General, Responsible Breeding

Open thread: What’s the biggest misconception judges have about your breed? How about the public?

This was posed on the Show Me yahoo group this weekend and I think it's worth expanding. 

I think most people know my particular soapbox on Cardigans: Judges think they should be a big, heavy, low breed – like a Basset with a little head or something – and we're left with dogs who don't look like they belong in the Herding Group at all. I'm very glad that a lot of breeders agree, but we need to make sure judges aren't looking for the bigger dogs at the expense of herdiness. 

Sarah Davis brought up a really good point the last time I talked with her outside the ring, wondering if judges hear that our breed should have flowing curves and think that the line applies to toplines! 

For me the biggest misconception the public has about Cardigans is that they don't need to be socialized. They're such wonderful easy puppies that they don't make you work – they're happy to just sack out under your desk chair. By the time you realize that they're spooking at trash cans, they're five months old and your work is fifteen times as hard. 

So what do you wish judges realized about your breed – Cardigans or anything else – and what do you wish the public/potential owners knew?




If this was helpful to you and you'd like to help us rescue and foster dogs, here are Amazon links to the books and tools mentioned in the article – and thank you so much!

– Joanna


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  • Reply Tammy Kozoris July 25, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    #1: Rough collies should have HUGE standoffish coats that are soft to the touch. The CORRECT collie coat is long and FITTED with dense furry undercoat. The outer coat should be harsh to the touch so as to be waterproof. The current trend of REALLY soft open coats is hugely incorrect. I hate the trend of Judges putting up incorrect coats over correct just because of the way they look.

    #2: Rough Collies are great with kids (this is for the public) Well they ARE great with kids… when they grow up with them, are socialized at an early age and taught what is APPROPRIATE herding behavior when it comes to kids and what is not! They herd which means they nip, bump, push and yell at you to get you to do what they think you should! This can be hard for kids to deal with and parents to put up with.

    #3: for judges: the current trend of TEENY TINY three cornered eyes that have to be propped up with toothpicks, winning everything DESPITE what the body looks like is very frustrating. The CORRECT eye according to the standard is an ALMOND shaped eye of medium size. Expression is everything in this breed and to me not being able to SEE the eye takes away from the expression.

    #4: Collie BODIES are my huge issue with judges. It’s become so incredibly common place to see bad bad bad fronts if collies that no one even cares anymore. If it has a beautiful head it MUST be a correct collie. These dogs are sometimes crippled to the point that they have a hard time running and they are winning EVERYTHING out there. And people are just accepting it as a given. That bugs me to no end. Most judges will up a cripple collie with a gorgeous head more often then not 🙁

    • Reply Kathy J July 25, 2010 at 7:44 pm

      You mean someone besides me thinks this? I believe I have mentioned before about the pretty heads being carried around on awful bodies.

      Here is another one – collies are stupid because their narrow heads squish their brains
      The standard talks about reach and drive and I seldom see either. It takes a brave judge to with hold ribbons but I have seen it done in collies around here twice. Along with bad fronts etc I see a epidemic of incorrect feet. They are suppose to be compact and well arched and there are lots of splayed feet out there. I have good friends that are collie breeders who know what I think about all this but they will still look at my dogs and only comment about their heads.
      I went to a breeder seminar one time and we were supposed to figure out our top 5 things we looked for in a collie and make a list for each table. I think most of the lists had 4 things about heads and then the term health – what ever that actually means.

      It takes a real effort to find a collie that looks good and can stand up to the work it takes to make it to high levels of obedience. I am glad to say that a few more breeders are seeing the benefits of appealing to the performance folks. You get some good performance dogs out there putting your kennel name and some initials like CD RE UD TD together and you will be surprised at the folks that will be coming to you for a puppy. Conformation dogs for the most part are out in public for a year or two before they are retired to their reproductive futures. Performance dogs stay out in the public eye at shows for years and years – not to mention all the other things folks do like nursing homes, parades, and other public demos with their obed dogs.

      Collies are awesome dogs – for the most part they have good temperaments and are adaptable to most kinds of living situations – but that is no reason to start cherry picking the parts of the standard you like and ignoring the ones you don’t just because the breed has a good rep thanks to Lassie and Albert Payson Terhune.

  • Reply Beth July 25, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    *sigh* And here is where you leave me utterly confused.

    On the one hand, you will argue all over the internets that show breeders are breeding to the standard and are therefore breeding the “correct” dogs, and on the other you acknowledge that sometimes judges get caught in a loop of putting up dogs that in some aspect don’t really benefit the purpose of the breed, and that can be problematic.

    When people talk about shows “ruining” breeds, this is the sort of thing they mean. They don’t mean that dog shows are bad or breeders are bad people. But if something keeps winning, even if a lot of breeders don’t feel it’s correct, over time it influences the breed.

