Dogs who move carrying the correct topline will be the ones most likely to exhibit the correct reach and drive underneath the body.
Source: Moving Toplines
Dogs who move carrying the correct topline will be the ones most likely to exhibit the correct reach and drive underneath the body.
Source: Moving Toplines
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Thanks to Gary Andersen, Scottsdale AZ for recommending this video link for our blog!
Video provided by Veterinary Medicine – Facebook.
For those who are visual learners like me, this video specifically highlights the various muscles in sequence as the dog moves. Watch as the next muscle to do a job turns red as it’s function comes into play. Understanding how the muscles work together to create the forward drive of the dog enables breeders to establish a clear picture of how and why the angulation and structure described in the standard are important to proper proper movement and breed type.
Sally Gift, Mesa AZ
Feature photo by Bob Segal, IL
The following includes many excerpts from the article “Musings on Color” published on the blogspot Musings of a Biologist and Dog Lover written by Stephanie.
I’ve added my own thoughts and comments to embellish and round out the information for the Gordon Setter lover and breeder.
The Gordon setter is one of a small number of setter breeds, which also includes the English setter, Irish setter, and Irish red and white setter. Though the Gordon Setter now only comes in one acceptable color, the breed’s history included a number of other colors that are now considered to be mismarks. Part of why these colors are in the breed is due to its relationship with the other setters. So, what are these mismarks?
Dogs with more or less than than required in the standard
*Based on the current breed standard the Gordon Setters depicted in this artwork from the 1940’s carry too much tan.
Inherited on the Brown locus, a dog must be bb to be liver
Inherited on the Extension locus, a dog must be ee to be recessive red
Inherited on the Spotting locus, a dog with a variety of genotypes can have too much white
Looking at these mismarks, they are all recessively inherited except in dogs that are genetically solid but have too much residual white. All of theses colors were well known when the breed was young. Much like the Irish setter, the predominant color in the early years of the breed is actually not what you think it would be when looking at modern dogs. Gordons were once mostly tricolor with some dogs being solid black and tan, liver, or red, but the white markings and other colors fell out of favor and led to the production of the breed you see today.
The current breed standard for the Gordon only allows for black and tan dogs with specific tan markings. Dogs that are anything other than black and tan are disqualified and anything more than a small bit of white on the chest is not allowed. A dog with more or less than the required tan would be penalized, despite the fact that tan markings can vary greatly on dogs that are all genetically tan pointed. So far, it is known that there are modifiers that control this amount of tan, but it isn’t known where they are or how they are inherited.
This is a case where color standard is based on, basically, fashion. What once was popular was no longer liked by those who wrote the breed standard, and thus those other colors faded into obscurity. However, since the colors are basically all recessively inherited, they continue to pop up on occasion in litters that are born today. These past decisions are really problematic when looking at the breed’s history and what this holds for the future. Stephanie
Sally says…It is at this point that as a breeder of Gordon setters I would step in to say that I disagree with Stephanie’s call that the Gordon’s color standard (black and tan) is based on fashion and that this preference is problematic for the breed.
The color preference written into the standard was developed well over a century ago by avid bird dog breeders. They didn’t have an eye to fashion when it came to writing their standard, but they did know exactly what kind of dog they wanted to hunt over, as well as why those traits, written into the standard, were important to them. It has been my understanding that the vivid black and tan coloring of the Gordon Setter may have been written into the standard as the preferred color because of it’s contrast to the gold, tan and red foliage of the fall hunting season, the black dog contrasting, standing out against the fall foliage, making it far easier for the hunter to follow the dog while he worked the field. A red or buff dog, even a white and tan dog would more easily blend into the foliage, his coat acting to camouflage him as he worked the field. And, with the deaf link to the white gene it is certainly understandable why white was weeded out as an allowed color.
If there are other history buffs out there who can offer more insight as to the color preference we’d love to hear your thoughts and hope you’ll share those and any references for us in the comment section of this article.
We’d also welcome your photos, if you have some to share, of red, liver, or other mismarked Gordons to be shared here to help others learn. Please email those to us at email@example.com, we will respect your privacy and photos can be published anonymously.
