buying a puppy, Dog Health, General, genetics, health testing, Responsible Breeding, Responsible Ownership

What is a “sound” dog?

Across the spectrum of animals that are deliberately bred, there is a concept that in dogs we call "soundness."

When I first heard it used in connection with dogs, it took me a long time to figure out what was meant; I finally realized that it was the same thing I'd learned in rabbits twenty years before. 

Soundness is, basically, the architectural quality of an animal. It's so consistent across all dogs, and across virtually all animal species, because the same problems are being solved by all living things. They have to stand up (and bear their own weight), they have to move while consuming the fewest calories, and they have to convert food into energy that allows them to get more food. 

What you are looking for is an animal whose body easily and naturally performs those functions in the very best and most efficient and most pain-free way.

Across all species, you want weight-bearing joints placed well under the body to support the bulk of the animal's mass. This is just physics – if the supports are straight and under the area of greatest weight, the weight is given through the supports to the ground. The supports themselves don't have to be spectacularly strong. If, on the other hand, the supports are on the diagonal or are under a different area, the pressure of the building is given to the supports themselves, which means they are much more vulnerable. In a building you can compensate for this by using different materials, but the supports are still an inherently weak spot.

In animals, when you put pressure (the weight of the body) on the legs, the legs should carry the pressure to the ground in a straight line. If they don't, they are forced to endure much more stress even just when the animal is standing still. A lifetime of physical stress equals a middle age or senior life of muscle issues, arthritis, and so on. 

Above the bulk of the animal you want a laid-back shoulder (meaning that the shoulder points somewhat toward the animal's tail, not straight up and down; this becomes increasingly crucial as the weight of the animal increases) so that the front assembly is set well back and the mass is behind the neck, not under it. A nicely laid-back shoulder also lets the animal get its head up high easily, meaning that they can eat more efficiently or watch for danger or hunt.

Again, across all animals you want a good hinge to be the powerhouse of the rear, so the rear can coil under itself and then push against the ground and propel the animal forward. You want the animal to have to take as few strides as possible to get the same distance, because fewer strides consume fewer calories.

You want the pelvic area to allow rear legs that come down straight (when viewed from the rear), pointing neither in nor out.  If a horse's rear legs point to the east and the west instead of the north and the south, it can injure itself. When you want a sheep who can give birth easily and then not injure its own udder, or a camel who doesn't get mastitis, you're asking for the same pelvic construction.

An animal's topline (the line formed by the backbone) should be evaluated just the way you would if you build a little house and then press your finger on the roof of the house. A stiff level roof is fine. A roof that peaks or curves upward is also fine. A roof that curves downward is NOT fine; a downward curve will buckle (or the walls will buckle first) when you put weight on it. Exactly the same principles apply to animals. A level topline is sound. A curve upwards is also sound. A curve downwards is NOT sound. If you want a goat who can still carry a pregnancy without pain at age eight or ten, after years of bearing weight (like your finger on the roof of the toy house) you're looking for the same topline as I look for in a corgi or a terrier or a greyhound or horse (horses look like they have a concave back but the spine is actually level – horses just have more meat on their toplines).

The last thing that you think about when you're seeing if an animal is sound is what's called BALANCE. If you are looking at an animal that stands at rest on the tips of its toes (meaning a sheep, goat, horse, dog, cat – not a rabbit or a rat) you want a front that can get out of the way of the rear legs when they move. The hinge formed by the shoulder and upper arm should be very close to the hinge formed by the femur and the tibia/fibula. The front and the back legs should naturally take strides of the same length – without the animal either having to artificially lengthen the rear by swinging its hips (which puts stress on the spine) or artificially shorten the stride of either half.

The goal of conformation is to make an animal – of ANY species – that can obey its heart and its instincts, as long as possible, without pain. A really poorly put-together dog can still hunt (and often hunt well), but it's fighting its body to do so. It's going to be in pain at the end of the day and it's going to be arthritic by the time it's five. A horse with a genuinely concave back will jump, but it'll be sore and quite possibly broken down by the time it is in its teens. A wild pig who is badly constructed will still root, but it'll get tired faster and won't make it through the winter several years earlier than one that can forage efficiently. A really unsound corgi can still herd, but why on earth should we be asking it to fight its own body to do so? That strikes me as unfair at best. And then breeding that animal, knowing that its offspring are also going to be more tired, more painful, need to eat more, etc., is just a terrible idea. You always breed to produce the most pain-free and most efficient example of your breed that you possibly can. 

Bringing this into real life, and the decisions you as pet owners will have to make, I've seen a lot of mention of leg length as being the difference between the "show" corgi and the "working" or "old style" corgi. The same thing happens with the basset and the dachshund. You'll hear that the more "genuine" dog has – depending on the breed – the shorter back, longer back, shorter leg, longer leg, this head, that head, this coat, that coat.  

In dwarfed dogs of all breeds a strong implication that a longer leg makes a more "herdy" or "historic" corgi, or a more "fieldy" or correct basset, and is somehow healthier than the show-type corgi or basset or dachshund. 

Leg length is NOT what you should be worrying about.
 
Leg length allows the dog to take longer strides IF all else is equal (if joint angles are equal and so on). So, yes, a Border Collie will take longer strides than a corgi, and a foxhound will take longer strides than a Basset. If what you care about is taking longer strides, I'd strongly suggest that you go get a different breed, but I honestly don't get heated about the absolute length of the leg.
 
What I see as very troubling is the trend toward breeding CARELESSLY and then saying that what a person is producing is a "working-type" corgi or basset or dachshund. These breeders are not actually making a judgment about SOUNDNESS, which is what you should be concerned about as a pet owner, and deciding that a particular feature is desirable; they're just producing a poorly bred puppy and then saying that it's going to be healthier because it doesn't look like a show dog anymore. 
 
So let's TOTALLY ignore leg length – and coat length and head type and all those things – and look at what you must insist on to know that you have a good, sound dog regardless of breed.
 
Just to make absolutely sure that nobody thinks I'm tooting any horns in Cardigans, I'm doing this with Pems because I don't know very many Pem breeders and am in no way associated with ANY of the dogs. 
 

 

Here's a show-type Pem. 

The first thing you should do – and this is not a corgi-specific evaluation; it's something we're taught to do in any breed – to evaluate soundness is to draw a line from the elbow through the top corner of the shoulder, and another line across the topline.

In a good, sound dog, the entire head and most if not all of the neck should be both above and in front of the lines you draw. This shows that the shoulder is laid back correctly and the mass of the dog's front, which is the heaviest part, is behind the neck instead of under it. 

 

 

The next thing you do is draw a line up through the middle of the front paw and toward the sky. This is the line of weight bearing on the heaviest part of the body. That line should look like it is through the front part of the body, NOT through the neck.

 

 

The next step is to make sure the dog can take good deep breaths and get lots of oxygen. The rib on a dog should end more than half-way down the body. No matter how long or short the dog's body is, from the Siberian Husky to the Dachshund, the majority of the dog's body should be rib, not empty space.

 

 

Finally, you want a dog who is balanced – the angle formed by the shoulder joining the upper arm should be roughly like the angle formed by the femur joining the knee (in dogs we call it the stifle). On this lovely bitch you can see that the angles are very similar (it's normal for the rear angle to be turned a little bit; they're not supposed to be identical in inclination, but in the openness of the triangle).

 

 

Let's look at one of the early corgis, Ch. Rozavel Red Dragon.

Divide him in fourths first.

 

 

Do you see how much shorter his neck is, how much more upright the whole shoulder and front assembly is? His head is barely out of that quadrant and most of his neck is under it.

The weight-bearing line:

 

 

His front leg supports his neck, not the big mass of weight that is formed by the front half of his body. You should be able to see now why it is that his topline sags in the middle – if his shoulder and arm were set further back, the topline would be straight.

Ribbing:

 

 

His rib is just slightly past the middle of his body; not as good as the modern corgi.

And balance of angles:

 

 

He's not badly balanced, but there are two things that worry me – the angle in the rear is appreciably more open than 90 degrees, which means that the "hinge" of his leg was already open as he was just standing there. He's not going to be able to get much more drive from the powerhouse of the rear than he's got at a standstill; he'll have to move from the hip instead of from the knee. Second, see how very much shorter the upper arm is than the shoulder? The upper arm should be as close to the same length as the shoulder as it possibly can be. 

The early corgi breeders, one of the most prominent of them Rozavel, took this very early dog and, over the next couple of decades after Red Dragon died, worked very hard to change the construction of the Pembroke. They did NOT do this in order to make the legs shorter. Shortness of leg is a style decision and, while I think it's extremely functional, you can have a sound dog regardless of leg length. They did this because they looked at these early Pembrokes and they knew they had to improve the soundness of the dogs.

As a result, within four generations you have this:

Completely ignore her leg length – she's just a better DOG, a sounder dog, and an improvement over her close ancestor in the ways that matter to you as a pet owner.

If someone is trying to sell you a "working" corgi, or a working basset, or a field-bred Dachshund; if you're thinking of adopting a dog and want one that can work with you; if you are looking at adding ANY dog to your family, IGNORE the leg length. Ignore the hair. Ignore the head.

Ask for an eye-level stacked photo – you CAN get any dog to stack; put them on a stone wall or a countertop and they'll stand still – and draw these same lines on them. If the dog is sound, the lines won't lie. You should see a good straight topline that's created by a well-angled front that supports the body, not the neck. You should see lots of "hinge" created by a front and rear that are at 90-degree angles or very close to them. You should see a long arm, not a short one. You should see a good long rib. You should see a head and neck that are well up off the body. A dog built like that will be able to move easily and efficiently, and won't break down with activity. Leg length, in the end, means very little. 

To show you what I am talking about, here are some dogs to look at:

Rescue Chihuahua mix. Fantastic. See how he is a little straighter in the hinges of the front and rear but the angles are the same? Beautifully balanced dog, and because he has those looooong bones in the rear (his femur and tib/fib) he's going to have plenty of power back there even though the angle isn't as tight. This is a dog I'd be thrilled to own, would bring me pleasure every time I looked at him.

Beautiful. Balanced, square, just wonderful.

