The SM Breed – F.C.I. In-depth Look

AN IN-DEPTH LOOK AT THE FCI STANDARD FOR THE SMALL MUNSTERLANDER by Per Porsild, Member of the SMCNA Breed Council INTRODUCTION As in all kinds of livestock the merit of dogs is assessed in two ways: by appearance and by performance. As for conformation, they are assessed almost entirely guided by a Breed Standard drawn up to indicate the kind of appearance that gives the best performance for that particular breed. The value of Breed Standards is the stability they give to breeds. They remain the same no matter what whims or fashions breeders at any time develop and try to popularize. Such is the value of this stability of the Standards that it is only after the most serious consideration by the breed club of the country of origin of the breed that they may be changed.

Despite the undoubted help and value of the Breed Standards, however, each dog must be seen as a whole, as judging dogs is about finding the best dog to further the breed in accordance with its standard. In seeking to find the best dog among a group of varied quality it is first necessary to separate in the mind the essential from the non-essential points. These are correct breed type, as laid down in the Breed Standard, correct conformation and balance from which stem sound and typical movement, adequate substance, and good temperament.

Below, I have tried to comment on the FCI Small Munsterlander (SM) Breed Standard with a special view to the points above, of which TYPE is by far the most important.

GENERAL APPEARANCE: This section of any standard is really a short précis of the breed. A desirable addition, to aid both conformation judges and breeders alike, would be: 'Structure of the ideal Small Munsterlander should indicate an anatomy that enables the dog to do its work, searching, retrieving and swimming, in an effortless, efficient way.'

IMPORTANT PROPORTIONS: Ratio of length to height is measured from point of forechest (prosternum) to pinbone (ischium), and from top of withers/shoulder blade to the ground. One should note that 'General Appearance' has 'harmonious build...showing balanced proportions...' which means that to balance the overall length of the dog, backs or loin areas must not be too long. On the other hand, a really square dog will not have the required reach and drive as his body will be too short to allow proper freedom of movement.

Balance is of prime importance in any breed - requiring correct proportions of head and neck to body; bone and substance to frame, and angulation of fore to hind quarters. Each part should flow smoothly into the next, with no one part showing any exaggeration. The SM is a moderate dog in shape, size and appearance.

Bone is important, but again, not too heavy so as to ensure the high degree of agility called for in this breed. General consensus seems to be that medium but strong bone is ideal for the SM. In this way, SMs which are really heavy in bone and overall coarse in structure are to be penalised in the show ring as are also those specimens which are fine-boned, with accompanying lightness of frame, thus lacking the desired substance.

TYPE: Is the sum of those points in a dog that make it look like its own breed and no other. Superficially, there is very little difference between the heads of an SM and that of a Longhaired German Pointer, but each has small points in which it differs from the other; these together form the breed's individual type, which should make it immediately recognizable as a member of its own breed and no other. However, it is quite fallacious to assert as has often been stated that SMs have only one type, that type described by its Standard. Every breed has a number of types all of which can be found to comply with the requirements of the rather broadly based Standard. Different types can be complementary to each other, and are often useful to correct faults and tendencies in other types.

TEMPERAMENT: It is a fact that temperament - good or bad - is frequently hereditary. It is up to breeders to pay attention to this fact just as much as to conformation. Obviously, unnatural shyness, distrust and aggression are undesirable, and should not be tolerated neither towards people nor other dogs. It is useless to produce a dog with the desired conformation unless it is accompanied by a pleasing temperament and the ability to associate safely with mankind. But keep in mind that the SM is like other dogs in matters of territory or sex.

