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.
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”.
AKC Standard – Proportion: The distance from the forechest to the back of the thigh is approximately equal the height from the ground to the withers.
Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC) Standard – Body: Moderate length.
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!
“Assessing virtue is the essence of the whole judging process. However, the assessment of faults is also a part of that process.” Ann Gordon, Dachshund Club of America, February 2013 AKC Gazette
New dog show exhibitors will soon find that it is relatively easy to learn about, recognize and evaluate faults in construction. Soundness, proper construction, is a virtue that is necessary in any breed and is especially so for our Gordon Setters who are bred as hunters. Noting constructional faults during judging, like weak top-lines, poor tail-set, flat feet, or an incorrect bite; these things help a judge (and a breeder) to evaluate the dog against the typical competition.
What is also important though, what can pose a problem is the dog who is structurally sound but departs from an ideal type. An example might be the Gordon Setter with less than ideal angulation both front and rear who moves very clean coming and going, from the side however, this dog does not have the appropriate reach and drive of the Gordon Setter and does not display the outline of breed, this dog instead resembles more closely the Irish Red & White. In this case the dog would not be considered wholly typical, he lacks breed type, he has a fault of type.
Whether we are new to breeding or have spent years putting puppies on the ground, we must always maintain perspective in the assessment of faults. When a dog possesses a fault that detracts from the very essence of Gordon Setter breed type, then both breeders and judges will need to be cautious in their assessment of that particular animal; and breeders need to be extra cautious as to the judicious use and the depth to which those faulty genes are going to be introduced into the gene pool, if at all.
Let’s be honest, there are many dogs who are very glamorous, who have beautiful showmanship and when those qualities are added to the fundamentals of breed type that dog is a sight to behold for breeders and judges alike. Where we need to be cautious is in viewing the dog who is superficially attractive but missing a fundamental quality of breed type, we must learn to see beneath the flash and glamor to the place where breed type is also needed to assess the overall quality of the dog and his use for breeding. (remember that the word “dog” used here is equally as applicable to a bitch)
In weighing faults of type one must include in the assessment, all the attributes this dog brings to the breed in order to properly determine the judicious use of the dog and the legacy left in the gene pool. If this dog is a top winner and breeders all rush to use him, then it is his owner who may be holding the reins that guide the future direction of the breed through the gene pool, especially if other breeders do not make appropriate choices for their bitch.
On the flip side, we must also understand that it is not always the top winning dog, lacking in type, who negatively impacts the gene pool, though it is easier to hold them accountable as their high profile makes them more obvious targets. Sometimes faults of type are being replicated litter after litter in a more prolific manner by those who fail to recognize the qualities of breed type, and therefore, unaware that they are replicating fault, continue to put multiple litters on the ground with faults of type.
So we must all, new and experienced, understand faults, both in soundness and in type, and we must all recognize that we each have a grip on the reins guiding the future of the breed. And most importantly for those who are experienced, we must be there to guide and mentor those with less experience as they may quickly learn to see soundness but breed type is best learned through the guiding eyes of others.
Sally Gift, Mesa AZ
Photos by Bob Segal are for viewing pleasure only and are not intended to illustrate points in this article.
Just so you all know, if you’re not on Facebook, or are on Facebook and haven’t joined our Gordon Setter Students and Mentors Group, then you missed all the fun we had this week debating size and substance – again – for the millionth time – OK the billionth time – because that’s what we like to do, and we all have our own vision of “size” and “substance” so it gives us a lot to talk about!
First off the Gordon Breed Standard gives us a wide (for most breeds) 3 inch spread in height guidelines, and I’m here to say that 3 inches makes it very tough for the eye to evaluate proper size and substance in a ring full of Gordon Setters, which in turn leads to all those debates we hold!
This time though, I came to the discussion armed for debate with words (the breed standard) and a calculator, because gosh darn it, there’s math involved in reading that thing (the standard) and I hate math! Just in case you missed that last sentence – I HATE MATH! You should know then, that it causes me great pain and much discomfort to be writing about it here!
There are many phrases, quotes and other descriptions that are used by us when we debate the “how much substance” and “how big” question, and that is what gives rise to trends in our breed. Often the words “The weight-to-height ratio makes him heavier than other Setters.” become an assumption that to be “correct” our Gordon absolutely must appear taller, bigger and heavier than all of the other Setter breeds, but is that how we should be reading the standard?
