Showsight Presents the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

the skull? And, using the frame in which I am making my observations: is the dog “alert” and “happy”? Does it appear to be self confident in its attitude and expres- sion? Again, the standard describes the requisite temperament to include a dog that is not only alert, but one that also “exhibits interest” in his surroundings. I observe the coat and start to get a feel for size (I know where 18 and 19 inches are on my leg), and although I am not necessarily at that point “measuring” the dogs it still a characteristic of which I am conscious. I then move the dogs around together. I continue to frame my observations: is the gait “free, graceful and lively with good reach in front and strong drive behind?” Temperament quality becomes more defined: “ Th e Wheaten is a happy, steady dog and shows himself gaily with an air of self confidence” and with tail erect. At this time I can begin to fill in another impor- tant detail: is the dog maintaining the outline of a Sporting Terrier even on the move? Th e standard reads that the neck should be “carried proudly”—if read in conjunction with the more specific direc- tive that the length neck is “medium” that clearly means while moving the profile must be maintained. In addition, maintaining its profile on the move is consistent with the “compact” body that is “relatively short coupled. However, if the moving entry is consistent- ly dropping its head and begins to appear streamlined, it is most often too long. And the profile must continue to be balanced while on the move: does the neck disap- pear into the shoulders on the move? Is the back “level” as the dog moves and is it “strong” without flexing or hard up and down movement? Hard pounding does not make for stamina or more precisely, a sound dog. And to repeat, these obser- vations are being placed my frame: is the dog “alert and happy animal” and is it “graceful, strong and well coordinated”? A little history that is the material from which I have constructed my frame— although the breed is a 20th century addition to the sport of dog showing and its Irish history lost in the mists of time, the breed has been known for over 200 years. SCWTs were not only used as an all

purpose farm dog that could rid its terri- tory of vermin, it was also a capable gun dog—most likely for a poacher—while being equally at home herding its owner’s livestock. In my opinion, that history dic- tates a “hardy” dog that should be capable of powerfully covering ground e ff ortlessly and with stamina. As the dog moves, I also consider what many believe to be the defining character- istic of the dog, but which the standard twice describes as “a distinguishing char- acteristic.” I mentioned it earlier as part of the essence of the breed. It often causes the most angst among non-breeder judges: the coat. During movement, I hopefully see coats that exhibit a “soft, silky and gen- tly waving nature” that have “su ffi cient length to flow” as the dogs goes around. I always remember the standard directive that states, “Dogs that are overly trimmed shall be severely penalized.” Without spending a considerable amount of time, judges of our breed should be aware, as am I, that the standard also states, “In both puppies and adolescents, the mature wavy coat is generally not yet evident.” Under color it reads: “Any shade of wheaten.” Th e vast majority of entries in the classes are either young adolescents that are of a lighter color or puppies that are often times darker. Adult coats are really not fully evident until 3-4 years of age and although some Specials may sport the full adult coat, many judges may never see the soft, silky and gently waving coat that is prized. When that coat is dis-

played, it is most often of varying shades of wheat. Th e adult coat is very seldom a solid color and may even carry some black guard hairs. Although there is nothing wrong with placing puppies in the rib- bons—even BOB if it truly exudes breed essence, do not ignore the adult with the mature coat because it appears to be the odd man out in a ring full of puppies and adolescents. Although the finer nuances of coat type could be the subject of a more extensive article, su ffi ce it to say that my approach is that the dog under the coat is the more important part of the package I am judging. From a breeder’s perspective, improv- ing the coat of a SCWT is far easier than improving a front or rear end assembly. Given two, three or four exhibits of equal quality (and I mean equal quality overall), then the coat, a component of the breed’s essence, may be a deciding factor—empha- sis on the “may be.” Finally, the individual examination: I can now almost complete the picture I have been painting in my frame, filling in the details and highlights and perhaps find the perfect SCWT—not! I can now see that the profiles that were held by the entries with the good reach and drive I saw on the go around are consistent with the short backs, and relatively short loins I am now feeling, and perhaps con- firm that the drop in the head of another is consistent with the long back and/ or long loin. I feel the “well laid back” and “well knit” shoulders that are clean

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