JUDGING THE AUSTRALIAN SHEPHERD: BEYOND THE BASICS
By Nannette L. Newbury Illustrations courtesy of author
This article was commissioned by and first appeared in the October-November 2013 issue of “The Working/Herding Dog Digest”. It is reprinted here with the permission of “The Working/Herding Dog Digest”. T eye color accepted with any flecks and marbling allowed; two ear sets accepted (one dog can have one of each); and—the “cryptic” merle—a dog that might look like a solid black or red in your ring, but genotypically is a merle (you may have to ask the handler where the merling is, or the merling could have been on the tail that was removed at birth). It is safe to say that the Australian Shepherd can be a challeng- ing breed to get right in the breed ring. Th e breed standard provides a basic guide for judges, clearly and simplistically describing form and function, gait, propor- tions, color, but it does not provide much enlightenment in terms of the nuances of this breed; that which we are truly looking to preserve and promote as breeders. I have had the privilege of conducting numerous judging and breeding seminars worldwide. Judges clearly state what they find particularly challenging for them in judging this breed. Th ese topics, which go beyond the basics of the breed standard, will be the focus of this article. THE BASICS he Australian Shepherd is not a cookie-cutter breed. Sixteen color combinations; individu- ality with no two ani- mals marked alike; any Our body proportions are clearly defined and support our purpose as a working dog that is lithe, agile and has the stamina to work all day. We are an extremely versatile dog whose jobs range from moving sheep in pastures to babysit- ting the kids to guarding the truck. Frank Baylis of Bayshore Kennel and Farms notes, “Judges should focus on our silhouette. Th is outline will tell you if a dog
BIS/BISS Ch. Bayshore’s Flapjack was the breed’s first number-one rated Australian Shepherd in the American Kennel Club, an honor he kept for three years (1993, 1994, and 1996).
Photo by Valerie Yates
is built with the proper proportions. We are ‘slightly’ longer than tall. Th e profile will help you find dogs with the correct legginess ratio (1:1) and avoid rewarding dogs that have incorrect proportions and movement.” Th ere is a trend in the breed for a “long and low” specimen whose profile is easily recognizable by a lack of leg length in an otherwise acceptable exhibit. Th e animals with the shorter legs may move correctly, however balance front to rear may be a ff ect- ed, incorrect foot timing (feet may not meet in the middle of the dog) and an increase in side gait can be observed (excessive or fly- ing). Suitability to original form and func- tion would be negatively impacted as this would negatively a ff ect stamina. However appealing the movement or this proportion, these are not correct for our breed. Head proportions are defined with the muzzle equal in length or slightly shorter than the back skull and the length and width of the topskull equal. MOVEMENT We have a smooth, free and easy gait, well balanced with a ground covering stride.
Primarily a ranch dog bred to work sheep and cattle in the western United States. The breed dramatically grew in popularity after WWII. Photo by Shelly Hollen.
BIS/BISS Ch. Oprah Winfree of Heatherhill pictured winning one of the first AKC best of breed competitions for AustralianShepherds, January 1993.
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