Just because our standard says that the Gordon is “heavier than other setters” does not mean that the standard was written to imply we should use only this line to judge the proper size and substance of a Gordon – what if those other Setter breeders are wrong and they are breeding their Setters to be larger than what is called for in their breed standard? What if the majority of their breeders are breeding and exhibiting their setter breeds above breed standard, do we then jump off that same bridge in order to retain our place as “heavier than other setters” or do we breed true to our standard? And that brings us right back to what is appropriate size and substance?
Before I begin my math lesson (see how I’m avoiding the math part) I’ll share with you some of what our discussion group said around what we all believe to be contributing factors in the Gordon appearing heavier or having more substance.
Beverly Garaux – I don’t think I interpret it as a weight issue either. If you have all three setters 24″ tall the only way the Gordon would be heaviest would be for it to have bigger bone and more substance. That is my interpretation. If you have silhouettes of all three setters you should easily be able to pick out each breed. The Gordon should have the largest bone and most body. His bone structure is what makes him the heaviest not necessarily his height.
Sally Gift – agreed Beverly, but if you have bigger bone and substance wouldn’t that also mean more weight? <grin>
Beverly Garaux – yes.
Beverly Garaux – I said what you said in a different way. <smile>
Barbara Manson – The weight on the Gordon’s can be quite deceptive. A lot of it is in muscle mass.
Barbara Manson – … some of the English. They have as much bone as some pretty large Gordon’s. I personally don’t feel we should be judging the size in our breed by comparing it to the other setters we see. If they are moving away from their standard, it doesn’t mean we should. This kind of thing has been going on for years.
Dianna Ellis – “Heaviest of the setters” IMHO means that there is more to them, more breadth of head, more depth of head/muzzle/flew, broader in the rear skull than the other setters; more neck, not length, but thicker, hence more muscle to hold up that head and more to them, more breadth of head, more depth of head/muzzle/flew, broader in the rear skull than the other setters; more neck, not length, but thicker, hence more muscle to hold up that head and muscle to help the front reach; more body, not narrow like the Irish, but my no means barrel chested, more width, short backed, cobby; rears with flat croup and wide thighs, can’t have one without the other, those wide thighs will have more bone and much more muscle, short thick hocks…hence they are the heaviest!
Sally Gift – According to many of these comments I think we are all on the same page. We agree that when describing the Gordon as heavier than other setters – “The weight-to-height ratio makes him heavier than other Setters.” line in the standard – we included many things like the thickness (including also the height) of his skeleton, head structure, along with his heavier muscling giving us the “good-sized, sturdily built” and “suggests strength and stamina rather than extreme speed” descriptions in the breed standard, because we all know and agree that muscle mass and thickness of bone add weight to every animal. (You mind the word weight now, because it’s going to come up in our math exercise.
So, moving on and getting to that math problem (dang it), let’s learn how to do a bit of simple math to see what the standard could be saying about how to measure the Gordon so that we can judge if he is bred correctly to the standard and meets the definition of “heavier than other Setters”.
In my eyes, (and maybe because I hate math so I noticed that darn math immediately) the writers of our breed standard gave us a measurement to define what they meant to be understood and followed as a guideline to appropriate size and substance. The standard authors went one step further than descriptive words such as “good sized, sturdily built…well muscled, with plenty of bone and substance, but active, upstanding and stylish…head is fairly heavy“. They gave us a mathematical description that we could use to describe size including “substance” in a measurable unit when they wrote: “The weight-to-height ratio makes him heavier than other Setters.” That’s nothing new you’re thinking! But, many folks are only remembering heavier and are forgetting that the word ratio was included. While the word ratio doesn’t give a good visual to use, and neither does its expression as 24:55, we can use those numbers instead to calculate the Gordon Setter’s weight per inch (height) and then we have something we can measure and visually see when we assess our own dogs or our competitors. Here it comes then, the “do the math” portion of our show!
Gordon Setter Male – standard says “Shoulder height for males, 24 to 27 inches” and “Weight for males, 55 to 80 pounds”. Pounds per inch calculation at the shortest height would be completed by taking the lowest or 55 pound weight divided by the corresponding lowest height of 24″ which equals 2.3 pounds per inch. (It’s really easy this math, I don’t know why I hate it so much!) The bone and substance, of our smallest Gordon Setter should be no less than 2.3 pounds for every inch he is tall. And the largest Gordon Setter at the tallest 27″ height divided by the 80 pound weight guide will weigh no more than 3 pounds per inch. These numbers, smallest and largest, tell us that to exhibit the correct size, bone, and substance as described in the Gordon Setter Breed Standard an ideal male would stand no less than 24 and up to 27 inches tall and weigh no less than 2.3 and no more than 3 pounds per inch, assuming that the dog is in proper weight and condition as also described in the standard.
