How much should the PON grow?

A deceitful question, isn`t it?

There would seem to be only one answer– PON should grow up enough to fall within the limits established by the standard and the current requirements of the breed.

And clearly: the height -  45-50 cm for dogs and 42-47 for bitches (quoted from the study of the Polish Kennel Club prepared for the International Congress of PONs in 2003).

At the same time the standard states that it is not desirable to lessen the parameters below the requirements and breeding dogs which are too delicate (delicate as far as their structure is concerned and not the health condition – author`s note). So, we have a clear situation at the so called bottom limits – too little means absolutely bad. This is the feature that is picked out by the judges at the shows or was pointed out by them in the past, during the detailed evaluation before accepting the dog to be used in breeding. We do not like PONs at the lower limits, either. And what about the upper limits? Here the standard is also very precise, but not so much respected. Why?

Let me remind you of the comments to the standard (quoted from the above mentioned study):  “…in order to preserve the type, wider tolerance is advisable at the upper limits, paying attention to the structure, harmony and good movement… “

Are those comments correct and are the authors right?

I am asking this question because it seems to me that since such comments fell into the hearts and memories of our breeders and even worse, our judges, we have stopped paying attention to the requirement in the standard which concerns this very feature. And which is precise and should be treated as a norm. It is the standard that should be a norm, obligatory at the shows, and not the comments to it.

As compared to the old standard from 1965 in its real version, the upper limit was lowered by 2 cm [for males from 52 to 50 cm –autor`s note]. There was a purpose behind it, wasn’t there?

For me, and for many others, every violation of the standard is some kind of fault and it should be properly noted while judging. Unfortunately, it is not the case. So, is going above the upper limits a fault or not. Or maybe it is an advantage – because it is not an obstacle to win the highest merits at the shows.

Most of us remember, that when we were accepting the standard, we decided that PON should be a dog of medium size, as a breed, which means that it should be neither too big nor too small. Two extreme versions of PON were rejected, big and small.

If we look at the text of the standard, the dog (male PON) has quite a wide range as far as his height is concerned – as much as 5 cm. I said “ as much as” because everybody must remember the situations when two PONs – one, 45-46 cm high and the second, 50-51 cm, stand next to each other at the show ring. Both are within the standard – but when you look at them you get the impression that they come from “two different stories”. It does not concern only male PONs.

You probably remember the Poznan show from several years ago and the German judge`s dilemma, which bitch to choose: extremely small or extremely big. Both of them were champions, both very good in movement and both were properly built. What differed was the appearance – they presented two extremely different types. What was better? The 5 centimeters difference, acceptable according to the standard, must be seen not only as a height itself but also as proportions; that is the length of legs, width of chest, etc. Both dogs can be perfectly built but having in mind a current trend (we are talking about Poland) to have PONs at the upper height limits, such a correct PON - 46-47 centimeters high, has no chance to win compared to the dog - 51 centimeters high. Similarly the bitch measuring 43 centimeters will always lose, compared to the bitch 47 centimeters high.

This is our show reality nowadays – that is, favoring big dogs.

I myself remember only one case, on the world dog show, when the deceased Lucienne Jasica dared to award the title of the Winner of the World to a not very tall, male PON.

And what happened? In our country, this dog was not significant at all, was not used as a stud, because it was commonly considered to be small, too small equals too delicate. It was not the truth. The dog was not very tall, I agree, but he was within the standard and he wasn`t of delicate structure at all. I saw a litter by him; very nice, well built males, which as grown up dogs measured 49-50 centimeters. But in Poland the dog had the label “too small” and nobody was interested in him, so he did not leave his mark in the breed.

Of course everybody has a right to like what he wants to like, including bigger (taller) PONs, but it is noticeable and curious in a way that male and female dogs of medium or smaller size practically disappeared from our show rings.  Isn`t it because we often label them as “too small” – which for many people means that this is a too delicate dog? We often confuse those two features and we treat them – which is wrong – as synonyms, meaning the same. So, as an effect “small”- unfortunately means in the judge`s eyes - “worse” – because small equates to delicate. And PON should not be delicate…..

I have to go back for a while to “delicate structure” of PON which is described in the standard and to the misunderstanding concerning the two terms - “small” and “delicate in structure”. I shall repeat one more time – THIS IS NOT THE SAME!

A male PON  -  46-47 centimeters, standing near a male - 50-51 centimeters, must naturally seem to be smaller and more delicate and if it stands next to the bitch  48-49 centimeters – what does he seam to be like? We often say then, that the dog is delicate and not very male-like in appearance. The dog? Maybe the bitch is too big? We want – and this is beyond question – to stress the difference between sexes. But how big should a dog be to differentiate the sexes if it is standing next to such a huge bitch?

So where is the real source of misunderstanding? Is the 47-48 cm male too small (do not confuse with being delicate) or is the bitch too big? And consequently, the favored 51-52 cm male is also too big?

