breeding, a fault is a characteristic whose state or quality
falls outside of the acceptable range for the attribute being judged.
This article discusses faults in
conformation point for a list of some of the more common areas in
which faults can occur.)
There are many faults, which may be said to be major or minor, or may be
considered so serious as to merit disqualification. Unfortunately, these
delineations differ among the various breed clubs.
Whose fault is it? Interpretation of the standards
There are no hard-and-fast rules when it come to faults; these are decided by
individual breed clubs and written into
breed standards, so what constitutes a fault may differ from breed to breed.
Some breed standards are punctilious in the extreme, spelling out exactly what
constitutes a fault in every part of the animal, and the degree to which each
fault must be penalized. Some are more loosely written, leaving more open to
interpretation by the judge, or not describing a conformation point at all,
which leaves the matter up to the individual judge’s taste. A particularly
troubling instance is one where the breed standard states that the fault is to
be penalized to the degree of the severity of the fault; conformation points
which are open to human interpretation cause much ill-will at
For example, most breed standards list a ‘scissor bite’ as the correct one.
Dogs with a level bite, an under-bite or an overbite are said to have a ‘fault’.
Under many breed standards, the judge must decide the degree of severity of the
faulty bite, and therefore how much the dog must be marked down in relation to
other dogs. However, some breed clubs find a level bite acceptable; some find it
equally acceptable with the scissor bite. The all-breed judge, therefore, would
have to know that this dog from this particular breed must not be marked below
that dog from that other breed solely on the basis of this dog’s level bite, as
the level bite is not a fault in this breed.
Another example is
coat colour. A given colour may be acceptable, it may be preferred, it may
be the only acceptable colour, it may be a fault, or it may be a
disqualification. Sometimes these colours change over time, often after much
in-fighting and bitterness. For many years, the only acceptable coat pattern in
was white with black spots, very recently liver spots have been accepted as a
variant, but black still appears to be the preference of most. A black
German Shepherd Dog is penalized; a white GSD is disqualified. Many GSD
fanciers like the white colour and continue to breed for the white coat; some
lobby for its acceptance into the breed standard, others argue for the creation
of a new breed.
The breed standards for
dogs usually specify that scars, broken teeth or other damage that evidence
injuries sustained during a working career (often termed ‘honourable scars and
injuries') are not to be penalized. This sometimes holds true for
whose breed comes from working lines; the
Australian Cattle Dog is an example of this as are some
where the breed standards specifically state that scars are not to be penalized
on the conformation bench.
Conformation points and faults are very divisive in the dog-breeding
community and are hotly debated. Fanciers note that such qualities have the
capacity to change the breed, and sometimes even minute details are argued over
to a point that would astound the average pet owner.
Often it is the breeders of working dogs who are the most vehement, pointing
out that changes in fashion and fancy have led to what they see as a loss in
working dog qualities of many breed that have show lines.
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