Jack Russell sitting at the Hartford Pound right now. He's tied to a fence and he's self-stacking. Only a dog whose body feels best in that position – feels most at ease when he's square – would do that. Wonderful front, great topline. Somebody needs to go get him.

Goldendoodle. Yeah, I know, gag me on the breeding methods, but this is a sound dog and can probably move just beautifully.

Bully-something tied to the same fence in Hartford. Very different body type from the above but you can lay the same lines and get the same results. Look at the beautiful even muscling over his loin and down his thighs – that's a dog who feels good moving, which is the whole point.

Everybody in the show world knows this boy – I've seen him in real life and he is absolutely one of the soundest and most correct dogs I've ever laid eyes on. He blew me away; he floats when he moves, and that's on a low and heavy little terrier. 

 

Ok, now take a look at this dog: 

What do you think? Can you begin to see the lines on her? Would you put her in an agility ring or ask her to retrieve ducks?

 

Soundness is what good dog breeding is all about. It's not about the show wins; it's not about field trial wins; it's not about titles or coat or head type. In my breed, I can do the best job creating a sound dog if I participate in AKC shows, and I think the community of Cardigan breeders can do the best creating a sound dog within the show community, which is why i will go to the wall to defend the practice of showing dogs.

If I was breeding foxhounds, what I did to access the soundest dogs might be completely different. If I bred pig dogs or bear dogs by combining six different breeds, my job would still be the same thing and I'd do whatever I had to do within that culture to get access to soundness. 

I DO NOT CARE WHAT OR HOW OR WHO YOU BREED, if you are a breeder. I DO NOT CARE WHAT OR HOW OR WHO YOU OWN, if you are an owner. What I care deeply about, and think YOU should care deeply about, is following the practices of breeding or buying that don't hurt dogs. 

That's it. Don't hurt dogs. It's an incredibly simple edict but, if you actually follow it, it will swallow your entire life and you will not be ABLE to breed carelessly or buy carelessly. Not hurting dogs is at the root of everything I write, from "How to kill a shelter dog" to "How to choose a trainer." It's everything. 

And, very specifically in this case, it's breeding sound dogs. If you don't know what that means, don't breed. If you do know what it means, then every decision MUST put that first, before any cosmetic considerations. 

Build your little house. Breed good dogs. Keep your promises. 

 

 

 

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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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76 Comments

  • Reply Mike July 15, 2010 at 6:33 am

    Thank you so much for this post. I doubt my wife and I are ever going to get anything other than rescue dogs, but I love working with them and would love to be able to have some idea of how well the dog should be able to hold up to trying to learn agility or running through the woods.

    Personality is still number one, of course, in a rescue dog, but this should be incredibly useful.

  • Reply Julie July 15, 2010 at 8:48 am

    I enjoyed that immensely.

  • Reply Julie Ellingson July 15, 2010 at 9:28 am

    Well spoke! They have to be more than just a pretty face!

  • Reply Crystal July 15, 2010 at 9:44 am

    This is such a great post! Thank you so much. Conformation is something that has eluded me, and this helps me understand how to evaluate a dog.

    I am struggling with the front and rear angles, though. I’ve never been any good at seeing a shoulder angle. How did you know where to draw those lines? For both the shoulder and the rear? Can you dumb it down a bit for me? :)

    • Reply Liz July 15, 2010 at 1:46 pm

      Me too Crystal! Actually I am okay on the front angles, but I am getting lost on the rear one. When I try to see the rear angle on all these long-legged dogs (of which I have) I just see straight lines, not angles… Help! :)

      And I would snap up that little Chi-mix in an instant–she is built like my own rescue agility mutt, who is as athletic as they come… The bully mix is gorgeous too.

    • Reply rufflyspeaking July 15, 2010 at 2:00 pm

      Hi!

      I think “seeing” a shoulder is really tough. In horses you’re taught to follow the angle of where the neck meets the big mound of muscle over the shoulder as a rough guide, but in dogs that’s often hidden. The best way i know how to do it is to get your hands on the dog and move your fingers from the mid-back toward the neck. You’ll stop where the shoulder blade starts. Then move down that bone and figure out where it turns the corner into the upper arm, follow that down to the elbow. If you do that enough you can start to anticipate with your eye what your fingers are going to find, but I think it has to start with the hand and not the eye.

      In the rear, you’re looking for the point that the femur attaches to the pelvis. The pelvis and femur are like a T (set slightly on the diagonal). You’re not looking for either end of that top bar (one end will be what we call the hip bones and the other will be the point of buttock); you’re looking for where the femur sets in. You can find it on your own dogs, though they’ll look at you weird, and then start to look for it and feel for it on other dogs.

      • Reply Crystal (and Maisy) July 15, 2010 at 6:01 pm

        Thanks for the explanation. I can feel it on my own dog (you were right, she looked at me weird), and tried to draw lines on pictures. I was really struck by how rarely she stops square in photos… I’ll have to pay attention to what she does in real life to see if that’s a coincidence or not. Her rear angles aren’t bad (according to my woefully inexperienced eye), but holy cow, her top line is awful and I don’t think the shoulder looks too hot. I can’t say I’m surprised; at not quite 4, I’ve had trouble with intermittent lameness on the front, and she often looks stiff on the right front.

        • Reply Crystal (and Maisy) July 15, 2010 at 6:18 pm

          On second thought, I’m not sure the rear angles are so great either. That or I’m drawing the lines poorly. Either/or is a possibility.

        • Reply rufflyspeaking July 15, 2010 at 6:19 pm

          Crystal, now I have an insane urge to get my hands on her :). Looking at your rally video, it looks to me like she doesn’t like to extend her rear at all. Her back legs barely go vertical before she’s pulling them back under her again. She sort of has a patty-pat stride in the back instead of a reach under her and a drive backwards. I’d have to touch her to see what the deal was, but I’d be interested to have your assessment of her muscling back there – she should be very well muscled, given her size and breed(s), and I’d be interested to know if the muscling is even on both legs or if one is thinner. And when you hold her back leg and stretch it back, does she yank it out of your hand and put it back down again? I am wondering if she’s ouchy and that’s why she’s both rounding the topline and refusing to stand square.

          • Crystal (and Maisy) July 15, 2010 at 8:56 pm

            Hey, next time you’re in Minnesota… :)

            Interesting that you say that about her back legs, because I have noticed that the rear legs seem “stiff.” She also tends to walk more circular in the back, if that makes sense. They kind of come out and around, instead of moving under her like they ought to.

            I went back through her baby pictures, and she’s been pretty round through the topline her entire life, which makes me think it’s structural vs. an injury. Same with refusing to stand square. I have maybe one picture where she’s standing square… of course, I don’t have many pictures of her standing STILL! She’s a high energy dog, for sure.

            I did feel her muscles, and it’s pretty even. I’m not sure if the amount of muscle she has is what you would expect, but I can tell you there isn’t an ounce of fat on this dog- in fact, she’s just slightly underweight- so what you see is fur, muscle or bone. Anyway, she wasn’t a fan of the stretching back. She didn’t yank them away, but she did turn her head sharply at me when I stretched the left leg. She sees a chiropractor and a massage therapist monthly, so I’ll have them take a feel when we’re in next.

            I’m not sure if this will work, but this is the best stacked photo I have of her:
            http://hphotos-snc3.fbcdn.net/hs334.snc3/29324_10150199797485538_787255537_12672882_7019217_n.jpg

            I’m sure it will be unsurprising that she’s a puppymill dog. Yes, I’m the idiot that fell in love with a pet store dog, was told they only use reputable breeders, and believed it (mostly because I wanted to). She’s a “corgi-poo.” I’m glad I have her, because she’s got ISSUES. Beyond the structural stuff, she has allergies, has some OCD tendencies, is reactive (ie, fear aggressive, and I have no doubts she would bite children if I hadn’t worked so hard with her and am CONSTANTLY vigilant- I hope it never happens, but I’m fully aware of what she’s capable of). But, I love her to pieces, and while she’ll never be the performance dog I want, she tries as hard as she can. We do what she can, while she can, and I have no problems pulling her from competition or even retiring her tomorrow if that’s what I need to do.

          • rufflyspeaking July 16, 2010 at 12:17 am

            I have two dogs like that, one of whom is completely healed and wonderful (Ginny) and one who is very, very slow (Bramble). Poor Bramble got completely wrecked by living in a kennel for almost a year when we had our fire, and he came out incredibly scared and the way he shows it is by rushing out and pretending to attack people and dogs if he’s not on leash (on leash he feels safe). We’re working slow and easy and letting him tell us his story and he’s getting there, but the progress I see is over a year, not over a day. I suspect by the time he’s a veteran we’ll be able to let him meet visitors at the door, but it may not be before then!

            Anyway, the puppy mill poodles they use tend to have extremely roached backs – it’s one of the ways to tell you have a poorly bred poodle. So with that ancestry the biomechanical problems you may be seeing are from whatever poor white poodle was in the puppy mill, and, if she’s circling her back legs, her knees or hips. Definitely ask your chiro to check range of motion in the rear and to analyze both hip and stifle (and tail). And by hip I don’t mean dysplasia or LCP; the way she moves speaks to me more of stiffness than dysplasia.

          • Crystal July 16, 2010 at 9:57 am

            Oh, poor Bramble! I know Maisy would go absolutely INSANE if I kenneled her for any length of time. I know you guys didn’t have a lot of options, but it’s too bad it affected him so much. I know what you mean about progress being measured in years, not days. The work is slow-going, and often I don’t realize Maisy has improved until something big happens… and even then, it’s so gradual that it’s easy to take for granted!

            That’s very interesting about puppy-mill poodles. I didn’t know that, but I’ve often wondered about her ancestry. My experience with Maisy is a large part of why I want a show-bred dog next go-around: I want to know about the next dog’s relatives. I want to know temperments, conformation, personalities. I love Maisy, but I really want a dog with a few less issues… and a dog with less likelihood of chronic pain as it ages. I do worry about Maisy’s body, and have already ruled out sports I’d like to try- agility and flyball- because I don’t feel right stressing her body anymore than it already is.

