I sure hope I’m still on good terms with my guardian angel because I’m about to walk barefoot on hot coals. Now folks, before I move on, you need to know, I love my fellow breeder/exhibitors and am not, in any way, shape, or form finding fault with anyone’s breeding or dogs. What I do intend is to help newbies learn what more experienced breeders and judges see as they wade through a class of Gordon Setters or sort through a litter of puppies. So bear with me, and know that I’ve randomly chosen from a huge group of photos. I did the best I could to crop those photos to prevent identification, so if you spot your own dog and don’t like the way it looks…KEEP QUIET…you can pretend it’s not your dog and no one will be any wiser! Also, everyone needs to remember that this is one shot, a blink of the eye, this particular dog may actually move beautifully but in the instant that the shutter snapped something not so great may have been captured…remember all those awful photos your mother took of you when you were little? And finally, I’m asking all my photographers to forgive me for not identifying their work in this particular article, there are those who would go hunting through Facebook photos and the like to try to figure out which dog belongs to who, and our purpose is to educate, not to find fault!
Well, now that I’ve filled a page creating a disclaimer hoping to survive yet another day, let’s move on to the subject itself, learning to understand the breed standard and apply it to a living, moving Gordon Setter. I decided to start the movement discussion with what I consider to be the easiest thing for everyone to see when watching a class of dogs move, that being the topline. The topline can tell you so much about what’s going on under the dog as far as the reach and drive we expect to find. A properly moving Gordon Setter will display a good moving topline and a good topline is an indicator of balanced angulation front to rear. Remember, we are not talking about the dog’s topline standing still, we want to learn to look at that topline while the dog is moving.
If a Gordon Setter has a proper front assembly and a proper rear structure with corresponding angulation that is in balance on both ends, the topline will appear as one smooth, moderately downward sloping line that literally appears to be floating around the ring. By looking at the topline first you will soon learn where to look next for good reach and drive under the dog. Dogs who move carrying the correct topline will be the ones most likely to exhibit the correct reach and drive underneath the body. If, for example, you see a dog moving high in the rear, you are likely to notice that they lack reach in the front, the rear being over angulated as compared to the front, rises as the dog must compensate somewhere to keep his hind legs on their forward drive (with their longer stride) from striking the front legs (because of their shorter stride). A dog who roaches, or arches over the loin may do this because of improper or unbalanced angulation or because of improper structuring of the back. Generally the Gordon Setter, like many breeds, will have a front assembly that lacks proper structure more often than the rear, but that my friends is a story for a different day.
So first some quick excerpts from the Gordon Setter Breed Standard to remind you of some things we should be looking to find during our topline study.
“Topline moderately sloping… Body short from shoulder to hips. Loins short and broad and not arched. Croup nearly flat, with only a slight slope to the tailhead. Tail short… carried horizontal or nearly so…The placement of the tail is important for correct carriage. When the angle of the tail bends too sharply at the first coccygeal bone, the tail will be carried too gaily or will droop. The tail placement is judged in relationship to the structure of the croup.Gait: A bold, strong, driving free-swinging gait. The head is carried up and the tail “flags” constantly while the dog is in motion. When viewed from the side, the forefeet are seen to lift up and reach forward to compensate for the driving hindquarters. The hindquarters reach well forward and stretch far back, enabling the stride to be long and the drive powerful. The overall appearance of the moving dog is one of smooth-flowing, well balanced rhythm, in which the action is pleasing to the eye, effortless, economical and harmonious.”
Now let’s move on to look at some moving photos to see if we happen to agree on the things that stand out. Let’s also remember, this is what the judge sees on that first go-round, many a win is earned on the first impression.
Time for all of you to chime in with questions, comments, or additions to the information this is meant to be a quick easy lesson and by no means covers all we need know about movement and structure, that’s what the comment boxes are for…share your input and ask your questions!