors and color combinations must be included in the standard. In such cases, any colors or color combinations not mentioned are unacceptable, and judges are to pass judgment on this basis."

Another part of the standard that fans of white-marked dachshunds evoke is the final paragraph: "The foregoing description is that of the ideal Dachshund. Any deviation from the above described dog must be penalized to the extent of the deviation keeping in mind the importance of the contribution of the various features toward the basic original purpose of the breed." They argue that this final paragraph stresses that original purpose is most important, that faults should be considered by the effect they have on function, and that color doesn't affect the dog's purpose.

First - the statement: "Any deviation from the above described dog must be penalized to the extent of the deviation...". Clearly, white markings on the body of a dachshund is a severe deviation from the "above described dog." Next - The color does affect the dog's purpose, as the "original purpose of the breed" was to work in the forests, hunting and dispatching vermin. (The breed's name in German means "badger dog.") Camouflage suits that purpose, but white markings that shout "Here I am!" do not. In the formative years of the breed, the dachshund was developed away from the piebald pattern displayed by his early cousins that evolved into other scenting hounds. Just as it is to the Neapolitan Mastiff that is restricted to very little white so that he can surprise an intruder, the hard-to-see-in-the-dark factor is an asset to a dachshund hunting in the forest or down a hole doing mortal battle with a ferocious enemy.

Because "no white" has been the norm for the breed for so many years, it really is an issue of breed type right along with its place in the "original purpose/function" toolbox . I'm sure a Gordon setter with white markings, markings neither described nor explicitly excluded in that breed's standard, could do his job quite well, but he would be viewed as seriously lacking in breed type. Another example: if a dachshund came into the breed ring sporting the coat of a Pomeranian, would anyone be okay with a judge rewarding that dog if he had the best conformation under the jacket? That coat is certainly not described in the dachshund standard, but it isn't specified as a fault, either, and we can bet the advocates of that coat would use the last paragraph of the standard to justify their push to make it acceptable.

If either of those examples were to actually appear in a show ring today, people would be much more repelled than they now are by the white-marked dachshund, but for only one reason: they have not become accustomed to seeing either of them. Nor should they, just as the white-marked dachshund should never have become a usual sight at dog shows. Those dogs have been at shows in the United States for over two decades, and even with that extended period of time to get used to seeing the patterns, the dedicated fanciers who make up DCA, people with the breed's traditions at heart, chose to reject them by a sizable majority when the latest revision was approved in 2006.

Breed standards are, in part, designed to protect and preserve breeds, and one would hope that they wouldn't be parsed to find justification for revolutionary changes to the look of breeds that have been around for centuries. Writers of breed standards can't possibly anticipate every deviation from tradition that someone is going to try to legitimize by picking a few words they hope will make the case for it, and in this case, that "something" is quite far from the both the original function and the tradition of the breed, as well as the intention of the standard.

A breed standard is meant to be the basis for understanding what is desirable and of essence in a breed, rather than a document to be scoured for flaws or omissions that lend to circumventing its intentions. Room for interpretation exists in many breed standards, often because meanings of words have changed over time and the original intention of the writers is not clear. But with the AKC dachshund standard we have the luxury of knowing exactly what the writers meant since they followed guidelines that we still have in hand, and we also know that the patterns in question were definitively rejected by the membership of the parent club when they voted on the standard.

Surely there is no one who holds judges in error for rewarding those patterns before the current revision was approved by AKC, and before the illustrated standard was corrected to remove the patterns that display white. But that was then, and things have changed. In this case, the change returns us to the classic look of the dachshund, a look that was in jeopardy for a couple of decades in the U.S. (But never in England or Australia, nor in the country of origin or any other FCI country, where excess white is an "eliminating fault.") The dachshund's traditional no-white look has been reestablished here by the current standard; all the parent club asks is that judges, by not rewarding those patterns, acknowledge both the intention of the standard and the breed's long history of not condoning white markings.

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