One Person's Opinion:
Structure and Movement (1)
Mary, Mary, quite
How does your Corgi move? What does s/he actually do? What should s/he do?
The reality is that very few Cardigans actually move as they should move. Actuality and ideal are often very far apart. What we are hoping for is usually far more than what we must settle for. Unfortunately, many people have never seen one of the "great movers" of the breed - and their mental image of how a Cardigan should move is influenced by the best that they have actually have seen. A confusion begins in our mind's eye between actuality and ideal...for all of us...and if we have never seen a "great one" then our mind's ideal is the poorer for it.
STEP 1 in our discussion of Cardigan movement will be a good, hard, clear-eyed look at what we actually have in our kennel. I will suggest a fairly "easy" way to take some basic objective measurements of your dog. This is a simplified version of a much more complex set of potential measurements ...but it will do to get us started.
Get a good video camera which will take slow motion film, a good and discrete friend or two who will help, a dog that you don't mind being really honest about, a geometry set, a weighted length of string (about 12 inches), a piece of putty or plasticine or masking tape, and a stable grooming table...oh, and some treats for the dog.
Set up the camera on a tripod, fairly low to the ground, say waist height or lower, with a knowledgeable person running it. Move your dog coming and going...first time at normal show speed, second time slowly, third time very fast. Take a slow motion and a normal speed sequence with the dog moving at a moderate speed. Do the same for the dog moving around the camera at a trot, again moderate speed and faster speed. You'll be amazed at what a difference the speed at which you move your dogs makes to how your dogs look! Again, slow motion and normal speed sequence.
Now, you are finished with the video equipment. Put it away. Give the dog a tidbit. Give your friend a drink. Let the dog play for a few minutes.
Take the protractor (that's the half circle with lines radiating from the centre and which measures angles) from the geometry set, attach the weighted string to the front in the centre of the base (at the 0,0 point) with the plasticine, or putty, or masking tape, so that the string will swing freely and hang straight down at all times. This will give you a 90 degree angle to the horizon, or a perfect vertical (because of gravity...that's why you weight the string).
Put the dog on the grooming table in a show stack (four square with the hocks perpendicular to the table...not stretched out - I told you this would be brutally honest, don't look at the topline just yet!) Make sure that the front feet are under the shoulder blades and elbows, and not in front...i.e. that the dog is not bridging. Have a friend hold the dog for you so that s/he stays in this position...they should talk to him/her, rub the tummy, etc.
Take the prepared protractor, turn it so that the base is on top (i.e. it's upside down) and so that you can read the angles, the string will be hanging down in front (between you and the protractor). Find the spine of the shoulder blade, a straight line running from the forward point of the shoulder joint to the top of the shoulder blade (often erroneously called the withers). Place the base of the protractor along this straight line thus forming an angle upwards. The string will hang down. Read either angle formed by the string and the protractor and note it.
If the angle which you have marked down is less than 90 degrees, then the shoulder layback = 180 - (x + 90), where x is the angle which you have measured.
If the angle which you have marked down is greater than 90 and less than 180 degrees, then first subtract x from 180 to get x', and then the shoulder layback = 180 - (x' + 90).
I promise you that the math never gets more complicated than this...simply because I can't do it if it does! Now, if you've done that correctly, you will have discovered that your dog has a shoulder layback of aproximately 25-30 degrees. A dog with a good shoulder will have 35 degrees layback, and an extremely good shoulder will be greater than that (35-45 degrees), but they are very rare...BUT THEY DO EXIST!
When I judge I put the palm of my hand snugly over the shoulder blade, with the middle finger running along the spine, and I estimate the shoulder layback by looking at the line which that makes...what angle does my hand lie at to the table top or to the floor, 20, 30, 45 degrees?
Now give everyone a treat, dog, yourself and your helpers.
We can do the same thing for the angle of the pelvis. This helps in discovering whether the dogs we are breeding have flat or steep pelvic structures...which influence how they will move.
Find the forward high point of the pelvis (very noticeable in Afghans, slightly less so in Cardigans), and the "tail bone", the lower end of the pelvis (the ischium tuberosity). Run an imaginary straight line from one point to the other, place the base line of your protractor along that line, and drop the weighted string, read the angle so formed.
Once again, if the angle is less than 90 degrees, then the angle of the pelvis is 90 - b (the angle which you measured).
If the angle is greater than 90 and less than 180 degrees, then subtract b from 180 = b', and the angle of the pelvis is
90 - b'.
Note that this is the angle of the pelvis and not the angle of the croup. The angle of the croup is less than the angle of the pelvis, and is NOT a structural angle, but rather an aesthetic one. That is, it does not affect movement, whereas the angle of the pelvis does. We have spoken about "croup" for years in dog show circles as a close aproximation to the pelvis angle, realizing that there was some connection.
Praise everyone involved.