Sally Gift, Mesa AZ
Another chapter in our review of the Gordon Setter breed standard
Written by Barbara Manson
There are a few things that we need to tie together in regard to the standard. I’ve discussed most of the pieces but we need to see how they work together to create a good quality Gordon Setter. As breeders and exhibitors, it’s important that we not “fool” ourselves as we evaluate our own dogs and those of our competitors. We want what’s best for our breed and we need to be confident and articulate in regards to our choices. We must also establish, in our own minds, what represents a correct Gordon Setter and what is simply personal preference. These can be two separate things. By so doing, we are keeping our minds open and we are better able to evaluate the qualities found in competitors dogs. This is vital if we are to advance our breed.
What does the judge see when he/she is evaluating our dogs on the go around. We all know he sees dogs who may be limping. These dogs are usually excluded from competition because they are considered unsound on that day. If you’re new, and this happens to you, don’t worry. This has happened to most of us at one time or another. Though disheartening, you will compete another day. There are many other things that can be seen from the judge’s vantage point. Under general appearance, size is mentioned. I’ve covered this previously, but the judge can do an initial comparison between competitors at this point. He should also see an “active, upstanding and stylish” dog ” appearing capable of doing a full day’s work in the field”. Balance, and how all the pieces I’ve discussed fit together, is also apparent. A “long, lean” neck, a “rather short back” and “a short tail” can be seen along with a correct topline on the move. The expectation is a “high head carriage” and a back that remains relatively level on the move, not running down hill or overly slopingshoulder to rear. The correctness of the tailset and its relationship to the croup is in evidence at this point. The tail should appear as an extension of the back and be “carried horizontal or nearly so”. The gait should be “bold, strong, driving and free-swinging”. The tail flags constantly while the dog is in motion”. So what constitutes a “free-swinging” gait? It is a “smooth flowing, well balanced rhythm, in which the action is pleasing to the eye, effortless, economical and harmonious”. The dog moves so easily it seems as though he is floating and could move that way all day without tiring. If you’re the handler of such a dog, you can actually feel him ” collect” himself as he starts to move.
Temperament also comes into play here. He appears, at this point, “alert, gay, interested and confident”. He is “fearless and willing”. Many of us have had the experience of trying to show a dog who was not exactly “willing”. It’s not what we want to see in the ring but when this happens, I prefer to think of them as “strong minded enough to stand the rigors of training”. Some are just more strong minded than others. We’ll discuss training techniques another day but this can be one of the challenges of showing a Gordon Setter. It may take time and patience, but even the tough nuts can be cracked. As you consider the importance of these impressions, remember, they are the first thing the judge sees on the initial go around. He sees them again when your dog is evaluated individually, and they are the last thing he sees before he points his finger. These impressions are big clues as to the dog’s ability to withstand a long day in the field. Dogs who exhibit these attributes are a pleasure to watch and they draw your eye to them. They may seem elegant but closer examination should reveal substance. They are, after all, Setters.
I’ve had a couple of people bring up the amount of coat we are seeing in the ring today. Heavily coated dogs are certainly much more prevalent today than they were when I came into the breed. You can look back through old reviews and see how this factor has changed. The current standard only addresses coat as “soft and shining, straight or slightly waved, but not curly”. It goes on to describe where the long coat appears, but gives no parameters regarding how much coat our dogs should carry. It was once said, you could hunt with your Gordon on Saturday and show him in the ring on Sunday. That’s definitely harder to do today. I truly believe you can still finish a championship on a well constructed dog, under knowledgable judges, without an over abundance of coat.
Once you move to the specials ring, the game is stepped up a bit. To compete in today’s groups, coat and presentation become big factors. I believe it would be very hard to pull out group placements and specialty breed wins without it. It’s become an expectation. The dogs who are truly competitive at this level, generally have more than coat and meticulous grooming going for them. I urge breeders and newcomers to politely seek out opportunities to examine as many of these dogs as possible. I will bet you find “hidden” attributes you didn’t know were there. That said, if you bought a dog with an abundance of coat for hunting, but you also want to show him in the breed ring, be prepared to take measures to protect the coat or make choices as to which endeavors you wish to pursue and when. I don’t think we will be returning to the way things were in the sixties or seventies.
I really enjoyed seeing many of you at the National. The committee did a great job and I enjoyed the low key atmosphere. It was so nice, as it always is, to see the dogs. Thank you to all who participated in the hands on breeders education and a special thank you to those who shared their dogs with us. Without you, it would not have been a success.
