Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Purpose of Breed Standards

There is an Official Breed Standard for every purebred, recognized breed of dog. Although those standard may have some variations depending on the registry, the purpose of the Standard is the same. The Official Breed Standard is a written description of the ideal dog of that breed.

These standards were not written by a single person, or written on a whim. The standards are full of history; dating back to the earliest recordings of the breed. Earliest standards have been changed, of course. Changes to the standard are now made by committee decisions, and then must be approved by the Parent Club, and then channeled through the AKC. No changes are made without a proven need, and most changes are in the form of clarification.

As breeders, we have a responsibility- no- an obligation to breed to the standard of our breed. The points in the standard describe what we call Breed Type. Those things that make our breed different from all of the other breeds- what makes a Cardigan different from a Pembroke- or a Bassett Hound! Breed Type encompasses many things: Silhouette, front, structure, balance, color, coat, head style, tail set & tail carriage, bone, etc. etc.-- and movement. Breeding to the standard means that your dogs are recognizable as Cardigans from a distance as Cardigans; no one is confusing them for corgi-mixes or border-corgi's.

But breeding is not an exact science, and certainly not every puppy born is going to ooze breed type. The reputable breeders work hard to follow the "rules." Breeding soundest, healthiest, best example of the breed (the bitch that is the closest to the standard) usually gets you closer to your goal, than breeding a mediocre bitch with glaring breed type faults. By the same token, breeding dogs with disqualifying faults is not breeding to improve.

Cardigans list 5 Disqualifying faults, 4 of which are what I consider "breeding no-no's" (and this is just my opinion):

Blue eyes, or partially blue eyes, in any coat color other than blue merle.
Nose other than solid black except in blue merles.
Any color other than specified.
Body color predominantly white.

Why are they no-no's? Because they are going to always be there in the pedigree- and they will come back to bite me-- or some other breeder down the line-- and they are disqualifications according to our current AKC Standard! Breeding decisions are very personal, and are completely tied in to a persons ethics. This is just where I have drawn the line for myself.

Official Breed Standards are very important for the history and the future of our breeds, and our sport. We expect Judges to make their choices in the ring according to the Standard. We educate those judges using the Standard, and we select dogs as examples of the breed, to educate those judges, using the Standard as a guide. Does it not make sense, then, for breeders to shoulder the responsibility and adhere to the standard when making breeding decisions?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Fault Judging

Get any group of breeders together, and the talk soon turns to to the big winners of the day. It is always interesting to hear other breeders opinions, and most of us can spend hours talking about bloodlines, structure, breed type and movement.
When we educate judges, we ask them to evaluate the entire package; not overlooking faults in favor of virtues, but weighing those faults and prioritizing the virtues. Evaluate the Cardigan as a whole- the sum of his parts.
It is even more important that breeders and exhibitors learn to evaluate the entire package. No Cardigan is without faults, and all Cardigans have virtues. How those virtues and faults work together is how experienced breeders (and judges) make their decisions.
Finding faults in a dog is very easy! It is also a very negative and damaging way to evaluate dogs. How many times have you sat ringside and heard comments about "So n So's" straight shoulder or bad tail set? When you look at your own dogs, do you see the faults first? Are you able to appreciate your dogs "parts", and evaluate him as a complete dog?
The fault judge is one that will discount an otherwise worthy dog for one major (or minor!) fault. The fault judge is someone who will not be able to see past cosmetic faults, or perhaps a less-than-ideal tail set, and appreciate the other qualities that the dog possesses.
We talk alot about how the Cardigans front is the hallmark of the breed- but it is not the only thing that makes a Cardigan worthy of being shown or bred... or not! A Cardigan with a great front- yet short in back or with an atypical head or curly,wiry coat or oval bone- is just not a great Cardigan. By the same token, a dog that is otherwise exceptional who has a poor coat, or a round eye, or a straight rear- is not a bad dog. Both dogs have virtues, and the strength of those virtues must be weighed against the severity of the faults.
Most successful breeders will agree that they would rather have an exceptional dog with one major fault, then a mediocre dog; a dog without major faults, but no outstanding virtues. Always remember that mediocre begets mediocre!
The next time you have an opportunity to see a group of Cardigans, try to find the virtues first- before you are tempted to point out the faults. Start training yourself to appreciate the dog as a whole-- the sum of his parts.
As always, I encourage you to visit the CWCCA website or Cardigan Commentary website for more information on judging our wonderful breed.
While on the CWCCA website, click on upcoming events, and find a supported entry or regional specialty near you.
Looking forward to seeing you around the rings!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Reflections on the Weekend