    So let’s say, as in your example, the heavier dogs start winning. And slowly over a few years or a few decades, only the heavier dogs are winning, and they get heavier and heavier (because the standard is not precise and there is a lot of room for interpretation). What happens to the breeders who prefer lighter, herdier dogs if their dogs never win? They might try to discuss it with judges and the judges might be open to reason, but they might not and over a couple decades, you will see the breeders who breed lighter, more athletic dogs either a) leaving breeding dogs altogether, or b) switch breeds, or c) keep with their breed but split off and leave the show ranks and ta-daaa!!! Divisions!

    This is how breeds split off. So back to those gun-dogs, if the judges put up big-going, taller dogs that move like warmbloods in the ring but more compact dogs that don’t move out so much actually succeed better in the field, in a short time you have the situation where the breeds split and the working people stop showing and the showing people stop working.

    That is not to say working people can’t make messes of dogs too: they can. The difference, I think, is that they have more criteria to go by than a judges opinion. Of course field-trial people end up writing rules that don’t really match actual hunting conditions, so certain styles can win in trials that average owners might not find useful. Again, this isn’t limited to show people.

    Sometimes different groups of people are saying the same thing, just in a different manner. People who compete in any venue like to win; it’s human nature, and even if that was not the main reason for undertaking a venture, anyone who gets involved deeply likes to win. So in my hypothetical Cardi scenario, if the lighter, herdier Cardis never won, my guess is people would not go on breeding generations of show dogs that never won a thing. And 50 years from now, someone would be lamenting “what happened to Cardis?” whilst those who were still breeding winning Cardis would argue, vehemently, that the type winning at the time was the “correct” type and always was, and was always what the early breeders would have bred, if only they started with the proper stock.

    • Reply Laurel July 25, 2010 at 9:48 pm

      This confuses me too. Especially with the added argument that showing and winning – at the discretion of judges who are choosing less sound dogs, or dogs less able to work – is a critically important part of making choices about which dogs to breed.

      • Reply rufflyspeaking July 26, 2010 at 2:30 am

        Laurel – one of the responses to the question on Show Me was “The most frustrating thing for me is when judges put up a Yorkie who cannot walk.”

        She did NOT mean that the dog couldn’t walk. She meant that she wanted judges to reward beautiful movement on the same level as, say, size. No Yorkie is in the ring actually unable to walk. No Yorkie is in the ring limping. But she has seen that some judges aren’t as serious and fierce about movement as she is.

        This is a breeder who has dozens of champions. She’s a heck of a lot better breeder than I am. She’s fully convinced, as I am, of the value of proving dogs in the show ring. She’ll not enter under that judge again, in all likelihood, but she wishes that every judge was impressed with the fact that Yorkies have to be beautiful movers as well as beautiful little dogs when stacked.

        I am sorry that I evidently confused people by asking a question like this, but the only thing I can say is that breeders are incredibly aware of tiny differences, and because those tiny differences are very important to us we’ll talk about them very heatedly. But those tiny differences are not “causing a breed split” or anything of the sort, and they’re differences that you’d never be able to see unless you were as invested in the breed as show breeders are.

    • Reply rufflyspeaking July 26, 2010 at 1:32 am

      Beth, this was a question to breeders, and so it gets answers with breeders’ level of sensitivity.

      When I say “Wow, that is a ridiculously heavy dog he put up; I am ticked off,” I’m talking about a dog who you – and almost any spectator – would have not the first bleeding idea was any different from any other dog in the ring. I’m talking about a dog who my HUSBAND, and he sits and looks at my dogs all day – would not have the first bleeding idea was any different. Breeders define differences like “too heavy” and “too much coat” in the realm of two or three pounds on a 40-lb dog, or coat you’d not be able to EVER tell the difference in unless you not only touched it but had touched thousands of similar dogs. “Too short” is a fraction of an inch.

      These are differences that bug us because we are so extremely hyperaware of these ounces or tiny fractions of movement and they become things that we work really, really hard to change in our own breeding programs, not differences that would even be visible in a photograph unless I sat with you and pointed out that this one’s chest is a half-inch below his elbow and this one’s chest is not. To me, that’s an enormous difference, and another breeder and I might agree that the chest depth is the main difference between the two dogs. To the casual observer, it’s somewhere around number 27, after every difference in spotting and coat and whether his ears are pointed and twenty-four other things they might guess at.

