Capturing that elusive target in the Dogue de Bordeaux
Jan and Sonja Dijkstra
For those who do not know us, we started in the Dogue de Bordeaux in 1988 with our first dog, Meredique van Alcarinque. Since that time, we have bred one or two litters a year, with some nice show results.
In all those years, we have seen lots of breeders come and go. We have also had the privilege of seeing many dogs at many shows, which makes breeding a bit easier, as you don’t just see a name on a pedigree – you also have a memory of the actual dog or bitch in the flesh.
All the dogs that carry our kennel name started with this one Dogue de Bordeaux from the Alcarinque bloodline. The type and soundness she had is the type we want to hold on to.
Multi-Champion Moby de Legeane, two-time Best of Breed winner at the French nationals, in what the author considers perfect show condition. Consider his very correct balance, proportions and type.
This brings us to one of the most important parts of the Dogue de Bordeaux: type and soundness. Always remember that the Dogue de Bordeaux needs to be an athlete that is built low to the ground – that is one of his most important characteristics. Many times you will see dogs that are way too big, and don’t look like athletes. Unless, of course, you consider sumo wrestlers to be athletes, but that is not the kind of athlete that we mean!
We want to see a dog who is able to work, to jump and to be a dog, and still be low to the ground.
The danger of dogs that are too high on leg is that we will miss the deep body.
Multi-Champion Moby de Legeane in what many judges would consider show condition, although the authors contend that he needs to shed a few pounds here.
We have seen that in the past in Holland with offspring of an influential and typey stud dog from the 1990s. Many of his offspring were too tall, with not enough body. A look at his pedigree gives some idea as to why: His mother was low to the ground and had a great body, but his father was tall with too much air under him. The head type was also dissimilar, with the dam having great head type and the sire with a longer head with less stop. Because of the height difference between the parents, it was difficult to cross with him: Many times his daughters got the ideal type and proportions of their granddam, while the sons oftentimes grew too tall with less body type, reflecting their grandfather.
This is only one example of what we see many times in breeding: the challenge of matching an outcross with the right partner to find a combination that produces consistent type.
Perhaps you think my recommended solution to this problem will be linebreeding, but I only wish it were so simple. You have to look back at the pedigree, which has many different branches. Only if you have dogs that are close to perfection in looks and health for a number of generations can you start to think about tightening up your pedigree.
Still, as more and more great-looking Dogues de Bordeaux are being produced in many countries, it is easier to find the right male for your female.
Aemme de Legeane at 10 months old, demonstrating near-ideal head type for his age. If there is one criticism, it would be that the upper lip needs to show an inverted "V" instead of a "U," although that can come with age.
In comparison to the 1980s, when we started in the breed, today we see more dogs that are heavy in bone and body, with better head type. But we need to be careful that we don’t get too much type: The dog needs to be a low-to-the ground-built athlete, and in the race to get the best dog we maybe forget that, and think the more the better.
Sometimes you will see dogs of an almost perfect type, but they will also have a weak body and almost always too much weight.
If you look back at the many champions in France, you will to see that not many champion males weigh more than 65 kilos (143 pounds). (And by champion males I mean mature adults, not puppies that finish at 12 month olds, which we see many times.) People with overweight dogs don’t see that they are destroying their dog instead of helping him: How can a dog who doesn’t have the correct muscling and body strength hold on to a weight like that? How can he stand foursquare, with his feet in perfect alignment under his body?
This is one thing fanciers have to watch out for: Don’t get too much weight on the dog.
While the quality of the Dogue de Bordeaux is better today than it has been in the past, we are a long way from having the perfect dog. If you attend the French national, which draws about 300 Dogues de Bordeaux from around the world, you will still see many different types. I have been attending this show for more than 20 years, and I am surprised that there is still so much difference in type, which can only mean that we have to be more strict in our interpretation of the standard in terms of defining correct type.
As breeders, we need to see the type of the complete dog first. First, focus on the head and body type and movement. When we have that close to perfect, then we can start to look at the details, like teeth and the white on the dog.
Chiene Douceur Legeane Metzima with her daughter, Molly de Legeane. An example of how line breeding can cement good head type, with both bitches being great examples of the perfect inverted wide "V" of the upper lip. "If I have to find one fault in the head type, I would say the ears are too big, because the standard tells us it must not reach beyond the eye," the authors note.
Of course, dentition and markings are important, but at this point in the breed’s development they are emphasized more than they should be. Under some judges, dogs with almost perfect type are placed at the back of the line because their teeth are not in one straight line, and dogs of lesser type are placed higher because their dentition is perfect. In my opinion, this will kill our breed.
We also saw this kind of narrow-minded thinking at the World Show some years ago when a judge was thinking that if the white on the chest extended too high the dog needed to be sent out of the ring. Great-looking dogs were dismissed for a cosmetic trait that doesn’t make any impact on the function or quality of the dog. We need to make sure we do not lose type because of misplaced emphasis like this.
Of course, all the small details together make the dog complete. But first you need to see the construction – from that you build, and after that you start looking for details.
I think this is also the roadmap a judge has to follow. First see the complete dog: the body, the head and the movement. Then start to look for faults. At this moment in the breed, we are not in the situation where it is easy to find two almost perfect dogs with similar type where the judge’s tie breaker will be based on one missing tooth or a little too much white.
Motherly love and one lucky shot.
The best advice for anyone interested in breeding or exhibiting the Dogue de Bordeaux is look into the standard, as well as the “Saga” book by Prof. Raymond Triquet (published by Bas Bosch Press). There you will find all you want to know about how a Dogue de Bordeaux needs to look. Every judge should be made to read this book and learn from it, so judging mistakes that we see made at so many shows today will soon belong to the past.
If you are a judge and you haven’t read Prof. Triquet’s book, then it is perhaps better that you not judge the Bordeaux dog. And if you are a breeder and you haven’t read this book, then for sure you miss a guideline whose importance for our breed is impossible to overstate.
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Thu, 04/05/2018 - 8:32am