by Joy Devery of Copperleaf, NZ.


When asked to write this article I was filled with a feeling of perplexity.

How does one describe in words a feeling, an instinct, which tells you one particular puppy is going to be that little bit more special, in a bunch of puppies all similar?

 In many ways my views and methods diverge from those considered the norm- yet if the proof be in the pudding I must be a reasonable cook to have achieved many consistent winners over the years I have been in the breed.

 The credit for this success must go to my bitch line. I was lucky enough to start with an excellent breeding bitch, and intelligent enough to recognise

her true worth after she'd produced her first litter. With this bitch I had the choice of taking one of two roads - to breed indifferent quality and waste her ability, or to improve on what I had so her daughters and granddaughters carried on her producing power. Let's face it, no amount of knowledge or experience can pick a flyer out of a litter if there isn't one there in the first place, and it is not worth wasting your time with mediocrity.

 So often I have watched fellow breeders go over a litter of 5 week old Cardigan pups, feeling this bone and that bone and in the end declaring one particular pup to be the pick. They sound all knowledgeable and rattle off points of anatomy that often go way over my head - yet I've been breeding Cardigans successfully for 39 years! So often I have seen their "pick" puppy fail while one of the "lesser" puppies shines. To my mind the way to pick a cardi pup is simply to watch the litter at play. Sit there for an hour or more if that is what it takes, and one by one they will sort themselves out.

 Have a list of priorities - points you are looking for. One of my first is tail carriage. I firmly believe an otherwise top dog will be ruined in the showring if it has a gay tail - so anything with too high a tail I automatically cull no matter how well it is otherwise constructed. All puppies hold their tails up - either straight up or in a very slight arc with the tip pointing towards the head - but I draw the line if the puppy's tail tip points down towards the topline. A puppy may well drop it's tail as it goes through the puppy classes, but on maturity that gay tail tends to reappear.

 Ear size is important to me as I believe in my locality ears have become a little small. To check this and the set of the ears I tip pups on their backs to gain an impression of the head with the ears up. Look for a good amount of stop in the head, a nice dark eye which blends with the coat colour, and a fairly wide skull with short muzzle. I avoid long narrow heads which are sometimes seen and which give a completely foreign expression.

 Solid bone is something which is obvious. Cardigans have round bone and large round, well padded tight feet. I look for shorter hocks and a rounded stifle. Loose shoulders in a very young puppy do not worry me unduly - I have often found these will tighten up as the puppy grows. A young puppy should have a level back. A Cardi does not want to be short and square, but should be long in comparison to height.

 Movement should be free, long striding and flowing with good follow through behind, visible even at 6 weeks of age. The front paw should lift and the space left should be filled by the hind paw. There should not be a gap in the middle, with front and back legs operating but no interaction between the front and back sections.

 Angulation can be difficult for a novice to grasp, but stand the puppy on a table and look for the natural placement of the front legs to be under the withers, showing a good prosternum. If, on standing, the front legs are directly under the neck and there is no prominent and deep brisket showing it means that the front angulation is not correct and front movement will be short and choppy.

 Avoid puppies who tuck their tails between their legs as timidness can be aproblem in some lines. The true Cardigan temperament is happy and outgoing, and very quick to learn.

 Lastly, I learnt very quickly not to pick puppies on colour, markings or sex. Provided it is not mismarked, I now keep the best puppy in the litter regardless of sex, colour or markings, and have been rewarded with consistent winners, and a line of Cardigans I'm proud of.


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