Monday, January 19, 2009

Time to paws-----Form and Function

Going to revisit this a little as it became the topic of quite a discussion at the show this weekend. Form and function, how a breed is built was the determining factor in how it worked, or so it used to be.

Let's look at the breed and it's history a moment. A long and low dog that was kept around the farm yard to work stock in the pens, out in the low pastures and help the farmer in many tasks. They hunt-I have two who point, one of which also flushes and can be shot over. They rat-killing mice, voles and the like are a thrill to my dogs. They guard-this taken in context explains why a cardigan will appear "reserved" around strange people. Once the owners acknowledges that the person is one of good standing, the dog is friendly and inviting. And they herd-working in tight areas, making spins, turns and running at break neck speeds only to stop on a dime. A very multipurpose dog that had to be agile, smart and willing.

With the knowledge of it's creation, we know that form now plays a vital part in it's function of long ago. A sturdy dog that had clearance to run over rough terrain. Agile to turn quickly and be efficient in movement. Wasting nothing in it's gait to be able to work all day long. So let's talk about today.

We or at least I, have been hearing this mantra over and over again about how bad the fronts in cardigans are. We have the hardest time correcting the bad ones, but as our discussion and subsequent demonstration of this weekend, we also can't have correct movement without a good rear. As stated, we have focused so hard on the front, we now have lack of rear. Similar to a horse and most living creatures, propulsion happens with the rear. The push, the drive, the action and reaction. A correct front provides the rutter to stabilize the motion and to steer it but not the power behind it. So without a good combination of the front and rear, we can't have a properly functioning dog.

Okay, so the rear, what causes it to function. One item that was discussed was the tail. Why are we such tail phobic people? I learned so much one year at the CWCCA judges education-the one thing I didn't know as much about but came away with knowledge of was the angles in the hips. I will not go into the HD discussion here, but all the pieces of the rear-tail set, croup angles, hip angles etc., are all vital in getting a dog that has proper center of balance to drive off the rear and propel the dog forward with out wasting too much energy. Tails, unlike our distance cousins the pemmies, our breed has a distinct drop over the croup that allows for a medium tail set at the end of the body. The dog is supposed to move with it's tail streaming out behind it or slightly above horizontal. With a high tail set, notice I am not saying carriage-two totally different things, but high set, the dog can not extend under as far because his center of balance is not correct, though the dog can show a nice back "paddle" - ie, when watching a dog going, he will kick back with his paw and the pad will show towards you. I hope I said that so that you can understand it. A dog that has incorrect center of balance in the rear, will tend to shorten it's stride and it's wasting energy on movement that is inefficient.

So what's my point in all this? It's a whole dog. We have talked about size, about color and coat. But for a the lack of a better word, we have piece mealed the dog so that we don't have a nice overall balanced dog but we have breeders know for their blues or their b/w dogs, or their great fronts and laybacks or their type heads or dogs that work, etc. We seriously need to get back more to this form and function aspect and have an overall balanced dog that works, loves and is healthy enough to live a long life. The more we emphasis on one aspect, the worse the future looks for our breed. Unfortunate for us, the art of breeding is just that. It's an art that requires years study, knowledge and learning. For those that claim to breed to the standard, I beg to differ on that point. Until the perfect dog comes along, we hope to breed as close to the standard as possible. And when that perfect dog comes along, we will cease breeding as there is nothing better then perfection. But as with all humans, we have opinions, we have our own way of interpreting things. Such is the CWC standard. We all have a different way of looking at it, therefore I don't believe we will ever have perfection. What we do as breeders is make every attempt to breed a dog that will be an exemplary example of what the standard says, but there will always be room for improvement.

So the new challenge is-look at your dog. Can it fit the form and function mold? Can it do what it was bred to do those many moons ago? Is it smart and willing? Is it sound and of proper size? Can it move, can it drive, can it be a cardigan? Boy, isn't breeding fun?????

Later gators........

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