HEAD: The Standard has: "The expression of the head is part of the type." Well, this sentence is a bit ambiguous and not so easy to explain or understand. Firstly, the facial traits are easy enough to describe. Thus, the head should be clean-cut with not too broad skull showing a rather flat dome: Occipital, stop, and eyebrows not very prominent, cheeks flat, lips fit fairly tightly with no heaviness in flews, ears highly set, and eyes amber to brown in colour, as a light or even yellow eye gives a hard expression which, obviously, is not typical. But why then ..."part of the TYPE"..? How do you recognize the correct expression as an overall result of the mix of these traits, when you take a look at the head from the front? Let me explain: Very close to type but not quite the same thing is breed character. This is a matter not only of breed physical points which form the type, but also of expression and demeanour. An SM that has that keen yet soft expression peculiar to the breed will immediately have presented itself as a true representative of the breed, whereas the lack of it will affect the overall type judgement negatively, irrespective of other positive qualities of the specimen in question. The best way to acquire an eye for this is by studying photos of excellent heads, both of dogs and bitches. Muzzle: Tapers ever so slightly (no square, deep setter muzzle!) from stop to nose. Nostrils: Should be large and well open - this allows the dog to breathe while carrying a large bird or when swimming.

NECK: Should be long enough to show some arch with no indication of throatiness. Incidentally, a long neck usually accompanies a well-inclined shoulder, because the cervical and dorsal bones are equally lengthy. The difficulty for many SM breeders is that while the neck must be reasonably long and the shoulder blade well inclined, in keeping with these elongated vertebrae, the dorsal bones, and even more particularly the lumbar bones need to be inordinately short, so that the body may be short. The difficulty is to get these two contradictory features present in the same dog.

BODY: Many SMs show a pronounced rise over the loin and a fairly steep croup, giving a low tail set which is incorrect. The topline should show a strong, short, slightly sloping back with well extended ribs, and muscular, not over-long loin. Conversely, a loin that is too short will hamper freedom of movement in the rear. The croup is long to afford good seat for the muscles connecting the haunch bone with the upper thigh. Some SMs have rather weedy bodies and a lot of tuck-up giving a whippet-like appearance which is atypical.

FOREQUARTERS: The whole front assembly should be muscular, but care must be taken that muscles do not become overly-developed inside the shoulder blade, a condition known as "loaded shoulders". This tends to push the elbows out of alignment, resulting in the dog being out at elbow and probably turning the front feet inwards as he moves. Fronts are often a problem area in SMs with many having shoulder blades which are short or too upright, or, even more commonly, a short, steep upper arm. This results in lack of forechest and the whole front assembly being too far forward on the dog, with consequent lack of adequate reach of the front legs. Also, the blade and the upper arm should be approximately the same length.

HINDQUARTERS: The SM is a versatile breed who will have to search wide, retrieve, and swim during work. Often he comes to sharp halts or making very quick turns. All this activity calls for strength and soundness throughout, but particularly in the rear, where impulsion begins. The SM should have strong, sound hind legs supported by powerful muscles, and a well-angulated pelvis. It is the muscles of this region which propel the greater part of the weight of the body. If front and rear angulation is roughly equal, the dog is in balance structurally. However, many SMs do not have particularly well-let-down hocks or lack angulation in the hock area. Also, a good turn of stifle is needed for the second thigh to transmit forward thrust. A strong, driving rear is essential, but it must be accompanied by matching good reach in front.

FEET: Good feet are very important - look for fairly round, tight feet with thick pads and strong nails. A dog with poor feet, thin pads or splayed toes cannot do his work properly.

COAT: Texture of coat is a far more important matter than colors and quantity. This includes the possession of the correct undercoat. Important to SMs working as they often do, in water, scrubby undergrowth and adverse weather conditions. Coats grow and fall out and grow out again, but texture and quality are there for life and if it is wrong it is never likely to be right (allowing for a soft texture in puppies). Far better a well made dog out of coat but with the correct texture than a poor dog smothered in soft - or hard - tresses that the SM Standard does not call for.

FAULTS: Severe faults will bar the specimen in question from being awarded top prizes in the show ring. Eliminating faults are so grave in nature that the specimen in question will not get into the prizes at all in the show ring and cannot be approved for breeding by the SMCNA. When all is said and done the basis of all good movement is dependent on an inclined shoulder which permits upright head carriage, without which the muscles advancing the fore limb cannot operate at full advantage. A dog properly balanced, is as light on the feet as a professional dancer. However, it must not be imagined that because a dog has good confirmation it must be a good mover, even when the neck, shoulders and limbs are all that might be desired. A great many dogs fulfil the requirements of the most exacting standard - until they are asked to move.