All change to accommodate faults by Eileen Geeson

Created: 07/05/2014

Reknowned Author Eileen Geeson
Points to Ponder published in Dog World
Author of the Complete Standard Poodle

WELL, OR should I say 'good grief' rather than the alternative in an effort to remain polite.
I don't go on Facebook where apparently there is much talk on the Poodle tail,
but nevertheless my emails have blossomed since Crufts regarding the comments made by the Poodle judge
in his show report. 'Aren't you going to say something?' you ask. Your wish is my command. 

  Can I ask a question first? Do you find it a bit scary that any judge,
probably classified as one at the top, however nice, will suggest the breed Standard may need to be changed
to suit a fault that has crept in owing to being ignored and even encouraged by - judges? 

  We talk of course about the tail situation, but it could be anything.
A bad mouth, undershot or overshot, ignored, an upright shoulder, waving fronts, which incidentally
we did go through at one point but we see a lot less of now in my breed. Not to be confused
with over exuberance in the young. Because tail docking is now banned this is blamed
for the current high percentage of bad tail carriages, is this a correct assumption? 

  The judge in question says in his critique, 'I would ask that the Poodle Council
give serious consideration to having the Standard altered as since the docking ban
was enforced the proliferation of decidedly gay tails has been monumental.' 

  I was watching Murder She Wrote one night and there was a lovely Standard Poodle
with a perfect tail set and carriage. So even the Americans can get it right, although it is supposedly from this quarter
that the tails have failed, been ignored and have changed in conception as to what is right or attractive according to the breed Standard.
The problem some judges are faced with is the 'set on rather high'.
This means that those with a very high set hold their tails up all the time, even when free standing, or not showing particularly well
whereas the handler always used to have to hold them up for the required finish.
A more natural or perfect carriage would have the tail when free to its own device
going out and away from the body, even if it has a banana curl towards the end. 

  The sensation for ultrafine may have a relevance on the angular direction of tails.
Thick at the base tails don't generally come with narrow dogs. There are however, some naturally correct tails on show dogs',
maybe some size Poodles are better than others. Some Poodles have a correct tail carriage.
With today's judging attitude these good positioned tails are almost classed as incorrect
with some judges accusing the dog of being less 'showy' because its tail is going away from its body and not carried gaily over the back.

Change of policy

Personally I think the problem is that nobody really cares.
Or not enough have cared. Would people care more if the front were to be recommended for a change of policy
because there were so many bad ones as it to be of such common occurrence it may be classed as correct?
A breed can be changed if nobody speaks out for it. That does not mean that it won't take time to improve,
and that inferior dogs should be put up because they have the correct tail.
The whole picture needs to be considered, and the tail is part of that picture.

  Perhaps my problem is that I care what happens to my breed long term.
Although health is prioritized we do have to point out problems in construction and do our best to breed them out
or at least certainly improve on what we have. It is achievable. We have the means.
It just takes a bit of thought - and time. Quite honestly I cannot imagine any breed specialist advocating
a change in the breed Standard to accommodate a fault. No matter the breed.

  Indeed, in her show report of Miniature Poodles for Crufts, breed specialist Sharon Pine-Haynes says,
"Tails are a particular bugbear of mine. I cannot easily forgive a gay tail which is sitting tightly on a dogs back,"
Sharon speaks of a worry in front assemblies being wrong on some of the exhibits,
"lacking in forechest, they were narrow and pinched in at the elbows, of course this also affected movement giving no front extension."
This is a sensible warning to breeders to look at this problem and try to improve the situation.
No mention of changing the breed Standard to make life easy by ignoring the problem, or accepting it.
I endorse Sharon's statement of the tail sitting tightly on a dog's back.

  The tails on the Poodle will be curled for the greater part
although the breed Standard states the tail should be 'thick at the root, set on rather high, carried away from the body and as straight as possible'.
Never curled or carried over the back is the part judges have ignored for many years.
In fact we have been encouraged to breed for incorrect tails as the 'set on rather high' has taken priority over 'carried away from the body'.
The few dogs that now carry there tails correctly - away from the body - are generally penalized or disadvantaged for not being 'happy' enough.

  Taking the statements - 'set on rather high', and 'carried away from the body', they don't actually match.
It's an anatomy contradiction. So in this respect I would heartily agree there has to be a compromise.
However, it would be a failing on all sides if we were to see a tail flat on the back,
or carried as seen on say the Lhasa Apso, Tibetan Terrier or the Akita as normal for all breeds.
In the Poodle gay is bad enough, the squirrel tail is far worse. Curved in banana shape is probably as good as we are going to get for the majority,
but bent in half at the middle with the top half being quite floppy in puppies and ending up usually bending towards the head as the dog grows seems prevalent. 

Right guidance

Poodle tails can be improved with encouragement and the right guidance and wording from judges
and those with influence in the breed. While this process evolves patience is required so that we do not disregard
otherwise lovely specimens of the breed because of a fault with the tail. The severity of the fault
must be considered and penalized in proportion to other faults and not disregarded or ignored.
It is inconceivable that the breed Standard be changed to suit the fault. The tail flat on the back is not tolerable. 

  In a recent report the chairperson of the Poodle Council, Diane Smith wrote in her critique,
"The tailset and carriage of some does not conform to the Standard
however I do not think the answer is to change the Breed Standard, but it is a problem which needs monitoring and investigation,"
Diane goes on to say that it did influence some close decisions on the day. 
Let's hope we can all work together to improve the situation and protect our breed from unnecessary change.