In Pursuit of a Better Process – Should the AKC Allow Judges to Sit Ringside to Observe Group Judging? Given my background in psychology and philosophy, I find myself assessing systems and practices in an attempt to discover whether our practices correspond with the science that should advise our reality. Whether I am examining the political system, educational system, or in this case, conformation dog shows, there is science that does speak to whether our systems follow rational guidelines and support the best possible outcomes. Unfortunately, the tools of assessment are not readily available to most of the mainstream society, as they require a specific educational background that is usually relegated to research psychologists, philosophers, and economists. CONFORMATION CULTURE I describe the world of  conformation dog shows  as a “ culture ,” since it has its own unique norms that shape the manner in which shows are structured, shaping everything from preparation, ring process, acceptable behaviors, point tabulation, etc. Dog show culture, like any culture, embraces policies or processes that do not necessarily support the best interests of its constituents. Left unchecked, we accept these as a cultural norm and we relegate them to, “ that’s the way it is, ” regardless of whether it makes sense or not. One area that I feel requires discussion is whether judges should watch Group judging or  Breed judging  on weekends when they will, at some point, judge some of the same dogs. When I posted an opinion poll on this topic on Facebook, I received a great deal of push-back from judges, with the majority stating that “ they make their own decisions, and it doesn’t matter if they watch other judges. ” While I believe that these individuals are being completely sincere, believing that they are unaffected by the decisions of others is a misconception, as there is a great deal of science which states that this is not the case. Decision-making theorists have proven that there are “ unconscious biases ” that affect the decisions we make, whether we are grocery shopping or judging a dog show. My desire in writing this article is not to change the culture of the dog show world, but to educate its participants about the manner in which biased decision-making alters the landscape of our competitions. Dog show culture, like any culture, embraces policies or processes that do not necessarily support the best interests of its constituents. Group Ring ‘Groupthink’ In discussing decision-making, we need to first embrace the tenet that human beings are a social species of animal. In our evolution, our minds have developed social algorithms or programs that keep us aligned, for the most part, with our social group. These programs promote a sense of unity and harmony within the group; given that harmony provides more rewards than disharmony or anarchy. Stemming from this desire for order is a concept referred to as “ Groupthink. ” While, to some, this sounds like an Orwellian concept from his novel 1984, it is “ a phenomenon that occurs when a group of individuals reaches a consensus without critical reasoning or evaluation of the consequences or alternatives. Groupthink is based on a common desire not to upset the balance of a group of people. ” If you pay close attention to Group judging over the course of a string of dog shows, you will notice that it is often the same dogs placing in their respective Groups, day in and day out. It is rare to see a great deal of variation over the course of a cluster. While certain judges might have an appreciation for a specific breed and reward that dog, often, the usual suspects will receive placements. During a recent weekend, for example, a top-winning dog that has not walked out of the Group ring without a placement since January walked out with nothing. There was a synchronized gasp from the crowd as the dog walked. Apparently, the judges “ breaking from the norm ” created discomfort within the community. Consider that the judges who are judging on any given weekend are sitting ringside, watching the other  judges  make their decisions about a similar group of dogs. If we are seeing a great deal of repetition in the dogs that are placing, are we really willing to accept that those are always the best dogs in the ring, or is it likely that we are seeing how groupthink can affect critical reasoning in what is meant to be an objective, individual enterprise? If you pay close attention to Group judging over the course of a string of dog shows, you will notice that it is often the same dogs placing in their respective Groups, day in and day out. Compounded by ‘Cognitive Ease’ Compounding the effects of groupthink is another decision-making principal called “ Cognitive Ease. ” Cognitive ease is an unconscious bias that occurs due to our general discomfort in using our upper cortical region of our brain, the area responsible for doing the mental “ heavy lifting, ” when we need to do complex mathematical or other types of formulaic thinking. Looking at a group of twenty Best of Breed winners, and trying to decide which four dogs are worthy of a Group placement, can cause mental strain. The act alone of trying to hold data in your active memory as you are distracted by trying to assess other dogs is an extremely