            I’ll have Dr. White check the hips/stifle/tail and mention the stiffness to see what she says.

  • Reply Tammy Kozoris July 15, 2010 at 11:09 am

    I will be the first to admit that Bella has a straight front. She has little layback and it KILLS me. She has a lovely lovely topline and rear but it still does not make up for her front… Trinity has one of the most balanced and well put together bodies in a collie that I have seen lately. In fact I’m not crazy about her expression… I bought her for her BODY. Because being able to do your job for 12 years is more important. I can always bring expression back to the forefront with a good breeding to someone dominant for his eye shape. BAD FRONTS (not just weak but downright BAD) are rampant through our breed. Somewhere along the line someone decided we were a “head breed” and said “screw it” to the body… and now this is what we have :( It’s my goal to breed SOUND and beautiful dogs with great expression.. it can be done!!!! Thank you for this article :)

  • Reply Pi July 15, 2010 at 11:53 am

    Thank you for this article!
    I wonder if all of this already applies to puppies?

    • Reply rufflyspeaking July 15, 2010 at 1:50 pm

      Pi, I think it does. If you look at a litter of puppies, there will be a few who ALWAYS stop square, and who are built like toy animals (a leg at each corner, and they look like if you turned them into tin they’d stand and not fall over). If I am trying to figure out which puppy to keep, that’s the first thing I look for, and then from those puppies I will try to choose the best in “type.” But soundness, in my mind, must always come first.

      • Reply Beth July 15, 2010 at 7:51 pm

        My bitch (retired show dog) almost always stacks up naturally. My boy (from the same breeder, show-bred but pet-quality) rarely stacks up square on his own. He’ll stand with his front legs pointing outwards, or a back leg askew. If I get him at attention he’ll stack up better, but it’s very hard to get him to stack. The female does it on her own. Of course on a lead, I’m sure some of that is training, but she even does it when loose.

        The girl finished in just 8 shows, after not starting til she was two years old, so I take it she’s quite correct.

  • Reply Beth July 15, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    I don’t at all question your wonderful explanation of conformation. I admit I can see it better in horses than dogs; all the hair gets in the way and i have a very hard time judging the angle of the shoulder, for example, in a dog.

    I respectfully question your summary of coat as “cosmetic.” I have little time now and won’t for hours, so perhaps I will expand on my post this evening or even on the weekend. But there is a reason coat is so prominent in the standards of many breeds.

    There is a reason my dad’s Chessie can do retrieves for hours in water with chunks of ice floating in it, while my girl Corgi starts to shiver after ten minutes in a spring-thaw stream. There is a reason a husky can sleep outside in a snowbank and a greyhound can’t. Yes, these are extreme examples, but they illustrate a point very well. To give a less extreme example, there is a reason why a fluff is a notable fault in a Corgi.

    Same for leg length. A beagle is lower to the ground, presumably, so they can run comfortably while ground-scenting a small animal. But if they are too low and they can’t negotiate normal obstacles found in the woods. A Corgi is low to the ground to avoid cow-kicks, but again get them too low and heavy and they won’t be able to cover ground efficiently enough to drive those cows to market. A dog who needs to go-to-ground can only be so tall. Again, absolute length is important.

    If you made this post on a Chessie forum and called the coat “cosmetic”, your readers would still be chuckling to themselves whilst reading the Sunday paper. :-)

    I could expand as to how it applies to pet-owners like myself, but my lunchtime is up and I need to get back to work.

    • Reply rufflyspeaking July 15, 2010 at 1:48 pm

      Beth – the reason I say that coat is cosmetic is that, if you look across the breeds, every breed uses the same justifications for why their coat length is the only right one.

      In most of the herding breeds, the dogs come in two flavors, smooth and coated. In dogs that herd in exactly the same climates and are exposed to the same conditions, you have radically different responses from the breed clubs. Border Collies say sure, great, love the coat. You’ll find them saying that it’s better in cold, wet conditions to have the longer coat. Collies have pushed the coated variety even further to genuinely long coat. The new Icelandic Sheepdog club says great, love both coats. Pyr Shep says great, love both coats. Pem and Cardi say GASP, no dog can have a long coat and be a good herder. They do this in the same Group ring as a PON and a Puli and they’ll do it this year standing right behind whatever Icelandic Sheepdog has won breed.

      The Lab people and the Chessie people will say the exact same things about coat (resistance to cold water). So will the Newfie people. So will the Golden people. All completely different coats and the same justification for each choice.

      The leg length… I agree with you, in principle, and I won’t breed with the goal of a Cardi who is ridiculously low. But in my experience with my own dogs, lowness is not so much an issue as body weight and the front – the angle of upper arm and shoulder – and rear angles. Friday is pretty short on leg, but she is insanely athletic and can go straight up walls and down cliffs. Bronte is much heavier and, while she’s very sound, she will often choose to go around an obstacle (at a zillion miles an hour).

      • Reply Beth July 15, 2010 at 7:41 pm

        Joanna— the reason why I engage in the debate is because you are clearly incredibly devoted to your dogs, and your breed, and dogdom in general. And you say a lot of things that make sense. I have noticed that you repeatedly mention frustration with some of the show-bashing of working dog people, and my experience (and I could be wrong) is that frustration of that level actually comes from a desire to find common understanding. I come from a working-dog background, though both my Corgis are from a fabulous show breeder and are wonderful dogs. Coming from a working-dog upbringing, I can pick out the things that you say that are like nails on a chalkboard to working dog people, and I can say with some small amount of confidence why that is. This thing about coat is one of them. Yes, different breeds justify their own coat type as being “correct.” Similarly, you might debate with a friend which is the best winter jacket; maybe down, or one of the poly-fill down mimickers. Perhaps someone will argue that wool, with a wind-proof shell, is their favorite. Another might say that they love a heavy fleece with a windbreak. And all have their merits, and all have their negatives. Some are poor insulators when wet, others insulate well when wet but get heavy. Some need special care, others have bulk. No one is “right” and no one is “wrong” but some are better in certain conditions, others in other conditions.

        So when we talk about the best “herding” coat, well it depends on what, when, and how you are herding. The collies were primarily pasture-herding sheep dogs. They did some pen work too, but they were bred to help round up flocks of sheep from grassy pastures. The best coat for a collie would be different than the best coat for a Corgi, since a Corgi worked small acreage, and primarily worked cattle (I’ve seen cowfields and sheep pastures, and I think you know which one is more likely to be muddy). Corgis were also market dogs, taking geese up the lane to market. Country lanes also tend to be muddy. So mud-shedding was most likely much more important to a farmer who had Corgis than to a Scottish border English farmer who had acreage and sheep. My dogs shed mud like crazy. We always get compliments on how clean they look, even if they haven’t been bathed in over a month. On many occasions, another dog owner has commented that they’ve gone through the muck and will need a bath, to which I say “Nah, the dirt will just fall off.” It does, too, and what does not fall off can be easily removed with a brush. The fluffy coat (rightly a fault) requires more grooming and does not shed dirt as easily.

        When it comes to the water dogs, there is little dispute that the Chessie coat is best for icy water. From the standard: “A Chesapeake’s coat should resist the water in the same way that a duck’s feathers do. When the Chesapeake leaves the water and shakes, the coat should not hold water at all, being merely moist.” That coat is absolutely essential to the job a Chessie does. My father has taken his dog goose-hunting in the Eastern Shore marshes in January. A lab can do cold-water retrieves, but gets wetter and therefore gets cold sooner. But that coat, like human winter-coat choices, comes with several trade-offs. It is not a real pleasant coat to pet. It stinks to the high heavens. It’s very oily. So if you are not regularly doing winter hunting, those trade-offs might not be worth the benefit and you might choose a coat that is overall easier to live with, and in exchange get slightly less protection.

        Other factors come into play, too. Perhaps the coat mutation that Chessies have did not show up frequently in the gene pool that Labrador breeders started out with. Maybe when it did show up, it came along with other traits that were not desired. Or maybe it was just not bred for because, again, it’s not the most pleasant coat to live with. Regardless, it’s one of the defining characteristics of a Chessie, and yes it makes a huge difference in the comfort and functionality of the dog. My guess is most people with working Chessies, if they had to choose, would give up a little bit of shoulder angle in exchange for keeping the coat, if forced to make that choice.

        When it comes to sporting dogs, again we want to look at what the dog does. A springer is mostly used on upland fowl, less frequently on waterfowl. As a flushing dog, she needs to go into heavy brush to push out game. She may need to do some simple water-retrieves to get downed birds, or may need to cross water to reach hunting land. She will plow through briars and burrs all day, as the birds she is flushing tend to be in that sort of cover.

        Imagine going back to your station wagon after a hard day’s hunting. The sun is setting, it’s getting cold. You need to pull out the worst of the burrs before you kennel up your dog, to make her comfortable. Then she needs to ride, muddy and soggy, for two hours in the back of the car to get home before you can even think of giving her a thorough cleanup. Imagine pulling those burrs out of really long coat. Imagine trying to get out the set-in tangles out of extreme feathering. My father had a springer from a backyard breeder, and she had some show-line heritage and the resulting heavy feathering (nothing like the show coat, but more extreme than the sport coat). She really needed to be clipped before she could go out and do her job, or she’d become a matted tangled mess and the burrs were impossible to untangle from the coat.

        So, I don’t herd and I don’t hunt. How does this impact me as a pet owner? In my case, we used a book to choose a breed when we were picking a dog. The book gave 10 sets of criteria on how to choose a dog, including things like activity level and trainability. It also included 3 items related to coat: length, amount of grooming, and amount of shedding. Well, we knew we wanted a dog who would not need protection from the cold to go on long winter walks. We knew we didn’t want a lot of grooming. And we knew we liked to hike and wanted dogs who could run in the woods with no problems. A Corgi fit our needs perfectly, and the wash-and-wear coat is a huge part of that picture. If we were willing to take a dog that required a lot of grooming, there were other breeds that would have made the list. As it stands, I’m very happy that the fluffy is a serious fault in Corgis and not bred for. If the fluff was a common coat type, we probably would not have chosen the breed.

