Type and the Breeder's Responsibility
Marion Coffman, the author of Versatile Vizsla, wrote this article to the Vizsla Listserv. We, of course, jumped on the opportunity to get permission to reprint the article here.
Type is what makes a Vizsla look like a Vizsla. Breed type is an absolute requirement for breeding, showing and judging. The best way to effectively preserve breed type is to aim for breed type in your breeding program, select for it in the whelping box and restrict yourself to showing only those Vizslas of correct type to judges who know and appreciate correct type.
Having a good idea of anatomy, including bones and muscles will make it easier to read and understand the standard for our breed. Keep in mind also, that type is meaningless if it does not include soundness.
Correct type first is evident in looking at the dog in profile and studying balance and profile. A lovely longer neck sloping smoothly to the withers and a longer back give you an idea of balance and proportion. That same longer neck would look out of place on a short backed dog. Compare the total body length to total size, or height of the dog. Does it look balanced? Is the topline correct, or does it sag or roach? Is there a slight rise over the croup with the tail set slightly lower than the back or is the tail coming off the topline? A "good eye" for a dog is what we need to develop and learn. Try to translate aesthetic language into breeding terms as you look at line, balance, form, and flow. The problem that arises is that everyone seems to have his or her own idea of what proper type really is. Depending on who you learn from, or what strikes your eye as attractive, you may fall into the ranks of supporters of one type or another. There are as many ways of interpreting the standard as there are breeders and exhibitors.
Style is the achievement of successful long-term breeding and defines a breeder's specific interpretation of the standard. Vizslas of the same general appearance certainly differ in their STYLE, but are within the limits of our breed TYPE. A breeder decides what combination of characteristics he or she finds correct in terms of what he or she believes the breed standard means and breeds accordingly, since a standard does allow for some individual interpretation and preference.
A good head is essential for true type, but here is where a breeder sets his or her stamp and it is enviable when a breeder can consistently produce his or her ideal style, even if we don't personally agree with that ideal. No mater what we feel is correct, we can all appreciate that kennel whose dogs can be identified by their type alone. But no matter how beautiful a dog or how close it fits the standard, an unsound dog, either physically, mentally, or genetically, must never be considered correct in type, as no standard calls for unsoundness. A breeder must learn what type of Vizsla he or she can not accept, things he or she can not live with because that instinctively offend his or her sense of order. Don't change goals as you go along to reflect current fads.
Whether a breeder or exhibitor, next time you are ringside watching any Vizsla judging, look for the presence of virtue, look for some style and class, something that exudes breed type plus that certain "something" that makes a Vizsla different than other sporting breeds. It is probably not even a part of the standard, but it is sure to be a subtle difference, and you are finally beginning to really see how type and style blend together.
Breed TYPE should be a priority for every breeder.
Consistent STYLE should be the goal.