challenging task. The pervasive effects of cognitive ease are found throughout our daily lives, as we often avoid tasks that are stressful due to having to apply our intellectual resources to complete the task. Going back to the concept of groupthink: If a judge knows that a fellow judge had chosen a specific group of four dogs the day before, why not copy some of those same choices? In doing so, the judges keep some harmony in the community without having to do the heavy mental lifting. If I have challenged some of your notions about the ability of judges to be objective about their decisions, it is probably for the best. If we ignore science, in any forum, we perpetuate faulty policies that are not in the best interest of the “ culture. ” Keep in mind, my purpose in writing this article is not to point out inherent wrongdoing that shapes our results, but instead, to explain that, regardless of how hard we try to be objective, our unconscious programming at some point takes over. Conclusion I hope that I have provided my readers with some “ food for thought. ” You may recall that I had mentioned that I did a Facebook poll on this topic and roughly seventy percent of the people who participated felt that judges should not be watching the Group competitions on weekends when they are judging the same dogs. I did receive some push-back from a few judges and exhibitors, which I’d expected, as when we challenge a cultural norm there is always a percentage of the population that will object. I do believe that keeping an open forum for discussion is the only way that we can move forward effectively, making the culture of conformation dog shows the best for all involved. I encourage you to join my dedicated  Facebook page , where you can find my articles on the psychology of dog shows and participate in discussions where we can all learn from each other about our thoughts, ideas, and experiences. See you in the ring! Michael J. Nelinson Michael Nelinson has been involved in purposefully bred dogs and AKC conformation shows for 45 years. His parents bred and showed Standard Poodles, and he spent his weekends at dog shows, grooming and supporting his family’s efforts. This exposure led Michael to become interested in handling and he was fortunate to find wonderful mentors among the handlers with whom he spent time every weekend. He purchased his first American Staffordshire Terrier in 1979 and he’s been connected to the breed ever since. Michael was a part-time research assistant, supporting the work of a psychologist who was a longtime faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania. Michael runs a successful business, writes on several topics relevant to social-sciences, and shows dogs on weekends. https://showsightmagazine.com/dog-show-culture-in-pursuit-of-a-better-judging-process/ … Written by: John Cocchiola  I read, and responded to a thread on a Staffordshire Bull Terrier forum.  Someone who was researching the breed was concerned with their potential dog aggression.   Yeah, I have an opinion on that.  What attracted me to the breed, what still attracts me to the breed is the spirit.  Yeah, I love the way they look and their goofy expressions, but it’s really those precious intangibles that I fell in love with…it’s what’s buried inside the dogs; it’s something that can’t be seen, it needs to be experienced.  It’s not the dog aggression (although that goes along with it), it’s the “yeah, I’m ready…let’s go” attitude that every Stafford should have, and “yeah, I’m ready…let’s go” includes a proper response when they’re challenged by another dog.   These dogs are fantastic companions, but they weren’t originally bred to be companions.  No true terrier was originally bred to be a companion.  Every terrier breed was created by human beings; they were selectively bred to do a job…to kill.   So anyone that gets a Terrier (a cute little Cairn or a Scotty or a Bedlington), and sets it loose in their backyard and is horrified to see it ripping a bunny rabbit apart is completely naive and living in a pretend fantasy world.  That dog was bred to rip bunny rabbits apart.  There’s a spark inside that dog that fires up when it sees critters.  No, it’s not “how they’re raised”…it’s called “instinct”.  Dogs aren’t blank slates that can be molded and shaped to suit your lifestyle.  They come already programmed.  Some of their wiring can be overridden with our conditioning, but the instincts don’t get erased.  They’re still there and can pop back up.  Don’t be surprised.       I was a little uncomfortable looking at some of the dog aggression responses.  Some even made me squirm a bit.  I wanted to respond, but I didn’t want to put myself on the internet, treadmill to nowhere argument route.  I wanted to respond, but this will be my response.   I’d really like to use the word “stupid” to describe some of the responses on that thread, but I’ll use the words ignorant and naive to describe them.  On the other hand, I will use the word “stupid” to describe someone that responds (with authority) on something they really don’t understand.  “It’s how they’re raised” is bullshit.  You’re not going to override all of those hard wired instincts with love, hugs and affection.  If you want a stuffed animal, go to the mall and build-a- bear or something.       