        Say someone is an avid outdoorsmen: they want a hiking and jogging companion, and a dog who will love to play in the water when they go to the lake. They like to take all-day hikes through fields and woods, as well as maybe do some agility or tracking or some other dog-related sport. They research breeds and think a springer, with its gun-dog roots, will be a fine companion. They get a puppy, and the pup grows up to have a glamor coat like that preferred by the show breeders. How long will that person spend trying to untangle the dog? How long will it take all that hair to dry after a swim? With all that maintenance, the owner may find themselves taking the dog along less often, or resorting to constant clipping.

        Early breeders spent a long time developing coats appropriate to the task for a reason. Those coats serve to keep the dog protected from whatever elements it will face while working, and keep the owner from having to spend countless hours grooming after the day’s tasks are completed. There is a reason why coat is so prominent in so many breed standards. Breeders ignore the original intent of the coat standard at their own peril. A coat that does not match the task makes it harder for the dog to work (a long coat can weigh down a dog in the water, for example), decreases his comfort, and makes his owner less likely to participate in fun activities with the dog. Soundness is important, but coat is too or we would not see such a wide variety of coats bred for with such care. It’s not an either-or proposition. So it’s not that a Corgi can’t be a good herder with a long coat, it’s that the standard coat stays clean better than the long one does so breeders are encouraged to breed for that.

        • Reply rufflyspeaking July 15, 2010 at 9:17 pm

          Corgis worked small acreage, like the early Border Collie, the Puli, the Pumi, and the English Shepherd. All are coated. It moved cattle, like the Bouvier. It went down small country roads, like the OES and the Bearded Collie. It originated in the rocky (and muddy, and watery, and sandy, and generally all-conditions) Welsh countryside, like the Sealyham and the Welsh Terrier. ALL are coated.

          The other big cattle dog, of course, is the Rottie, whose coat type is very specifically called unfit for either type of corgi.

          I did a three-second Google search and found “This is a very clean breed, with the mud falling off the coat as soon as it dries.” Reference? Australian Shepherd. Same coat as a fluffy Cardigan.

          Chessies ARE good in cold water. I don’t know that they’re “the best” – I think that Curly-coated retrievers are pretty dang famous for it, as are Irish Water Spaniels and, yes, Labs. Four different coats, all of which are described as never letting cold water reach the skin. Maybe the Chessie was developed before the breeders had a chance to access the better cold-water coat of the IWS!

          The dogs that are designed to be left completely alone, never bathed or groomed, and are doing so to this day, are the livestock guard dogs. Most have a heavy double coat.

          And, of course, you know what corgi breeders do when they have a fluffy who is too good, too well constructed to let go into a simple pet home? Yup, they look for a performance home for it. I’ve never seen a single breeder say “You can’t have this dog to herd with because the coat is long.” They’re thrilled to have a fluff go to a herding home.

          It’s inescapable that there are dogs of every coat type (and color!) doing just about every job. It’s also inescapable that every single breed fancier who feels strongly about coat uses the exact same words to describe why it’s so essential that the coat be a certain way.

          Coat is the game we play. You get people very, very serious about why the rules are that way, but if you look at it logically and across the scope of breeds you REALLY don’t have an absolute truth about which coat is more correct for which job. It’s superficial. What’s under the coat is what I will start to really get crazy about; to me worrying about coat on any basis beyond my personal preference (and acknowledging that it is preference) is like me rejecting a house because it’s the wrong color.

          While I’m thinking about it, just in case anyone is reading this and thinks that field-bred Springers don’t need coat maintenance, not true at all. The spaniels have coats that, for maximum health, should be stripped out pretty regularly; this need becomes more acute after spaying or neutering. Spaniel undercoat doesn’t shed the same way that a double-coated dog does, and if you don’t pull the undercoat out they get that nasty “cotton with spikes in it” coat when you finally give up and clip it all off. Nobody gets a free pass on grooming any spaniel. The show-bred Springers may also need scissoring on the furnishings every few months but it’s an “also,” not an “instead.”

          • Beth July 15, 2010 at 10:06 pm

            Hmmm. It seems to me that you get very angry at working dog people for criticizing show dog people, yet when working people say “This coat is not suitable for the job” you come back with “But the coat is superficial!”

            Nothing you have said has changed my mind. Coat standards are there for the same reason the other standards are there. All, to some degree, are a bit arbitrary (you have square and rectangular terriers, for instance, and both can be sound and both can be good varmint dogs, but the square-dog breeders should not really be trying to breed a rectangular dog). But certain things work better than others and the long, feathery coats in many breeds are typically shunned by working dog folks and prized by the show folks. If when the working dog people grumble that the big coats are not practical, the non-working people’s response is to cheerfully chirp “But it’s superficial!” then you’ll never begin to bridge the gap at all. If one is breeding form for function, should not one take feedback from those who actually, you know, do the function?

            I don’t know Cardigans at all, but a fluffy Pem coat is not really like any Aussie coat I’ve seen. And a working-bred Aussie typically does not carry as much coat as a show-bred Aussie.

          • rufflyspeaking July 16, 2010 at 12:03 am

            “Hmmm. It seems to me that you get very angry at working dog people for criticizing show dog people, yet when working people say “This coat is not suitable for the job” you come back with “But the coat is superficial!””

            Yep.

            Actually, I don’t get mad at working dog people for criticizing show dog people – everybody needs critics – except when it’s completely wrong. Criticizing show people for only caring about wins is flat-out wrong. Saying that they don’t understand breed history is wrong. Implying that they only have dogs for their own ego is ridiculous. And, for what it’s worth, the people that I know who are genuinely working-dog people – the ones who depend on dogs for their livelihood and who are involved deeply in breeding – don’t usually make accusations like that. They are thrilled to see a good dog no matter what clothes it’s wearing. It’s the ones who don’t actually work the dogs but who like to think they do, or who do not breed, who talk like that.

            But in terms of coat, yes, I want the argument to stop being anything about coats. It drives me absolutely crazy when someone says that show breeders shouldn’t breed dogs with a lot of coat and that’s the only thing they say and they keep on saying it. It’s never “show breeders are hurting length of upper arm” or “show breeders are hurting endurance by ignoring ribbing” – it’s always coat coat coat.

            Obsessing about coat (which, I might add, is in my experience one-sided; I’ve never heard a show breeder say “Those field-bred Springers are worthless because they don’t have any coat”) does two really bad things – it makes people think that they can tell a “genuine” as opposed to a “worthless” dog based on coat – and this goes both ways. They think that the dog should have a lot of coat so it looks fancy and purebred or they think it should have very little coat because that’s what healthy field-bred dogs have. They buy that line and so they go get an absolute train-wreck of a dog because they thought that coat actually meant something. Second, obsessing about coat creates this big facade of us-versus-them when it’s a COMPLETELY SUPERFICIAL QUALITY.

            If the argument, if there even is one, was forced to stay away from the words “coat” and “head,” neither of which the dog walks on, we could actually start to get somewhere, if for no other reason than the people who don’t understand anything about dogs except coat and head would have to shut up.

            I have very specific feelings about coat, but they are not the only feelings I have about dogs. I am glad to never talk about coat again if we can address the bigger soundness issues. And I think we’ve got to stop focusing on the paint job when the architecture is what keeps the dog alive and pain-free. Once we’ve figured out the architectural problems, THEN we can have all the arguments we want about whether spots should be big or little or whether a coat should be two inches long or four inches long.

          • Beth July 16, 2010 at 6:18 am

            So you don’t care about coat length, but working dog people do, so what you are saying is working dog people have meaningless concerns? C’mon, that is hardly fair. Having lived the first half of my life with gun dogs, I can tell you that yes, the coat length and amount of feathering IS important, in a very practical way that impacts the owner and the dog every single time they step into the field. By the way, I’ve looked carefully and found no reference to coat stripping on and care-guides to field springers. They mention the furminator, they mention the fact that you might need scissors and/or clippers if your dog gets into heavy brambles, but no mention of stripping the coat. Specifically, they say the coat requires very little grooming except for brushing a few times a week and maybe a furminator in heavy shedding season.

            You get angry when people criticize show breeders, but you are belittling other types of breeders by ignoring their very real concern. You will say “so let’s ignore coat, please” even though coat type is critical in many sporting breeds. That, to me, is your way of defending show breeders for breeding a coat that is completely impractical for the dog’s purpose. Why breed a coat if it A) Requires a ton of work, B) does not benefit the dog, C) in some cases is actually a detriment to the dog and D) is counter to what people who work the dog want to work with?

            You could just as easily say “Let’s ignore ears because the dog doesn’t walk on them.” There are herding dogs with flop ears and herding dogs with prick ears, but that does not mean ear set serves no purpose. There are big herding dogs and small ones, but that does not mean size serves no purpose. Just because there is variety in coat does not mean coat serves no purpose. It makes you angry when hunting people complain about coat, but guess what? Coat is important on a hunting dog. You claim your main goal is concern for the dog, but guess what? All that coat gets in the way of a dog trying to squeeze through a row of brambles. It drags down a dog trying to do a water retrieve. A show-springer’s coat is DETRIMENTAL to a dog doing what a springer is supposedly bred to do. Why is that? What purpose does it serve? Who does it serve, exactly, if not the dog?

            You say ignore coat, but I think it’s because even a lay person can see that is one are where show people of some breeds definitely and with purpose breed something that is absolutely counter to what the dog needs to function in its field.

            I have NO problem at all with show people breeding for all the coat they want. Zero. Coated dogs look absolutely stunning when all groomed out. I wouldn’t want to do the grooming, but that is purely personal choice and other people have a different choice. What I DO have a problem with is those heavy-coat breeders then turning around and saying that they are breeding to a standard that has to do with what the dog does. If you read the ESS sites, the good hunting ones say that there are plenty of nice bench-type ESS’s out there, IF you want a pet or agility or obedience dog. But if you want to hunt, get a field-bred dog because the breed split long ago and the bench ESS people have stopped pretending to breed for sport. And the good bench-style ESS breeder sites also acknowledge the split and say if you want a hunting dog, don’t come here. If you want to maybe hunt once or twice a year, maybe one of our dogs will suffice, but not for serious hunting.

