What the heck is an appraisal anyway, and what does the "%" mean that I see by so many boerboel names???!!!
The appraisal is a unique system that helps us as a breeder to improve our dogs and hopefully the boerboel as a whole. Everyone is familiar with the dog show - you take your dog(s) and present it to a judge sharing the ring with all other dogs of that breed/class. A dog show also always has a winner, no matter what quality of dog is presented to represent the breed. If you bring three poor samples of the breed to a show, someone will still receive first place and possibly even Champion. Dog shows are fun and a great way to socialize your dog, but they are useless as a tool or guideline by which to improve your breeding program - especially in the rare breeds. If you win or lose a dog show, you will never know what the judge liked or didn’t like about your dog unless they have the time and the desire to discuss their decision with you. We have attended dog shows and may do so in the future, but we do not base our dog's worth on how they do in the show ring when there may only be two other boerboels present!
This is why we believe the appraisal process (although not perfect) is the best system in place today to determine an individual dog’s conformational faults as well as its positive traits and to present them in a way that can be used in a breeding program. The SABT designed the appraisal process and requirements some 20 years ago. The appraiser must take an in depth Breeder's Course which covers general health, nutrition, and breeding/pup rearing information. It also includes instruction on the boerboel standard and examples of what is correct or incorrect for each characteristic. There is a written exam and a practical exam where you appraise boerboel(s). Eric and I both took the breeders course in 2001 and passed. To then become an appraiser, you must have someone vouch for your knowledge or ability and recommend you to be an appraiser. You must appraise several dogs alongside a Senior Appraiser and match scores within an acceptable margin. There is also a written test on the standard. Once the appraiser passes the course, they must appraise a minimum of 50 dogs each year to maintain their status as an appraiser. There are usually at least 2 appraisers present for each boerboel appraisal. I am happy to say that Eric passed the Appraiser's exam in October of 2003, and was the first US, SABT Appraiser!
The actual appraisal consists of observing the individual dog and measuring it AS AN INDIVIDUAL against the breed standard. It does not look at the dog and compare it to the other dogs present and state this is the best dog of what is here today, it compares it to the breed standard and says this is how this dog measures up as a BOERBOEL. The boerboel is divided up into twelve major sections, and each section is broken up into smaller parts as well for a total of 72 different areas. Each piece is then given a (-) negative, (0) null (or average for the breed), or a (+) positive as compared to the standard. For example, a perfect scissor bite would be given a positive, a noticeable underbite would be given a negative, and an almost scissor bite would be given a null or zero. After all the parts are scored, they are added up and multiplied by different weighted factors based on the importance of that part to the overall standard of the boerboel. The totals are added up to give the final "score" for the dog.(Click the thumbnail below for an example of an appraisal scoresheet). The theoretically perfect boerboel would score 100%. Once the score is calculated, the dog is either disqualified or eligible for a breeding registration. The minimum score to be eligible for breeding at this time is 75% - any score less than this is not able to be registered, and therefore will improve the quality of the boerboel breed in the long run by eliminating poor representatives of the breed.
The appraisal is just one tool by which a breeder should select breeding stock. We use the appraisal to see where our dogs have faults or where they excel, and then try to make pairings using this information. For example, we would not breed a dog with a negative for bite with another dog negative for bite, we would try to find a dog positive for the trait if at all possible. We ultimately select for temperament and health first and foremost, then we select for conformational correctness and beauty. It has not been easy for us to find athletic, muscular and attractive dogs with good temperament and health to use in our program. We are very selective and our goal is to produce some of the best boerboels in the US.