Take a set of dividers from the geometry set, cover the points with cotton wool and masking tape, and then use them to measure the lengths of the following bones (as best as possible): shoulder blade, upper arm, pelvis, upper thigh, lower thigh, hock
Do not try for tremendous accuracy, aproximations within a half inch will be good enough for our purposes.
Well, what do we have?
We have a number of objective measurements (or close aproximations) for some fairly important angles and bones in the Cardigan body - bones and angles which play an important part in Cardigan movement.
If you have had the energy to do several dogs, now is the time to lay out the measurements and compare them. How do the dogs compare in terms of shoulder laybacks? Are they all around 30 degrees? Is there one with a layback of 38 degrees thay you had overlooked? What about bone lengths? Do the pelvis, shoulder blade, upper arm, and upper thigh all come pretty close to being equal in length? Is the upper arm quite a bit shorter? (In Cardigans more than one inch is quite a bit!) How about hock lengths...are they long or medium or short? How do you think that affects (a) movement, (b) rear angulation, (c) topline?
Breeders are forced to make choices every time they breed a litter. Who will I breed to? What will I keep? What should I breed for? Informed decisions are better decisions.
Everything that you looked at with your dog, and which I have talked about here impacts on your dog's movement. Movement is NOT independent of structure...it is almost totally dependent on structure (with a little bit of temperment thrown in). The more we can understand about structure, the better moving dogs we can hope to breed. At least, that is one person's opinion.
Structure and Movement (2)
Last column I suggested some ways in which we could take some basic measurements of our corgis. Keep track of these more objective measures of the dogs. You may find them interesting to refer to as we go along.
How does the corgi move from the side? Do Pems and Cardis move the same way? I will stick my neck out and suggest that they do not move in the same way. Granted that all dogs move by putting one pay in front of the other, and granted that they are both small, dwarf dogs, nevertheless I think they do have differences in their particular style of movement. As breed specialists it is our responsibility to be clear about these differences, these unique qualities which go into making up type. Otherwise we will try to argue that Corgis move like Dachshunds, Basset Hounds, and Skye Terriers!
The Cardigan is a bigger, longer and heavier dog than the Pem (or should be, cf. the relevant standards). That difference should show in the movement. The correctly built Cardigan will be well angulated in the front, and correspondingly well angulated in the rear. The Pem moves more lightly, with more "bounce" (not to suggest that the Pem bounces, though). A Cardi moves with more "seriousness"...boy is this difficult to describe! Put two of them together, and just watch the difference - then you'll understand what I'm trying to get at.
A fluidly-moving Cardi will reach out with the front leg. Reach is not measured while the paw is still in the air! Some dogs will compensate for various problems by unnecessary lift in the front. Yes - it may look spectacular, but does it actually do anything? Front reach is measured when the paw actually sets down again. Only then can one see if there was any real reach, or was it just a lot of flamboyant action up in the air? Does the paw break at the pastern during the forward reach, is it beginning to hackney? Again, a dead giveaway that this is compensatory movement is when that straightish line from elbow to paw tip gets broken at the wrist (pastern). Some people like to say that good reach extends to the nose, beyond the nose, to the eye, etc. This is sheer nonsense, and almost impossible to judge! First, if the dog extends all the way past its nose that is absolutely no guarantee that the dog will actually set down past its nose. Second, with current handling practices, it is very difficult to see the dogs moving NATURALLY (i.e with their heads lowered to just above the level of their topline). Most "show dogs" are gaited with their heads up (it looks "classy"), and thus the front reach is completely distorted. Some are even trained to pull hard on the leash and are gaited with their heads pulled back, thus throwing the front completely out of balance, and usually throwing the rear out, too. Quite, quite awful!
As the paw sets down it begins to absorb the impact & weight. The pad/foot will flatten slightly, the pastern will bend, and the whole mechanism will compress like a spring. As the dog's weight passes over the supporting paw, the spring uncoils and pushes the dog forwards. The paw now lifts and swings through the air, pastern bent, to begin unfolding and extending forwards again to repeat the process: strike, support, swing. For more detail I recommend you read Curtis Brown and/or Casey Gardiner.
When this all happens in a beautifully coordinated fashion it is just plain poetry in motion. Any imbalance to the whole will show during the gait! A balanced dog, moving naturally, will follow through AS MUCH AS IT REACHES. An unbalanced dog, moving naturally, will try to balance itself, and therefore distort the ideal gait.
If the dog lifts his front paw during extension about 2 inches off the ground, and lifts the rear paw during follow through about six inches off the ground, then the dog is probably not balanced! There could be all sorts of problems: lack of shoulder angulation, flat pelvis, overangulation in the rear, etc. Just as a break in the straight line during forward extension indicates a problem, so a break in the straightish line of rearward follow through indicates a problem. In many Corgis there seems to be very little follow through at all.
Efficient movement is a necessary goal for any herding dog. That means covering the most ground with the least effort. At least, that's what this one person thinks. How about you?