Much more than the ribbons and awards; more important than the Grand Championship points (although those were great, too) was the time spent with friends. We talked, laughed, planned and learned together.
Time like this is important, and I think that all too often those of us that show dogs get too caught up in the Wins and the Rankings and forget about the Dogs and the People that we have met along the way!
Don't get me wrong-- the wins are nice! Winning is much more fun than losing, after all! But, winning is also addictive, and that addiction can be so destructive!
People get into dogs for many reasons, and dogs are a great source of comfort for most of us! Psychologists have stated that many women become involved in dogs because dogs offer the unconditional love they were never able to find in a relationship. Its true that our dogs love us, and accept us without question- but as much as I love my dogs they don't take the place of my family. Or my true friends!
We joke about Dog Show Addiction; the movie Best In Show portrays a couple that max's out their Credit Cards and spends the weekend in a cleaning closet-- just to attend the dog show. It was funny in the movie- but is it funny in real life? I'm sure there are plenty who are paying entry fees and letting bills slide!
What happens when the great show dog's career is over? All good things come to an end! When you have built your entire life around a dogs show career~ what do you do when that show career ends? If your life lacks natural balance, what do you have left?
As great as the Dog Show World is, it can be quite fickle; the top winners are popular today, and a forgotten figure tomorrow. The need to constantly have a dog on top of the pile can become quite an obsession if your "real life" isn't in harmony!
I love Dog Shows! I love dog show people! I enjoy almost every aspect of our sport, and some of my happiest hours are spent at shows. I look forward to the times that I can spend at shows, with my dog show friends-
But- as Roger Caras says-- Dogs are not our whole lives; they make our lives whole!
My involvement with dogs has rounded out my life- not become my entire life! Through dog showing I have met some absolutely wonderful people who I care for very deeply. Win or lose- dog show or not; my family and friends have made my life what it is today, and I am grateful for that. It is precious to me.
Thank you, Beth and Terri & Lisa, for a great weekend!

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Incredible Egg

The Cardigan front is the hallmark of the breed.

It is also the most difficult to understand, for breeders, exhibitors and judges alike. It is also the most frustrating thing to breed for. In a single litter, your fronts can run the gamet from too close to too wide and everything in between. Breeders that are new to the breed often keep the puppy with what they think is the best front as 8 week-old puppies, only to end up with a dog with too much "crook" at a year old; or too wide/straight.

One common issue that I find is that there is a great deal of misconception regarding the shape of the chest. The correct Cardigan front is egg-shaped; the widest point of the egg at the top, tapering to a gentle point at the bottom. As we call it in Judges Ed; an Upside-Down Egg.

Without the proper shape of the chest, the entire front is going to be thrown off! You simply cannot have a pretty, sound, cradling correct Cardigan front, unless you have a properly shaped chest to begin with!

So... please go to your refrigerator, and grab an egg...

(I apologize for these photos; we buy organic eggs from free-range chickens and I did not realize until I embarked on this project that not all eggs were as clearly formed as others- so the differences may not be as obvious.)

The correct Cardigan front will cradle the properly shaped brisket "like an egg in an egg-cup". The moderately broad chest, egg-shaped brisket is well let down between the forelegs. The forelegs curve about the rib-cage. They have a prominent prosternum (forechest) The curve in the forearm makes the wrists appear somewhat closer than the close fitting elbows. Feet point slightly outwards, to a maximum of 30 degrees (11:00 & 1:00) The feet are forming a base for the "egg-cup" The curve of the forearm is cradling the properly shaped brisket. There is no "empty spaces"- no daylight showing between the elbows and the brisket. It all fits together like the well-designed puzzle that it is.

If you compare these two eggs, you notice that the egg on the left is more tapered, coming to a gentle point- more like the "upside down egg" that we want in our Cardigan chest. The egg on the right is flat at the bottom.

Take the egg in your hand, and turn up upside down- feel the point; turn it right side up- feel the flatness.

Lets talk about THE DOG

The shape of the chest can be felt at birth- and can be seen very early on. Many things will change, and certainly the shape of the brisket is not the sole reason for keeping- or not keeping a puppy! But- remember what I said earlier- you cannot have a proper Cardigan front without a properly shaped chest!

This 7 week old male exhibits a properly shaped brisket. Notice how the forearms curve around the chest, and the very noticeable point. Compare this to the photo of his littermate, below. The properly shaped brisket was present at birth. Unfortunately, there were some other virtues that were lacking in this puppy, so he was placed in a pet home.

This puppy exhibits a very flat brisket. Although he has curve to his forearms, they do not cradle the brisket. His front resembles a "staple" or box. This improperly shaped brisket was there at birth, and did not improve. Although he had other virtues that we liked, he was placed in a pet home. A male with an incorrect front has no place in a successful breeding program, or show home.

