Page 136 - ShowSight, March 2020
P. 136

                Form Follows
Why Is Side Gait So Important? BY STEPHANIE HEDGEPATH
In a recent conversation at a dog show a person stated that they didn’t know why judges put so much emphasis on side gait. She wanted them to pay more attention to coming and going. Of course, this got me thinking. First, I almost chuckled when she made her statement, because back in the dark ages when I first started
showing dogs, we always wanted the judge to pay less attention to coming and going and look more at side gait. I got my start in German Shepherds, but that is not the only reason I think side gait is important and speaks to the breed type, structure and sound- ness of a dog.
When I judge, I start by looking at the profile of the dog from a distance of at least 15 feet. This gives me an overall impression of the dog, all at one time. Here we are look- ing at the whole dog, but we all know there are many parts that make up the whole. Is the dog square, slightly longer than tall or is it nearly a vertical rectangle with a short back? What is the proportion of the size of the head to the rest of the dog—too big? Too little? Or is it just right for the size of the dog? Are the muzzle and skull supposed to be in parallel planes and is the stop of the correct make and shape for the breed? What does the termination of the muzzle appear to be: blunt, tapering, undershot and pouting or with chops falling away? What about the profile of the ears—down, up, sloping forward, at a right angle to the head or folded back? Is the head correctly carried by a neck of the correct length for the breed? Is the topline level or slightly sloping or should it rise from the wither to the rear to be correct? We look for the depth of chest: to the elbow? Above? Below? Then on to the rest of the underline. Is there the correct tuck up to the abdomen or should there be little to no tuck up? What about tailset? High? Low? A continuation of the topline? Tail set will also give us the correct slope of the croup. Are the front legs set back under the wither or forward under the neck? Does the stifle have the bend called for in the standard? Are the hocks perpendicular to the ground or stretched back or slanting forward. All of this has to be taken in on our brief look at the dog on our first walk down the line! So, by now we have a fair idea of the make and shape of each of the exhibits in the class as we have assessed the dog as a whole. Now it is on to paying attention to the various parts that make up the whole.
A physical exam of each exhibit then follows that first look after the judge takes the class around as a whole. The physical exam lets the judge assess the various “parts” that make up the whole. Some breed specific traits have to be “felt for” under the coat (Old English Sheepdogs come to mind). So many things have to be checked for on the exam, which varies from breed to breed. Some are quite easy to spot, others require more effort (hands on!) As this process goes through the head, neck, forechest, ribbing, depth of chest, length of loin, topline, tail set, muscling on thighs and bend of stifle checking all of the individual parts. Thus, the whole of the dog is examined and the judge has a fairly good idea of the makeup of the various parts into the whole.
Next comes the down and back, the last two “parts” we examine, adding more infor- mation into the picture of the whole—is the dog clean coming and going, moving as

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