Structure and Movement (3)
Continuing with our look at Cardigan side gait, let's go right back to the front. There seems to be two schools of thought about shoulder layback. One school (McDowell-Lyon, early R. Page Elliot, Casey Gardiner) argues for a 45 degree shoulder layback, measured along the spine of the blade. The other school (Curtis Brown, later R. Page Elliot, P. Burnham) argues for a 30-35 degree layback, measured along the spine. That 10-15 degrees is a significant difference!
Some of the difference can be explained in the way in which they gather data. Curtis Brown measures and extrapolates an average for the breed. He also works from what he finds in nature, as observed in zoos. In essence, Brown discusses the ACTUALITY, i.e. what currently exists in the breed. On the other hand, Gardiner measures and extrapolates a theoretical ideal. While admitting that very few dogs have ever actually measured up the theoretical, the important fact for her is some actually have done so. In essence, Gardiner discusses the THEORETICAL, i.e. what should exist in the breed. Clearly there must be some logical relationship between these two thinkers, and between these two theories. Both mirror two different ways of thinking scientifically about a problem, one inductive, the other deductive. However, the connections between them have yet to be fully explored.
Personally (One Person's Opinion), I opt for a theoretical ideal of 45 degree layback of shoulder. I fully understand that actually finding a dog with such a layback may be very difficult. But, that does not remove the goal from the realm of the possible, it just makes it more challenging. The actuality that I live with as a breeder is that many shoulder laybacks are between 20-30 degrees! A shoulder with a 35 degree layback I would consider a good shoulder, even though not yet ideal.
The upper arm should be almost equal in length to the shoulder blade, and set at approximately 90 degrees to the shoulder blade. Some dogs will have an open shoulder, that is the angle will be greater than 90 degrees. If this angle becomes too large, and the bones are equal, then the whole assembly is moved forward on the rib cage. The resulting front movement will be stilted and short. If the dog has extreme rear angulation as well, then it will compensate in some way for the imbalance between front and rear.
A short upper arm (one of the major faults in our breed today), will inevitably steepen the shoulder layback, and affect the movement. The back edge of the shoulder blade is normally over the elbow...thus is the upper arm is very short, the blade must be tilted up, and the angle opened so that the back edge will still be over the elbow, and the dog will have some sort of static balance. A short upper arm will cause the lift I have spoken about earlier, and the break in the pastern, and a tendency towards almost a hackney action. This can be very flashy in the ring, but it is very, very incorrect for any kind of sustained, efficient movement.
A forward placed shoulder assembly will help the dog give the impression of (a) lacking forechest/prosternum, (b) being long in body/outline, (c) being rather short necked, and (d)being artificially high in wither. The extra length will also interfere with the coordination of front and rear.
Croup angle was the external and visible means of seeing the pelvic angle. But, the croup is not an exact analogy for the pelvis, since the angle of the croup results from the combination of the pelvis angle and the set on of the tail. The croup angle, even when correct, is considerably less than the pelvic angle. A correct pelvic angle and high tail set may mimic a flat pelvic angle and a medium tail set. You must feel the bones to actually see what is under the hair. The effect of the correct pelvis + high tail is fairly minimal, I would even say negligible. But the effect of the flat pelvis + medium tail is quite strong.
A true "gay" tail (carried over the back and actually touching, or almost touching, note: look at the angle at the root of the tail and the croup, in a "gay" tail it seems to be 90 degrees or smaller) affects movement by tightening and pulling on the rear. It would seem that a rear with a "gay" tail is very restricted. A "happy" tail (again, look at the root of the tail and the croup, the angle will be greater than 90 degrees) is often carried quite normally at some times, and will wag very excitedly at others. Also, often a "gay" tail is very high set. It is a hoot to watch a class of stud dogs walking around stiff-legged with their tails straight up, or nearly so, trying to figure out who is the "alpha" in the class...unfortunately it usually interferes with their movement, too!
This is only one person's opinion, if you have another, why don't you write to us.
One Person's Opinion
Structure and Movement (4)
For the last several months I have been
trying to raise issues related to Cardigan structure and movement. We began with a general introduction to measuring
your Cardi, and then moved on to several considerations about side gait. Let's move on again with a few words about the
back, and then concern ourselves with coming and going.
At least, that is one person's opinion. What do you think?
Structure and Movement (5)
Well, this series has certainly evolved
into something much bigger than I had originally planned.
Perhaps you have different ideas about some of these things than I do. Please write them up and send them in - that's how
I got started with this series. I can't be
the only opinionated Corgi breeder out there.
One Person's Opinion
Structure and Movement (6)
you have followed this series of articles all along then you will remember that the angle
of the pelvis is important for a proper follow through as the dog moves. What does that
look like as the dog moves away from you?
mind, there are still a lot of unanswered questions about rear assemblies in Cardigans,
and just exactly how they work. I do have my
own opinions...but they are still quite open to a good argument from another point of