Showsight - November 2017

To do his job, the Westie’s neck has to be both strong and supple. Too long a neck will produce a “mop at the end of a broomstick” and not pro- vide the strength to dispatch quarry underground. Too short a neck reduces flexibility and ability to respond to the quarry’s quick movement. The size of the head also has to be balanced between the power to hold and dis- patch the quarry and the ability to get through tight spaces in the narrow and contorted cairns of his homeland. The muzzle should be slightly shorter than the skull. When muzzles become a great deal shorter there is a tendency for bites to become undershot, when muzzles are too long and narrow the appearance becomes that of a snipey, foxy face. The tail should not extend above the skull and should be carrot shaped and carried vertically. Curved tails carried over the back and point- ing forward are incorrect and inter- fere with outline and overall balance. Before you move on, reflect on what you have seen and make mental notes about what you may want to examine in more detail later, especially when the dog is on the table. Walk down the lineup now and look at each dog’s head and expression. This provides another piece of information on the head and the first look at the front. Suspicions of excessively turned out feet, long or narrow muzzles and other questionable characteristics may surface now and can be noted for fur- ther examination on the table later. Most importantly, this is the time to start looking at expression and tem- perament. Expression is much in the eyes and temperament reflects itself in the dog’s responsiveness to the judge and the handler. Again, take a moment to organize your thoughts and then ask the class to go around the ring with the first dog to be put on the table. As you watch them gait, pay special atten- tion to topline, reach and drive, balance between front and rear movement and tail carriage. When the dog is on the table it is time to “see with your hands” as well as with your eyes. This is especially impor- tant in Westies because a good groomer can hide many faults from superficial view. Take a moment to re-examine the outline and re-evaluate balance, then move to the front of the dog. Are the eyes widely set apart and deeply set,

dark brown, intelligent and of the cor- rect almond shape? Eyes are important because they are key to expression. Is the stop that helps protect the eyes well defined? Is the nose large and all black, are the eye rims black and is there suffi- cient pigment on the inside of the ears? Place your hands on the head to feel for length and breadth of skull and muzzle and fill beneath the eyes. Try not to crunch the tease too much by using your fingers like calipers. The exami- nation of the bite follows; it should be scissors or level with large teeth and all incisors should be there. Pre-molars should be visible, but it’s okay for one to be missing. Then go down the front to check shoulder angles and chest overhang. “WHEN THE DOG IS ON THE TABLE IT IS TIME TO ‘SEE WITH YOUR HANDS’ AS WELL AS YOUR EYES.” Is bone substantial and are legs straight with elbows close to the body? Putting a hand under the chest displays whether the chest reaches at least to the elbows and whether the elbow-to-ground dis- tance is the same as the withers-to- elbow distance. You can feel the width of the ribcage and its desired heart shape by moving hands down behind the front legs; a round or barrel chest is incorrect. Sliding the hand down the side from front to back locates the end of the rib cage, you can now com- pare the length of the rib cage with the

coupling from its end to the thigh, which should be as short as is com- patible with free rear movement. Now check the tail set which should be high enough so that the spine does not slope down to it. Then run your hands down the hind legs. Lack of rear angu- lation is common and often disguised by expert grooming. Are hocks well let down? There should be “dog behind the tail,” but this is not often seen. Finally, examine the coat looking for the ample harsh and wiry outer coat and the softer undercoat. The coat should be white as the breed’s name requires, but wheaten tipping is allowed if the coat is very harsh. Look for evidence of bleaching that can sometimes lead to brittle coat texture and grey hue. Evaluation of movement comes next. We will not dwell on this because good movement is similar in many breeds. Making dogs move away and back or in a triangle is typical and so is checking for the dog’s reaction on the return in order to get a sense of the dog’s alertness and responsiveness which are important parts of tempera- ment. Then the individual examination is finished by taking the dog around the ring and carefully looking again at the side gait for evidence of crabbing, interfering, unmatched front and rear movement, etc. Most importantly, look for reach and drive and for the topline to remain level. When all dogs have been exam- ined individually, you must decide whether to spar the dogs. If you have little doubt on how the class should be placed, then don’t spar, your worst conformation dog may be the one that is most animated and you will be in a quandary and tempted to wrongly put showmanship above essential confor- mation qualities. To spar correctly, pull out two or three dogs at a time (never do it by turning dogs on each other in line) and keep them at some distance from each other. You want to see tails and ears come up and the dogs focused on each other as shown in the accompanying illustration. The standard calls for penalizing excessive timidity and pugnacity. A dog should be heavily penalized for shying away and equally for growling threaten- ingly, lunging and attacking because that is not correct temperament in a breed that was developed to hunt in packs.


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