When you think about it you will certainly agree that our 47-48 cm male will always look more delicate and subtle as compared with the 50-51 cm one we were talking about. If it wasn’t so, and the smaller one measuring 47 cm would have big head, wide chest and the bones of the bigger one, which is so much favored, it would be a caricature of a PON.

Practically at the battle field remain big dogs, bigger ones and……it happens more and more often that we read in the evaluation charts that the mail of 50 cm high is a medium size dog. “Medium size dog”?  For whom is it medium? Because the 47 and 48s are too small. And the bitches – why have they grown up so much?

Nowadays the winning bitches are with a few exceptions, 46 cm high and higher. Who would lower the evaluation grade for a bitch  48 to 49 cm high? We say – “big but strong” and the judge gives the excellent grade, very often the CAC application and the winning position, prizes or at least the good placement.

Does “accepting” mean “preferring”? Maybe we should stress the fact that the big dog or bitch is beautiful but does not deserve to win, to have a champion title or the CWC /CAC/ or CACIB, because it is not within the current requirements of the standard.

It is logical that the best PONs should be then used in breeding. And it so happens. They are really beautiful. But I repeat my question on and on – which of those big dogs is a medium one? It seems to me that a male PON measuring 52 centimeters is rather a BIG PON, as understood by the breed`s standard, as compared to a PON of 45 or 46 cm high – that is why the wise standard took away those two cm. Analogically, the 47-48 cm bitch is a BIG ONE.

The result is that the owners of those comparatively smaller PONs, which are within the requirements of the standard, stop showing them because they know in advance that they will not achieve much in the company of bigger opponents.  And if they can not succeed in the show rings they will not achieve much in breeding, unless they have their own big kennels and their own bitches. It is a vicious circle. Maybe it was necessary once to prefer and use big dogs above the limits for breeding – but, not any more.

So maybe we should not break the rules and go away from the requirements of the standard as far as the height of the PON is concerned, and treat the upper and lower limits in the same way? Maybe we have missed something? Breeding? – OK, but not the winning positions, CAC, CACIB, Champions titles for the dogs and bitches which are too big (this should be applicable to all the requirements of the standard).

Why are the show placements so important? Let me remind you that we no longer have the detailed evaluation of dogs before they are allowed to be used in breeding. It is a pity because during such evaluation, each dog could be measured and the results (we must believe objective ones) were included in the evaluation charts. Also, other notes and objections disappeared and now for the majority of people the proof of dog`s/ bitch`s value are the show placements.

If we do not see smaller PONs with significant show achievements we might draw a conclusion that they are simply worse.

“The old type PON” – this is how the subtle breeders call the 48 cm PON.  “A squab”, say others - defining in this one, not very elegant word, the size of the dog and the reason of failure.

The result? We get the breeding pairs consisting of big dogs and big bitches. Both of them with wonderful achievements and titles…. Only a few of us think about the fact that the next generation will be even bigger, too big. And we are in trouble, by our own design.

In the past years, when PONs were not even - as far as their size is concerned, the bitches were accepted when they were 40 cm high, big dogs were accepted for breeding, not withstanding the standard, just in order to even out the quality and height of the PON population. But nowadays… I will ask one more time – Why should we do it?

Maybe the strange comments to the requirements of the standard originate from the fact that we have such big dogs. Of course, not everything in genetics depends on the size of the parents. Experienced breeders know very well which breeding lines can give big sizes and which ones will not. However, favoring only big dogs at the shows and consequently, in breeding, must result in raising the height limits in the majority of PONs. Do we really need it and want it?

Let`s look at some other breeds, where the standards gives very narrow height limits or even define ideal height for a given sex and they must be obeyed. Is the upper limit or even the excessive height the ideal height for the PON dog?

Maybe instead of accepting the variations from the standard it is high time to strengthen the requirements? Including the height and size? Or maybe we should separate the problem of breeding from show matters? Maybe it is high time we established the “ideal” size for PON? For example: acceptable size for dog is 45-50 cm, but the ideal is 48-49? And for bitches acceptable height would be 42-47, but again the “ideal” – 46-47? And if the measurements should be different it is high time to define them clearly.

In conclusion, I would like to mention one more important thing. The standard stresses the fact that PON should keep the character of the working dog and it can not be too small or too delicate, as a breed. If we keep such a note in the standard, we should remember what it means for us today; for us buyers, owners, breeders and judges.

As far as size is concerned, it is probably true, that we want to have a medium size dog. The medium size means “handy” and not “medium big” or “a little medium” or “a little bit too big”. The size criterion is very important. People don`t want to buy PONs as representatives of a big breed. We must keep it in mind. As well as the fact that “medium” does not mean “a squab”, it does not mean “sickly” or delicate either.

Big PONs have become a norm at the shows, we are getting used to them and the sight of those smaller ones is not pleasant to our eyes at the Polish and foreign rings. Is it right?  Or maybe we missed something?

We shouldn`t  attribute the size problems to the evolution of the breed or too rich food. Maybe, I am asking this question perfidiously, we should introduce the new requirement and start using small dogs in the breeding process, just to stop the big ones from growing even taller. Unless we want to say that we do not prefer medium PONs any more. M.M