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.