Evaluating Your Dogs

I cannot stress this enough. If you are not sure where your dogs virtues and faults lie- ask for help! Please --DO NOT use an all-breed (all-rounder) judges opinion of your dogs as a rating scale. The CWCCA has very excellent educational material available for breeders; visit the Ways and Means section on our website for more information. http://www.cardigancorgis.com/. Visit the Cardigan Commentary website- http://www.cardicommentary.de/ MAKE the time to attend National and Regional Specialties. Move out of your comfort zone a little- instead of only talking to the people you know- instead of only working within your own local groups- try reaching out to breeders outside of your area! You might just be suprised at what you learn!

I have said this before- and at the risk of sounding like a broken record-I am going to say it again... If you want help- and you want to improve -- you need to ASK for help! No one is going to come up to you , and offer to mentor you! We have mentors available all over this country! We have good mentors available- who are more than willing to spend the time and effort! I know that I speak for all of us when I say that we ONLY want to do what is best for our breed!

Just ask!!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

In The Pink of Things

At the risk of getting myself in hot water (so what else is new) I am going to make a public statement:

I feel it is time for the CWCCA to stop hiding its head in the sand about the "Pink", or ee Red issue.

I am not going to attempt to explain the genetics behind the pinks, or ee reds, here. There are other websites and blogs that are far better qualified and do a much better job than I could ever do on that subject. If you are interested in more information on exactly what an ee red is, I would suggest you visit Cathy Ochs-Cline's website (http://www.phi-vestavia.com/).

The reality is that there are many truly lovely dogs and bitches being born that are ee reds. The misfortune in this is that they are not "really" red; ie- they don't breed true- a red bred to a red will produce red. A "pink" bred to a red will not always produce red. As a matter of fact, the owner of a pink may not know what color their puppy really is- since testing the puppy will only result in being told it is an ee red.

And then there is the ethical question:

I have personally never seen a pink with naturally black pigment (naturally being the key word here.) I am told that they exist- but I cannot attest to that. Every pink that I have ever seen has had some shade of brown or grey pigment. And... if the nose is brown in the winter- even if it turns black in the summer- its not normal- natural- black pigment.

Our standard is very clear on this. To quote: Nose black, except in blue merles where black noses are preferred but butterfly noses are tolerated. A nose other than solid black in any other color is a disqualification.

Do I feel that these stunningly beautiful Cardigans that are born pink should be DQ'd-- ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! -- but the way our standard reads-- they should be-- and showing them "au natural" risks a DQ under a judge that knows his stuff!

Of course, there are "ways" around the pigment issue-- anyone that has been around the grooming tent at any dog show knows that products abound to take care of a little color issue on some pigment... Right? But... how ethical is that? Really??

Lets see... The AKC Rules and Regulations for Dog Shows state that a judge may disqualify any dog that he feels has been changed by artificial means (pg 46-47). The judge may also excuse and/or withhold awards any dog he finds artificial substances in the dogs coat or skin (pg 49), and the owner/exhibitor may be liable for disciplinary action.

I am sure, right now, you are thinking that no judge is going to really bother with all of that... but let me assure you that there ARE judges that DO bother...

With brown noses being a DQ, and with so many lovely pink puppies being born, what are we to do? The current standard literally forces ethical breeder/exhibitors choose between violating AKC Regulations or placing their best puppies in pet homes.

A Possible Solution:

The following breeds allow for brown or liver noses within their reds or red merles and brown dogs:

Australian Shepherd; Bearded Collie; Border Collie; Canaan Dog; Polish Lowland Sheepdog

I propose, rather than throw away otherwise exceptional specimens of our breed, we open a new color variation of the breed- which would allow for the unique coat color, which is without black hair; as well as the lighter pigment.

This would eliminate the stigma that has been attached to these dogs, and allow for a greater understanding of the genetics. There have always been "pinks." This color didn't just suddenly appear in a random litter in the early 1980's in Texas~ The only reason we are seeing more of them and hearing more about them is we talk about it now. And that is a good thing!

Some of the best puppies I have seen of late have been pinks! Without question, the best overall puppies in my last litter were the 2 pinks! My choice to place them was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make!

We, as breeders, cannot ignore the ee Reds. They are not going to go away! Right now, the top 5 dogs in the country all carry pink! A new person to this breed would be hard put to try to find a line that does not have someone in the pedigree that doesn't have some ee Red in there.

There are FAR WORSE things in our breed, then puppies being born pink! We have many more serious structural and breed type faults to be worrying about! Its a crime to have to pet out an exceptional quality puppy because it has brown pigment!