      If you go to a show, and I hope you do, watch the Golden ring. I would bet you five dollars that, aside from being able to see that some dogs are obviously young and some are obviously old, you won’t be able to tell a THING about which dog is going to win and which dog won’t. I know I didn’t in Danes, when I first bought one, and I didn’t for two years. It took hundreds and hundreds of hours of having things explained to me and going to every show I could afford to go to, and then going to the breed’s Nationals and sitting ringside for forty hours, before – and I remember it very well, because it was so startling – during Best of Breed I saw the fiftieth or so dog trot past me and said “Hey, I wonder if that’s what they mean by paddling in front.”

      Now when I look at Danes I can see huge differences, and I can say things like “I think the breed has a real problem with length of upper arm and a lot of dogs we’re sending into the Group can’t move.” But I PROMISE YOU, it’s not a difference you could see unless you were super, super sensitive to it like breeders are.

      I still can’t see it in Bassets very well, by the way – I’ve stood and looked at two Bassets and said “Wait, field bred?” and somebody says “No, show bred; see the difference in the structure around the eyes?” and I have to guess again. The difference between show-bred and field-bred Bassets is nowhere near as large as some would have you believe.

      And don’t worry – lighter Cardis do still win. Clue’s very small and honestly TOO light, and she finished very, very fast; her daughters are better in terms of sturdy bone and good round feet but they may be even smaller than she is. Friday’s under 30 lb still. What I see that bugs me is that high-profile dogs who are being specialed (which is something that most of us can’t afford to do and so we can’t put our dogs out there to compete with them) are too heavy and low – which, again, means four pounds and MAYBE an inch. Not giraffe versus alligator.

      • Reply Beth July 26, 2010 at 6:17 am

        Well, I went and answered in your other post because it was top of the page and I’m easily distracted. 🙂 But I was talking about the impact over many decades. It does not happen to all breeds by any stretch, but I’ve seen a few breeds change dramatically from the time I was a kid to now, and I’m only 40. Some of the changes were perhaps for the better, others I’m sure were not. But with some, the change occurred a long time ago.

        In Pems, the top of the standard is meant to be 30 pounds, but I’ve had more than one breeder tell me that top-winning males frequently go 35 in fit condition. Five pounds on a thirty-pound dog is a big difference. My girl is 28 pounds when thin (top of the standard) and finished in 8 shows, before I got her. Now as it stands, I have also seen finished dogs who were quite a lot smaller, so apparently in Pems judges are still putting up small dogs too and so you have people with a preference for a smaller, more compact dog. Personally I like the little bit larger size and am happy with that. But in a world where only the bigger ones started winning, you’d see a change in type that would be visible to the naked eye. It’s visible to me when I stand mine up next to the smaller-type show dogs.

    • Reply Leila July 26, 2010 at 5:29 pm

      Well said, Beth.

  • Reply Maggie July 26, 2010 at 2:37 am

    I get asked what kind of mix Kipling is a lot! People here are deadly convinced that he is a mutt. 🙂

    • Reply rufflyspeaking July 26, 2010 at 2:45 am

      I hope you tell them how hard you worked to get him there! He may be the only Cardigan in Slovenia – if he’s not, he’s one of a very, very few – so I understand the confusion, but he is SO gorgeous I hope they guess at some exotic and terribly rarified breed. Maybe you should tell him he’s a Dwarf Costalot.

  • Reply Red Dog Mom July 26, 2010 at 9:04 am

    It’s an oldie but a goodie.

    John Q. Public – “What a nice dog. He’s a Corgi, right? Like the Queen has?”
    Me – “Yes, he’s a Corgi but he’s a Cardigan Corgi. The Queen has Pembroke Corgis.”
    JQP – “Huh?”

    As most know, my dogs are all reds – beautiful deep reds – and they look nothing like Pems. I like Pems tremendously but, I own Cardis because I like them more. I just happen to like them in a color that is traditionally associated with Pems. It doesn’t make my dogs Pems and it doesn’t make them look like Pems. I have less issue with JQP thinking they are Pems because that gives me an excuse to educate. I still think there are a lot of judges out there who see a red Cardi, think Pem and fail to put them up. Gee, maybe we should start showing our breed by color? 🙂

  • Reply Erin July 26, 2010 at 11:59 am

    I would just like to preface this by saying that I am a baby, baby in the dog show world and have yet to breed. I have a feeling when I breed that first litter some things will start to click.. or I just will have a colossal brain meltdown. So most of what I will say regarding judges is parroting, more or less.

