Pyrenean Shepherd - Showsight

Q: How do I perform a breed-specific exam? A: While the exhibitor is settling the dog on the table, you can observe the overall proportions and get a feel for the harmony of the dog. Move to the front and take the head in your hands to feel its structure, Ask the exhibitor to show the bite. Use your hand to feel the topline— especially to evaluate the rise over the loin as this can be a ff ected so much by the amount and waviness of the coat. Be quick and business-like as you move your hands over the dog. In the case of a nervous dog it helps to approach from the side, without mak- ing eye contact. Speak pleasantly to the exhibitor and let the dog get used to your presence and to the handler’s acceptance of you. Set a hand over the dogs loin and stroke firmly a few times to ease his trepidation. Then move to the front and examine the head and body structure. Then finish the exam by asking the exhibitor to show the bite. There is no reason to prolong the exam. Refrain from talking to the dog. An inexperienced dog with a traditional temperament will not make friends with you in just a few minutes. Allow su ffi cient room for the exhibitor to take the dog o ff the table. Many allow the dog to jump down on its own. On the down and back, you will have a better chance to evaluate the expres- sion than on the table. And be sure to observe the dog from the side as this is the moment in which the dog is most likely to walk into its best stance. As the dog goes around, you might want to move to the center of the ring to see the side gait as long as possible. At out- door shows, you may ask the handler to make two turns around the ring on the individual so you can adequately evaluate the dog as it relaxes into the flying trot. Similarly, it is not unusual in a larger class to pull two dogs out and have them go around together a couple times. Be sure to ask the exhibitors to have the dogs stand naturally at some point so you can look down the line and evaluate their true silhouette.

refrain from disqualifying unless the dog exceeds standard by more than half an inch—but that doesn’t mean this signifi- cant fault should be overlooked in making placements. Q: Are small dogs preferred? A: Not per se. Dogs within the entire size range should all be considered equally. However, the standard says the dog should be of minimal size and weight. Th us, faced with 2 dogs of equal quality in head type, proportion and movement, the judge would favor a small, sinewy, light-boned dog over a large robust dog. Q: Why is this breed so weird? A: As outlined above, this natural breed is adapted to a lifestyle like no other. Th us the standard reflects a range of accept- able variation, rather than a cookie-cutter approach of “normal” breeds that have been fashioned more extensively—dare we say artificially? However, dogs falling outside that range should be faulted sig- nificantly. Correct dogs are actually more consistent than first glance would suggest clothed in their diversity of size, coat and color. Th e mountain breeders embraced these odd variations for good reasons. Q: Why is the temperament so odd and why should judges tolerate behavior that would be faulted in other breeds. A: The breed’s wilderness lifestyle called for a super high energy, super alert dog capable of making split-second decisions and sticking to them despite dangerous terrain and obstinate sheep. Although highly trainable and extreme- ly attached to their humans, the work required a dog that worked at a distance and was able to override the directions of the human shepherds when they felt they knew better—and at such moments they usually did! As a breed, they learn a tremendous amount of their job from other dogs, rather than via specific train- ing by their human counterparts. The isolation of the mountains meant that strangers were likely up to no good and should be challenged. This produced a dog that tended to resent the eye and hand of the judge.

Exhibitors should have enough control of their dogs to prevent aggression, but fidgeting, leaning away from the judge and general suspicion of the judge are expressions of the normal temperament of the breed and thus not to be faulted per se. Class dogs that behave perfectly at training class may revert to these natural tendencies in the more serious and less familiar show situation—confounding less experienced handlers. Dogs that feel the judge is intimi- dating the handler may feel the need to take control of the situation and back the judge off. Give the exhibitor more space and authority will help these dogs feel more confortable. Do not attempt to “train” the dog or “help” the han- dler. Encourage the owner to take con- trol, calm their dog and indicate when they are ready to have the dog submit to the exam. These behaviors are less pro- nounced among specials, who have been habituated to shows. Do not attempt to make friends with the dog. This will make them more suspicious. Be matter- of-fact and business-like. Th e highly desirable alertness has lead to a style of presentation in their home country in which the dog is faced away from the handler, allowing them to focus on something of interest in the distance. So the dogs end up standing in a haphaz- ard manner, rather than in a line on the mat. Th is is easier to achieve at outdoor shows. Freebaiting and especially hand- stacking are not as desirable since the dog is not pulled together as naturally as in the traditional presentation. But smaller rings sometimes necessitate more generic presentation. Judges should not just tolerate but embrace the traditional attitude of the breed. After all, temperament is an ele- ment of type.

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