People like to refer to Staffords as “foremost all purpose dog” and the “nanny dog”.  I don’t like either of those to be honest.  Those handles promise too much and are misleading.  While friendly with human beings (to a fault), Staffords can bowl over toddlers and send them flying through the air like bowling pins.  It’s not the worst thing in the world.  Kids bounce pretty good.  Staffords play rough.  Old folks with tissue paper thin skin might need to buy their bandaids and disinfectant in bulk. No dog breed is perfect, no individual dog is perfect and not every breed is suitable for everyone. Before you choose a breed, educate yourselves on what it was bred for.  What its traits are, what it’s capable of.  Ask yourselves “can I live with that?”  Be honest.  Sometimes the easiest person to lie to is looking at us in the mirror.     If you choose a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the worst thing you can do is underestimate them.  They’re faster than you think, they’re stronger than you think, they can jump higher than you think and they’re more determined than you think.  They can look like they’re asleep, then dart off at full speed if there’s something out there.  Ten seconds later they’re a mile and a half down the road chasing squirrel.     If you’re honest with yourselves and still choose the SBT and it’s a good match, they will make you happier than you can imagine.  I can’t even think of living with a different breed, but I’d never try to talk someone into one unless they understood what they’re all about.  After that if they still have the “yeah, I’m ready…let’s go” attitude, it might be a good match. HISTORY The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is an English breed of dog and should not be confused with the American Pit Bull Terrier. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a direct descendant of the old Bulldog and Terrier.  The Stafford is renowned for loyalty to their owners and stability of temperament. When properly bred and socialized, they are fond of people, playful, energetic, and not naturally aggressive. They have extremely high energy, which makes them more than a handful for inexperienced owners. The breed is naturally muscular and may appear intimidating; however, because of their natural fondness for people, most Staffords are temperamentally ill-suited for guard or attack-dog training. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier has arisen from centuries of careful breeding to develop a strong dog that is placid towards people. Most Stafford owners refer to their dogs as, Staffords. We are not fond of the the term, Staffy.  Owning a Stafford is huge responsibility and not for everyone. Staffords are very powerful dogs and we as owners are responsible for all of their actions. It is our job to protect and preserve this breed. Staffordshire Bull Terriers, unfortunately are categorized as a dangerous breed. Some homeowners insurance companies do not allow for the owning of Staffords, as well as some HOA guidelines. Staffords will almost always be listed on a breed restricted list.  … In certain breeds of dog, there is a coat pattern known as ‘merle’. It is sometimes referred to as a color, but it’s actually the result of a gene altering the way pigment appears in a dog’s coat. The merle coat pattern has recently become more popular — due to it’s unusual pattern and look. Since the merle coat pattern is unique to each individual dog — some breeders have used this as a marketing ploy or a sales tactic, attempting to lure unsuspecting buyers (especially those who are new to the breed) into paying higher prices thinking they’re actually purchasing ‘rare’ colored Staffords. Unfortunately, there are several health issues associated with the merle gene mutation — and the risk of these problems occurring only increases when two merle dogs are mated together. WHAT IS MERLE? COMMON TYPES Blue Merle Though a variety of merle colors are referred to by breeders and dog owners, the two most commonly seen types of merle are blue merles and red merles. Blue merles are, in fact, grey. They appear like a tri-color dog (black, white and tan), but with patches of the black appearing ‘faded’ or grey. Red Merle Similarly, a red merle will have faded patches of red and will often look more mottled than the blue merle. While all of the breeds with the merle coat pattern produce blue merles, only certain breeds produce red merles. The strength of the other colors in the dog’s coat (tan and black, or red and tan) can vary as well, with some merles appearing to have extremely pale coloring all over, while others can have quite strong patches of color. Blue merles with no tan markings at all are known as bi-blues, but a red merle does not necessarily have to have tan markings. CRYPTIC MERLE Merles commonly have blue eyes. Sometimes they may have one blue and one brown eye. They can also, on occasion, have two brown eyes. Sometimes dogs may appear to have normal coat coloring but are in fact still merles and will produce puppies with the merle colouration. These are known as ‘cryptic merles’, but the exact reason why such dogs do not display the merle pattern remains unknown. This is one of the main reasons that we need to consider adding a