AKC Gazette Columns

AKC Gazette - April 2004


Recognizing and applying every aspect of the breed standard is essential to appropriate selection of dogs to preserve and improve a breed. Since dog shows are vital in determining which dogs will carry the past into the future, judges must fully understand and utilize the standard in their choices-and so must breeders. Two areas that are sometimes passed over in the Bernese are examinations for full dentition and a kink-free tail. When judges appear to dismiss a portion of the standard, breeders may feel that these areas are insignificant in their own evaluation of dogs for breeding.

Bites are routinely checked during examination, but in Berners both sides of the jaw should be inspected for full dentition. The judge may have to move cleverly placed fingers for accurate evaluation. The standard states, "The teeth meet in a scissors bite. An overshot or undershot bite is a serious fault. Dentition is complete." According to the Illustrated Standard of the Bernese Mountain Dog, second edition, 2001, prepared for the BMDCA judges' education committee: "The scissors bite is preferred. Level bites sometimes occur. Because a level bite may wear down the incisors, the level bite is not preferred but is not a fault as are over- and undershot bites. Note that there are no disqualifications for bite faults. It is assumed that, as with other breeds, a wry mouth (one where teeth do not mesh correctly) will be heavily faulted. Teeth should not be missing, and since the standard calls for complete dentition, the entire mouth must be checked."

As for tails, the standard says, "The bones in the tail should feel straight and should reach to the hock joint or below. A kink in the tail is a fault." The Illustrated Standard notes, "These characteristics can be examined by running the hand down the tail and checking tail length. The vertebrae of the tail should smoothly decrease in size and be in alignment. Incorrect alignment of the vertebrae (kinks) are easily felt on casual examination."

The Illustrated Standard of the Bernese Mountain Dog may be ordered for $9, including postage, from Lynn Hawkinson, BMDCA Ways & Means, 670 Bayview Lane, Arroyo Grande, CA 93420. (Note: email/street address/club position listed may not be current.)

- Julia Crawford, 26391 May Twilley Rd., Delmar, MD 21875, cwyemede@dmv.com (Note: email address no longer functional.)