Gordon Setter Female – “females, 23 to 26 inches” “45 to 70 pounds” and using the same calculation we find that the breed standard tells us an ideal Gordon Setter female would stand no less than 23 and no more than 26 inches tall and at the shortest and tallest heights would weigh no less than 2 pounds and no more than 2.7 pounds per inch.
Now mind you, I am not trying to rework the standard here by inserting number definitions, I am simply showing you how using the numbers provided by the standard will help you to attain a measurement that visually defines correct substance. And let us be clear, just as there can be too little substance on a Gordon Setter there also exists a point where there is too much substance. A 24″ bitch at 70 pounds is within the height and weight guidelines, however she would weigh 2.9 pounds per inch, exceeding our 2.7 maximum limit. At 2.9 pounds we are moving toward the place where her substance is closer to that of a heavier working breed or that of a male (“doggy bitch”). Will this in turn, affect her ability and performance in the field where she belongs? This point should be equally attributed to a dog. There is no place in the standard where it is stated that Gordon Setters measuring at the taller heights and heavier weights are more correct in their type than those on the opposite side of those measurements. “Heavier” is defined by the guidelines provided in the height to weight RATIO and should not be interpreted as meaning the bigger dog is more correct.
Using this formula to determine substance is simple, the tools are a wicket and a scale and a dog in proper weight. Weigh the dog, measure the height with the wicket and be certain you know the sex of the animal (grin)! Take the weight measurement, divide by the height and the sum will be the number of pounds per inch. If your dog is male who falls within the height guidelines, and the resulting sum falls within 2.3 – 3 pounds per inch your dog is of correct size and substance. If a bitch is being measured the sum obtained should fall within the 2 – 2.7 pound measure. These animals would all have proper type as pertains to substance according to the standard. Now then, if you prefer your style of Gordon with a heavier look your dogs may be measuring in at the top of pounds per inch. For a male that would be closer to the 3 pounds per inch and for a female closer to 2.7 pounds. Of course, the opposite would hold true if your style leans toward a more moderated appearance. The point would be that neither of those styles would be more correct than the other, nor would they be wrong as pertains to size and substance, they all fall within the dictates of the standard. See how easy this can be!
This now brings me to another point which I believe warrants attention; the pounds per inch we just calculated indicate that we now know, based on the math, that our bitch’s substance as written in the standard is supposed to be .3 pounds LESS per inch than the dog’s. Maybe, that doesn’t sound like much, but in an animal the size of a dog/bitch it does make a clear difference to the eye. This shows us that the substance and bone of the bitch, as defined by the breed standard, are not expected to be equally as substantial as that of the dog. Her height is lower, and while we may have assumed that the lesser weights were a result of the shorter stature, that is at not everything that was meant to be understood by the definition of size and substance. Using pounds per inch we can see that the authors of the standard also defined the bitch as having a lower weight to height ratio, so she should appear smaller in stature, not simply shorter, but also a bit less substantial. (approximately 11-15% less substantial than the male). If you think about this with an eye to nature, you will realize that this follows the rest of the animal kingdom. Mares are not built like stallions, cows are not built like bulls, the doe is not built like the stag and the bitch is not built like the dog. Hey, girls will be girls!
There were those who joined our discussion who also show English Setters. They mentioned that in the English Setter it is common practice to include the height and weight of the dog in their advertising, including the pictorial. What a marvelous idea! Instead of guessing if a dog is of proper size and substance when viewing a photo, we could use our simple math to answer that question and decide more accurately if the dog in the picture fits our style, and is also within standard for size and substance. Wouldn’t that be better than guessing or relying on word of mouth if you hadn’t seen the dog? How simple is that? Why aren’t we doing it or why don’t we start?
Someone recently asked me what I considered “moderate” for a Gordon Setter when I mentioned I preferred (and bred) with an eye for moderation. Moderation to me means neither too large, nor too small, a dog whose parts all fit smoothly together with no “jarring” piece that stands out or appears out of place. The moderate dog appears symmetrical and balanced in all parts, bone to height, head to body, front angle to rear, no exaggerations in any one area, which again includes size. If your eye is drawn to any one particular part of the dog, chances are that part may lack moderation.
