Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Time to paws-threepete

Well, seems that I have some people reading the blog and asking more questions. Now let me say upfront, I still consider myself a newbie to the breed and always will. There will always be more people with more knowledge then I have and there is always room to learn. Kind of like my Christianity-I'm always a newbie there ;0)

So let's tackle size:

(think theme music here...) it's time for Cardigan Feud!!!

We have three items on the board and we asked random cardigan breeders across America this question----
What is the optimal size for a cardigan?

Seriously folks, if we are going to be picky on the seriousness of the coat fault in the standard, why can't we be just the same about the size?

Standard says: Dog and bitches should be from 10.5 to 12.5 inches at the withers when standing naturally. The ideal length/height ration is 1.8:1 when measuring from the point of the breast bone(prosternum) to the rear of the hip(ischial tuberosity) and measuring from the ground to the point of the withers. Ideally, dogs should be from 30-38 lbs; bitches from 25-34 pounds. Lack of overall balance, oversized and undersized are serious faults.

I have a 41lb male, who is 13 inches at the shoulder. He offers outstanding balance, his ratios are perfect. BUT he is oversized, which is a serious fault. I don't special him. He can do the job he is required to to. He can turn on a dime, work sheep, ducks and cattle. But per our standard, he is oversized. I consider it a structural fault and there for should be more seriously penalized then a cosmetic one.

I saw and know of dogs in the show ring that are over the 38lb male upper range. It's a trend in our breed. One person described to me long ago about trends in dogs. It's a pendulum effect. We go to the extremes more often then we go to the middle of the road. Why? Well when one type of dog wins and wins well, we attain that that is more correct, more apt to win. What we forget is that we are not out there to win. We are out there for an evaluation of potential breeding stock. Bigger isn't always better.

So let's talk weight and balance for a moment. A correct dog with balance at a higher weight can perform, but the breed was originally bred as a 24-30 lb dog with a little longer leg. Adding more weight to a dog does not increase his working ability. Gosh, I have seen 40 lb dogs that are in the 12" height range that are honestly too heavy, can't move correctly and will tire easily when worked. We have to honestly think back to the correctness via the standard and not about how they look in the show ring. Balance is obtained when all the working parts move fluidly, as one and you can't see one part out working another. I think we as breeders very often overlook our balance and ratios in an effort to emphasis something we feel is more important, say shoulders? A great shoulder will do nothing for a dog that has too long a back, incorrect rear angles and lack or overabundance of bone.

Right now our Russ is 34 lbs. That is perfectly in the mid range of the size for a male dog. But you know what? He constantly gets overlooked because he's the smallest male in the ring. Bigger is better in today's world. He fits more the picture of the mid range, correctly balance, proportionally correct dog that our standard calls for then most of the dogs out there specialing and showing from the classes today. He hark ens back to the dogs of 20 or 30 years ago, look at his pedigree and it says just that. But right now, every ones looking for the new and improved variety, such a shame as I think the old version was better.

Okay, now let's talk about weight vs proportions. Seen some big puppy dogs out there recently that look way out of place in the puppy class or even the 12-18. What I see as a huge issue is that even though they are within the correct height and size, they lack overall balance. Here's another thing to remember. When we look at the rib to loin, I was taught that it's 5:3. What's the reasoning for that? Think again about function. The longer rib area will cover more of the vital organs so if the dog is indeed rolled or kicked, there is a grander chance of that dog coming away with some bruised ribs and not damaged kidneys.

A dog with too long of a back or even not enough, can not move correctly. With a too long back you have bouncing toplines, rolls from the rear to the shoulder and the side movement indicates what looks like an incomplete stride. Our breed is supposed to have very close to a single track movement, but due to the shortness of the front legs, should not have a true single track. Side gate should be such that it is free and full. Dogs that can't reach under, push off and have a full extension of the leg in the rear, lack in correctness. Here's the best way for those of you near a beach or in a snowy area. Gait your dog to a certain point, then go back to the track laid and look at where the paw prints fall. What you should see is just shy of one paw print inside another. The correct stride from front to rear, with a dog that is correctly portioned, means that the rear paw will fall very closely into the print of the front. A dog with a back that is too short will not full extend themselves in the side gate and has a choppy look. A dog with too long of a back will full extend but the topline bounces-seen lots of that lately.

Again, returning to proportions, a heavy dog has more mass to move so that it tires quickly. It can't jump an agility jump efficiently and can't turn to move stock. The proportions also include the height of the dog and drop of the chest. A dog too low to the ground does not leave room for efficient leg movement, ie, working stock with a dog that is too low slung is, well, pointless. A dog with too much leg tends to be off balance and again, wasted motion attempting to keep itself righted, tires it easily.

I think we once again need to go back to the standard and read for ourselves. I really hate hearing but everyone else does it, well that doesn't make it correct, does it? If we or should I say judges, continue to encourage the cardigan breeders by rewarding structural faults over cosmetic faults, we will see a continued demise in our breeds overall functionality. Might as well get yourself a poodle ;0) A dog that falls within the range as stated in the standard for both height and weight, that carries the correct length ratios, should be the first dog placed up for evaluation, not the dog that's the biggest in the ring. A well put together dog has not only the correct front and rear structure, but also all the parts in between-height, length and weight. Everything else is just icing on the cake.

