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. Visit the Cardigan Commentary website- 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 (

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!!