Barbara Manson, Stoughton WI
Photographs by Ben Perez are shared for your viewing pleasure and are not intended to illustrate any specific point in this article.
GSCA Breeder Education – 2016 GSCA National Specialty
By Sally Gift
To begin let’s start with excerpts from
Positive and clearly explained judging can only be good for both judges and breeders, and for our breeds as well.
Have you ever noticed how easy it is for people to look at a dog and immediately point out what they don’t like about that dog? I think most often the first comments made by many people about a dog are negative. We hear an awful lot of “I don’t like” in conversations about dogs.
Probably we are all guilty of falling into the trap of finding fault, both as breeders and as judges, because finding fault is easier than finding virtue. Common faults are easily seen and identified by almost everyone, while breed-specific virtues can only be seen and appreciated by those who truly understand the breed they are looking at…Even judges (sic Breeders) with years of experience were tongue tied when forced to discuss their placements by pointing out only the virtues of each dog. They all wanted to fall back into the “I don’t like” syndrome.
…The positive mindset is not only important for judges but for breeders as well. How many times have I asked a fellow breeder, “What do you think of that dog?” only to have the first sentence come back starting with, “Well, I don’t like…” After my years of learning about positive judging and critiquing, my immediate reaction is to say, “But I want to know what you do like about that dog.” The look I get is generally priceless, but my question usually results in a thoughtful discussion of the virtue of the dog and a learning experience for both of us.
Not everyone will see the exact same virtues in every dog, and not everyone will place the same priorities on those virtues. That is why different dogs win on different days, and when the judging is positive and can be clearly explained, then no one is wrong. But regardless of differing viewpoints and priorities, striving to see dogs in a positive light can only be good for both judges and breeders, and for our breeds as well.
In forming our concept of the Hands On experience, and in addition to focusing on judging dogs positively, we also wanted to encourage breeders and exhibitors to take the time to put their hands on dogs owned and bred by others; to learn how to feel breed specific qualities to recognize correct structure (breed type), to learn a variety of ideas and concepts from others, and to learn how to see good qualities in all dogs, our own as well as those owned by others – to learn how to develop an unbiased eye.
Now let’s move on to highlights from the Hands On experience!
I can’t possibly write about all the topics we covered, nor all the positives of the dogs presented for exam. But if I haven’t covered a topic or a point that you want to see shared here please offer that in the comment section of this article.
The Hands On experience was open forum, and participants were encouraged to come and go at will, so the group size and the participants fluctuated throughout the program. Some brought dogs who were stacked in front of the group while other participants went over those dogs, the Hands On part. Then, those who examined were asked to share their view of the positive qualities they found on the dog they examined. Discussion about the positives followed with the group at large joining the talk. While committee members, Barb Manson, Peggy Nowak and I moderated to keep things on track, the teachers here were actually the participants, the many breeders and exhibitors who shared their dogs, views, and experience. The Hands On experience lead to many various, thought provoking and enlightening discussions. The participants and their dogs were the shining stars of the experience, and we thank each and every one of you for making this one of the best GSCA Breeder Education events. We have heard a magnitude of positive feedback, and what we heard most often was indeed “best Breeder Education program ever” and “let’s do it again”!
Topics that were covered during the experience
Esther Joseph (Australia) shared many interesting points about length of body and the length and structure of the rib cage. She noted that when compared to other countries, the American Kennel Club (AKC) Gordon Setter Standard, is the only standard to to call for a length approximately to equal height, interpreted by many to mean we seek a “a square dog”.
One of the key takeaways that I would mention is the wording in the AKC standard, wording that says approximately equal, as this wording gives the Gordon room for sufficient length of body to allow for the driving stride he will exhibit if properly angled front and rear. A dog whose body is too short for the angulation of his rear can not move properly. If we were to breed for a completely square Gordon we would need to breed that dog with less angulation in the rear, so his rear stride does not interfere with his front. Perhaps we need to focus on the standard saying approximately equal and eliminate the word square from our lingo?
The AKC standard says Gordon Setter movement should be: A bold, strong, driving free swinging gait…The hindquarters reach well forward and stretch far back, enabling the stride to be long and the drive powerful. If, for example, a Gordon moves wide in the rear, or perhaps he crabs, we might consider that one of the causes could be that Gordon has too much rear angulation for the length of the body. Is this dog then too short in length (too square)?