So using the formula I gave you, and looking at the photos of Sara, I’m sharing a “moderate” bitch, who is clearly a girl. Sara stands 25 inches at the shoulder and weighs 64 pounds and that is at a trim weight. Even if I subtract 4 pounds of that weight for hair and toenails (I’m horrible about keeping her nails short) Sara would still weigh in at 60 pounds. I know for some this may be hard to imagine, but she’s weighed at at vet’s office many times and that’s what the scale reads. She always takes off her shoes to be weighed and is sensitive about the subject of her weight, as are most ladies!
Does Sara have enough substance for a Gordon? Well her weight and height are both within standard, and if we use the pounds per inch measure to confirm substance, Sara weighs 2.4 pounds per inch. Sara is right in the middle of the size range for both height and weight, and her substance measured as pounds per inch falls right in the middle of that range (2 – 2.7) pounds also. The size of her head fits nicely with the size of her body, as well as the size of the neck that carries it. Her angles front to rear are equal, properly balanced and fit the standard’s ideal. There are no glaring parts to draw your eye from the symmetry of the whole bitch, the entire picture fits together smoothly. This, to me, is a moderate Gordon Setter, not a small, not a large but one perfectly and well within the breed standard and not at either end of the spectrum. My preferred “style” of Gordon. Is she perfect? Well no, but I’m not about to say anything bad about her, she is standing here, right next to me and giving me that “I adore you” look!
Plan to earn your FABULOUS button, have some fun and talk more on this and topics like this at the “My Genes Fit” gathering hosted by Breeder Education at the 2016 GSCA National.
Here it is! The second in a series of articles by our Guest Blogger – Barbara Manson, Stoughton WI. Once again Barb shares insight about the Gordon Setter breed standard helping us to to put the words of the standard into perspective as it pertains to the many “styles” of Gordon we encounter.
The Substantial Gordon
by Barbara Manson
I want these articles to follow some kind of natural progression in regards to the way we normally assess our Gordons. Once again, I’m targeting primarily the folks new to the sport but I hope everyone takes the time to read through this. It is my intention to provide a basis for later discussion and for mentoring our “newbies”.
If you asked anyone in Gordons to define substance, the conversation would always begin with bone. This is the easiest part of substance to see. Often we tend to look at big feet and the size of the forelegs and compare our dog, who seems well endowed, to a competitors dog who is smaller and who doesn’t appear to have as much as our boy does. But, let’s stand back for a minute and really evaluate each dog rather than comparing them. When evaluating the amount of bone, you have to take into consideration the size of the dog you are looking at. Our standard describes “a good sized, sturdily built black and tan dog, well muscled, with plenty of bone and substance”. I discussed size a couple of months ago and we know, as per standard, the boys can range from 24-27 inches at the withers and bitches can be 23-26 inches. Those animals at the bottom of the standard are every bit as correct as those at the top and no preference as to size is stated in the standard. Therefore, a 24 inch boy and a 23 inch girl are considered “good sized” in terms of height. It would logically seem that the size of the feet and limbs on a 24 inch dog would not be what you would expect to see on a 27 inch dog. By standing back and evaluating the individual, you get a better perspective. Does the smaller dog look like his bone is big for his height? Perhaps, the impression you get by evaluating in this manner will leave you with the feeling he has more bone than your own dog. The amount of bone an individual dog has should always be evaluated in proportion to his height. Here’s another point related to bone we need to consider. In most species, there are gender differences as to size between males and females. This, per standard, is also relevant to to Gordon Setters. In other words, dogs should look like dogs and bitches should look like bitches. In our breeding, we all will occasionally get a dog who looks a bit “bitchy” or a bitch who looks “doggy”. We should not be striving for either. One should know instantly whether he is looking at a dog or bitch without feeling for testicles. The girls should never be expected to carry as much bone or head as their male counterparts, or vice versa. The head piece should, first and foremost always fit the body. I admit to personally being a sucker for a feminine Gordon head on the girls.
The standard describes “plenty of bone and substance”. So what constitutes substance. There are several descriptive words and phrases in the standard that are meant to give the impression of substance. “Weight for males 55-80 pounds; females 45-70 pounds. The weight-height ratio make him heavier than the other setters.” Nowhere in the standard does it say the Gordon is the tallest of the setters. In fact, the “ideal” height for a male Irish Setter is 27 inches at the shoulder, which is considered the top of the range for a Gordon. It follows that the impression of size in Gordons must come from other factors. So what are these factors? Once again, we look to the standard.
