ShowSight Presents The Australian Shepherd

austTalKan sJeRJeT˩ Q&A

the detriment of the breed. The Australian Shepherd is a relatively newly developed breed in the world of canines. Yet we are no different than other breeds that have developed centuries, generations or years before us. The breed has/is changing, as all dog breeds do. Some of the changes, especially those in terms of health, are wel- comed. Other traits that appear to have become popular due to “winning records,” are not; overly angulated rears, long and low body proportions are several that we as breeders need to be aware of. When we first came into AKC in 1991 we were a predominately a breeder/owner/ handler breed. There has been a significant change over time and I would say that now we have become a handler breed. LR: The breed is in very good shape. There are many won- derful examples, which is why I love judging them. One problem I have seen is some are getting longer, more nar- row muzzles. For me it throws the whole head off; I hope breeders are watching this. LS: The overall beauty of the breed has improved. Sound- ness has improved. Temperament, balance and head type have improved. Color has not improved. Full dentition is becoming rare! Type is more set. Trends leaning toward excessive grooming need to be nipped! These are not Collies. Remember Pam Levin’s quote! Long, low profiles and toplines running uphill towards the wither is a no no. Large ears placed at the side of the head are killing the expression. This breed is alert, intelligent looking and attentive. Slap some Retriever ears on this head and that all goes away. Head type is getting exaggerated. Back skulls are too blocky, muzzles are too short, stops are too abrupt! Remember Pam! Is this a Rottweiler? No! SLW: The breed has changed with popularity. I do not believe the breed is as sound as it once was. Front assembly lacks depth of chest and proper shoulder lay back. Croups are often too steep. I see a lot of crossing over, coming and going. I also think the dogs are moved too fast.

in or out, and rear legs straight from the hips to the paws, with no turning in or out of the hocks or paws. LM: Balanced, smooth, effortless easy movement with adequate (does not have to be tremendous) reach and drive. It should be clean coming and going. In short, the traits that support an athletic, “can do” dog. NN: I think our breed standard describes it well: “The Australian Shepherd has a smooth, free and easy gait. He exhibits great agility of movement with a well-balanced, ground covering stride. Fore and hind legs move straight and parallel with the center line of the body. As speed increases, the feet (front and rear) converge toward the center line of gravity of the dog while the back remains firm and level. The Australian Shepherd must be agile and able to change direction or alter gait instantly.” Some of the movement issues one might see in the breed ring is a dog that “pounds” the ground. I am looking for a dog that is “kind” to ground. This is a dog that can hold up to work and have the stamina to work all day. Rolling toplines due to incorrect structure (not hair coat) are not desired. In our breed the coming and going are important and all movement should be clean, not just a focus on side gait. We converge towards a center line as the speed increases, however in many AKC breed rings, the down and back does not allow adequate space to do so. On side gait, I am not looking for extreme speed and tremendous reach and stride (TRAD); I am looking for front and rear balance and foot timing. I look where the feet meet under the body to see that a dog is not over reaching or undercutting. The dog’s head should move towards level with the topline as speed increases and not be carried up either naturally or pulled up with a lead. Some dogs will exhibit a “flipping” movement from the front pasterns. It can be caused by moving the animal too fast, or be structural in nature. This is not uncommon in the breed as our founders discussed the issue in our in first breed standard annotations as not a desirable trait. The front movement should be free and easy and come from the shoulder, not the elbow (due to a foreshortened forearm). LR: I look for a very balance movement with correct foot timing. Not too fast; just an efficient movement. A dog that works all day should not be extreme. I watch the topline to see if it holds it shape. I also look at the way the feet hit the ground. I want to see good feet, as the dog has to work all day on them. LS: I love our Standard when it comes to describing move- ment. “Well balanced, ground covering gait”. I examine every dog to look for the bone structure that allows that, then the correct body proportion that allows that and finally body fitness that promotes that! The fine points of the down and back are necessary too; also allowing for agility and stamina. 4. Is there anything Aussie handlers do you wish they would not? Any grooming practices you see that bother you? SGP: It is not necessary to race around the ring. Grooming seems to be under control in this breed, for the most part. JH: Slow down! Also, avoid overgrooming and sculpting.

3. Describe what you look for in Aussie movement.

SGP: I am looking for correct foot timing on side gait. Right front and left rear should hit ground at the same time. On the down and back, single tracking, no wasted motion kicking up or out. JH: I want a dog that moves with power and athleticism. A good, sound driving rear that can easily move the dog forward without the look of labor and a front with angles in the shoulder. You should never see stilted or choppy movement. The head carriage drops down and forward when moved on a loose lead. GK: Correct Aussie movement should, most of all, look effortless and efficient. Sometimes the dog moving the smoothest is not the one everyone outside the ring is looking at! Proper gait involves: 1) Front to rear balance when viewed from the side, maintaining a level topline with no rolling of the body; 2) Front/rear convergence increases with speed; 3) Legs on each side of the body move in the same plane when viewed coming/going; 4) Feet remain close to the ground; 5) Front legs remain straight from the shoulders to the paws, with no turning

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