Choosing Breeding Stock Part 2
Many animals including the dog,may look beautiful standing still, but it is when they move that we can easily see if they are correctly put together and are balanced in their conformation. A well structured dog will move effortlessly, with drive from behind. It's forehand will be balanced to allow the transfer of impulsion from the rear and out through the shoulders and front limbs.This ensures that minimum stress is put onto bones, joints muscles ligaments and tendons, with obvious health benefits.
In the photos below, note the full extension of all four limbs and the long reach of the hind legs being translated through the far reach of the front legs. Dogs are always judged at the trot in conformation shows to demonstrate to the judges the way each dog moves. It is at the trot that any imbalance lameness or other movement fault is most easily seen.
In quadrapeds ( animals with four legs) Impulsion (energy) for movement begins at the rear of the dog and is transmitted from the back to propel the dog forward. The less this energy is interrupted on its way through the animal's body, the more effortless the stride will be. Good horse breeders understand this concept. So regardless of how correct the hind angulation may be, the shoulders need to be symmetrically angulated to 'free up' a place for the stride to move from the hind end forward through the loins back and shoulders so as to allow maximum reach with the front legs...... with a minimum of effort.
EFFORT equals STRESS. A lack of symmetry throughout the body puts strain on joints, bones and soft tissue as the dog struggles to balance itself in movement due to a lack of balance throughout its body and limbs. DNA health testing for genetically transmitted diseases is of course important, but no amount of DNA testing can produce structurally sound dogs. Breeders need to learn the fundamentals in selecting their own breeding stock.
Breeders can help train their 'eye' by videoing their dogs trotting on leash, and then studying the video in slow motion. With practice they will then be able to assess the movement - and therefore the conformation - in their breeding dogs and puppies.
Physical soundness is best gauged at the steady trot (called 'gaiting') where excessive up and down movement, prancing or pacing (where same side front and back legs step at the same time) are indicators of body parts compensating for faulty conformation. When gaiting a dog or puppy to assess conformation, let him/her trot steadily for a minute or two until excitement level has lowered in order to make a true evaluation. A raised head held high could be trying to lift faulty upright straight shoulders in order to make way for a long forward reaching step with the front legs. But it can also be due to excitement and playfulness.
In the conformation dog show ring dogs are judged at the trot because with its regular 2 time rhythm it's the best pace to show up any lameness or irregularity in movement. Badly conformed dogs can not trot without effort. It's so important that I'll say it again - BADLY CONFORMED DOGS TROT WITH MORE EFFORT
Experienced breeder should not need an XRay to tell them if their dogs have great hips or sound elbows!
Cobberdogs should appear to float across the ground with ease, and their footfall should be light and airy. Any stilted movement, or pounding on the ground instantly tells us that the dog is not correctly constructed and therefore does not have Form to Function. These stilted moving, or pounding - the - ground dogs, are the dogs who are most likely to develop problems in limbs, joints and backs, and who are most likely to develop OCD's even as young dogs and arthritis as they age.
If the top line (back) of the dog is bobbing up and down, the impulsion is being obstructed half way by an over long back with its accompanying weak loins, or upright shoulders which don't match hind angulation, or a "stuck on" thick stumpy neck. A dead give away that the dog has faulty upright shoulders is when he trots with his held high. This is his effort to get his shoulders out of the way to allow his hind legs' impulsion to carry through to his front.
Movement can be assessed in puppies as young as eight to ten weeks of age. You can see in the photos below of the young puppies trotting straight towards the camera, that the elbows are turned neither in nor out, thus allowing for comfortable effortless extension and no bobbing or pounding as there would be if extra effort were needed to fully engage all joints muscles, ligaments and tendons in symmetry one with the other.
It's easy to see the drive from behind being transmitted effortlessly through the front end by the straight and level backs on the good dogs, and the long length of stride both front and rear. The driving hind leg is tracking right up to the weight bearing front leg and landing snugly just in front of it on an inside track. A shorter reach (stride) from behind would mean that the hip joints and shouler angulation are not in symmetry and/or the back is slack with weak loins.
Exaggerations will eventually destroy a breed. Conformation judges should be careful to not award high honours to dogs who exhibit exaggerated features.
TEST YOUR 'EYE' Check Out the Two Pictures Below. Who is the best mover? ... and why?
The dog on the left is not a really good mover. At first glance she appears to have good drive and reach with her hind leg, but look closer and you'll see that her shoulder angle is too steep (upright) when compared to her hind angulation and this is preventing the impulsion from following through. Her front paw has just landed, so this is her full extension for her front limbs. Look even closer and you'll notice that although her topline looks level, she is actually running 'downhill' at the front. This This dog will have 'stodgy' movement and will prefer to gallop than trot and will tire more quickly.
Now compare the photo on the right, and the powerful elasticity of the dog's reach and drive and how much more effortless it looks (and is). This dog's shoulder is well laid back and the angulation is equal to that of the hind end which has the effect of lengthening the stride. Note also the length of the wither and how it flows gracefully into the neck. Not so, the dog on the left whose neck is short and stumpy so that her head looks like it's 'stuck on' to her shoulders.
Selection of breeding stock would not be complete without mention of coat as it's a feature of the Australian Cobberdog. In today's busy world few people have the time to spend hours grooming their dog every week and many disabled owners find it difficult or even impossible to manage the thick, dense Wool coats that were part and parcel of yesteryear's dogs. And what's the point in falling in love with a lusciously coated dog just to keep him/her shaved all the time? At one time, before the development of Fleece coats there was no choice - if you wanted the allergy friendly no shedding benefits it was Wool or nothing - but not any more! Now, in 2020 it's time for breeders to selectively breed for thinner softly curling or waving Fleece coats and not to keep their Wool coated puppies as future breeding stock unless outstanding in every other way. Aim for the stars! And above all, have a ton of fun doing it.