Anyone who aspires to be a breeder rather than merely a producer of puppies must first understand the nuances of correct type, following the recipe given in the breed standard.
Just what is type? In general, with regard to purebred dogs type means those physical features and characteristics that define the breed—that make a Golden Retriever a Golden Retriever, for example, and not a Flat-Coated Retriever. That is, in a general sense, every Golden looks like a Golden. Type is what allows almost anyone to look at a dog of a popular breed and know what breed it is.
However, this definition is not always what dog people mean when they talk about type. Some in this case are referring to the differences between individual Goldens. They may also be referring to the unique characteristics of a particular bloodline, as in “That looks like an English-type Golden” or “That looks like a West Coast Golden.”
It is quite easy to tell a Golden from a German Shepherd Dog. If you stop and think about it, it is nearly as easy to tell one Golden from another; there are certainly differences between Goldens. The difference between individuals is probably what many dog people think of when you speak of “type.” Using the same word to mean two different things can become quite confusing. To help clarify what is meant, perhaps it would be easier to use “type” when referring to different breeds, and “style” when talking about differences in type within a breed.
A serious breeder may have as one of their goals the development of a style of dog that becomes uniquely identifiable as coming from that kennel. For example, always working within the requirements of the breed standard, over time a breeder may select dogs for breeding to establish a particular style of head structure. As dogs with this structure are used over and over in the breeding program, that particular head will become ingrained in the bloodline. A knowledgeable breeder anywhere in the country might look at an individual dog’s head and correctly guess that the dog comes from that breeder’s lines. This variation from breeder to breeder is fine, so long as it is within the requirements of the breed standard.
Some variation in style is beneficial for a breed. The fact that it exists means that a number of different bloodlines are being used. This tends to keep a breed genetically healthy. However, too much variation can cause a loss of type. In its extreme, type variation can mean the end of a breed as it is known, or the emergence of a new breed—as happened with Cocker Spaniels in the early part of this century, resulting in two distinctly different breeds that we now recognize as the (American) Cocker Spaniel and the English Cocker Spaniel.
We must always remember that the ultimate goal of a good breeder is to strive to improve the breed within the guidelines of its standard of perfection.
—Jeffrey G. Pepper, Golden Retriever Club of America