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.
I feel like I’ve been knee deep in black dog hair for the better part of the last four decades, and I’m not talking about those little black haired dust bunnies that whisper along the tile floor in the hallways of the house. I’m talking big, honking piles of hair that I’ve clipped, stripped, scissored and thinned off the bodies of my Gordon Setters to ready them for the ring. I kid you not, there have been times when I have built a whole other Setter out of the hair left on the floor. Good grief these dogs grow coat, acres and acres of it so that sometimes I find myself thinking “I’m gonna to get me one a them big ole John Deere mowers to tackle this petting zoo”.
Well obviously most of you own a Gordon Setter so you know what I’m talking about when I say that they take a bit of grooming to keep them looking less like a Newfie and more like a Setter. And, if you’re heading to the show ring you probably know by now that a proper groom makes a world of difference in your chances for success. Groom that dog poorly or trim him the wrong way and you can end up accentuating or creating faults you don’t want seen. Bad idea.
It is not easy to learn to properly groom a Gordon for the ring, and I for one, will admit that even after all these years I am always learning. New things come along, methods change, equipment is developed, it’s a never ending learning curve. Sometimes I feel like my grooming skill is no better now than when I was in grade school cutting doll hair with those little rounded kiddie scissors. Did you ever notice that doll hair doesn’t grow back? My sisters did. They weren’t very happy with me. Sibling rivalry I guess?
Grooming can be complicated, but it will get a whole lot easier if you start with a clear picture of the dog’s anatomy, the dog breeder’s basic knowledge, and using that mental picture of your breed’s anatomy as your guide when you’re trimming, stripping or thinning your show dog should help you sculpt that dog into a lovely picture of the standard. To give an example, sometimes we might groom what appear to be faults onto the dog by leaving a vertical line of stripped hair going straight down the dog’s side from the bottom of neck to the foreleg. In fact we want to show angles there, the angle where the shoulder and upper arm meet, so there should be a sideways V shape to that line. Leave a straight line down the side of the dog when you’re stripping out coat and the judge will see a straight front, one that lacks proper angle of shoulder to upper arm. It’s an optical illusion that can hurt your chances of winning. Or, ignore trimming the under body coat to into soft flowing lines, leaving instead shorter or longer coat in the wrong area and you destroy the flow of the Setter’s natural body contour, he looks unbalanced and a maybe a bit box or tube shaped, not the picture we’re looking for.
I found a grooming blog, Beyond the Fur… written by Melissa Verplank who published an excellent article The Importance of Canine Anatomy and it teaches about using the structure of the dog to set a pattern when grooming. This is right on the money and I highly recommend, especially if you are a new learner, that before you begin grooming your Gordon Setter, particularly for the show ring, that you take the time to read this article and review her diagrams. You absolutely must have an ideal picture of the structure of a Gordon Setter in your mind in order to properly scissor and strip and shape that body coat. And you must keep that picture in mind so that when you step back away from the dog to view your work, you are seeing all of the excellent qualities you want a judge to notice about your dog.
Here’s the link, simply point and click, a new window will open on her site:
Hope you enjoy these articles. We’re gearing up to come back from the GSCA National with some great “how to” videos of exhibitors grooming their dogs, we’re sure that we’ll find some great Gordon Setter folks who will share their tips and tricks with you.
Let’s get right to the tough stuff today. One of the hardest things for a breeder to accomplish is to consistently breed and retain excellent front end assemblies generation after generation. There are just so very many moving parts to the front. In my mind, as Gordon Setter breeders we will never be able to take our eye off the mark if we are going to continue to produce sound Gordon Setters who are capable of performing in the field as intended.
We’ll do our best on this blog to present as much resource material for your learning experience as we can, obviously it will take time to accumulate that material. Today I’m starting a discussion on fronts with two well written articles by Patricia V. Trotter, a longtime breeder of Norwegian Elkhounds who is approved to judge more than 20 breeds. She is the author of Born to Win.
In the first article titled Putting Up a Good Front Patricia makes a point that rang true for me “Among the experts whom you should treasure and whose opinions you should utilize are those who truly understand front-end assembly and who reward it in the ring whenever possible.”
Patricia went on to say “a correctly made animal with functional and efficient side gait has much more opportunity for error when viewed coming toward you than a straighter-angled dog has.” Let’s not make the mistake in our Gordon Setters of assuming every clean moving front coming toward us is properly angled with appropriate reach off the side.
I agree with Patricia when she says “as guardians of our breeds, we must explore what we can do as fanciers to protect well-made fronts“.
The second article by Patricia It’s Whats Up Front That Counts she continues to provide us with sound advice on the importance of the properly constructed front and makes a very valid point in reference to Setters. “For example, consider the three setter breeds, which were bred to crouch near the birds while the hunter quietly approached with nets to throw over the dogs and the birds. These flexible sporting dogs further utilized their correct angles to lower themselves and crawl out from under the nets in that pre-gun era, leaving the captured birds for the huntsman. Now flash forward to a lineup of setters standing tall and proud in the modern show ring. Chances are that only a precious few have correct shoulder angulation, while there are others that stand out because they are jacked up on incorrect, upright shoulders that contribute to the facade of the show dog.”
I’ll let you go now so you can read Patricia’s words of wisdom. I hope we’ve provided some food for thought here today, and that you’ll share your own comments, opinions, or questions in our comment section below to keep the dialog going!
To go directly to the AKC website where these articles are located move your cursor to the title of the article and click on the underlined title.
When it comes to mentoring new Gordon Setter exhibitors I’m asking all experienced breeder/exhibitors to join us in our “it takes a village” approach on this blog. For this article I’ve started a list of video links, books, DVD’s and articles that I’ve located related to canine structure and gait. These are all-breed reference materials, not Gordon Setter specific, hopefully we will have breed specific material to add to this site soon.
What is needed from you, “the village”, would be your comments regarding whether you have read or viewed any of these references and if you found them helpful or maybe not so good. This way our learners will have your experience and advice to guide them.
Also, if you can add any items to this list I hope you will share those. Please add your insight by posting in the comment section that follows the article.
Online Videos Simply move your cursor to the title and click to go directly to the item.
Understanding correct structure and movement in our Gordon Setter and understanding how that relates to breed type is a topic I’ve heard debated many a time, as I bet, have you. The article I’m sharing with you today “Movement: Very “Much a Part of Type” written by Richard G. (“Rick”) Beauchamp addresses that topic in a fairly simple, straightforward manner.
I’m not going to review Mr. Beauchamp’s article here, I’m simply recommending you read it for yourself. I will however, pull out a few of my favorite quotes…just because I just can’t stop myself from chatting!
“Is it possible for a dog to be typey without correct movement? The answer to that question could be yes if our task was simply to evaluate a dog stacked or standing in a well-taught position.”
“Changing movement changes type.”
“…there wouldn’t be English and Gordon Setters if the developers of the respective breeds weren’t attempting to create a dog of a different kind and of different purpose.”
“The purpose of the Gordon Setter is significantly different from that of his Irish cousin. The Gordon worked the rocky, frequently inhospitable terrain of the Scottish Highlands. Care and deliberation in movement were important to the breed. Running headlong across the moors could prove extremely dangerous to the dog’s legs and feet, to say nothing of the hunter trying to keep up with the dog in such difficult terrain.”
“The movement of these three setters should prove the very point of their existence. One breed moving like the other proves how wrong the individual dog is.”
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.