“Body – short from shoulder to hips. Chest – deep and not too broad in front; the ribs well sprung, leaving plenty of lung room. The chest reaches to the elbows. A pronounced forechest is in evidence. Loins short and broad and not arched.”
“The angle formed by the shoulder blade and upper arm bone is approximately 90 degrees when the dog is standing so the foreleg is perpendicular to the ground. Forelegs – big boned, straight and not bowed. Pasterns are strong, short and nearly vertical with a slight spring.”
“The hind legs from hip to hock are long, flat and muscular; from hock to heel, short and strong.”
The short body (short back) not only gives the impression of strength, but is a stronger back, less likely to breakdown over time. As our dogs age, top lines tend to sag. This is especially prevalent in a longer backed dog. If we are using our Gordon in the field as they were intended, or for performance events, we want them to be sound into old age.
When viewing the dog from the side we should see a pronounced fore-chest. This is the 90 degree angle formed from the top of the shoulder blade (scapula) or withers, to the upper arm (humerus) to the back or point of the elbow. The upper arm should be approximately the same length as the shoulder blade, allowing for the front legs to be set well under the body with the elbow in an approximate line with the top of the wither. The angle formed, ideally, should be about 90 degrees (please reference the drawing). The front structure is one of those characteristics that defines a setter and sets them apart from other pointing breeds. Hence, it is also very important to breed type. I hope to discuss this further in the future. The more front angle you have, the more the appearance of substance. In the conformation ring, you may not be able to discern exactly how much fore-chest a dog has without putting your hands on him. Skillful trimming can give him the illusion of more front, even when he doesn’t have enough.
The loin is the portion of the topline from the last rib to the sacral vertebrae or the area encompassing the lumbar vertebrae. When viewed from the top, it should appear broad and substantial. From the side, it should be relatively short. The body should be deep, with brisket, or body, reaching to the elbow. There should be sufficient spring of rib so the dogs body, when viewed from over the top, has dimension and definition, and does not appear as a long narrow tube. When looking from the top, you should be able to see where the ribs end and there should be an indentation where the loin begins. The tube look is often referred to as “slab sided” and is a look far too common in Gordons. A breeder friend once referred to dogs like this as “cardboard cut out dogs”. I found this very descriptive.
Short pasterns and short hocks are indicative stamina and not speed. Compare the length of the hock in a Gordon to that of a sight hound such as the whippet or greyhound which were bred for speed.
Short pasterns and short hocks are indicative of stamina and not speed. Compare the length of the hock in a Gordon to that of a sight hound such as the whippet or greyhound which were bred for speed. We often hear the term wide thigh when referring to Gordon structure. When viewed from the side, the thigh muscle should look “wide” and developed and when viewed from the back, we should see muscle definition on an adult, conditioned dog. In general, when comparing Gordons to other breeds of setters, they should appear to have shorter, thicker musculature which leaves the impression of endurance rather than speed and this is most apparent in the rear muscling. These shorter, thicker muscles require a heavier structure or frame for muscle attachment, hence we should see more bone on a Gordon than on an Irish who has longer, thinner muscles and a longer hock. Both of these features are indicative of more speed.
The descriptions above are applicable to adult dogs and not necessarily to pups and adolescents. If you are just getting started in this sport with a young show pup, be aware that it takes time for the youngsters to fully mature and accurate assessments are sometimes difficult, if not impossible on babies. Also know that none of our dogs are perfect. This information is intended to improve our understanding of the ideal and give us a basis for evaluating our breeding stock as well as sizing up the competition at the show.
Once again I encourage any feedback or clarification you may have to offer on this subject. I want to encourage everyone to be involved in breeder education and your comments are welcome. Please have them to Sue Drum by October 12th for the November News.
(If you are not a GSCA member or would prefer, you may enter your comments here on the blog as these will also be reviewed along with those submitted through the club venue.)
I started a new discussion group that you may find totally useful if you’re seriously into breeding and/or competing with your Gordon Setter. Now, I realize that many of you are not on Facebook and may well have sworn never to go there BUT you don’t have to turn into a Facebook junkie, nor do you need to accumulate a slathering of friends, but you will need to set up a Facebook account in order to view and post to the group. There are already fabulous discussions starting, questions being posed, and pictures being shared of dogs from way back, all things educational can be shared here.
