Conformation is the judging of breedable dogs. The idea is to judge the dogs against the Standards written by the parent clubs, (AMCA, SHCA), and accepted/approved by the AKC with the aim of finding the dogs who will produce the best puppies.
A Breeder's Parable: Arab Horses (Reprinted from ShowDogs-L)
Once there was a kingdom where the breeding of Arabian horses was a passion. Everyone wanted the perfect Arab, beautiful, sound, trainable, and versatile.
King Public Opinion dictated the breeding policies of most of his subjects.
And there came upon the land an imported Stallion, Sir Crabbet, who had a most wondrous head and furled his tail like a glorious banner. And King PO declared that this stallion was to be used on all the mares and the bloodline increased until nearly all the horses in the land were beautiful. Unfortunately, they were also so short that the king's feet dragged upon the ground, and his saddle did slippeth forward, because Sir Crabbet's descendant's had no withers and they did not move well.
So the King imported a new stallion, Mr. Poland, who was most athletic and sound & declared that from now on, only the Arabs of Pure Polish breeding were of any value. And this stallion was used on all the mares and his bloodline increased until nearly all the horses in the land were most athletic. Unfortunately, they had ugly heads and were as long as freight trains! And the king wondered "why do these horses look no longer like Arabs?"
So the King went out again and imported another stallion, Ibn Egypt, who was magnificently Arab in type, with his tail set on so high that his croup slopped upward, and a noble, fiery bearing. And the King declared that only horses of Straight Egyptian breeding would be of value. So this stallion was used on all the mares until all the offspring were most showy and Arab like. Unfortunately, they had very bad front legs, couldn't trot worth a darn, and some of them were most unpleasant of temperament.
And the King and his followers despaired of ever producing the perfect Arab.
Now at this same time, there was a group of breeders who did not follow King Public Opinions breeding dictates. They kept the best of Sir Crabbet beautiful offspring and bred them with Mr. Poland's athletic children. To this they added a dash of Ibn Eqypt's blood.
And they produced horses that were, for the most part, beautiful, sound, trainable and versatile, which consoled them greatly for not being considered in style for the last 30 years!
My point, at long last, is that the extreme following of fads has no place in animal breeding. As always, we must strive to balance all the factors that we consider important and that make each breed special.
A Breeder's Parable: Saint Bernards
Three breeders were returning from a show in their mini-van with their 3 Saints. They got stuck in the snow. So, considering they had Saint Bernards in the van and they were afterall, originally intended to be life-saving dogs in the snowy Alps...
The first breeder sent her dog out into the snow and they watched from the van. The dog got 100 yards away and then his bad hips bogged him down and he froze to death wallowing in the snow.
The second dog went out -- and he had good hips. So he made it 1000 yards through the snow before the cold & wet penetrated his incorrect coat and he froze to death.
Despairing, the first two breeders turned to the last breeder who confidently sent out her dog. He had a correct coat, he had sound hips, and he struggled through the snow for miles before coming across the highway patrolman. Whom he promptly ate because he had a bad temperament.
A good dog has correct structure, coat, temperament, and working ability -- ALL of the above.