    In the AKC ring, it would seem that some judges, and I’m sure this is true for many breeds, will choose type over soundness. There are a handful of breeding programs that strive to put more and more bone and coat into the breed (similar to what was mentioned above in the collies) to the point that the dog doesn’t fit the standard of “moderate” anymore. One particular breeder comes to mind that breeds heavily based on type and doesn’t have the best movers. However, under certain judges, those dogs will win every time because they are big boned, heavy coated, and have pretty heads. Those dogs also don’t do as well in ASCA because they don’t move as nice as other dogs, and ASCA will pick sound over type more often than not. (That’s why I’m glad we have both, I respect a dog that can earn a CH in both AKC and ASCA)

    As for the public, I wish they knew that pretty color and “very intelligent” does not a good family dog make. People love Aussies because the merles are just so darn cute as puppies, it’s hard not to love them, and because they learn so quickly. But Aussies are not a good dog for your average first time dog owner. An Aussie was my first dog, but holy cow, I was the one in a million who stuck it out and he drove me absolutely crazy on several occasions. He certainly wasn’t the best dog for me who knew nothing about dogs, he deserved a better owner than that! =) I think Aussies are best for experienced dog people because they require a special touch and a creative owner to think of lots of ways to keep them occupied if you aren’t running them on stock 6 hours a day. My guys get a lot of exercise and yet they still wrestle and chase in the house every second that they are awake during the day. There is no quiet lounging or just resting. Even my more subdued Aussie is very busy, just less destructive! That’s just not something your average owner is ready to deal with or your average family is going to tolerate.

    • Reply rufflyspeaking July 26, 2010 at 3:22 pm

      Erin – the question of type and soundness is a constant one. The question among judges of how to sort a class – whether you group all the sound dogs and then choose the typiest one, or group all the typey dogs and then choose the soundest one – is never-ending. I am sure you can tell where I’d fall, but I’ve heard good, passionate arguments on both sides. I think breeds are often protected, to a certain extent, by that very argument – after forty shows under a dozen judges, the dog who has the greatest elements of both tends to be the one who has done best.

  • Reply Amanda L July 27, 2010 at 8:08 am

    As usual, a great post. Since I have an uncommon breed (Swedish Vallhund), I have the added worry that a given judge may not have ever seen more than the bare minimum number of individuals. And because they are a short-legged herding breed, we always worry that a judge is going to think they are supposed to be one of the Corgis in type (the Vallhund’s height to length ratio is 2:3, but dogs who are longer than that can do very well). We also have a lot of variation in type, and it can be difficult for a judge to really know what they should be looking for in terms of breed type. I have seen very incorrect ears put up (again, Corgi ears, not Vallhund ears). Especially with the red sable Vallhunds, people often think they are a funny-looking Pembroke, even though the similarities end at “longer than it is tall” and “herding spitz”. Tails in my breed are “anything goes” (judging should stop at the croup, and all our judges’ ed material is very clear about this), yet we have heard judges comment about how they want to see a long tail carried, or that short tails are preferred, when they should not be judging the tail at all. And then there’s angulation – this is a moderately-angulated breed, yet some judges seem to think more is better. Also, this should be a working farm dog, and overall balance and movement should be very important, I see HANDLERS out there moving dogs far too slowly to let the judge accurately assess the gait. Or dogs who are so front-heavy that there’s no way they could do a day’s work, but they look impressive so…

  • Reply Jill Moore August 10, 2013 at 1:25 am

    I’ve only just found your site a few months ago, and am slowly reading through all these excellent, excellent posts. I spent around a decade in shelties in the 90s, doing showing on a very, very small scale, and only ever breeding 2 litters (total 3 pups. Who was it said that breeding is not a money-making proposition? 😉 ) I am consistently disappointed in what I see in the show ring in shelties. Super-short necks and very poor front angulation, often bad rear angulation, too. Lots and lots of very pretty faces and generally really sweet temperaments, but the last show I went to – admittedly very small, unlike the huge four-days with specialty twice a year that we had where I used to live – there wasn’t a single dog in the ring that could have herded anything more than 15 minutes without giving out. And I will say that type can indeed change over time. It may not happen in all breeds, but take a look at shelties from the 1900 – 1930 and you will see a VAST difference in type compared to today’s dogs: that nice square outline with the front legs directly underneath the withers, with correct front and rear angulation, proper length of neck, and overall very balanced, is hard to find. I have seen pictures online of some very nice dogs that I would love to have or breed to, if I were still showing, but you will find more dogs with a rectangular shape – long backs, shorter legs, front legs way up beneath the ears when the dog is stacked because the forearm is far too short or the angulation is too open or both… Too much coat, for sure, compared to the most typey early examples in this breed. Ironic, actually, since those early dogs were much more closely related to the spaniel and Schipperke-type sheltie ancestors than today’s dogs. If I could wave a magic wand and have my wish, all judges in a ring full of shelties would put movement and balance above pretty heads (which can be brought into a line in one generation) and over-done coat, and all handlers would move them out on a loose lead and with the handler running, because if the dog can move, the handler will HAVE to run to keep up with the dog at a trot.

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