            I can handle that. They are admitting their standard does NOT care about working ability.

            However, you defend show breeders as a blanket statement that they do care and their show standards are about the function of the breed. That is very true in some breeds, but clearly not in others. Some breeds, like poodles, rough collies, bench-style springer/cocker spaniels and most of the setters, stopped caring about the function of the dog decades ago. They want a pretty mover and a graceful, pretty dog with presence and yes, coat. There is nothing wrong with that in and of itself, but don’t pretend to claim it’s about the function of the dog in terms of what it’s meant to do.

            So please, if you don’t want to raise the wrath of those who work their dogs, don’t say coat does not matter when I assure you, it does. Better yet, spend a couple years out hunting with your dogs on the weekend. Do it with a heavily coated breed, then try it with a dog with a working coat, and then tell me it does not matter. Again, it’s not either/or. There are plenty of properly coated hunting dogs who also have wonderful conformation. Show breeders don’t breed for coat because coat doesn’t matter. They breed for coat because they like coat. Again, nothing wrong with that. Just admit that it is what it is, it does not serve a working purpose, and everyone will be much happier.

          • rufflyspeaking July 16, 2010 at 1:56 pm

            This is pretty much exactly what I’ve been saying.

            The ESS standard is one of the longest and most clear and encyclopedic in AKC. It’s 2,000 words. Less than 200 words are about coat. But when you say “the standard” or “breeding to the standard” all you are talking about is coat. And there’s a very strong implication that show breeders are kind of stupid, or like hurting dogs, or have no understanding of how dogs move or work, and yet the only evidence presented is coat.

            Tell me ANYTHING about the standard that shows that Springer breeders do not care about working ability, using no words about coat or hair, and then we can start to have a conversation.

          • Emily~ DreamEyce July 16, 2010 at 1:59 pm

            While I get what you are saying about angles, and balance being more important than coats, I think you’re way off base comparing a coated Pem or Cardi to a correct Aussie coat, and blowin off the importance of correct coats. I’ve not once felt a Coated Pem or Cardi that felt ANYTHING like the coat of a correct Aussie. How many adult coated Pems and Cardis have you actually gotten your hands on??

            As a handspinner, and owner of Angora rabbits I’d like to say ease of coat care, and coat cleanliness is greatly determined by the quality of the top coat (guard hairs). All the Angora rabbit breeds are the same gene mutation, but the coats are bred for different qualities. English Angora almost completely lack guard hairs, and are hard to maintain since the downy undercoat attracts dirt, grime, and mats easily. The German Angora is about 50% soft guard hairs, and 50% cottony undercoat. Because of the guard hairs disbursed through the coat, it prevents matting of the cottony undercoat, and sheds off dirt, and grime keeping a MUCH cleaner, and easier to maintain coat than on the English Angora rabbits. German Angoras are seen as ‘utility’ rabbits, not needing coat care aside from shearing, while English Angoras are mostly kept by small-time hobbyists, who dedicate their time to grooming their pet buns.

            In Aussies, the hard guardhairs are profuse, like on the German Angora. In every coated Corgi I’ve felt, they tend to lack guard hairs, and instead have a ‘cottony’ undercoat feeling topcoat- much like that of an English Angora. This ‘cottony’ coat collects just about everything, and does not shed dirt, grime, burrs, and other things like the correct Corgi, and Aussie coats do. While it may be the same gene causing fluffy Pems/Cardis, and Aussies, they show different in every dog I’ve ever met because Aussies were bred for specific coat qualities. I’ve also met Aussies with cottony, worthless working coats, much like the fluffy Pems and Cardis I’ve met… breeders pet place (Or cull) those dogs, and working breeders don’t use them. The coat isn’t correct in Aussies, so is culled out. In Corgwn since we have mostly incorrect coats when we have coats in our dogs, responsible breeders don’t breed for those coats. No one wants an active working-bred dog with a matty, dirty coat which they have to baby.

            Coat *is* important for working dogs, vital in some breeds. You may not understand it, but you’re also not a member of the working dog community, you don’t have dogs with full-time jobs. You bathe your dogs constantly, and brag about all the grooming you do to keep your dogs looking prime. No working dog person I know of goes through all that trouble to primp up their dogs- they expect their dogs to do their job, do their job well, and to not have coats that create a chore for them. They want coats that fit the environment they are working in, without needing much extra care, or processing. You may be willing to have coats that require a lot of work, and not be concerned by coats, or coat qualities, but people who’re seriously out with their dogs, and getting dirty aren’t generally a hobby groomer like yourself. They want selfcare dirt falling off, no burrs, and no matting.

          • rufflyspeaking July 16, 2010 at 2:37 pm

            Emmy – Heronsway Pems is near me; she has lines that produce fluffs (and oh my heavens what gorgeous dogs) so I’ve had several of her fluffy puppies and dogs available to put my hands on. Plenty of others, but not as concentrated as hers are. In Cardigans, the fluffs I’ve had my hands on are being shown (or were shown) so for obvious reasons I’m not going to name names, but yes I have closely compared fluff Cardi coat and Aussie coat and flipped them back and forth and looked at undercoat and topcoat and so on.

            Maybe in your area of the country the coated dogs are “BAD” coats. That I have no argument with – a bad coat is a bad coat. I’ve certainly known smooth-coated dogs with terrible coat too. Nobody – including Cardigan breeders – should be happy with a bad coat (and, I’d personally argue, they shouldn’t ignore the bad coat on their petted-out fluffs either; you have a responsibility to every dog you breed regardless of where it ends up). The fluffs I’ve seen and had my hands on had appropriate topcoat, they blow undercoat, they were shiny, the coat flipped back to lie correctly when you ruffled it. A couple had some curls along the topline but three I can think of immediately are as straight as a pin. The fluffy Cardi I had compared to the show-bred Aussie, if I closed my eyes the feel was indistinguishable.

            I DO like grooming, and I take pleasure in having clean and lovely dogs. But don’t forget that my background is in livestock. We had unregistered English Shepherds and GSDs growing up, dogs that never came in the house. My first purebreds (that I bought myself, with my own money) were field-bred Great Pyrenees, one literally right off a llama farm in Ohio. I learned to read Pyr pedigrees long before I even contemplated getting a Dane and fifteen years before I had my first Cardigan. (And, I might add, a good field-bred Pyr coat is very heavy).

            Oh, I know a couple Cardis I can name – Bronte’s two fluffy kids that went to pet homes. They both have very intact topcoat.

        • Reply Beth July 16, 2010 at 6:22 am

          It’s also of note that the ESS standard calls for “moderate” feathering, yet the bench judges constantly put up dogs with very heavy feathering.

          • Beth July 16, 2010 at 7:06 am

            One last thought, and then I’m done.

            I invite you to go for a nice swim in a down jacket, and then come back and tell me how coat doesn’t matter. Try going for a run in a ski-jacket, a parka, and an ankle-length car coat and tell me coat length does not matter.

            You could have the body of an Olympic athlete under those coats, and the heart and will to match, and I absolutely guarantee you that the coat will impact your performance.

            If you have a set of rules (form should equal function) and then completely throw out your own rules when they no longer match your argument, you are selling yourself short. You are smarter than that, more knowledgeable than that, and care about dogs more than that.

          • rufflyspeaking July 16, 2010 at 1:41 pm

            That’s not the way coat works in dogs – or, more correctly, that’s not the way dogs work in coats. Humans have to have skin exposure to air because our heat-exchange system is one of sweat and lots of skin capillaries, and we have blubber as an insulator to keep us both warm and cool. Dogs’ heat-exchange system is respiratory – through the mouth, nose, trachea, and lungs – and coat acts as an insulator to keep them both warm and cool.

            Northern breeds are expected to work in extremes of both hot and cold, and with a heavy coat fully intact. So are livestock guard dogs and the coated sighthounds. One of the biggest mistakes owners can make is to think that dog heat exchange works like human heat exchange and to clip down a coat when it gets hot; that’s actually opening up the dog to much greater effects of temperature.

    • Reply Andrea August 9, 2013 at 12:23 pm

      Coat is more than cosmetic for working stock dogs. And coat length is not the only part of the picture. Texture (the undercoat) plays a part in shedding dirt and collecting grass seeds, cockleburs, etc.
      Smooth coat border collies and kelpies are very popular in some areas. Other areas are fine with the heavier coated dogs. Thats why we have coat variety.

  • Reply Stephanie July 15, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    The last dog, the female poodly thing (labradoodle? Actual poodle with a different cut? Hard to say from one picture), would it be possible for you to draw the lines on her or rather point out what it is exactly that you see as unsound? I’m not certain that I’m seeing it, and I don’t easily have the ability to draw lines. And now I’m curious about my own dogs. :)

    • Reply Mike July 15, 2010 at 3:13 pm

      That’d actually be an interesting exercise, if Joanna is willing and people don’t mind seeing their pets criticized, would be having a “send in your stacked photo and have it marked up day” :)

      Of course, I’m sure you have *so* much free time right now.

      • Reply Stephanie July 15, 2010 at 3:34 pm

        I’ve got a GREAT example of (really really bad) breeding for her to mark up if she’d like. My mostly GSD has hocks in the back that actually point at each other. And, now that I look at her more, a dip in her topline too. And, of course, arthritis in her hips and back. She’s not as bad as she could be, but she’s definitely not a dog who was built soundly.

        • Reply Liz July 16, 2010 at 3:24 pm

          I’d second/third this request! I have one who I think will fare very well and one who will not. Which is the reason one gets a medal for cheerleading and lap warming and the other gets dragged around over obstacles 3 times a week… :) Plus if my athletic one looks like he has potential to break down somewhere along the line, I’d better find out sooner than later.

    • Reply rufflyspeaking July 15, 2010 at 3:45 pm

      Stephanie, the first (and most obvious) thing you can see is how short her neck looks. That’s because her front assembly (shoulder and upper arm) are really straight, the angle is really open. It’s so open that it’s actually swallowing her neck – if the shoulder was laid back correctly more of her neck would be exposed. You should also be able to see that she looks like she’s a straight line from ears to front toes – the weight-supporting bones of her front are set really far forward so her weight is behind her elbows, not above them.