disqualification of all merle Staffords to our Standard, but any dog with merle anywhere in it’s pedigree even if they are not visibly merle (cryptic merles). The merle gene is usually dominant, so a merle dog will have inherited the gene from one of its parents. While a non-merle dog (unless a cryptic) will have inherited no merle gene. For example, in a litter of mixed color puppies the non-merles will be (mm), while a merle will be (Mm), meaning it has inherited one merle gene and one non-merle gene. HEALTH ISSUES ASSOCIATED WITH MERLE There is scientific evidence to suggest that the merle gene can be linked to a higher rate of ocular, auditory issues in addition to skeletal, cardiac and reproductive abnormalities. Occular (Eye) Issues Auditory (Ear) Issues Skeletal, cardiac and reproductive abnormalities A 2006 paper on the merle gene first published by the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America attempted to identify the gene in dogs that caused the merle pattern. One study reported 36.8% of dogs with the merle coat pattern (Mm) suffered hearing problems  ranging from mild to complete deafness. While  none of the dogs  in the control group of  non-merles (mm) had any hearing issues. Another found  merles had “significantly greater” frequency of eye abnormalities  than non-merles. Other studies have found that  the merle gene  is associated with  skeletal, cardiac, cancers, skeletal, temperamental, neurological and reproductive abnormalities . WHAT CAUSES THE MERLE PATTERN? All merle dogs have the genotype  Mm  — meaning they have one allele for merle and one allele for non-merle. All non-merles are mm. If you breed a merle ( Mm ) to a non-merle ( mm ) you will on average produce a litter in which a half of the puppies get the  M  allele so are  Mm  (merle) and half get the non-merle allele so are  mm . But, if you were to breed two merles together ( Mm  X  Mm ) you will produce on average a quarter  mm  (non-merle), a half  Mm  (merle) and a quarter  MM  (double-merle; also called double-dapple). And the double merles don’t look like typical merles. Instead, they’re mostly white with merle patches. The main reason you want to avoid producing  MM  dogs is that they often have visual and auditory problems. DOUBLE MERLE A double merle is created when two merle dogs are bred together. It doesn’t matter what color merle or what breed they are. If two merle dogs are bred together, each puppy in the litter has a 25% chance of being born a double merle. A double merle inherits the merle gene twice. One copy of the merle gene causes a marbling effect on the coat and creates lighter spots throughout the solid color coat. In a double merle, the marbling/lightening effect is doubled and the coat becomes predominantly white. Double merles also have a very high chance of being deaf, blind, or both because they lack pigment where it would normally be. Puppies that do not inherit the gene twice are considered “normal” dogs. Their coats are normally marked and they are not plagued with hearing or vision problems. These are the pups that a breeder wants, because they can profit the most from these pups. HEALTH PROBLEMS IN “DOUBLE MERLES” The extreme lack of pigmentation is what  makes these dogs unhealthy  and prone to multiple conditions. It goes along with: Hearing impairment  — ranging from light deficits to complete deafness Vision impairment  — up to complete blindness Microphthalmia : a rare condition causing very small eyeballs that sometimes have to be removed Skin cancer  due to the lack of pigmentation and no protection from UV light MERLE CONTROVERSY The question many ask is — if breeding merle to merle has such a high chance of producing disabled puppies, why would anyone do it? There are several answers to this question, the first being plain ignorance. Not everyone knows the risks of purchasing a merle Staffordshire Bull Terrier or worse yet — breeding two merle dogs together. Ideally, breeders that sell merle puppies should explain the risks associated with breeding merle to merle, especially if the Customer already has a merle dog of the opposite sex. But, as this is unlikely to happen, accidental creations of double merles will continue to occur. CAN DOUBLE MERLE BE PREVENTED? As long as there are merle coated dogs, double merles will be produced — either by accident or through ignorance on the part of the breeder. However, a great deal can be done to discourage the breeding of double merles and to educate the public on the dangers. Official bodies and Kennel Clubs can lead the forefront in discouraging the deliberate breeding of double merles, but educating puppy buyers will also help. Uneducated customers are often sold double merles as ‘rare white’ or ‘albino’ versions of a certain breed, without knowing that their pup may go deaf or blind. Equally, pet owners with two merles may breed their dogs without realizing the consequences. Spreading the word about the dangers of breeding merle to merle is, just part of the answer. BREEDS IN WHICH MERLE IS ACCEPTED The following breeds carry merle and are recognized by the AKC as an acceptable color: Australian Shepherds Pyrenean Shepherd Great Danes Koolies Collies Shetland Sheepdog Catahoula Leopard Dog Welsh Cardigan Corgi Olde English Bulldog Pomeranian