The Great Angulation Debate

During the process to prepare the Kooikerhondje breed for full AKC recognition in the United States in January 2018, the standard was revised. The wording was tweaked slightly in order to better align the “American” meaning of the words with the the intent of the standard’s original Dutch authors. There was a debate about angulation, specifically, is still resulting in varying preferences towards angulation that no longer align with the standard.

For reference, see these iterations of the standard: the current FCI Standard and the CURRENT AKC Standard. Compare to the AKC pre-recognition Illustrated Standard (now outdated) and the 2004 UKC standard.

Angulation refers to the angle at which bones of the limbs meet naturally in a dog. (The Worldwide Boxer has a quaint summary of angulation and how it affects movement.) The Kooikerhondje, whose general aesthetic is that of a dog not overdone in any way, has had the term “well angulated” in its standard since its original FCI recognition. Standards based on that FCI document proliferated, keeping that seemingly-innocuous wording intact. The problem is that to Americans, “well angulated” does not mean the same thing as it does to the rest of the world – specifically, European judges and breeders. The standard is designed to describe the perfect picture of the breed, and using the same word that has multiple meanings depending on the reader’s country of origin is problematic. It may lead to the creation of a “type” in a given country that is at odds with the preferred type in other countries – creating a breed split and narrowing the gene pool if breeders select for or against an attribute described differently in the standard.

While finalizing the AKC standard, it was discovered that FCI judges (and conversely, Kooiker breeders) interpreted “well angulated” to mean that the angulation was balanced, pleasing, harmonious: good. Front and rear angulation matched and resulted in correct movement. “Well” was a quality, and not a quantity. For American judges however, “well angulated” is interpreted as a quantity statement: significant angulation is called for when the word “well” is used. For reference, imagine a dog show with an Irish Setter standing next to a Shiba Inu. A Setter’s angulation is like to be significant, and the Shiba’s less so – an American judge or fancier would call ONLY the Setter “well angulated” but a European might call BOTH dogs “well angulated” if the Shiba’s angulation was nice balanced, even if it’s less extreme. So then we have a conundrum – is the Kooikerhondje standard, saying “well angulated” calling for a Setter-like body, or not? To solve this, photos of Kooikers were shown to judges who were asked to describe their rear angulation, and it did appear that the dogs that FCI judges called “well angulated” were “moderately angulated” to American judges, and Americans’ “well angulated” dogs were called overangulated by FCI judges. To align these expectations, Kooikerhondjes gained full recognition with AKC with a revised standard calling for “moderate angulation.”

Rear angulation examples of two young males – which fits the standard best? Which standard?

A trend I notice in American Kooiker fanciers today is an idolization of extreme angulation. We must remember that our AKC standard is the only one changed to “moderate” specifically to combat that trend! Judges too, especially those unfamiliar with the breed, have a responsibility to reward the dog that fits the standard best, not the one that looks like the rest of the sporting dogs. The AKC sporting dog ring is full of flashy-moving dogs with massive angulation, and a sound, moderate Kooiker may get passed over by a less-than-knowledgeable judge, but an overangulated Kooiker might fit right in with the group and rewarded. We don’t want to create a situation where there are dogs that will do better in the breed ring, versus dogs that will do better in the sporting ring – it’s the same breed with the same standard! And that standard currently calls for harmoniously balanced but moderate angulation.