(NOTE – as a question was raised, I did confirm the information I gave you regarding how to measure the dog’s length. I was correct, it is measured from the point of the forechest and never from the point on the shoulder joint)
Another discussion ensued on proper length, depth, and spring of rib. Here again Esther opened the chat and spoke in detail about the length of the rib cage and it’s importance for the protection of the Gordon’s vital organs (heart and lungs) when hunting in dense brush and brambles. To completely shield those organs the ribcage must be long from front to back, and we should measure this not simply by looking at the length from the side view of the dog, but also by reaching down under the dog to note how how far back the sternum extends. (The sternum being the floor of the chest, where the ribs meet underneath the dog.) The Gordon Setter needs not only his prominent forechest (for proper muscle attachment to provide reach) but also good length of the ribcage; a sternum whose length extends it’s boney protection to completely cover sensitive organs. A ribcage and which allows for the lung capacity he needs by it’s spring as well as depth for working in harsh terrain.
Barbara Manson began a discussion about short hocks by demonstrating that good quality on her dog. This led into a more in depth conversation among the group about the complete rear assembly, angulation, length of hock and sickle hocks. When viewing rear angulation we’d start at the highest point, the femur (think upper thigh) which has always been considered as the longest bone in the dog’s anatomy. The tibia and fibula (second thigh) should be second in length to the femur, and are attached to the hock which should be the shortest in this group of leg bones that contribute to rear angulation. Simple so far, right?
Standing around at rest (as opposed to lusting after a hot smelling bitch which brings every hot blooded dog up on his toes) a well built dog will naturally stand with the rear foot in a somewhat perpendicular line on the ground, right under the boney protuberance that ends at the point of the buttocks. Just like humans, dogs stand around with their feet almost directly under their butts. Why? Because that’s the dog’s column of support. So, if the second thigh (tibia and fibula) is longer than the upper thigh (femur), opposite the normal length of these bones, the only way the dog can reach his column of support is if the hock is long enough to get the foot where it needs to be – underneath the dogs butt. Proper ratio of length between upper thigh and lower thigh gives us the shorter hock we expect on our Gordon Setter. To sum it, a Gordon needs to have an upper thigh (femur) that is longer than the lower thigh (tibia and fibula), ending with a hock that is shorter than both of those bones. As a general rule, the genes that control the length of one bone are often linked to the genes that control the length of the corresponding bones so Mother Nature provides compensation when the ratio in the length of these bones gets out of whack, grow a lower thigh that’s too long for the upper thigh and Mother Nature will give you a longer hock to compensate.
Standing around ringside, looking at dogs standing in a relaxed state, the well put together dogs will be standing with their rear feet underneath the back half of the pelvis and their hocks slightly sloping – we should be able to see light between the ground and the entire length of dog’s hock. If a dog is standing with his hocks nearly flat to the ground, odds are excellent that we are looking at excessive angulation (a lower thigh that is longer than the femur).
Sickle hocks are a result of these over angulated rears. For me, sickle hocks are easily seen on the backward swing of the rear leg during movement. Instead of the joint between the lower thigh and the hock opening up into a nearly straight extended line, where the pads on the bottom of the foot end in a position that is nearly straight up (or reaching toward the sky), the sickle hock, due to the imbalanced length of the bones, at fullest rearward extension ends in a shape resembling a sickle – slightly curved instead of fully extended. No glimpse of the sky for the pads on these feet. The rear movement on the sickle hocked dog looks like the swinging of an old fashioned sickle when viewing the sickle from the side.
Our group also spent a bit of time discussing feet. We’re not going to cover all of that discussion here as this article has grown quite long. I did want to mention that I remember a brief conversation around the use of the term “cat foot”. Perhaps I remember wrong but I thought I heard someone say that “cat foot” no longer appeared in our standard. You were right, cat foot isn’t exactly right, but a reference to cat does appear. The standard says “Feet catlike in shape”.
I’m splitting this report into sections as it’s growing long, keep an eye out for Part II – The 2016 National Specialty Hands On experience in a future issue. In Part II I’ll share other discussions we held on topics like the width of jaw, angle of croup, block on block heads and vitiglio.
