Responsible Breeding

Yankee Cardigan Club educational weekend: Ribbing

As before, these are my notes from Paula’s mini-lecture; editorials below.

The picture is… Bree? It’s not that I don’t know which dog is which dog, it’s that all their names end in -ee! Between Roxy, Shelly, Bonnie, Noddy, Bree, Smarty, and Rory, things get a bit confusing :). Mae, Knickers, and Crow are blessedly easy.

Whoever she is, this bitch has the sweetest face and loveliest personality and I took an obscene number of photos of her because she always posed so prettily for me.


1) You want a depth of ribbing that creates a picture of a dog between two front legs, not a dog on top of two front legs. (This was repeated several times, and therefore is sitting in the front of my brain wagging a finger at me.)

2) Every dog’s ribcage narrows toward the bottom, but that’s not the same as the desirable egg shape. The correct egg appears to fill the space between the two front legs almost down to the crook (you don’t want it to physically fill it all that way, because then with skin and hair and so on the dog would be too low, but the impression should be of legs curved around a ribcage).

3) The egg is not just the depth. It’s also a width and roundness at the top of the curve. You want to see a good mass of rib when you look down at the dog and from the front of the dog to its back, not a flat plane. She specifically cautioned against “Shepherd ribbing,” which is a flatter rib from top to bottom. You want more spring than that, a fat egg and not a narrow one.

4) The rib should fill two-thirds (? I think I was asking a question at this point and the notes stop – definitely more than half but I am not sure whether it was 2/3 or more) of the exposed body between the mass of the shoulder and the mass of the rear. Be sure to count the last rib from the actual last rib (which is floating and found up high on the dog) and not from the last connected rib down at the sternum. From the last floating rib to the pelvis, the distance should be shortish.

5) Another ribbing fault is herring gut, where the rib rises abruptly from the sternum. Herring gutted dogs can have good shape, good spring, good loin length, but they often have a shorter sternum and the ribs get really short really quickly. From the side it looks like their bodies are deep and then get shallow quickly instead of gradually; the dog has an exaggerated or long tuck-up. Not to be confused with a correct dog who is thin; it’s the length of the tuck-up that you watch for, not its height.

This is a desirable depth of front on a young puppy; there is ribbing going down between the legs that you can actually get your hands on (it’s not just hair or skin) – she had us put our hands on this puppy to feel it.


Joanna’s editorials: Yup. No argument here, just being forced to see it in my own dogs is always painful! I tend to like a shallower dog, honestly, because I want athleticism, so my personal challenge needs to be to keep the athletic dogs who are moving around an appropriate depth of chest. This was one of the things that I came home and immediately checked on all my dogs.

One thing that Paula said is that in her experience chests don’t actually “come down,” (i.e., the ribs get pointier at the bottom) they just look better when the dog gets more mass on him or her. I think that it probably depends on the growth pattern in your pedigree; Clue, for example, has improved in ribbing depth and continues to improve even at her age. She’s lengthened in upper arm, the prosternum is further forward, and the ribbing is lower. She’s never going to be ideal (her ribbing and the fit of her front are her weaknesses) but she sure is better than when she was a baby and even a young dog. However, I don’t doubt that there are other lines for which the puppy picture is a very accurate one and it’s never going to actually change. I think it’s sort of like leg length; I’ve had breeders tell me that the best they’re ever going to look is when they’re baby puppies, so if the puppy is leggy the adult is going to be even more so. Mine have always grown absolute STILTS – they grow their leg length very, very early, and then settle into it and grow their body length. But for those breeders, they’ve found that leg length comes later, so you need to watch out for a puppy who’s already got it.

Having said that, however, I don’t have permission to ignore a round or shallow ribcage. I may have the luxury of ignoring a LITTLE bit of it, figuring that it’ll improve later, but correct is correct. Friday, who had the right shape from earlier on, is better in that quality than Clue; when Friday’s chest comes down a bit (assuming it does) it’ll complete an already good picture instead of improving an incorrect one.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Emily~ DreamEyce October 14, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing all these tidbits from the event, I so wish I could have come too!

    Ribbing has been one of those things I’ve not really grasped yet in the breed, since just about every ‘big name’ in the breed has a different shape to the chest! This breed for sure isn’t one what has the major “this is how it’s suppose to be” consistency seen in say, Goldies, and Poodles, where it often seems the judges are picking out the best total dog out of dogs with very similar breed type. Instead Cardigan rings are generally filled with dogs who look nothing alike in any manner, with people pretty much guessing which is “best”, out of a whole swarm of unlike dogs!

    Even in the end, I don’t know if we’ll ever have that visual consistency seen in some breeds. I’m sure we’ll always be a breed where onlookers marvel at how unlike our dogs are… but I wish figuring out things like correct, functional ribbing were easier to distinguish throughout the breed!
    Emily~ DreamEyce recently posted…Mountaineering GalaxyMy Profile

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