      The second thing you should see is how much longer and more angulated her back end looks than her front end. She has much more hinge in her back than her front, and her croup (the area her tail comes off) is really steep. If you can picture her trotting, the angle of that croup and the long, angulated legs are going to get her rear legs waaaaaay under her body. But since the front is so straight, her front legs won’t have moved far enough to carry them away from the back legs far enough. Her natural gait would actually put her rear toes into the flesh of her front legs. In dogs lots of people call this “the rear writing a check that the front can’t cash.”

      Dogs teach themselves to avoid impinging on themselves, but they end up moving weird to do it. Either they’ll “crab” – meaning they push their rear over to one side so the back feet can go around the front feet – or they shorten the stride in the back. Either one is less efficient and puts greater stress on the joints and ligaments.

  • Reply Emily~ DreamEyce July 16, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    I also want to add to my above comment, a bad coat is a DAILY burden. It’s a huge concern, much like temperament to someone. If you don’t like brushing, don’t get say, a Havanese, or a Yorkie. Same reason why a working dog person does not want an incorrect coat, which may be unsuitable for the work they wish the dog to preform.

    Angles, and general soundness a dog as you even admit yourself CAN still work with. An unbalanced dog can function fine day-to-day. They may not hold up as long as correct dogs, so in the long-rum it’s important to look at the actual body of a dog, but coat is a pressing issue, and something an owner of a coat unsuitable for an environment will have to deal with daily, or multiple times a day. People all, and each make decisions on what’s most important. Your house dogs with constant grooming wouldn’t really be a huge burden to you if they collected dirt, or burrs, but to someone camping out with their sporting, or herding dog during a long hunting, or herding trek they don’t want the dogs coat to be on their mind. A farmer doesn’t want to have to bathe their dog before bringing it in every night. They want a coat that sheds dirt, grime, and repels burrs and other objects. The coat on a dog should be the least concern to active working dog people- THAT is why it’s held to such high regard, because it is a pressing issue. It’s a daily issue. Not a short-term, or long-term concern, but instead is much like biddabilty, drive, and work ethic… a base concern that effects daily life with that dog.

    After a long hike in the mountains with my Cardigans I’m thankful for their great coats. When Galaxy leaves the sheep pen and gets into my car I’m thankful for her dirt repelling coat. Even on rainy, muddy NW days she’s sloughed off most the sheep dirt, and grime by the time we reach my vehicle after herding lessons. I don’t want a Cardigan with a bad coat- most people who want Cardigans want a correct coat also! I think fluffy Cardis are adorable, but with the extra care I’d think twice before taking it to the river for fetch, or on a hike that includes a field with burrs. I don’t have to fret about coat with my Cardigans, because their coats are correct to the breed, repelling water, dirt, grime, and burrs. This is how working dog coats should be, correct to form, and suitable for the environment the dog is bred to work in.

    • Reply Dawn July 16, 2010 at 2:47 pm

      I have a fluffy cardi, one who’s coat is very much like a border collies, and his coat is no more work than the correctly coated kids. The hair on the bottom of his feet is the only place I scissor at all, and I really only do that hair so that he can get a good grip and not slip on the agility or weight pull field. The same reason I trim the hair from all of my cardigans feet. His coat sheds the filth the same as his shorter coated siblings. With some types of burrs, his coat doesnt even collect them where the shorter harder coat does. Wet snowball snow though, can and will ball up on his coat more than the shorter coated girls. Now I will admit his fluff coat is not the same as other fluff coats, like short coats, they all can be different.
      The other thing I will say about his coat is that for a therapy dog, its wonderful. Its a coat that people want to stroke and cuddle, and does make him appear to be very cute.

    • Reply rufflyspeaking July 16, 2010 at 2:50 pm

      Emmy, I KNOW you don’t mean that. You have two dogs with “daily, pressing” issues because their bodies have broken down. Wouldn’t you like to be able to solve their problems with a pair of scissors?

      • Reply Holly July 16, 2010 at 3:25 pm

        I wish a pair of scissors could save my Megaesophagous German Shepherd Dog puppy I kept alive for a year. But they could not. He was a coated dog, that did require daily grooming for me to be able to even look at him. His coat held every leaf, bramble & twig.

        I do admit I have seen different types of fluffy Cardigans, just as there are different types of correct coat in Cardigans. The majority I have seen are not working friendly coats and it is still a fault according to our breed standard.

      • Reply Emily~ DreamEyce July 16, 2010 at 3:26 pm

        In choosing Cardigans, I put coat care as a HUGE consideration. I’m an active, outdoor person, live in a rainy, muddy place, and my dogs get dirty, daily. When I think about getting a dog, coat and coat care are my #1 concern because it’s a consideration I have to deal with EVERY day. If I’m at school, or work all day and only have a few hours to run my dogs, I don’t want to spend a few hours after running my dogs cleaning, and brushing them. I want dogs that have self-care coats, where if I have to, I can go a few days without brushing, or a few weeks without baths. That’s important to me, as it effects my daily life, as a part of my lifestyle. It’s also predictable, adult coats are easily diagnosed as puppies in most breeds/lines.

        Traum went down in the back, and has a poor front, but is out of sound, correct parents (Sire a group placer, dam a fluffy w/ a 5 pt major). As a puppy he was a promising show prospect, even pulled in his class at the ’03 national with me handling him. The bad front seems to run in the line and show up in the teens, and the back issue happened from unknown causes- an injury seems most likely since he was up the next day. Back problems are common in Cardigans, and could even happen to any of your dogs at any time. If we knew what caused them, we’d work hard to breed against it- just like how breeders breed for correct coats. If we can prevent a problem, we generally do! Traum is not a suitable show, or breeding dog so was altered, and has never been used for sports of any kind. His coat does not cause me a daily burden though which is NICE! Yes soundness is important, but good coats are a daily situation, a daily concern. Something we can see in puppies.

        Cove actually has pretty nice angles, and when not in pain he has great movement. Hip dysplacia, bad patellas, and elipesy have nothing to do with angles, and aren’t something you can stack a puppy on a table during an eval for and predict. Before his hip prelim he was a promising SAR prospect. He’s had his core SAR training done, but had to be pulled from training when his hips were shown to be deplorable. Again, great movement, before the hip problems/arthritis began affecting his daily well-being. Your point while understood, is invalid in this situation, as his angles aren’t the concern in health situations. Had I been able to predict his health issues when we adopted him, we would NOT have taken him in. I was able to see his coat, and know it was suitable for my personal taste/household needs.

        If I wanted dogs I have to scissor that’s fine, I’d get a scissor breed. Same said for MOST people getting a Corgi. I’ve actually remarked a lot that I miss having Spaniels in my life, but don’t want the grooming of dogs like my Cocker and the family Springers again. I’ve considered the American Water Spaniel specifically because their easy-keeper coats don’t require much work, and repel dirt, mud, burrs, etc. I love a few coated breeds, but the care of coats doesn’t fit into something I want, so I choose breeds whose grooming needs fits into my daily lifestyle. I went with Cardigans because they didn’t need a lot of coat care. Coated/scissor breeds will also come with their own health risk issues, and could like Traum go from promising prospect, to poor-quality, or like Cove from promising working dog, to crippled. Unsound dogs can come in any litter and through many causes, but coats tend to be pretty static in a breed/litter unless there’s other factors such as recessive coated genes, etc. Coats can also in most breeds be easily predicted as puppies, while poor angles, bad joints, and such aren’t something you can diagnose in a puppy eval.

        • Reply rufflyspeaking July 16, 2010 at 4:06 pm

          I meant – you live with dogs who are in pain every day. There’s NO WAY that pain is less important than brushing out a coat. Even the worst, most incorrect, most hideous coat – a coat I’d never want in the house either – is a problem I can solve with scissors. Pain from an unsound body, as soon as that body does break down, is just as daily and just as pressing as the coat, and it’s PAIN. Not inconvenience for the owner.

          I can understand having a discussion about what a correct coat should be, but actually saying that coat is MORE important than pain – no. Not a chance, not ever.

          • Emily~ DreamEyce July 16, 2010 at 5:04 pm

            My Cocker (With an incorrect coat for working) collected dirt even when shorn down. When it was muddy outside, he was not allowed inside by my family without a bath. In Oregon western Oregon, it’s USUALLY muddy. Scissors didn’t solve the problem of him having a coat unsuitable for our lifestyle, location, and activity needs. This made living with Robbie day-to-day a nuscience, and since I knew I didn’t want a muddy dog in bed with me in the future, I opted to look for a breed that fit my activity needs, as well as my wishes for a pleasant, clean coat. Many people share my concerns on coat as being a base, core concern in choosing a dog. An incorrect coat is a glaring issue, a glaring concern. It’ll get a dog into a situation, or keep it from ever getting there in the first place.

            Coat is a pressing issue, a base concern in choosing a dog. When you take a “what dog is most suitable for your life” quiz coat is one of the most common, and first questions for a reason. Coat has a HUGE impact on the day-to-day, and coat is something a pet owner can CHOOSE. I’m not discounting, nor have I once discounted the importance of a sound, healthy and balanced dog, but I do disagree with your discrediting the importance of a correct coat in dog breeds.

            A bad coat in a breed can be even more of a nuscience than say, bad rear/aging sooner, because that coat is something they live with daily. It’s not a problem that surfaces at an older age, but rather a daily impacting concern to the day-to-day life with an animal. I can live with Traum getting old younger than I wish, and Cove having his problems because I couldn’t predict those, but the pure, simple fact is that if either of them had coats which I didn’t want to live with in the first place, they wouldn’t have ever ended up in my household in the first place. I would not have agreed to bring them home if by initial knowledge, I knew they would not be suitable for my family. It’s an initial consideration on deciding if an animal fits into a lifestyle, or work need. If a dog has a special-needs coat for a situation, it’s an automatic no-go for MOST people, which is why it’s seen as such a pressing issue. If you are looking into a dog, and there’s a big glaring neon “This trait won’t fit into my needs” fault, there’s not much reason to fret about piecing it apart farther.

