Today, at an all-breed dog show (all-breed is exactly what it says it is—it’s all American Kennel Club breeds can be entered and shown, unlike a specialty show which is just for one breed of dog), a judge withheld ribbons on two dogs. One of those dogs took championship points the day before. The other is a finished champion who was an award of merit winner at our recent NATIONAL specialty show. The judge withheld ribbons on these two dogs because they are not an “acceptable color.”
First of all, the collie standard does not have a disqualifying color. All colors are acceptable. PERIOD. End of the conversation. Secondly, just because this judge is known to have a personal abhorrence to this color, it in no way or manner still allows for a disqualification and notation that the color is unacceptable on the judge’s sheet. Let me repeat: THE COLLIE STANDARD DOES NOT HAVE A DISQUALIFYING COLOR. The judge IS ALLOWED to withhold ribbons for whatever reason, but that reason must be stated. By writing the color was unacceptable, the judge violated the standard written by the Collie Club of America and approved by the American Kennel Club. I would like to hope that the parent club of my breed knows better what acceptable colors in my breed are than a judge who has never owned nor bred a single collie.
What was this color this judge found so offensive as to withhold ribbons on two dogs (and BTW, totally missed another dog entered and shown who is also the same color)? Sable merle. SABLE MERLE.
This isn’t the first time the issue of sable merles has come up with judges—both all-breed and specialty judges. If you’re in this game long enough, you learn who the judges are who will not put up a sable merle and those who think color and eye-color is the very last consideration when evaluating a dog in the ring. Unless and only unless the coloration and eye color throws the expression off, color and eye color should be a moot point. As a good friend of mine said when I was discussing this with her, the sheep don’t care what color the collie is or what color its eyes are.
CCA, are you listening to me—because I’m going to make a few suggestions to try to resolve this problem. First of all, sable merles aren’t going to go away. When we have judges deliberately undermining OUR written standard for OUR breed that the AKC has approved, it’s become an issue. It’s no longer a non-issue, or something that can simply be fixed with judge’s education.
Let’s take our standard, the official standard, and tweak it. Under color, we need to address sable merles. It’s that simple. Here’s our standard, word for word, regarding color:
The four recognized colors are "Sable and White," "Tri-color," "Blue Merle" and "White." There is no preference among them. The "Sable and White" is predominantly sable (a fawn sable color of varying shades from light gold to dark mahogany) with white markings usually on the chest, neck, legs, feet and the tip of the tail. A blaze may appear on the foreface or backskull or both. The "Tri-color" is predominantly black, carrying white markings as in a "Sable and White" and has tan shadings on and about the head and legs. The "Blue Merle" is a mottled or "marbled" color predominantly blue-grey and black with white markings as in the "Sable and White" and usually has tan shadings as in the "Tri-color." The "White" is predominantly white, preferably with sable, tri-color or blue merle markings.
A simple tweak to the above, wording it as follows will resolve this issue.
The four recognized colors are "Sable and White," "Tri-color," "Merle" and "White." There is no preference among them. The "Sable and White" is predominantly sable (a fawn sable color of varying shades from light gold to dark mahogany) with white markings usually on the chest, neck, legs, feet and the tip of the tail. The "Tri-color" is predominantly black, carrying white markings as in a "Sable and White" and has tan shadings on and about the head and legs. The "Merle" is a mottled or "marbled" color and may be either sable or blue. In the case of the blue the color is predominantly blue-grey and black with white markings as in the "Sable and White" and usually has tan shadings as in the "Tri-color." In the case of the sable there may or may not be marbling in the coloration. The "White" is predominantly white, preferably with sable, tri-color or blue merle markings. In all colors, a blaze may appear on the foreface or backskull or both.
(I moved the sentence about face blazes because it was driving me nuts. Its placement in the original wording of the standard implied only sables may have a face blaze.)
Let’s look at what OUR written standard says about eyes (because a merle can have blue in the eye).
Because of the combination of the flat skull, the arched eyebrows, the slight stop and the rounded muzzle, the foreface must be chiseled to form a receptacle for the eyes and they are necessarily placed obliquely to give them the required forward outlook. Except for the blue merles, they are required to be matched in color. They are almond-shaped, of medium size and never properly appear to be large or prominent. The color is dark and the eye does not show a yellow ring or a sufficiently prominent haw to affect the dog's expression. The eyes have a clear, bright appearance, expressing intelligent inquisitiveness, particularly when the ears are drawn up and the dog is on the alert. In blue merles, dark brown eyes are preferable, but either or both eyes may be merle or china in color without specific penalty. A large, round, full eye seriously detracts from the desired sweet expression. Eye faults are heavily penalized.
The way to resolve the issue here is to remove ONE FREAKING WORD--BLUE.
Unless and until the CCA addresses this issue, which has been compounded by the AKC’s latest blog post (https://akcconformationjudges.wordpress.com/2019/05/03/the-standard-is-your-standard/?fbclid=IwAR3ySyK5wZhsw-5DtlelM2ZImhOIBPvLodjNXsD37qCv8AMWu5KmsWZa0OA)—there will be more ribbons withheld merely based on color.
Will the CCA address the issue? I’m not holding my breath.