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What is a breed standard? The AKC describes what a dog breed should look like and what judges look for in a dog show

Dr. Jerry Klein, American Kennel Club on

Published in Cats & Dogs News

While most dog owners will agree that their dogs are perfect, in the world of purebred dogs, the perfect example of a breed of dog is objectively described in a breed’s “standard.”

Dog breeds were developed over many generations by selecting dogs that had particular attributes, whether physical, behavioral or instinctual, to best perform various tasks that helped humans in life.

What is a breed standard? A breed standard is a written blueprint of how an idealized example of that particular breed of dog should look, act and move based on the function or purpose for which that breed was originally established. This could be guarding, sledding, hunting or just being a wonderful companion. In other words, a breed standard is a written standard of perfection of that breed. In dog parlance, breed “type.”

Who decides a breed standard? Each AKC recognized dog breed’s standard is written and approved by the members of that breed’s own national breed club, or “Parent Club”. All 200 of them. Though it is often thought that the American Kennel Club writes the standards, this is incorrect. Any changes or amendments to a breed standard can only come about if decided by the members of that breed’s parent club.

Breed standards and conformation. In conformation dog shows, dog show judges use the breed standard in comparing dogs presented to them in a show ring. The dogs are not compared to each other, but to the idealized written example of that breed as described in that breed’s standard. The “conformation” part of the show refers to conforming to the standard. This is the only reason a mixed breed dog cannot compete in a conformation event, because there is no standard for which it can be compared. Perfection of any dog is in the eyes of its owner and family, but, in the world of purebred dogs, it’s also in the standard.


Breed standards and responsible breeders. Responsible breeders utilize a breed’s standard when evaluating and selecting pairs to be used for breeding stock, and then use the standard when evaluating the fruits of their efforts, the puppies of the litter. The standard is perfection and breeders and judges realize that no dog will be 100% perfect, although a few get very close. The goal of a responsible breeder is to breed the closest example to the standard of perfection in a living, breathing healthy dog to represent the breed in the present and for generations to come.

Predictability and breed standards. Predictability is the one quality that sets apart purebred dogs, generation after generation. Predictability of physical appearance, predictability of their temperament and predictability of their behavior. Predictability is based in a large part to that breed’s standard.

It is those predicable characteristics that many people admire when selecting a dog best suited for their life. Lifestyles vary, and though dogs are admirable in doing what they can to fit into their human’s life, some types of dogs are just “hard-wired” to be larger or more energetic, or more protective. Some breeds of dogs make great watchdogs and guard dogs while other types excel in hunting and retrieving. A “good match” is the term used at the AKC when trying to match the best type of dog for an individual or family to make that match a life-time commitment for the dog.

For more tips on responsible dog ownership, visit the AKC at

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