Poodles French Bulldogs IS MERLE ACCEPTED IN THE STAFFORDSHIRE BULL TERRIER? AMERICAN KENNEL CLUB (AKC) Merle Coats are not accepted by the AKC in most dog breeds and are only accepted in breeds where the merle coat naturally occurs such as Leopard Dogs, and Border Collies. Merle does NOT exist in the Stafford, therefore if you find them it is 100% a mixed breed. The same goes for the UKC in the United Kingdom with the exception of Poodles as the UKC stopped accepting them in 2020. PREVALENCE IN THE STAFFORDSHIRE BULL TERRIER The merle gene is being introduced into new breeds everyday. Merle is now present in Poodles, Bulldogs, American Staffordshire Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers and American & Exotic Bullies. It’s become even more prevalent in many of the newer “designer breeds.” The overabundance of these dogs is heartbreaking. There are rescues all over the country committed solely to rescuing merle dogs — that should speak volumes by itself. One online article on merle in the breeds it currently exists in cites: “these are 100% preventable. Don’t breed two merle dogs, and you won’t have double merles.” I agree with that very general statement: “don’t breed merle to merle and there won’t be double merles.” True. Sounds good on paper as well.. Yes, if you don’t breed merle to merle, there won’t be any double merles —  in that particular litter. And again, remember, merle DOES NOT OCCUR NATURALLY in the Stafford! While the self appointed “ethical merle breeders” boast online about being “responsible” merle breeders — they are still contributing to serious health issues in our breed. Yet pat themselves on the backs for indirectly contributing to the problem instead of being directly responsible. Don't fall for the gaslighting. So why is it that unethical Staffordshire Bull Terrier breeders continue to breed merle — when it’s proven to be linked to serious health problems, issues and abnormalities and never existed without mixing in other breeds? WHY STAFFORDSHIRE BULL TERRIER BREEDERS BREED MERLE DOGS Money Most merle breeders in the Stafford breed make the decision to purchase merle dogs or have merle litters because they heard or were told that’s “where the money’s at.” But it’s simply not true. Quality, fully health tested Staffords meeting the breed standard will always produce healthier dogs than a short term fads. Healthier dogs require fewer visits to the vet. Therefore, the cost of a PURE BRED Stafford of acceptable coat color/pattern will cost you less in the long run. Setting health concerns aside for a second and looking at things strictly from a business perspective — merle isn’t “where the money is at.” Maybe if you were an Stafford breeder that struggled to sell pups at a decent prices— a gimmick like “rare colored” or a fad like “merle” could result in higher sales prices short term, but there’s no longevity to it. “Rare” & Unique Colors The second biggest reason that breeders choose to go the merle route is the belief that there’s higher demand for “unique and rare” colors in the Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed. This is true.. to an extent. Color is in right now, but it can be added without merle and the issues that come with it. Staffords already come in many wonderful colors, piebalds and brindles! Breeders can add color without sacrificing structure, health, temperament — and have a breeding program with longevity — instead of cashing in on a short term fad, having a couple of litters then disappearing. REASONS NEW OWNERS BUY MERLE DOGS They Don’t Know Any Better They believe they’re buying “rare” color Staffordshire Bull Terriers My concern is for the Stafford — to help educate those who might be new to the breed or considering breeding. To the ones thinking about having a litter or breeding — do your homework. Be aware of the time and cost involved before jumping in blindly. Have a set plan and an emergency back up one in place. Understand that it’s your responsibility to place pups that you bring into the world, into good homes with responsible owners. Get yourself a good mentor. Join breed clubs, including the AKC parent club SBTCA and your local clubs. Stop introducing new health issues that are both unnecessary and completely avoidable. SUMMARY Although they’ve been popping up on social media sites and advertised as “rare colored” Staffords  — the Merle coat pattern is not rare, its a mutt. It’s the result of a gene mutation and riddled with health problems and can only occur by bringing in other breeds. Merle is a fad, nothing more. And it’s not anything new. This is the third or fourth wave of merle becoming more popular in the Stafford breed over the past 10 years. Ask any merle breeder from the first few waves how it worked out for them — oh wait.. you can’t. Because there aren’t any of them left. The Stafford is a wonderful, loyal and kind dog no matter the color of its coat, but when that color is bred only to suit the fancy of a small group of people it becomes both immoral and unethical. Responsible Staffordshire Bull Terrier breeders should refuse to produce these mutts and should strive to educate those who do. … Brachycephalic airway syndrome (BAS), also sometimes referred to as Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (or