ShowSight Presents The Australian Shepherd

austTalKan sJeRJeT˩ Q&A

LS: When I enter the show ring, I am looking at type and color, then when it’s time, movement. Decisions made for placement, if I have more dogs that qualify in those three areas, will include ear placement and size of ear, head shape, topline/ character, etc. A correct head combined with correct ears is the hallmark of this breed! If the Aus- tralian Shepherd is not beautiful, it is wrong. Pam Levin once told me that she thought, “If any part of an Aussie reminded you of another breed, it’s wrong!” That quote rings in my ears when I am looking at the dogs. SLW: 1) Moderation is paramount in the breed: substance, bone and coat. Although size is not faulted in either extreme, bigger is not better. 2) Type varies but must be such that the stop is moderate, muzzle slightly tapered and top skull sand muzzle are on parallel planes. Eyes must be almond shaped. Ears may break forward and over or to side as a rose ear. Ear set (placement) is high on head and ears are triangular in shape. 3) Proportions must be correct, body is slightly longer than tall. 4) Move- ment is effortless and ground covering. Dogs should be in top physical condition. 5) Balanced angle to angle with dead level top line, no lateral movement. The ultimate hallmark of the breed is animation, attentiveness and intelligence. In addition are many variations of color and markings and the bobbed tail. 2. How has the breed changed since you became involved with it? Do you see any trends you think are moving the breed in the wrong direction? Any traits becoming exaggerated? SGP: Temperaments have gotten much better. When Aussies first came into AKC, there were a lot of shy ones. I see a trend toward larger, heavier-boned dogs, some almost to the point where they could be described as blue merle Bernese Mountain Dogs! The breed standard says, “medium size”, “lithe and agile” and “without cloddiness”. JH: I think the breed has changed little since I became involved with Aussies. Since ASCA was, and is, a very active organization of breeders, it has remained in place and most of the Australian Shepherds are AKC and ASCA registered. There was very good and consistent quality prior to AKC acceptance. A trend or not, I find that the heavily-coated glamour coats can frequently win over the shorter and very correct coats. This is fine when the quality is equal, but that isn’t always the case. A trait I am seeing more frequently is very large ears. LM: The breed is much more consistent now than when it first arrived on the AKC scene, though there is still a vari- ety of styles. In this breed, as in too many others, long and/or low is too often seen and in my opinion, breeders need to guard against that. And as in other breeds, too many exhibitors seem to think that faster is better—it’s not a race. I do not like the over grooming with heavily chalked legs with every hair sticking out, nor body coat so puffed up that the shape of the dog is lost. Also, too many of those puffy coats are not of good texture. NN: The popularity of the breed is undeniable with breed- ers and owners all over the world now. This of course has put pressure on the breed, unfortunately in many respects not for the betterment of the breed. Overall I see less of a reliance on mentors and mentorship, also to

of the exam. Who knows, maybe one day I would have two dogs so evenly matched that a missing tooth might be the tiebreaker; but so far that hasn’t happened! I then want hands-on to confirm that what I saw at a distance in the body outline and proportion is actually what they have. We have some talented groomers who can sculpt a coated dog very well and that makes your hands the confirming tool for evaluation. The ultimate hallmark of the breed is their mind. The “can do” attitude and desire to be with you and a part of your life, loyalty and always aware of where you are. GK: When judging Aussies, the traits that are most impor- tant to me are correct, sound movement, a solid front, a correct rear in balance with the front, a level topline with a strong back and balanced proportions. I honestly believe that the ultimate hallmark of the breed is its char- acter and intelligence. I feel that only people who have owned Aussies, and lived with them will understand this, but it was the first thing that popped into my mind when I read the question! LM: 1) Overall make and shapeliness, medium size, slightly longer than tall. 2) Good bone, but not too much. 3) Bal- anced, smooth, effortless movement. 4) Stable tempera- ment. 5) And hopefully an attractive head and eye—oh, and a nice weather-resistant coat to top it off. NN: The first thing I look at is the profile and proportions of the breed when initially stacked in the ring. I actually spend some time looking at how the pieces go together, head into neck into body as well as our “slightly longer than tall” ratio. I also look at the wither-to-elbow and elbow-to-ground measurement, which should be equi- distant. I next look at movement; side gait, coming and going. They all matter in equal measure to me. I also look at the topline. I am looking for firm and level. No rolling. Breed type is hugely important for me. Not only do I want them moving correctly, with the correct propor- tions, I want them to look like and Australian Shepherd. I wish to be able to tell the difference between and male and a female. I also focus on physical condition. The form and function of this breed calls for a great deal of physicality. When I put my hands on a dog I am looking for a dog in incredible physical condition; well-muscled, no excess weight. I look for a dog that possesses the stamina and agility required for the breed. I think the breed has several unique characteristics. The first being our natural bob tail. The second being our color—four accepted colors (Black, Blue, Red Merle and Red) with or without copper and/or white trim allows for 16 color combinations. No two dogs are marked alike with the color offering individuality and variety. Although difficult to judge in the breed ring, the breed temperament and character is charming and engaging. A loyal dedicated companion, often referred to as the Velcro ® dog, it is easy to get hooked on this breed. LR: I look for the correct profile and movement, maintain- ing that profile when moving. I look at the head, includ- ing the ears and eyes, plus the proper proportions. Coat texture is important in a Herding dog. I think the entire standard is important in defining the breed, but the pro- file (which tells us the structure) and movement are the hallmarks for me.

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