            I think the big problem here is that you’re taking what Beth and I are saying to mean we don’t care about soundness/balance, and we’re taking you’re comments on coat as you saying coats don’t matter, when in reality both topics are like comparing baking apples, with tasting apples. Related, but really separate situations. Just as I won’t discredit a sound dog being of #1 importance to a quality dog, I also won’t discredit a correct coat for the situation as being of #1 importance. My and Beths points in this whole debate is that coat *is* of great importance to people, and people who work their dogs by default, won’t even own a bad coat, but they may forgive a dog that isn’t perfectly balanced, if it’s otherwise suitable for the job, and has suitable drive, and work ethic. A good coat can get the dogs a shot, while a bad coat, being a pressing consideration, is likely to get a dog rejected from the field by default. Coat is an important initial consideration, balance is a long-term consideration (That even sometimes doesn’t come into play, as not every unsound built dog has health effects from their physical traits)

          • Emily~ DreamEyce July 16, 2010 at 5:17 pm

            Also a bad coat + an unsound body is a double concern. When Traum could not contain his bowels, and bladder, cleaning him up wasn’t as terrible of an ordeal as it would have been if his coat were incorrect. On the rainy days I’ve had to carry him inside, his coat does not collect as much water, and mud as an incorrect coat- even if he fell or rolled. He didn’t mat in the pants, or have other problems. His coat remained pleasant, and easy to deal with. It was a separate concern from his physical issues.

            Same with Coves coat, and the times I’ve needed to help him up and down stairs, or carry him home if his knees give out on a hike to the river. It’s not as miserable as it would be if he didn’t have a coat that suited our preferences, being easy to care for, and water/everything repellent.

      • Reply Cait July 16, 2010 at 5:16 pm

        The problem is, the pair of scissors doesn’t solve it. It just makes it ignore-able for a few weeks. The coat like Dawn describes on her fluffy sounds acceptable and not impairing function, but the vast majority of fluff coats that I’ve met have been really different. And yeah, they’re cute- but they’re not correct, and that’s very, very important.

        To say that breed standards/breed clubs justify their own coat type as ‘perfect for x working conditions’ is a silly argument. The breed standard was WRITTEN by show people. Work and environment created working breeds- not breed standards. Yes, you get dual purpose dogs in some breeds (but look, almost all the seriously-dual breeds in AKC are NON COATED, and I don’t think that has happened by accident or any sort of conspiracy. It’s happened because those are the only breeds where a coat that can be scissored and shaped isn’t going to benefit the show-only lines over the dual lines.) Yes, you get the occasional exceptional dual-purpose dog in coated breeds- but it’s the exception- not the rule.

        As for incorrect coats that scissors wouldn’t fix: portugese waterdog- that flat silky coat gets weighed down, and cutting it off leaves the dog with no insulation.

        Of course, it doesn’t matter in a pet PWD. But how does a breed standard DQ matter to pets, either?

        • Reply TB Bikeman August 28, 2013 at 2:01 am

          >>>The breed standard was WRITTEN by show people.

          That’s exactly right Cait! That’s the source of the problem right there. Generally speaking, show people don’t care about a dogs ability to work, and because of the way they’ve perverted the breed standards, working/field people don’t care about the breed standard. It’s a terrible situation! How do we fix it??

  • Reply Emily~ DreamEyce July 16, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    For some reason your above response doesn’t have a ‘reply’ option, so I’ll reply here…

    A lot of show Aussie coats are incorrect by working herders standards so be careful comparing show Aussie with fluffy Corgi and claiming that means the Corgi coat is correct. The working Aussies in the NW, and the midwest have MUCH less undercoat than the show Aussies, and tend to have a harsher, denser topcoat than the show dogs. I say tend, as some show Aussie breeders have kept a true-to-form working coat on their dogs… those dogs don’t tend to do as well though since lots of coat is flashy, and easier to groom.

    I’m close friends with a couple working cattle ranches in the NW that use Aussies. They constantly complain about the show lines lack of work ethic, and the poor coats. Much like working dog advocates in any other traditional working, now common show breeds do. On the same thread, they also care about shoulders, movement, and balance. They show in ASCA shows, and have held office in ASCA clubs. One even has a couple AKC CH dogs, finished because while they didn’t have the coat of the show-type dogs, they had type, and excelled in balance and movement. In the Aussie ring here in the NW bad shoulders are pretty common… you don’t see those on the working stock dogs though!

  • Reply Tiffany Yancey July 17, 2010 at 6:29 am

    Love it! Thanks for breaking it down! Makes it a lot easier now for me to figure it all out! Makes more sense now!

  • Reply Kim (LittleRockstar) July 17, 2010 at 7:45 am

    It all makes so much sense to me now too. Thank you! Now I’m curious about all sorts of angles on my aging and ailing GSD. I stacked him yesterday and he didn’t look as natural or as comfortable as he did when he was young. His front feet even turn out a little now. I want to go sorting through pictures of him when he was young. I know I have stacked pictures when he was young and I’m hoping I have stacked pictures of him after his car accident. I would love to compare and contrast. Why do German Shepherds stack with the outside leg back? Which hip do you look at? Should I look at his back with his legs square too?

    • Reply rufflyspeaking July 17, 2010 at 2:00 pm

      Kim, the one-leg-back is the old German way of stacking all working dogs. You’ll hear people say it’s because GSDs can’t stack normally but that’s really not true; if you look at historic pictures of all the working dogs that’s the way they were stacked. At some point most of them moved to both legs back but the GSD retained the older style. A German Dane that is behind some of mine: http://theoscar.net/images/turandotroyal.jpg. That was her “formal” portrait, and she was stacked with one leg forward.

      As you know, GSDs are deliberately built somewhat unbalanced (and, to a certain extent, always have been – even von Stephanitz’s dogs were somewhat more angled in the rear than the front) ; they have extreme rear angles and there’s almost no way the front can be as angulated as the rear. The flying trot is a form of crabbing, actually. So you have to look not so much at balance as how comfortable he is bearing weight and what positions seem least stable. The best of the GSDs I’ve seen have a ton of upper arm so their weight is placed solidly on the front feet; that’s crucial in a breed that’s been bred downhill. And I would want weight placed on all four FEET, not two front feet, the tips of the toes of one foot, and one hock. You want the dog, while stacked, to be solid; if you bump into them they shouldn’t have to side-step.

      • Reply Laurel July 17, 2010 at 3:38 pm

        I really like the explanation of soundness.

        I have a question about German Shepherds. The low low hindquarters and the extreme rear angulation seem like they would work against soundness. You’ve said before that you think the GSD breeders are creating rears that aren’t good for the dogs. What would you tell someone who wanted to buy a sound dog and liked GSDs? Are there breeders out there who produce more balanced dogs? Do they have trouble showing their dogs? Are there working line GSDs who don’t have the extreme angulation? Should the person just choose a different breed, because the available GSDs, even the carefully bred ones, just aren’t sound?

        • Reply PM January 6, 2012 at 11:20 am

          Why is there no answer here? Too afraid?

          One breed I will NEVER own is a GSD. It is a disgrace on how they have been bred. Just looking at their grotesque conformation makes me hurt for them. Just imagine how much pain they suffer.

  • Reply amanda July 18, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    a little belated, but I have a fluff cardigan so can put some merit to some of the comments above.

    I do sports (agility,obedience,herding, etc) with my dogs, walks in the coulees, swimming, camping and Pixel is no different. She doesn’t take longer to dry than my regular coated Cardigan. She doesn’t shed as much as my regular coated dog, she doesn’t get burs except in the very fine hair on her pants but they easily pull out.

    The coat may not be correct to standard but it certainly isn’t any more difficult to manage than a regular coated Cardi. The only trimming I do is on her ears- and thats my own preference, not because they affect anything.

    and having had two cardigans with bad structure, I would much rather have an incorrect coat than a dog that had to be euthanised due to back injuries, and a 6 year old dog who is verging on retirement because she isn’t sound…..Pixel may not have a correct coat, but her structure more than makes up for that! She can actually jump, has a great topline, a nice front, and a nice length of leg. She is petite- under 25 pounds, and about 11 inches tall.

    I agree with Joanna- coat should be the least important factor.

  • Reply Liz Powell July 20, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    I’m probably getting in on this too late, but I am sorry that there has been so much discussion on ‘coat’ when talking about soundness. I do think it can be important depending on how you are living with your dog. But what concerns me more is the more physical part of soundness. The really nice Cardigan I usually see is in the breed ring. His body conforms to that of a working Cardigan hopefully and also his movement and gait. But it is hard for performance people to get one of those Cardigans….because he is in the show ring. The breeders keep those dogs or sell them to other breeders. The performance people sometimes get to pick from the less sound ones to run agility or do herding. That hardly makes sense. Now you might get lucky and find a really sound dog who happens to be a fluff.

    I have two Cardigans. One I run in agility. And he loves it and is very fast and has done very well so far. But I look at that little body and realize that I have to take really good care of him. I’m not going to train as much as I’d like, and we’ll avoid training things like the A frame and the weaves too much because he’ll come up sore. He has the heart, but his body is too long, his rib cage is too short among other things. But the ‘sound’ Cardigan is in the breed ring!

    • Reply Joanna July 20, 2010 at 4:27 pm

      Liz, I REALLY hope that’s changing. I am seeing more breeders willing to say that the good dogs should be going to performance homes, and I think more performance homes are beginning to insist on good dogs. There are faults – like rounder ribbing – that are fine to go into performance homes and there are others – like excessive turnout in front – that are NOT. As owners, the best thing you can do is to insist on buying a sound performance dog; breeders who find themselves unable to place dogs with soundness issues WILL make different decisions the next time.