Welcome Gordon Setter students and mentors! This group is meant to serve as a resource and learning tool for Gordon Setter fanciers who are serious students or experienced breeder/exhibitors willing to join forces where everyone can learn about and mentor the art of breeding better Gordon Setters. A place also to fine tune our skill and expertise when competing in conformation, performance or field events. Topics might include such things as genetics, structure, pedigrees, ancestors, health, and proper care, grooming, as well as training tips pertaining to competition in conformation, performance and field events. To make the most of this forum you are encouraged to submit questions, content and photos to provide examples as well as actively participate in discussions with helpful answers and guiding principles.
Things to keep in mind:
No personal attacks, ridicule, or harassment on or about another member’s post. You will be removed from the group and blocked. We don’t always need to agree and various opinions on a topic are encouraged to promote a learning environment, however remember when you are expressing an opinion to please do so in a tactful and polite manner.
Since this group is meant to serve educational purposes only, please do not submit your win photos and brags, we do love to see those and are very happy for you, but let’s post them on other forums to maintain focus here. The same would be true of those happy Gordon photos we post just for fun.
Please focus on the positive traits of any dog pictured. If you have constructive criticism always be considerate and tactful in your comments to ensure you are providing encouragement as well as an educational experience for the student. Please do share educational articles and links to other sites that will educate and promote better breeding and competition practices.
No SPAM or ads to promote the sale of merchandise or dogs. Spammers will be removed.
No personal attacks on other members! We are here to help each other learn and we will respect everyone and treat each other with dignity because of our differences, a different view could be where a new learning begins.
A warm Welcome for Guest Blogger – Barbara Manson of Stoughton, WI who has been breeding and exhibiting Gordon Setters for…well…forever! (Ok, maybe she’s not quite that old!) Getting back to the business at hand though, today we offer part one of a series she’s penning. This is also published in the GSCA Newsletter, August issue.
Style Versus Breed Type
by Barbara Manson
How many times have you been ringside and heard someone say “I can’t believe that dog won! He doesn’t have any breed type!” or “That dog really is typey.” and you don’t agree? Have you ever wondered about the validity of these comments? Are these folks really critiquing breed type or the style of the dog in question? Understanding this is particularly difficult for the newbie who has no experiences to draw from. For the purpose of our discussion, and opening our eyes to other breeders accomplishments, we need to define exactly what is style and what is breed type.
So let’s talk style. Certainly, all the dogs in the ring don’t look alike. How can they when for one thing, our standard says dogs can be 24-27 inches at the withers and bitches can be 23-26 inches. Imagine looking down the line at a group of 27 inch boys and seeing a dog in the middle of the group who is 25 inches tall. As little as one inch can make a very big difference in the way a dog appears. That picture alone would evoke a “not very typey” comment from many exhibitors. Let me challenge you with this thought. Doesn’t this dog’s size conform to the standard for Gordon Setters? There is not a word in the written standard that gives preference to a particular size, as long as the dog falls within the described parameters. So what is it that makes this dog less correct in the middle of the standard and the one at the top more correct? If you were to closely examine that 25 inch dog, you may find he has several attributes that definitely define him as a Gordon Setter, but many of these points are in proportion to his size. This is an example of personal preference or style and not type. Another example of style can be differences in heads and expression. Many times, when you closely examine heads, and are being completely honest with yourself, you can see examples that are both pleasing and in line with the standard but they are not what you have become accustomed to looking at. That does not mean one or the other are incorrect. Just different and someone else’s interpretation of the standard.
So what is breed type? All of those characteristics discussed in the standard define the essence of the Gordon Setter. Some of them are found in many standards for breeds not even in the sporting group. Some are common to many sporting breeds. Some are unique to the setters and others only to Gordons. No other standard has this combination of characteristics, only Gordon Setters. Therefore, they all contribute to breed type and true breed type lies in how closely our dogs conform to the standard. We will be discussing some of these characteristics in detail at a later time.
We have several specialties coming up. If you go, I’m encouraging you to take time to watch dogs other than your own, especially some of the adult classes. When viewing the dogs stacked, do they look like all the parts fit smoothly together and when on the move, is the gait easy, free flowing and efficient. Take note of the head pieces and expressions. Note the differences in the dogs. Are they a matter of style or breed type? I’m leaving you with one question to explore as our discussions continue. Does breed type effect style? I’m including the breed standard so you can easily reference it in the upcoming months. I will be allowing a month between articles for comments from our membership. Educating others through our insights and experiences is important to the preservation and improvement of our breed. I hope you will all participate. Comments will be due to our News Editor by September 12th. You may also feel free to e-mail me as well.