BOAS) refers to a group of primary and secondary abnormalities (Table 1) that result in upper airway obstruction. Primary abnormalities cause an increase in negative pressure within the upper airways that can eventually lead to secondary abnormalities. We absolutely do NOT want the Staffordshire Bull Terrier to continue down the path of the BAS affected breeds such as French Bulldog or Pug. We are NOT a brachycephalic breed and we don't wish to be in that category for many reasons. Aside from stenotic nares, BAS can also include Elongated Soft Palate, Everted Laryngeal Saccules, Hypoplastic Trachea and Everted Palatine Tonsils. Table 1 Any tissue that obstructs the airway lumen is a source of resistance. According to the laws of physics, resistance in a single tube is inversely related to the radius raised to the fourth power. For example, if an airway is 50% obstructed, it is 16× harder to breathe, and if the diameter of any component of the upper respiratory tract is increased by 50%, resistance encountered on inspiration is decreased 16×. Typical clinical signs of BAS are listed in  Table 2 ; dogs with these signs benefit from early surgical correction of existing primary abnormalities before secondary changes occur. For example, in puppies with stenotic nares it is recommended to perform rhinoplasty at 3 to 4 months of age, and at the same time perform a preliminary evaluation of the soft palate. Addressing these primary abnormalities at an early age may help avoid progression to secondary changes such as everted laryngeal saccules or laryngeal collapse. There are veterinarians across the country specializing in correcting these abnormalities. It is possible to have your Stafford scoped so that you are aware of any BAS related issue which could be present. If you plan to breed your Stafford, I would highly recommend doing this anyway. You cannot see all issues visually and for reproductive responsibilities, this should be conducted. I had my stud dog scoped by an experience veterinarian. Not because he has stenotic or pinched nares but because he is very active in a hot, humid environment and I needed to know he was not going to have breathing issues while working out. I also feel that to be a responsible breeder, including stud owner, this was the prudent thing to have done, along with all other health testing available to us. He has zero issues by the way, but personally I would like to see his nares more wide open and a bit more leather on his nose. It would be quite helpful if these scopes could be given an OFA certificate/number so it can be posted and made available in the OFA Database, but you can make note of this in the SBT Pedigree Database. You can also include this information in any stud or sales agreement. Table 2 If you look at the profile of a Staffords muzzle and nose you will see slight differences in the shape and positioning of the nose leather itself in affected and not affected animals. Usually, not always, a Stafford with wide open nares will have a more rounded and forward sitting profile to the nose leather. A Stafford whose nares are pinched almost seem to be missing a little bit of nose leather at the upper tip from profile, therefore the profile appears ever so slightly edged back, flatter as if it's missing tissue. Looking from the front its very easy to spot varying degrees of stenotic nares as they appear pinched. Staffords with elongated soft palate can be heard struggling to breathe, even in indoor cooler conditions. I have heard judges comment on how adorable that Stafford smile is when the dog in question is simply struggling to breathe. The smile they are so well known for shouldn't be coupled with raspy breathing noises. That 'cute' snore you love could be a sign of this issue. As mentioned above, there does exist corrective surgery for BAS and while certainly beneficial to the dogs health, is against AKC show policies and any dog known to have undergone any type of corrective surgery is to be banished from entering any conformation events. That being said, it is commonly performed despite being against AKC policy. Sometimes it is visible and can be detected, other times not so much. As a breed, Staffords worldwide are considered to be 'at risk' for this condition and awareness is just starting to spread. We, as preservationist breeders need to be more aware of this and possibly not breed from those affected if possible - or - look for a mating partner with wide open nostrils and a family history of same. At any rate, more caution should be taken when exercising, especially on humid days. Keeping the affected Stafford in fit condition, not overweight (important regardless of nares status), and building up exercise tolerances are recommended. Keep plenty of cool water, cold coat, spray bottles and fans handy on those hotter days. Do not allow the dog to overheat and keeping them nice and trim should help. We see this in every shape, color and sized Stafford. Since we know several different corrective surgeries are being performed, as a judge one would need to be able to show proof of an obviously corrected entry to excuse a dog from your ring. In other words, it's simply not done. The only way you could prove this change has been made is if you judged the dog prior to, and post surgical