Tag Archives: tailset on topline

Impressions

Another chapter in our review of the Gordon Setter breed standard

Barb Manson

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.

Impressions
Photo by Ben Perez, 2016 GSCA National Specialty

 

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.

Impressions2
Photo by Ben Perez, 2016 GSCA National Specialty

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.

Impressions5
Photo by Ben Perez, 2016 GSCA National Specialty

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.

Impressions1
Photo by Ben Perez, 2016 GSCA National Specialty

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.

Impressions4
Photo by Ben Perez, 2016 GSCA National Specialty

 

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.

Impressions3
Photo by Ben Perez, 2016 GSCA National Specialty

 

Moving Toplines

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.
topline9
Moving high in the rear, tail is set low off the croup which is angled too steeply cause the tail carry lower, also notice the break in midway in top-line. Is this dog balanced front to rear?
topline7
Slight roll over the shoulder, moving high in the rear with a low tail set due to improper angle of croup.
topline26
Nice strong top-line, all parts fitting smoothly together, angle of croup is nearly flat resulting in tail carried straight off the back.
topline25
Nice strong top-line with no bumps or dips, croup angled correctly allowing tail carriage straight off the back.
topline20
Top-line looks fine, level back, good tail carriage, proper croup, would like to see a bit more slope to the top-line but it’s level or nearly so.
topline23
All parts fit well here, this is a good strong top-line, croup and tail set are good.
topline17
This top-line has improper arch (roaching) over the loin, croup angled a bit steeply resulting low tail set.
topline15
This puppy’s gives us a level back but unfortunately it drops off  sharply in the croup and results in a low tail set.
topline10
Angulation is not balanced front to rear resulting in top-line that moves high in the rear, also a drop to the croup, tail-set is too low resulting in a tail carried higher than we would want to see.
topline8
Top-line rises over the loin (roaching).
topline12
Moving high in the rear.
topline16
Nice level, strong topline with tail straight off the back. Would like smoother fit of neck to shoulder.
topline1
Here is another Gordon with slightly less angulation in the front as compared to the rear which results in a top-line that goes high in the rear, arching.
topline
This top-line looks soft in the back, see the swayback look to the top-line as it goes higher in the rear. The croup is too steeply angled causing an improper tail set.
topline3
Not a very good angle for this shot but top-line appears decent though a bit higher in the rear.
topline4
Good topline, smooth fit into shoulder, strong level back, with tail set straight off the back as croup is properly angled.
topline5
Neck and shoulder need to fit together a bit more smoothly, top-line is nice and level until reaching the croup which is too steep causing tail set to be too low.
topline6
This top-line showing a dip and a slight arch over the loin.

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!

Sally Gift