Sally Gift, Mesa AZ GSCA Breeder Education Committee Chair
Photos by Ben Perez
A slide show of random photos from the BOB class at the ’16 GSCA National Specialty courtesy of Ben Perez. We’ll be sharing more of these in future articles. Thanks Ben!
GSCA Breeders Education Program – 2016 National – from Noon Wednesday till…
we’ll be on the Show Site for this.
The Breeder/Exhibitor Education Committee will be holding a hands-on experience at this years National at the show site on Wednesday, May 11th, beginning at noon.
The purpose of this program is to give breeders and exhibitors the opportunity to examine, recognize and evaluate positive attributes of Gordon Setter Structure and breed type, to help lend direction to breeding programs and enhance exhibition of the breed. We are encouraging you to bring a dog for examination, but it’s not required. We are only critiquing positives and there will be no fault finding allowed.
This will be a casual program and you can come and go as you wish. All questions are fair game. We welcome everyone, experienced breeders, handlers and newbies alike to participate in a unique experience.
Refreshments will be served.
Written by Barbara Manson
As you will recall, with the last article, we were standing at the front of the dog and examining the head. Now it’s time to put our hands on his body to see if what our eyes have been telling us about him is really what he is. Imagine a beautifully manicured and sculpted specials dog, perfectly stacked, in glorious flowing coat. When we viewed him from the side, he appeared to have lots of forechest. Now we’ll see if it’s an illusion of skillful grooming or if it’s the real deal. We will not be fooled!
Begin by running your hand from below the throat, down the front of the dog and between his front legs. Note the pro-sternum. It’s the prominent bump at the midline of the chest. It’s the foremost point of the dogs body. When viewed from the side, you will note that it arises at a level with, or slightly below, the point of juncture of the upper arm and the shoulder blade. The standard says “Chest deep and not broad in front; the ribs well sprung, leaving plenty of lung room. The chest reaches the elbows. A pronounced forechest is in evidence.” The chest is an extension of the dogs body. As you run your hand over this area, it should feel well developed and filled in, rather than as a hollow space between his front legs. With your eyes, examine the dogs front feet. Are they pointing straight ahead? Is the handler having difficulty correctly stacking the front or is the dog having trouble maintaining that stack comfortably? If the feet are pointing forward, and the dog is not toeing out, do the front feet appear to be rolling outward so the dog seems to be standing on the outside of his feet. These are dead giveaways that all is not right with the front. Most often this is caused by an underdeveloped chest, lack in depth of body or lack of spring of rib. If the dog had these things, they would push the elbows outward and away from the body, so the front feet would be in proper alignment. I should note here that this is not to be confused with the natural tendency of dogs, in a relaxed position, to toe out slightly. Most will do this and, by itself, should not be cause for concern, though we would prefer not to show it to the judge in the ring. Many puppies also go through developmental stages where this is common.
Put your hand on the dogs body directly behind the elbow and note the depth of body. The body, or brisket, should reach the elbow. In practice, I’ve know some Gordons where the depth of body actually extended a little beyond the elbow. Next, run your hand along the upper arm and the shoulder blade. Is there approximately equal length from the point of the upper arm, down to the back of the elbow and from, once again, the point of the upper arm to the shoulder, to create the “90 degree angle” called for in the standard? If you have these things, this dog will stand, when correctly stacked, with his front legs under his withers. Imagine him, for a moment, without all the coat. Let’s say you found that proper, well developed forechest and this dog has the correct front angles. Because of these things, a “pronounced forechest will be in evidence”. You felt it and if he didn’t have the coat, you could easily see it. Given his angles, and substance, it will appear to be greater than that of the pointer. In practice, and for the purpose of discussion, these aspects are often collectively referred to as the front piece and assessed as a unit rather than separately as forequarters and chest. All the individual pieces are interrelated and responsible for how the front assembly functions.
Now, let’s turn our attention to the top line. Step away from the dog and position yourself a few feet away, looking squarely at his profile. Spend a minute or two assessing him. Note his neck, “long, lean and arched to the head”. If he is short on neck or his neck does not flow seamlessly into the topline (back) there is a problem with the shoulder. Is the topline “moderately sloping” to the tail? The standard calls for the loin to be “short and broad and not arched”. The line from withers to croup should be solid, flat and straight. The standard calls for the croup to be nearly flat, with only a slight slope to the tailhead”. The tail is an extension of the back. The standard says ” short and not reaching below the hocks”. Notice the length of body. The standard says the body should be “short from shoulder to hips”. We are looking for a dog who appears to be about as long as he is tall. At this point I will caution you not to let your eye wander to his rear extension. On a well angulated dog, there is a tendency to be fooled on body length by what’s behind him and how far his handler has stretched his rear. Look only at his height and his back to determine length of back.