      • Reply Erin July 25, 2010 at 9:52 pm

        I just have to throw in an experience I had at a show a month or two ago. I was waiting with Lyla, my Pem, to go in for Rally when an older lady came up to me. She had a jillion and one questions about Lyla. Minutes later, she’d dragged her husband over saying “This, I want one like this.” They were, apparently, very serious obedience people. She was looking for a new dog, wanted a Pem, and refused to buy from a show breeder because “none of the dogs in the ring have Obedience titles on them” (I guess she never thought to ask how puppies that went to performance homes are doing). The couple literally stalked me the next 3 days. No matter how hard I tried to hide behind things (and I did try) they found me and wanted to know where I got Lyla from and how they could get one like her (she’s from a BYB). In all reality, I think if I’d acted at all interested, they would have offered to buy her on the spot. Lyla is the least sound dog I have in the house. She’s not as big a train wreck as some I’ve seen, but I’m going to have to keep a close eye on her as she ages, and I don’t think I trust her body enough to try agility with her. She is NOT what I would want for a serious performance dog. I found it very interesting that these people were so head over heels in love with such a “wrong” dog.

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  • Reply Melanie Schlaginhaufen February 22, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    What a wonderfuly written article, and beautifully illustrated so that even a novice can understand the concept of soundness. I would love to have this article, or something similar written by you, to post on my Knowing Dogs blog (www.knowingdogsblog.com) with you as the guest blogger. Melanie S.

  • Reply Nat August 8, 2013 at 5:28 am

    great article, but soundness ALSO includes temperament; a dog should be sound of body AND mind!

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  • Reply Marthena Scollon August 8, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    This is a great clearly written and well illustrated article. Is it published somewhere? Thank you.

  • Reply Janet August 9, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    Fantastic post. I grew up on a farm and my father valued soundness in ALL of the animals on the farm, so I learned early about the importance of both physical and temperament soundness. Physical soundness was the first thing he looked at because 1) if you know aniaml structure, it’s easy to assess and 2) an animal that is not physically sound may be stressed or in pain, which can affect the temperament. Also, if you are accustomed to seeing and looking for physical soundness, you often can spot it even from birth. I especially like how you’ve recognized that the principles of physical soundness cut across breeds and even species. In recent years, I’ve seen breeders manipulating the conformation of my favorite breed (a toy breed) for show purposes. They are breeding for shorter bodies with longer legs and necks because it’s “showier.” In the process, they are creating a breed that is pretty, especially when standing still, but unsound. And because they aren’t versed in basic animal soundness, they don’t understand the problems they are creating. I recall a National show for the breed that I attended. The judges were harsh in their assessment of the dogs they had seen in the conformation ring at that show (which supposedly represents the ‘best of the best’). All of the judges strongly recommended that every breeder attending the National should go to a seminar being held the next day about soundness. The breeders, ruled by a closely knit circle of friends, blew off what the judges said–and the next year, they were sure to have breeders judge who were either leading or following the changes to a pretty, but poorly structured dog. I worry that people are so far from their agricultural roots, where animals had jobs to do and therefore, a family’s ability to survive a harsh winter depended on the animals’ ability to do their jobs, that concepts such as soundness are being lost. Please continue to post articles like this!

  • Reply RuhRoh August 12, 2013 at 12:13 am

    Well, I’ve read the article and the comments. To me, it all seems quite ridiculous to talk about a living breathing companion animal in these terms. I understand this is your thing. But understand, that the animals you are breeding are for your own personal pleasure and hobby – they are just along for the ride and are at our mercy. There are millions of wonderful dogs in shelters who need homes because of overbreeding, failed breeding, amateur breeding, or just being the poor soul in the litter who doesn’t conform to the standard (often not a happy outcome for that little one).

    Let me ask you this: Is your husband or wife going bald? Is your husband just too hairy in all the wrong places? Does he or she have a back or knee issue that causes them discomfort of difficulty running or walking with ease? Some sort of congenital birth defect? Too grotesque for words as one poster commented about a breed of dog… Or…She has little layback and it KILLS me…said another poster. I’d say still pretty lovable anyway. Maybe not Ms. America or Mr. Universe, or best in show, but come on! We’ve got bigger issues…just my thoughts.

    • Reply TB Bikeman August 28, 2013 at 1:57 am

      RuhRoh: Thank you for coming here and providing us your judgement of our lifestyles that we did not ask for.

      If you want to rescue pound dogs, that’s wonderful. I salute you for that. I agree with you that they need homes.

      Please excuse me when I roll my eyes at your inability to let us do our thing, while we allow you to do yours.

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  • Reply TB Bikeman August 28, 2013 at 1:53 am

    I think I understand what you’re saying in your article, and I agree with you in principle, but there is a statement you made that, in it’s own context (not interpreted within the context of the greater meaning of your article) really worries me.

    “What I see as very troubling is the trend toward breeding CARELESSLY and then saying that what a person is producing is a “working-type” corgi or basset or dachshund. These breeders are not actually making a judgment about SOUNDNESS, which is what you should be concerned about as a pet owner, and deciding that a particular feature is desirable; they’re just producing a poorly bred puppy and then saying that it’s going to be healthier because it doesn’t look like a show dog anymore. So let’s TOTALLY ignore leg length – and coat length and head type and all those things – and look at what you must insist on to know that you have a good, sound dog regardless of breed.”

    I don’t know what things are like with the breed you own, but there are many sporting breeds that are being destroyed by the dog show circuit because the breed standard is created for popular aesthetic purposes, not based on the function of the dog in the field. With dog show people who vote for these ridiculous breed standards grossly outnumbering hunters who prefer standards based on function in the field, there’s no way to fix the problem using the systems the AKC has in place to deal with these issues, so hunters/field people get disillusioned and leave the parent club. This has lead to problems with Spaniels and Labs, and has caused many of the sporting breeds to unofficially split into two breeds within the official breed. One type of dog bred to meet the breed standard for the ring, and the other type of dog bred for function in the field, regardless of any uniform standard of conformation. You probably wouldn’t even recognize my dog as being English Springer Spaniel, most people don’t. Most people think she’s a mixed breed and respond with shock and sometimes disbelief when I tell them she’s an AKC English Springer Spaniel because they are so accustomed to seeing what us hunters call “bench bred” spaniels, and rarely see a “field bred” spaniel. So now not only do you have AKC parent clubs breeding to a standard that destroys working lines, we now have a whole generation of people who have never seen a dual champion spaniel and have no idea what a working spaniel does, or should, look like. Unlike the bench bred dogs, within the field bred spaniels, there’s a huge variety of conformation because there is no standard that everyone breeds for. It’s a really terrible situation that I think your article hints at, but doesn’t directly address, and the words you used that I quoted, could be misinterpreted by someone not familiar with this problem.

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    […] άρθρου της Joanna Kimball με τίτλο "What is a "sound" dog? " What is a “sound” dog? | Ruffly Speaking "Σε όλα τα ζώα που εκτρέφονται από τον άνθρωπο, […]

  • Reply Structure curiosity - Page 3 - Basset Hounds: Basset Hound Dog Forums March 5, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    […] What Is a Sound dog/ Soundness is, basically, the architectural quality of an animal. It's so consistent across all dogs, and across virtually all animal species, because the same problems are being solved by all living things. They have to stand up (and bear their own weight), they have to move while consuming the fewest calories, and they have to convert food into energy that allows them to get more food. What you are looking for is an animal whose body easily and naturally performs those functions in the very best and most efficient and most pain-free way. […]

  • Reply Peggy DaValt March 6, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    Hi Joanna –

    A friend forwarded to me this link to this page. It is a GREAT article.

    I am very curious about the quote at the bottom of your post that stated this: “Build your little house. Breed good dogs. Keep your promises.” I love this.

    Did you building a little house? Ever since I got divorced in 2003, I have wanted to build a home for the dogs and me, complete with indoor/outdoor runs in a walk-out basement. I do breed good dogs and I do keep my promises….(echos of The Four Agreement by Don Miguel Ruiz).

    Could you contact me at your convenience if you really did build a little house?

    Peggy DaValt
    Amethyst Gordon Setters
    gorsetr@gorsetr.com

  • Reply Good running partner breed suggestions? - Page 2 - Golden Retrievers : Golden Retriever Dog Forums March 12, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    […] I think a whippet may be a good fit or maybe a greyhound. If she is looking to rescue she will need to be sure that the dog is sound for running. Here is a good article on soundness in dogs. What is a “sound” dog? | Ruffly Speaking […]

  • Reply Diane Bresee March 26, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    As someone who herding trains and trials my Belgian Laekenois, I require as well as greatly value a dog to be physically capable to do his job. I will pass along your fine article to my Cardi friend who herds and trials her ASCA/AKC herding champion dogs. She has found show type conformation in her dogs to be a precursor to injuries. Her recent search for a puppy with which to begin in herding training began with finding breeders who successfully herd. The old type, longer legged and shorter backed dogs of generations ago were bred for a reason. They could do the work. As a past exhibitor/ breeder/judge of Irish Wolfhounds, I learned that extremes were usually weaknesses and moderation an indication of soundness. Thanks for the article.

  • Reply michelle green April 17, 2014 at 9:45 am

    thank you so much for a fascinating post. Does anyone do something similar on cats? I,ve kept farm cats (moggies) for most of my life, avoiding pedigreed animals for a number of reasons. However as painter I occasionally look at breed books and am horrified at the changes in the Persian and Oriental breeds over the past 50 years, not to mention breeds I tend to think of as ‘crippled’ eg the Munchkin with it’s excessively short legs. There seems to be no reason for this other than the show bench (cats aren’t bred to do specific tasks like dogs) or a misplaced idea of ‘cuteness’ – often the same people who dress their pets in human-style clothing. It really seems to come down to respect for the animal as an animal, not some kind of toy or human baby.

  • Reply Browsing OFA - Basset Hounds: Basset Hound Dog Forums May 1, 2015 at 12:25 pm

    […] Illustrated Standard talk to the breeder ask about an individual puppies faults and strengths What is a “sound” dog? | Ruffly Speaking I don’t want a show dog; I just want a pet. | Ruffly Speaking " Means I trust a total […]

  • Reply English vs. American goldens - Page 2 - Golden Retrievers : Golden Retriever Dog Forums June 13, 2015 at 5:55 pm

    […] who is interested in "English" goldens to read up on soundness (this article is great What is a “sound” dog? | Ruffly Speaking). Unfortunately many of the "English creme" breeders do not pay any attention to […]

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