Every breeder has to set their own standards, and their own comfort level. I don't fault anyone for making their choices to show, or not show, their ee Red dogs. My hope is that the CWCCA Board Members will consider appointing a committee to examine the issue, and perhaps, in time, we will see a standard revision that will allow these beautiful, sound, typey pinks to be shown "au natural"- and admired for all that they are.

Of course, this is just my opinion!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bugsy and I have something to celebrate!

Several months ago (the very end of May, to be exact) I injured my left shoulder while pulling a basket out of the top of my closet. Ultimately, I ended up with Rotator-cuff tendonitis and Adhesive capsulitis. As a result, I wasn't able (allowed) to work with the dogs, or even take them for walks on lead.
Bugsy was half way through his RAE, and doing beautifully on his Open Obedience training when I was injured. To say the least, this little vacation has been devastating. I don't know who has missed training more!! I have felt so bad for him!
The good news is that my Physical Therapy has been successful well beyond anyones expectations, and I can start training again! I am hoping that after a really short refreshment course, Bugsy and I can start back after his last few RAE legs!
Then, of course, there is his Open work, and Agility... and maybe even some more Herding in his future!
We can hardly wait to get started!
Hope to see you at an Obedience trial soon!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Where are you going? Where have you been?

The educational world and the business world are full of tests to tell you what kind of person you are: What is your learning style? How strong are your organizational skills? How to be a better ~ insert career here ~ person. There are all sorts of standardized tests that you can take to improve your communication skills and thereby your chances of success in the business world.

Breeding dogs is a bit different: for the most part, our "tests" are made up of bone and flesh and fur... and sometimes we don't know if we got all the answers "right" until the "experiment is 2-3-4 years old... or older!

The experienced breeders keep copius records; something that has become so much easier with improvements in technology! For example:

In my first Cardigan litter, I took photographs of each puppy at birth, and then each week until they left home. I labeled each photo with the puppies birth number, and kept the entire mess in a big envelope, along with the birth records, pedigree, contracts, and photo's of the parents. In a separate envelope I have show pictures of the puppy that I kept from that litter, Shelby. I happened to find that envelope the other day and spent some time looking at those pictures.

Where have you been?

By and large, the entire litter lacked bone, had oval bone, had straight, wide fronts, and was without the angulation that I would expect. In short, if this litter were born today- I would put them all in pet homes.

At that time, I didn't have a clear idea of what a "correct" Cardigan Welsh Corgi was supposed to look like. I was too new in the breed. In truth- I should have never bred that litter. I had only been in the breed a few years! I didn't have the experience to select a stud dog for my bitch; let alone choose which puppies were worthy of moving forward. I was encouraged to breed my bitch because "She was OK"-- and my own male was a Champion-- and that was reason enough! I *thought* I knew what I was doing!

Where are you going?

Before you make the decision to breed that first litter, do you know where you are going? Do you have a clear understanding of the Standard of the Cardigan Welsh Corgi? I don't mean, can you recite the standard word for word-- can you put those words into action? Can you explain Why our breed has a wrap front? Why our height/lenght ration is 1:8-1? What breeds were instrumental in developing the Cardigan? And why does that matter?

Furthermore- can you correctly evaluate your bitch? Do you know, deep in your heart, what all of her virtues, and all of her faults are? Are you absolutely positive that her virtues far outweigh her faults? And, are those faults minor faults, that will not have consequence to the health and well-being to her offspring? It goes without saying that your bitch will not possess any disqualifications, and that all of the standard health testing is complete.

Before you prepare to breed your bitch, you should have a vision in your head (or soul) of the ideal Cardigan Welsh Corgi. There are no perfect dogs. But, hopefully you will have had your hands on enough high quality dogs to recognize the best of the best when you see them. Before you breed that first litter, you should have made the effort to attend several National and Regional Specialties, so that you have opened your mind to the quality that is out there. It is a disservice to yourself, and the breed, to only see local dogs, or to only see photographs. Do your homework, and investigate different bloodlines in order to find the right stud dog for your bitch. The best stud dog may well not be the most convenient, or the "cheapest". There is absolutely no benefit to the breed for anyone to breed for convenience; thats what back-yard breeders do! Serious, concientious breeders breed to improve the quality of the breed. With the advent of fresh-chilled semen breedings and frozen semen breedings, there is no reason not to breed to the best possible dog, since distance is no longer a consideration!

Think about where you have been- look at the dogs that you started out with. If your desire is to improve upon what you have, and move forward with a successful breeding program, you need to take advantage of the resources that are available to you.

The CWCCA Website and the Cardigan Commentary Website contain information that can help tremendously. Our breed has a wonderful Breeders Education program available to members.

The future of the Cardigan Welsh Corgi is in the hands of every single person who is contemplating breeding a litter.

Please handle our breed with care; it is precious to us!