So why is the topline so important? Years ago, I attended a seminar given by Dr. Quentin Laham. He was an expert on canine structure and movement. He always brought with him a skeleton of his German Shepherd, who he maintained, when he was alive, was an excellent example of his breed. In Dr Laham’s opinion, the back was the foundation on which the rest of canine structure was built, and I believe he was right. Without soundness, our dogs cannot do the job they were bred to do. With long backs, you can see toplines sag over time. There is a natural dip in the center of the back which is the area affected. There are exceptions to this though and I’ve known a few. I’ve also known of many where this scenario played out and was indeed the case. Short backs tend to be strong backs. If you look at the skeletal photo provided in one of the early articles, you can see the natural dip followed by a rise and slight arch of the lumbar vertebrae over the loin. The dip provides the dog with flexibility of the back for movement. You can imagine how this is used if you think of the dog at a full gallop. This area of the back and the loin are covered with muscle in a sound, fit and fully mature specimen of the breed, which lends itself to the flawless topline we are looking for.
The tail should be straight. I believe an older version of the standard made reference to “collie tails”. Obviously we’ve made improvements because I haven’t seen one in years, but they are still back there. We used to see more long tails and they were most generally found on long backed dogs. The standard calls for the tail to “not be docked, thick at the root and finishing in a fine point”. It’s common to dock the tip of the tail of a puppy born with a kink. This can be done for aesthetic reasons or for the health of the puppy because, in the case of a tight kink, it can leave the pup open to skin infections at the site. A judge running his hand down the tail and measuring it against the hock can easily tell the “fine point” is not there if the tail is docked. We will talk more about tail carriage when movement is discussed in the future. Of note to exhibitors, Gordon tails are to carried “horizontal or nearly so”, so when hand stacking your dog, keep this in mind. This was definitely something I needed to work on!
I hope many of you are heading to Ohio for the National. Please make note of our GSCA Breeder Education “Hands On” at the show site to be held Wednesday May 11, exact time to be determined. We will be going over dogs and critiquing for positive attributes only. Also, at various times throughout the National and during the Hands on Program we’ll be measuring heights and comparing to weight for our “My Genes Fit” program demonstrating the variance in size that is correct in the Gordon Setter breed. Bring your dogs by to participate and earn your dog’s fabulous My Genes Fit tags.
We invite everyone to drop by and bring a dog if you have one. See you in Ohio!
Photographer – Bob Segal , Chicago IL
Please note: The photos in this article are provided for your viewing pleasure and are not intended to illustrate any fault mentioned in the article.
(Editors note: antique print illustrations were added by the publisher for your viewing pleasure and are not intended to illustrate points in the author’s article)
Up to this point, we have only visually examined dogs, much of it from across the ring. Now it’s time to take a closer look. In this article, I would like us to step to the front.
Imagine yourself looking down at a well groomed and stacked dog before you. The first aspect you will notice of the Gordon before you is the head. If you’re like me, you will be immediately drawn to the eyes and expression. The standard says the eyes are “of fair size, neither too deep-set nor too bulging, dark brown, bright and wise. The shape is oval rather than round. The lids are tight.” Eyes come in all shades of brown. The darker they are, the more pleasing the expression to most of us. This is purely esthetic as color of the eye does not affect the dogs ability to function. However, the prominence of bulging eyes would seem to present an increased possibility of injury in the field and dogs with eye lids that are not “tight” (drooping lower lid with mucous membrane showing) or too deep-set, would leave open the possibility of chaff collecting in the lower lid while the dog is in the field. Round eyes also can change the dogs expression, but once again, is esthetic only.
The standard also calls for the ears to be “set low on the head approximately on line with the eyes, fairly large and thin, well folded and carried close to the head. Most breeders will see, from time to time, a dog with shorter, thicker ear leather. I have one right now and I need to be vigilant about cleaning and caring for her ears because the thickness seems to lend itself to ear infections, especially in hot, humid weather. These short ears are also not as pleasing to look at, particularly when she chews the hair off! A high ear set also negatively impacts expression.
