Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Time to paws-move it to the right....

This post kind of got stuck on the back burner and I finally have gotten around to finishing it up. Enjoy!

Reach, drive, form, function. How do they all relate to each other and what makes a cardigan different then the rest? And why is the least talked about subject around?

I have a beef. A big beef. Or how about a small duck, medium ewe or even a wayward toddler? In our breed we hear so much about fronts, tail sets/carriage, heads, shoulders, etc but very rarely do we actually put all those parts together and understand how many of those parts work together to make a correctly, efficently and beautifully moving dog. Each part of the structure affects a dog's movement. With a herding dog, it is very necessary to have one that moves correctly to not waste energy in movement, to not have a dog that can't move all day, think and not get tired easily with attempting to do it's job or function. Unfortunately, many people overlook the simple fact of correctness, including many a judge, for a pleasing outline, a correct head or gorgeous coat. Well a dog can herd all day with a little wave in their coat, or a head plane off just a little and an outline that isn't cookie cutter. So what makes up movement.

Reach and drive. Two words used a lot by people that really have no understanding of what it means. The best way to look at it is during an easy trot. Not a flying trot, a suspended trot or a run. At an easy trot. Reach is a term that's hard for people to understand. A correct front and shoulder on a cardigan allows for a dog with a free moving leg to reach out in front of them with a full extension. They don't fling their paw up at any point, but grab at the ground in front, pulling it back towards themselves. I have been agast at a recent judge commenting on a dog-"who uses himself so well" who in fact has a stilted front gait that covers no ground and moves barely a few inches with each step. Too much leg, too little length in upper arm, too forward of a shoulder, or not enough angle in the upper arm, can all cause shortness of movement in front. Heck, even seen dogs with too much angle in the front, which when moved at a correct speed, they fling thier paws up to the sky. All in all, it's not attractive and it's definately not effecient for working.

Drive-that's the rear. Just as in horses, dogs use the rear to propel themselves forward. The majority of their turning as well as the push and weight of their movement comes from their rear. Now I won't go into hips at this point, but it is a fact that hips, angles of the rear bones, length and curve of the stifle, hocks and let down all contribute to correct drive. Unlike one person's description of drive in a photo of their dog, it's not about the extension of the rear feet in a flying running gait. Drive is the aspect of the dog reaching(there's that term again) under themselves, planting that rear foot underneath themselves to then propell themselves forward. With a well let down hock, good length and curve of stifle a dog can also use that foot to plant under themselves and rotate and turn. Watch a cutting horse some day and where they plant that pivot foot. Dogs do the same damn thing. As the dog pushes off that foot underneath themselves, as the with a golfer and the follow through being so important, the follow through for a dog should show a foot that comes off the ground, paw facing towards where the dog has been. The other factor is how far that dog reaches under themselves to plant that foot. A dog with too much length of the middle can't get balanced enough under themselves to push or turn correctly. A dog that is too short in the middle has to compensate with their stride as to not over step on to the front foot. Horses do that a lot and you hear them click the shoe in front. It causes a shortness in their stride and stilting gait. So many parts make up the whole. It's not all about a beautiful shoulder or front, it's the front, the middle and the rear.

What is also at issue is the size of our dogs and the sluggishness that I see in many. They aren't clean in their moving, shuffling their feet. No briskness in their stride. We have an alert breed that should be looking for something to do, not dragging it around the ring. Which also gets me back to the whole flying trot, suspended trot or what ever crap you want to call it. Seems we have two extremes-dogs that can't move or dogs that move too much. I have spent hours watching my dogs out in the front yard. I have a beautiful German Shepherd. He's a rescue. And he should be in the show ring with the wonderful gait he has. He flys across the yard, covering ground like no other. It's effortless, it's smooth and it gets him where he needs to go while still allowing him to pivot and turn to try to catch those darn birds. The cardigans-two speeds, an easy trot which serves to take them from point A to point B. Or a ground covering gallop. The trot is energy efficent and works well for them to turn, pause and change their mind as needed. While the gallop is just that, get me there as fast as you can. The whole flying trot we see in the ring is for display purposes only. Not once have I seen my dogs do that on their own while working unless they are on ground similar to cavalletes in horses and they are required to not trip. Otherwise, it's not worth it to them and I can tell they think it's a foolish waste of time.