Next up--let's talk color and boy do I see that being a well rounded discussion--ouch.

Later gators....


Traci said...

I felt the same way you feel about Russ, when I was showing Dakota to his CH. He is 33-34 pounds at (now) 5.5 years old. I'd even venture to guess that he's less than that since I have him slightly "lighter" for agility. He's probably more like 32 pounds. He finished, but he was certainly smaller than many of the dogs he was in the ring with, despite him being perfectly within limits of the standard. Now my current two are on the outer side of the standard... both ok height wise, but my bitch is 33 pounds, and my dog is 38-39 pounds (or there about). I wouldn't want a dog any bigger than Chance... Geez, I have a hard enough time lifting his big fat butt onto the table! This isn't a ramp breed for heavens sakes! :)
I find, like you, that there are more and more people who are forgiving structural faults such as size, than cosmetic faults, such as too much white, etc.
Can't wait for the color talk! :) Oooh, I've got opinions ;-)

Cindy said...

My Moose is a big boy, very big, but funny, when in the specials ring or in the juniors ring, he looks normal. Shame, he loves to show, but I tell everyone to get their grunt ready when picking him up!

Here's another take on it. If we as breeders continue to show dogs to the judges and john q public that are oversized, undersized and have structural faults, then this will become the norm. When a judge sees a correct dog they just don't know what to do with them. A middle of the road dog will be beat by dogs that are overdone in one way or another, which is where the pendulum effect comes in.

So are we showing our best or just the flavor of the day?

Color--tomorrow! And I'm still working on the whole eye thing for ya!

dreameyce said...

I'm loving these opinions! Hopefully other active blogger breeders will chime in with their takes too, as I'd love to see a full out discussion by breeders :)

I can't wait for the color opinions to roll! I'm personally a fan of "merbles" in other breeds, and am confused why chocolate isn't an allowed show color. I can sort of understand blues (With the possible health problems), but Aussies show chocolate (bb dilute) is a fully functional dilute. I'm also really confused by the prejudiced against 'pink' Cardis.

I've looked, but I can't find any historical info, and it seemed Welsh farmers were not nearly as concerned about color as we are (though please correct me if I'm wrong- I only have a limited knowledge on the breed but am thirsty to learn)

Again, thanks so much for sharing your opinions Cindy! Hopefully more people do, as I'm looking forward to them :)

Anonymous said...

I'm working on a response. Good discussion.

Sherilyn said...

I agree...Phantom, our b/w special, stays between 37-38lbs, and while competing in BOB at Nationals, looked small! We just couldn't get over that...he's at the top of the standard, but looked much smaller than quite a few of the other dogs out there.

Looking forward to hearing more long time breeders chime in, too...we're both still very new to all of this, and still wrapping our brains around everything, trying to absorb as much info as possible.

Blog on! :)


manymuddypaws said...

when I started looking for another Cardi I was astonished at the size!!! My dogs are agility dogs and I definitely needed to steer clear of the 40lb 12inch dogs!

Wicca is a small bitch- fine boned, and not built very well. She is just 11.5 inches tall and about 27lbs. Her full litter brother is 12.5 inches tall and 41lbs. He is a little chunky granted, but he is a HUGE dog- who did very well in the show ring.

A few years ago at the Canadian Cardigan specialty I had the chance to go- and again the size of the dogs was pretty intimidating- you have these huge dogs with chests almost on the ground- how can a dog like that work on rough terrain??? Wicca has a hard time working sheep on rough terrain and she is little!

Great posts Cindy...

Frink Lemur said...

I can certainly agree with everything you've said Cindy, one thing that turns me off of the US dog breeding/show thing, is the seemingly spectacular indifference to function and physical health and performance in the dog, and all the attention being paid to cosmetic, or irrelevant aesthetics. My mind constantly reels every time I see a slope-backed domestic US GSD in comparison to Horand von Grafrath's original "function function function" GSD dogs.

I feel that functionality and health of the dog is king, with the ideal being old Landrace concept.

I worry additionally about inbreeding, even with the current meticulous registry work and genetic defect checking, we are eventually going to breed ourselves into a corner, both on very limited genotype variations (and poor defect to desirable ratio) and the dog's actual functionality/welfare.

Of course the hyper competitive formal breeding scene will never reward function over form, so again the trouble stays.

I'm going to go cuddle with Carly now, to get rid of grumpiness. :)

Anonymous said...

I have a 63 lbs Cardigan. Yes no exageration. This week he started having problem standing for long periods of time and getting up stairs. Moderacy is healthy and in my opinion appealing. I disagreee with enormous dogs being bred to equally oversized bitches. Yet to the right bitches it can produce moderate dogs. So to completely eliminate the oversized from our breeding programs is out of the question, I just think we all need to strive for moderation. Carid should not be "over done." I also think our judges need to be more aware of what our standard says about size and not reward those that are clearly larger than the standard. There are dogs at the lower end of our standard that deserve to be looked at.