The standard goes on to say the skull should be “nicely rounded, good sized, broadest between the ears. Below and above the eyes is lean and the cheeks as narrow as the leanness of the head allows. The head should have a clearly indicated stop.” The skull should broaden out to its widest point at the between the ears but this should be a gradual widening and when viewed from the top, the head should not look like a large slice of pie or a giant wedge of cheese. This look is often referred to as “wide in the back skull”.
A definite stop between the eyes is ideal, but if it is too deep or severe, it can give the look of a hard expression and not the typical softness desired.
“Muzzle – fairly long and not pointed, either as seen from above or from the side. The flews are not pendulous. The muzzle is the same length as the skull from the occiput to stop and the top of the muzzle is parallel to the line of the skull extended. The lip line from the nose to the flews shows a sharp, well-defined square contour.” This is easier to visualize if you think of it as a brick on brick look when viewed from the side. It’s common, but not correct, to see dogs when viewed from the side with the top of the skull level, that will have a muzzle that is not parallel to the top of the skull but instead is pointing slightly downward. This look is referred to as down faced or it can be said that the dogs head does not have parallel planes. As our dogs get larger, so do heads, and with that seems to go a tendency for pendulous flews. Many times this occurs in conjunction with seemingly too much skin, including loose lower eye lids and throatiness (extra skin on the neck, under the jaw). I can cite examples of throaty dogs from the past that didn’t have loose eyes or dogs with loose eyes and pendulous flews that weren’t particularly throaty, but there were far more who carried all three. A previous edition of our standard referred to houndiness (think Bloodhound here) as being undesirable. I think it’s wise to remember ideal dogs need to look as though their skin fits like spandex and not sweats.
Our standard describes a bite where the teeth meet in front in a “scissors bite with upper incisors slightly forward of lower incisors. It also says a “level bite”, where teeth meet evenly in the front, is not to be considered a fault.
The standard is specific as to color on the face and I won’t go into much detail here except for a couple of points. Young dogs with mahogany markings tend to darken with age, especially on the face. This is not a fault, but in my mind, an expectation. Also, you can often find a young pup with a small stripe of tan over the top of the muzzle at the nose. This may well disappear or greatly diminish with age and should not be faulted.
As you sit ringside or wander the grooming area, you will see many different heads. Take note of them. Notice if the bitches heads look feminine and the boys look masculine. Notice if the head fits the body. We often hear “that dog doesn’t have enough head or that bitch looks doggy”. Is that true or does the head fit the body for that style of dog. In some lines, young animals gain head and flew with age and in others, the heads are large early and the body needs to grow to fit them. Typically, heads, and even in some cases, bites, can change until the age of three. When evaluating an adult, it’s very important to overall balance that a dogs head looks like it’s the one he or she should have for their body type. Check out the expressions and note the ones you like or dislike and attempt to ascertain what it is about the expression that impacts you.
I have not included photos of heads here because there are many looks that can be considered correct by standard. It’s important, as breeders, that we take a look around and widen our horizons by taking note occasionally of stock, other than that in our own kennels, and try to develop an appreciation of the efforts of other breeders. In some lines, it may be the heads that catch your eye and in another, it may be another trait that earns your admiration. These are all useful bits of information to file away and may lend direction to the search for the best sire for a litter not yet thought of. (editors note; antique prints were added by the publisher for your viewing pleasure and are not intended to illustrate points in the author’s article)
Happy head hunting everyone!
by Barbara Manson
Why do I have pictures of an English Setter and a Pointer in my article about Gordon Setters? Good question. They are here so we can discuss how angles function and their importance to breed type.