procedure. Even then, you would need visual indisputable proof. The rules of no altering are in place of course for the health benefits of future generations hoping to discourage breeding of such affected animals. Say for instance, a dog is being campaigned and makes his way to be one of the top dogs in a breed. It is seen by many breeders who could be attracted, take notice and use this dog at stud therefore possibly passing down this deformity which affects the health of future generations. See photo below to visualize stenotic nares. Additionally, if the only examples being shown have stenotic nares and this is all judges and observers see, it quickly becomes the norm. The corrective surgeries (for health reasons only) available for this condition are explained below: Concerning Stenotic nares in a Staffordshire Bull Terrier Mildly Stenotic Nares in a Staffordshire Bull Terrier Post correction surgery on a Stafford. This one is fairly obvious when seen in person, which I have. Wedge Resection  In typical brachycephalic dog breeds, the veterinarian removes a wedge from the lateral aspect of the alar fold with a #11 surgical blade. This approach differs from other techniques, which remove a  wedge of rostral alar cartilage , leaving only a small amount of tissue rostrally on the nares. By performing the lateral wedge, more of the rostral alar fold is spared, allowing a larger, deeper incision and easier suturing. Laser Ablation When performing laser ablation, the medioventral aspect of the dorsolateral nasal cartilage is removed . Set the laser at 4 to 5 watts (W) on the continuous cutting setting for best results. Angle the laser in a medial to lateral direction, which keeps the laser from affecting tissue outside the nostril, preventing visible depigmentation. Laser Ablation Wedge Resection Before and After correction surgery Corrective surgeries are still performed on show dogs despite the rules against this. Its quite common actually. Once you see it, its difficult to miss. Look at nares and study the shapes of the openings. Listen to the dogs breathing. If considering using this stud, ask to see relatives and progeny. As with most policies, they are in place to give the appearance AKC cares about the health of each breed. And they do, but despite these policies, people correct bites, tails, ears, nares etc anyway. So start paying attention. You might be surprised. References Aron DN, Crowe DT. - Upper airway obstruction: General principles and selected conditions in the dog and cat. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 1985; 15(5):891-916. Wykes PM. - Brachycephalic airway obstructive syndrome. Probl Vet Med 1991; 3(2):188-197. Koch DA, Arnold S, Hubler M, Montavon PM. - Brachycephalic syndrome in dogs. Compend Contin Educ Pract Vet 2003; 25(1):48-55. Evans HE, de Lahunta A. - Miller's Guide to the Dissection of the Dog. Philadelphia: WB Sanders, 1996. Pink JJ, Doyle RS, Hughes JM, et al. - Laryngeal collapse in seven brachycephalic puppies. J Small Anim Pract 2006; 47(3):131-135. Seim HB. - Brachycephalic syndrome. Proc Atlantic Coast Vet Conf, 2001. Brdecka D, Rawlings C, Howerth E, et al. - A histopathological comparison of two techniques for soft palate resection in normal dogs. JAAHA 2007; 43:39-44. Hobson HP. - Brachycephalic syndrome. Semin Vet Med Surg Small Anim 1995; 10(2):109-114. … THE STAFFORDSHIRE BULL TERRIER IS “THE FOREMOST ALL PURPOSE DOG “Let’s discuss exaggeration in the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. General Appearance KC: Smooth coated, well balanced, of great strength for his size. Muscular, active and agile. AKC adds: “The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a smooth coated dog. It should be of great strength for its size and, although muscular, should be active and agile.” It’s not vague. It’s pretty clear. Do not put forward a Stafford with bunchy muscles, wrinkles, overloaded shoulders, short necks, short muzzles, flat feet or heads the size of a blimp. We are not looking for a heavyweight – we are not looking for a racy specimen – we are looking for the ONE IN THE MIDDLE. And for good reason! In fact for many good reasons. When we balance capacity with efficiency we are more likely to find a specimen with good healthy stamina, strength and agility. We will find BALANCE. There is a movement across the world to put restrictions on producing breeds with health issues such as short muzzles. In some cases these dogs suffer from breathing difficulties such as overlong soft palate, tracheal deformities, stenotic nares and other structural and health related issues coming from exaggeration in structure. . The Stafford DOES NOT want to be added to the list of brachycephalic breeds. We want a muzzle that is no shorter than one third the length of the skull (look from the top or profile and measure). I recently learned that many people are misinterpreting the 1/3 to 2/3 ratio when it is written like that. It is not one to three or two to three. It is ONE THIRD to TWO THIRDS. One third muzzle length to two thirds skull length and don’t forget about the muzzle depth should be approximately one half the total head depth. (measure from underjaw/neck to occiput/topskull). Additionally, so very many people misinterpret the breeds responsible for our