Since Carolyn and Tom are off wandering Planet Earth and not blogging about fronts for the moment, I thought I would share some observations that herder Ellen made yesterday. After Chase sent all the goats and sheep running for cover, we sat on our tailgates and talked about herding and what makes dogs capable of herding. Ellen has been trialing her Pems for quite a long time so her opinions on this subject are worth noting. She said that based on her observations, when Cardis aren’t physically able to do herding work, it is often because of their fronts. She noted that the excessive turn out that is so common, causes the dog to break down in front, slowing it. Single tracking or converging (or whatever you’d like to call it) is thwarted when the front feet turn out too far. The dog is fighting its own physical structure while trying to keep up with the stock.
A well-balanced dog with only slight turnout will hold up to do its job. She doesn’t seem to feel that size is a particular impediment. The real issues are structure, athleticism, and conditioning. Generally Cardis are not hell-bent-for-leather herders. They are more thoughtful at herding than are their Pem cousins. (Ellen attributes that to their hound background as opposed to the Spitz behind the Pems.) That doesn’t mean they are not eager to herd — they just consider possibilities before charging in.
My interpretation of our conversation is that a well put together dog is going to be a better herding dog. Darnedest thing! A well put together dog will probably be a better show dog too. We both bemoaned the emphasis breeders place on cosmetics over the health/genetic issues that cannot be seen by the naked eye. Would you rather have a fluff or a dog that is side-lined with lymphoma when it’s five, a mismark or a dog that comes down with Addison’s? Everyone wants the “perfect” specimen, but we’ve not reached a consensus on what “perfect” means. . . . guess we’d better have some dialogue on that.