So my point, movement in our breed sucks. I see very few dogs in my neck of the woods that have movement worthy of working outside all day long. We have worried too much about having a perfect front, yet it might feel right on the table exam but somethings missing when that same dog moves for me. We have lost our rears for the success of the fronts. Dogs with stilted gaits, tight rears, no angles so they can't properly drive from their rears. And guess what, the pretty pictures or the right color is winning over a functional cardigan that can do what it's bred to do-work in and out of the yards all day long, hunt a few mice, chase off unwanted intrudors and be willing to do it day in and day out. I almost find it funny hearing the-he uses himself well, or wow look at that drive-most of those people haven't a clue what correct movement should look like and how a dog should be put together in order to have it.

Ugh, that was long and well, it might seem a little short to some but the thing I hate the most is being beat by a dog that can't move!

Later gators...


Anonymous said...

Hi, have loved all your pawsing...

Here's a question...

What do we do when they judge says slow down, you're moving to fast... or we've had from a judge that told us our bitch was too fat (6 weeks pregnant) "There's no way she could move like that if she was pregnant."

These two judges continuously place cardigans in group...

I'm starting to want to get out the judges ed brochure and leave a copy with the steward as I walk out of the ring with my tail between my legs.

Keep up the posts, I've really enjoyed reading them and seeing another view!

Joanna said...

Well, as the owner of two who do nothing BUT a suspended trot, including on the way down the hallway out to pee, I don't think it's a foolish gait :).

The Shepherd "flying" trot is a trot-like gait where the front is sort of flung ridiculously far out by the fact that the rear is so unbalanced and overangulated. The dog reaches up to literally under his shoulders with the rear, lifts off, lunges forward, lands on his (normally angulated) front, repeat. It looks ridiculous and it's completely nonfunctional. It also requires extreme effort because the dog has to work so hard to get out of the way of his own back feet.

The proper suspended trot is just like a good horse's suspended trot. It's a completely functional gait that the dog who can extend his joints and follow through on movement does NATURALLY. If you watch each foot, there's a movement through the air, foot comes down, pushes on ground, goes back up in the air. It just means that at the beginning and end of each footfall there's a moment when the dog is moving through the air without the feet touching anything. The dog should not be throwing his or her feet anywhere and there's no height to it. The feet are a half-inch above the ground and there's no hackneying. The topline stays straight and does not bounce. If you see the feet as a pendulum, the dog with the suspended trot has a wider swing than the dog whose feet never leave the ground. The beginning and end of the swing are in the air.

If people are moving dogs so fast that they're practically running them in order to get their feet off the ground, that's ridiculous. If people are trying to get corgis to chuck their feet up like Tennessee Walkers, they are dumb. That's not a suspended trot; that's just a dog trying to get out of its own way. But my Clue in particular has ALWAYS done a suspended trot, from puppyhood, prefers to trot over any other gait, etc. You can actually hear the suspension when she trots--she sounds like a horse trotting, with stride-tiny gap-stride-tiny gap. I'd have to move her at a walking speed to *stop* her from suspending.

J. Council Parker. That man could find movement in a herd of llamas. I used to LOVE watching him judge. I bred to a completely unknown dog he gave a 5-point major to over 40+ dogs because I had never seen such a sidegait on a Dane. Open, powerful, huge flat scopey strides. And that dog at age 9, when most Danes are barely standing, was still trotting miles and miles every day. His daughters have done the same.

Totally and completely agree on head/coat. Good grief, the things we decide are "important."

Have you gotten your hands on Rachel Page Elliott's Dogsteps: What to Look For in a Dog? It's AMAZING. I saw it once years ago and was reminded of it this week because she died at the age of 96. Dogsteps is OLD, which I think makes it better. No fashionable dogs, just solid angles and movement and more angles and more movement. I need to get it again so I can remind my eye to ignore flash in favor of honest and efficient movement.