What is European Dog Quality?
Origins: Many modern breeds of dog originate from Europe. From the tiny Dachshund to the gigantic Great Dane, from the plucky little Jack Russell to the massive Rottweiler, Europe has given the world hundreds of dog breeds.
European breeders have both created breeds within Europe, and influenced breeds that were imported to Europe. Most dog breeds today owe their existence to the hard work of European breeders in raising, assessing, and breeding further generations of these dog breeds.
Tradition: Artists and authors such as Cervantes and Velasquez recorded the forerunners of many modern dog breeds in their works, and the roots of Molosser-type dogs such as the Rottweiler can be traced back to the Ancient Greek and Roman mastiffs.
There is a long, proud tradition of quality dog breeding in Europe, going back hundreds if not thousands of years – tens of thousands, if we consider the ancient dogs tamed by prehistoric humans. For generations, dogs have been developed for different functions: hunting, herding, guarding, and so on. The best of the best of each breed or type have competed, won, and gone on to produce champion puppies. There is an overall emphasis on breeding quality dogs: they must fit a breed standard and be able to perform a specific function, be it guarding, tracking, or companionship.
Shows: Dog shows are an ancient tradition in Europe; the first recorded show was a field trial organised in 1603 (held in Europe, of course). Shows and competition judging dogs’ skill at hunting, tracking, or herding are still held in Europe and other parts of the world.
Shows based on judging dogs’ conformation, also called breed shows, began in the 19th century. The first show of this kind was held in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in England, in the year 1859, where Pointers and Setters were shown, and guns were awarded as prizes.
Not long afterwards, the Birmingham Dog Show Society held the first National Dog Show for over 30 different dog breeds. From this point onwards, dog shows exploded in popularity, size, and number, and spread to other countries in Europe, and eventually, the rest of the world.
Some of the world’s best Dog shows are in Europe, such as Cruft’s, the European Dog Show, and the International Dog show. The European championships are perhaps the toughest in the world, with stiff competition and strict judgements. Dogs must meet the breed standard: this is a list of qualities that dogs are compared to. Ideally, a dog should conform to its breed standard as close as possible. Some clubs don’t stop at looks, but require competing dogs to pass a health test too.
Standards: The European Union imposes strict rules to protect the welfare of dogs in Europe, such as the age when puppies can be transported, and on pet passports.
European breed organisations often have strict standards in order to uphold the quality of a dog breed and to better the breed. The European assessments for pedigree dogs are the strictest, in order to uphold the breed standards.