To summarize, from the last article, we know that the angle formed from the top of the shoulder blade (withers) to the to the humorous to the back of the elbow (in practice refered to as upper arm) should be approximately ninety degrees. To add to this, the length of the blade should be approximately equal to the length of the upper arm. We can hopefully see this from looking at the dogs stacked from across the ring or from the judges perspective as he evaluates them from the middle of the ring. There are other things we can see to help us evaluate the correctness of the angle. Does the dog appear to have sufficient length of neck or does it seem short in relationship to his body? The standard says, “Shoulders – fine at the points, and laying well back. The tops of the shoulder blades are close together. When viewed from behind, the neck appears to fit into the shoulders in smooth, flat lines that gradually widen from neck to shoulder”. If the portion of the angle created by the shoulder blade is too wide so the blade is more upright, the neck can appear short or you may get the impression the way the neck fits into the shoulder is less than pleasing and somehow out of balance with the rest of the dog. This is more often seen in Irish Setters. More commonly in Gordon Setters, when the neck appears short, it’s because the shoulder blade is too short. If we were able to look at this dog from over the top, we would find excessive width between the shoulder blades. Many years ago, it was felt the correct distance between the shoulder blades should be no more than two fingers and this was thought to be universal among all breeds. I personally don’t believe, in practice, this works for Gordon’s. The standard calls for “ribs well sprung, leaving plenty of lung room”. If this shoulder blade is to “lay well back”, it has to accommodate for a rather robust body which may require more width. Maybe two fingers isn’t the proper width between the shoulder blades for this breed but neither should we be able to place a whole fist between the blades. The width should be just enough to accommodate the body so that “The tops of the shoulder blades are close together”. The standard also calls for the shoulders to be “fine at the points.” The neck into the shoulder should always appear smooth and seamless. If the blade is not long enough or the shoulder blades are not fine at the points, the dog will appear rough in shoulder. Another dead giveaway that the shoulders are incorrect, if you are close enough to observe it, is a tendency for there to be a roll of skin over the shoulder blades when the head is positioned normally. The width between the shoulder blades at the withers and the fineness of the points is often referred to as the lay on of shoulder. A well layed back shoulder blade and good lay on of shoulder contributes the most to to the dogs ability to “reach far forward to accommodate for the driving hindquarters”.
The other part of the front angle, the upper arm, may also add a little more reach, but its primary importance in the setter is the flexibility it adds to the front allowing the Setter to “set” rather than point with the more upright stance of the pointer. I chose to use the English Setter to demonstrate this because the photo was not only incredibly good, but the coloring of the white dog made it easier to see. Compare the English Setter to the photo of the Pointer, who is also pointing, and notice the structural difference of the front assembly. This length of upper arm is very important to breed type. It’s the major structural characteristic that separates the setters from the pointers and in these days of declining numbers of Gordon Setters, care must be taken so we don’t loose this as its already hard to find.
Rear angulation is the easiest to see and assess. The standard says “The hind legs from hip to hock are long, flat and muscular; from hock to heel, short and strong. The stifle and hock joints are well bent and not turned either in or out. When the dog is standing with the rear pastern perpendicular to the ground, the thigh bone hangs downward parallel to an imaginary line drawn upward from the hock.” The impression you should have, when viewing a correct rear from the side, is one of power and flexibility. It should be able to reach far forward and drive far back to help propel the dog. Note the photo of the Gordon. Look at the length of the upper arm and also the flexibility the angle allows in the rear. Maximum angle and balance from front to rear would allow this dog to “set”.
We’ve talked about correct angles but I would be remiss if I didn’t add a bit about balance. When visualizing a relatively square, short backed dog, imagine for a moment how this dog would move if he had more angle in the front than the rear or more in the rear than the front. Somehow, that dog would have to compensate for his unbalanced angles when moving. We will talk more about the impact on movement later, but for the sake of function, balance, regardless of angle, is most important. However, to have a truly good specimen of the breed, we must strive for correct, balanced angles and we must be striving to keep correct upper arm.
Angulation serves another very important function. From “a slight spring” of the pastern through the correct series of angles, our dogs are equipped with a remarkable set of shock absorbers. These angles absorb the pounding and stress of hard work and allow this heavy boned, muscular dog to put in a full day in the field. A dog so endowed should not tire easily, provided he is fit. This, along with the ability to set, are examples of where form meets function and that is indeed breed type.
I would like to thank Oddur Orvar Magnusson for the use of the photographs of the English Setter, “Erro”, and the Gordon Setter. I would encourage you to take a look at his videos (English Setter Iceland) on You Tube. They are amazing examples of English Setters, and an occasional Gordon, doing what they were bred to do. They will do a wonderful job of demonstrating the impact of angles on Setters.
Also thank you to Kevin and Samantha Freeburn for the photo of the pointer, “Drake”, Quail Hollow Genesis, JH. In my opinion, these photos have created great visuals for learning purposes.
Barbara Manson, Stoughton WI