Katie writes…“When “current type” does not equal correctness, the best dog can lose because in many rings, the fatal flaw is being a stand-out. A dog show friend, absent from the sport for several years, attended some local shows with me. Welcoming the opportunity to view dogs in general after her sabbatical, she became visually distressed. Her despair increased when a “less than average” class dog received BOB. The waning quality in her beautiful breed breaks her heart. She stated it would be wasted effortto show a dog correct to the standard today, as some judges feel compelled to award dogs conforming to the majority of the entries.”
“Observing other breeds, she remarks on the lack of neck, restricted front movement and the lack of rear follow through; we discuss “gay tails” and breed type variances. We watch faulty movement and see coats dragging the ground. Weak pasterns and sickle hocks complete the picture. She wonders what causes this to happen to functional dogs in such a short time. It seems the correct dogs have fallen victim to what one may refer to as the “Perfection of Mediocrity”. Read the entire article by clicking here…
Thank you to our Guest Blogger – Gary L. Andersen for sharing this article with us regarding judging of the Gordon Setter in conformation.
About Gary L. Andersen – Scottsdale, AZ
I have been involved with Gordon Setters since 1972 along with my wife Beverly. We have owned and shown all four Setters, English Cockers and Smooth Fox Terriers. I have been judging Gordon Setters since 1993. I am now AKC licensed to judge BIS, Sporting and Non-Sporting groups, two hounds and three working breeds. I serve as the Judge’s Education Chairman for the Gordon Setter Club of America and was instrumental in starting the Sporting Dog Association of Arizona for whom I now serve as President. I am the past president of Scottsdale Dog Fanciers and currently serve on the Board of Directors of the Gordon Setter Club of America and the Sun County Terrier Club.
JUDGING THE GORDON SETTER
When judging the Gordon Setter remember it is the heaviest of the four setters, having more bone and body. They are a sturdy built well muscled, with plenty of bone and substance. Gordon Setters are a single person hunting dog. They have a unique front movement. The other three setters are used more for open field work, the Gordon work heavier brush and because of this, the front legs lift up and then fold back at the pasterns so the feet do not get caught in the brush.
Look for a black and tan dog with plenty of substance and is good-sized. Active, upstanding and stylish, capable of doing a full day’s work in the field their appearance suggesting strength and stamina rather than speed. Gordon Setters are equally at home as companions dogs, obedience, agility, field competitors and show dogs. The head is fairly heavy and finely chiseled. His bearing is intelligent, noble and dignified, showing no signs of shyness or aggressiveness. Clear colors and either a wavy or straight coat are acceptable. A dog of well balance in all points is preferred to one with outstanding good qualities and defects. A smooth, free movement with high head carriage is typical. Many of the words used in this description are taken from the official AKC standard.
The suggested height is 24 to 27 inches for a male and 23 to 26 inches for a female. This is a wide scale. You can have females and males of the same size in the ring, a 24 inch male with the substance of the Gordon is as good as a 27 inch dog. You may see dogs over 27 inches and our standard says that as long as the proportions are correct, it is ok. To me, going below our standard is more of a fault than going over. A 22 inch female is getting into the Spaniel size. Dogs should weigh 55 to 80 pounds and bitches 45 to 70 pounds. Again showing the substance of our breed. We want our breed shown in field condition, hard muscles not overly fat or under weight as this hinders the working ability. Again, the weight to height ratio makes him heavier than the other setters. The proportion of the Gordon should be square when measured from the fore-chest to the back of the thigh verses withers to the ground. The English and Irish Setters are slightly longer than tall.
The head should be deep rather than broad, we do not want an elegant head. The eyes are dark brown, the darker the better, good-sized, oval rather than round and not deep-set, nor bulging. The eye rims should be tight and pigmented. The ears are set low on the head, preferably on the line of the eye, they are fairly thin and large, well folded and carried close to the head. The skull is widest between the ears, nicely rounded and good-sized. There should be a clearly indicated stop. The muzzle is fairly long, not pointed either as seen from above or to the side. The muzzle should be fifty percent of the length of the head and should be parallel to the line of the skull. The flew should not be pendulous. The nose should be broad with open nostrils and black in color. Snow nose is very common and should not be penalized. The lip line from the nose to the flew shows a sharp, well-defined square contour. A strong under-jaw also helps fill out the muzzle so as to avoid a snippy muzzle. A scissor bite is preferred, but a level bite is not a fault.
