Saint Bernard Breed Magazine - Showsight

st. bernard Q&A with victOr dingus, betty-Anne stenmArk And stAn Zielinski

the room and they landed helter skelter in the gums. A handsome proper head today still has a scissors bite with big, white, even teeth—it seems to go hand in hand. My late husband, Roy, used to describe the Saint as a tall, athletic mountain rescue dog and that was a good general appearance description. When you watch a good Saint gait around the ring you should see an athletic dog that can pick his head up and hold it in a natural position with reach in front and drive behind, the result of moderate and balanced angulation fore and aft. SZ: I have three areas of deep concern. 1) Many purebred dog enthusiasts (not just Saint Bernard fanciers) seek dogs with over angulated rear assemblies, and they are usually quite forgiving of the short legs that must accom- pany such construction. This breed’s standard is quite clear on defining an over angulated rear as a fault. 2) Wet, sloppy construction and the accompanied faux substance is much admired by some of the St. Bernard fancy. Let it be noted that this sort of conformation would be nothing but a serious hindrance to any dog trying to perform its historic job. In the same vein, we should note that obscenely fat legs are seldom powerful. 3) Exaggerations of any aspect of a Saint Bernard should be shunned for being a serious deviation from the ideal described in the breed’s standard. For example, heads so large that they become a burden and/or a whelping concern should not be admired. Also too-short muzzles should never be rewarded; especially when accompanied by crowded or miniaturized teeth. I advocate the position that if it is an exaggeration, it is a fault! 4. Do you think the dogs you see in this breed are better now than they were when you first started judging? Why or why not? VD: When I see a question like this I must remind myself about our legendary purposes of the Saint Bernard, for both Alpine rescue and farm work. So I reflect upon these functions as I consider the “compliance or fit.” I do believe our breed is better now in 2016 than in 1987. I believe our general descriptions are more often achieved. I believe we have achieved more head type, substance and conformation of the fronts and rears for balance, thus enabling better movement. Today I see more type while still able to function for humankind! BS: When I began in the breed the Saint was in the Top 10 in popularity and there were more than 350 dogs shown at the National Specialty. There were many good dogs shown. The breed has been in trouble for several decades, but in the last five years or so there’s been resur- gence—the breed is on an upswing and there are some dogs today that could compete with the best of yester- year. I am happy to see this. SZ: Most emphatically I would state that the good Saint Bernards of today are much better than the best dogs of the late sixties and early seventies. When we first became involved with Saint Bernards you had to choose between the three types of Saint Bernards: sound dogs, dogs with nearly correct heads or dogs with very little in the way of redeeming virtues or

detrimental faults. All three types could find judges to give them points, so perusing show records didn’t help you make decisions. What turned things around in the early seventies was the breed’s explosive rise in popularity. In the show rings, the classes became so large that it took a better and better dog to win. Instead of beating four or five dogs to get a major you had to beat twelve to fifteen. This more intense competition was very good for the breed. The fancy no longer had to choose between unsound dogs and dogs that failed to have proper breed type. It became possible to find sound enough dogs with adequate breed type. Thus allowing the gene pool to become less dependent on lucky guesses and more susceptible to intelligent breeding practices. That was the good aspect of the breed becoming too popular; however, there were many unpleasant things that also went along with this sudden rise in popularity. I won’t go into that topic here, but I will always oppose anything that tends to increase the demand for Saint Bernards. I am most grateful that the breed’s popularity has returned to normal. 5. What do you think new judges misunderstand about the breed? VD: I am concerned about new judges seeking heads and overlooking faults (sometimes serious) in their evalua- tion. Yes, head type must be distinctive, but the animal must be able to function. Distinctive head type does not overrule short legs and deep bodies, as seen from time to time in the ring. This must not be rewarded. BS: Learning a breed that hasn’t run around your house is not easy and it’s the nuances one learns from others, that aren’t in the breed Standard that are very helpful. Understanding that the original Saint was a smooth, and it was a cross to the Newfoundland in the late 1800s that didn’t help breed type. Covet the tall, athletic, moderate smooth dog. SZ: What is a “new” judge? Is it someone already approved for three groups, and has just been approved to judge the entire Working Group? Perhaps the term “new judge” is reserved for someone who is just starting out and doing her/his first assignment. Even if I knew the definition of “new judge” I would not be able to answer this question. The population of dog show judges is made up from a rather large and diverse bunch of people. This collection of people contains a broad range of dog savvy, and the ones full of misunderstandings tend to come from those ranking low on the dog savvy scale. I tend to look for judges that have an eye for dogs rather than worry about how long they have been exposed to the rigors of making mistakes in the ring.

6. Our standard contains no sections on movement nor temperament. Does this mean they are not important?

VD: I am addressing these two topics in reverse order. In the general section of the standard, the nature of our beloved Saint is addressed. Saint Bernards are working

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