blended breed. The name says it all – Staffordshire (where they originated in UK) Bull (the now extinct bulldog which as far as we can tell resembled a leggy American Bull dog type) Terrier (from the now extinct English White Terrier which resembled todays Manchester). So a balanced Stafford is NOT like an English Bulldog mixed with a Terrier. Stop putting forth these cloddy heavy wrinkled stubby overloaded dogs. Crib and Rosa by Abraham Cooper  – These two are what the Bulldogs which make up the Stafford looked like English White Terrier Look for a clean head, no wasted effort/energy when moving, no wrinkles anywhere (none on head, face, shoulders, tails, legs – no wrinkles). I’m tired of seeing these huge headed sloppy bulldogs being put forward when there are clean examples presented. Stop being impressed by exaggeration. … In the country of origin, UK, at the end of the written Breed Standard for the Staffordshire Bull Terrier it is stated:  “Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog and on the dog’s ability to perform its traditional work.” This is a good reminder to not only look for the balanced Stafford, remember its origin, but also to balance your judging when in the ring with the breed. The AKC Breed Standard for the Stafford lists only three ‘faults’ and only three ‘serious faults’. Fault judging is to be avoided but these six points should be kept in mind when you find yourself faced with similar virtuous examples in your ring from which to select from.  Faults: “Non-conformity with heights to weights limits” - Our Standard calls for dogs 28-38lbs, bitches 24-34lbs with both dogs and bitches being 14” - 16” at withers. They should be balanced height to weight. BALANCE is the key word here. Get familiar with what 34lb bitches and 38lb dogs look and feel like. And remember a 14” dog is in Standard and is  balanced at 28lbs just as a 16” bitch is in Standard and balanced at 34lbs.  “ Dark eye preferred but may bear some relation to coat color. Light eyes or pink eye rims to be considered a fault, except that where the coat surrounding the eye is white the eye rim may be pink.” This means we prefer a dark eye but in a red or brindle dog, for example, there can be some consideration for a lighter brown eye. We do not want to see yellow, gray or blue eyes at all no matter what coat color.  “ A tail that is too long or badly curled is a fault .” This is self explanatory but to be taken into consideration as to the above paragraph regarding degree and affect upon health. Also, in the original point system the tail was valued at only 5 points. I’ve heard it said that if the Stafford has one thats half the points right there.  Serious faults: “ Pink (Dudley) nose to be considered a serious fault .” The Stafford nose needs to be black. Some argument of consideration could be made for the blue Stafford but even then we want the darkest possible pigmentation so that the nose appears black.  “ Full drop or full prick to be considered a serious fault .” A small, thin leathered tight ear held back close to the head would be preferred and safest in its original function, however there is consideration for a half prick ear. This means half, not 3/4 and never full drop or full prick. Either of those not only would affect hazzard in its original fuunction, but also gives a foreign expression. As well this differentiates the breed from other terriers.  “ The badly undershot or overshot bite is a serious fault.” The scissor bite is called for, and we want large well placed canines but as we also strive for a strong muzzle and underjaw, a slight under/over may not affect the original function - SLIGHT, not 'badly' over or under. . . however - we know that converging canines would affect the health and comfort of the Stafford. Those should be avoided even though it is not specifically mentioned. Again, it is worth repeating - please keep in mind the exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog and on the dog’s ability to perform its traditional work when judging this breed. With only these few faults mentioned they should be easy to keep in mind.  … "A complete fertility evaluation in the male involves history, physical examination, libido determination, semen collection and evaluation, hormonal evaluation, and prostatic examination. The initial database should include a detailed history, a complete physical examination, complete blood count, serum chemistry and urinalysis. History should include travel, diet, past or current illnesses, medications, vaccinations, deworming history and prior laboratory tests. Details of breeding history should be obtained, including the dates of all known matings, type of breeding (natural vs. AI – vaginal, transcervical or surgical; fresh, chilled or frozen semen) and the results of these matings (including pregnancy rates and litter size). Breeding management of each bitch should also be described."https://thestaffordknot.com/shop/ If you haven't yet been to The Stafford Knot website to read 100's of articles, watch Breeder Education Series videos, read our past publications, purchase a book or to see loads of photos of Staffords of the past - check it out but ALSO please follow the link above to shop for Staffordshire Bull Terrier merchandise and support Stafford rescue! …