The neck should be long, arched and lean flowing into the shoulders. The throat should be as dry as possible. The neck must be long enough to pick up the downed game and bring it back to the shooter. The topline should straight with a moderate slope to it. The body should be short from shoulders to hips. The Chest is deep reaching to the elbows, but not too broad to hinder the front leg movement. The ribs should be well sprung and long to allow room for heart and lungs. There should be a pronounced fore-chest. The loin is short, strong and broad with no arch. The croup is nearly flat with a slight slope to the tail-set. The tail is thick at the root finishing in a fine point and should reach to the hock. The placement of the tail is important for correct carriage. The placement is judged in relationship to the structure of the croup. The tail is also a barometer to temperament.
The shoulders should lay well back. The tops of the shoulders should be close together. When viewed from the behind the neck should flow into the shoulders in smooth line and gradually widen from neck to shoulder. The angle of the shoulder-blade and upper arm should be 90 degrees. The front legs should be straight and well boned, not bowed, with the elbows not turning in or out. The pasterns are short, strong nearly straight with a slight spring. Dewclaws may be removed. Catlike feet with well arched toes with plenty of hair between them and full toe pads. The feet do not turn in or out.
The hind legs are long from hip to hock, flat and muscular. The hock is short and strong when standing they should be perpendicular. The stifle and hock joints should be well bent and not turned in or out. The feet are the same as the front.
The coat should be long and straight, a wave is permissible, but not curls. The hair will be the longest on the ears, under stomach and on the chest. The tail feathering is long at the root and tapers to the tip forming a triangular appearance.
Considering color when judging, the Gordon is primarily a black dog with tan markings, which can be a rich chestnut or mahogany shade. This color can go from a very light chestnut to a very dark mahogany. Black penciling on the toes is allowed. The borderline between the colors should be clearly defined. There should not be tan hairs in the black. The tan markings are as follows: 1. Two clear spots above the eyes, not over ¾ of an inch in diameter. 2. On the sides of the muzzle, which should not reach the top of the muzzle from one side to the other. 3. On the throat. 4. Two large clear sports on the chest, (looks like a bow-tie). However on a darker dog these spots may appear to be a darker brown, this is acceptable. 5. On the inside of the hind legs showing down the front of the stifle and broadening out to the outside of the hind legs from the hocks to the toes. It should not completely eliminate the black on the back side of the hind legs. 6. On the forelegs from the corpus or a little above downward to the toes. 7. Around the vent. 8. A white spot on the chest is allowed, the smaller the better. This is the only disqualification for the Gordon; Predominantly tan, red or buff dogs.
A bold strong driving free-swinging gait is desired. The head is carried up and the tail is constantly flagging while the dog is in motion, as mentioned earlier, this is a barometer to temperament as well as his “rudder”. He should be straight coming and going with reach and drive on the side gait. The overall appearance of the moving dog is one smooth-flowing, well-balanced rhythm, in which the action is pleasing to the eye, effortless, economical, harmonious and powerful.
The Gordon Setter is alert, gay, interested and confident. He is fearless and willing, intelligent and capable. He is loyal and affectionate, yet is strong-minded enough to stand the rigors of training. They are slow maturing, so sometimes this doesn’t show up early in life. The field trainer that we used always left our Gordon Setters in the puppy class until they were over two years of age.
In 2002 the Gordon Setter Club of America put the 100 point scale back into our standard. It is as follows:
Head and neck, eyes/ears 10
Shoulders, forelegs/feet 10
Hind legs/feet 10
Size/general appearance 15
Some points to remember when judging the Gordon Setter:
Inch per pound the Gordon is the biggest Setter.
Should have a deep head with a squared off muzzle.
Muzzle perpendicular to back skull.
Topline is a smooth line from the back of the skull to the tail set.
No sharp angles.
The dog is to be shown in field weight and muscular.
Must be black and tan.
Smooth and powerful moving.
Style plus soundness equals TYPE.
It takes the sum of the whole dog or the complete standard to make the ideal Gordon Setter.
We are dedicated to building a knowledge base and a sharing site for those who are involved in all of the various aspects of competition with Gordon Setters, competitions that showcase the Gordon Setter’s Beauty, Brains and Bird-Sense.