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Which comes first? The Chicken or the Egg?

There's a lot going on in the showbred/red setter thread, so much so that I'm getting confused and wondered if we could break it down into "little" (HA! not-so little!) topics. This is my second attempt to break that conversation down a little!

The following was on that thread: "How do you expect your dog to be able to go out and do his or her job if their conformation does not allow them to." Good question!

So what comes first? The Conformation? Or the work?

Does having what may be considered "correct" conformation mean that a dog can, or will, work, simply based upon conformation? Or does it mean that a good, sound, hard-working dog "does" have correct conformation, otherwise he would be unable to do his job?

How can that be when he is penalized severely, even disqualified, in the show ring? I have some opinions of my own, but would like to hear what others think – maybe I’ll learn something!

Londa Warren, Edmond, OK, USA

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Maybe I should qualify my question:

Does the work define the conformation? Or does the conformation define the work?

Londa Warren, Edmond, OK, USA
"So what comes first? The Conformation? Or the work?

Does having what may be considered "correct" conformation mean that a dog can, or will, work, simply based upon conformation? "

Certainly not. There are two separate flaws in this argument.

First of all , what is considered "correct" conformation in the show ring isnt necessarily the same as good/functional conformation for working or field trials

Secondly , a working dog has to have the nose, the hunting and pointing instinct, the prey drive, the trainability and rapport with the handler, the "nerve" and intelligence, without which the conformation is useless


"Or does it mean that a good, sound, hard-working dog "does" have correct conformation, otherwise he would be unable to do his job?"

Probably the majority of successful working and /or field trial dogs have the conformation which enables them to do the job, some much better than others, but it isnt necessarily what show breeders think of as good conformation.
They may be smaller and certainly carry less weight, are more upright in shoulder and less angulated in the rear (which is functional for speed), shorter in the back (also needed for speed), have shorter and more powerful necks, have stronger bone in proportion to the body mass especially in the front legs and upper arm, have bigger feet in proportion to size, they need strong feet and pasterns. They are hard muscled. And of course they have less coat
The gait that matters is the gallop, and this should be efficient, not wasting energy on the "reach " beloved of the show ring. The very fast dog drives from the shoulder as well as the rear. The fast field trial dog often doesnt have the smooth trot of the show dog being shorter in the back, but since it doesnt work at a trot, that doesnt matter. The field trial setter doesnt single track quite like the show setter, the front legs may converge but the back legs move slightly apart and this is functional, as at a fast gallop the back legs will overlap the front legs, and also when casting off the dog is able to really drive off and accelerate better with the back legs slightly apart. I could go on........ and on and on...........

Some working dogs are not well constructed from either the show or working perspective, but still work because the drive and instinct to work is there inside their heads. They work in spite of their physical faults. And probably have a shorter worker life, they just wear out faster. Or they have less stamina for a long working day

"How can that be when he is penalized severely, even disqualified, in the show ring?"

Because few show judges really understand how a working dog moves and works. You can explain to them until you are blue in the face that some of the axioms of show conformation have no rational basis in what is actually functional, they just dont want to know
And many of them got their ideas from McDowell Lyon :))
Margaret
Hi Margaret,
could you please help me on that last statement??? Who/what is McDowell Lyon...
Thanks,
Susan
McDowell Lyon wrote a book called The Dog in Action, first published in 1950. This was the bible on dog gait for show breeders and judges for at least two or three decades.
McDowell Lyon knew a lot about horses and wrote a book on horse construction and gait, which was very successful, so his publishers asked him to write a similar book about dogs. Unfortunately he knew much less about dogs, and dogs are not the same as horses. But he transferred much of his thinking about horse gait to dogs, with some spurious analogies to engineering and mechanics which make the book sound more scientifically based than it is. In particular he emphasised the 45 degree shoulder angle
Curtis Brown's later and much better book on Dog Locomotion and Gait did a pretty good hatchet job on McDowell Lyon and demolished the myth of the 45 degree shoulder, and more. Curtis Brown was also much better on working dog movement and construction. Nevertheless there are still breeders and show judges around who attribute papal infallibility to McDowell Lyon
Margaret Sierakowski
Hi there Margaret, I must say that I have never heard of McDowell but all the different breeds have different construction for the different ''jobs'' they do, you cannot compare, say a Saluki to a G.S.D. they have different jobs in their past, the Saluki is a fast moving sight hound this has much more of an upright angulation at the shoulder and the G.S.D. has the 45 degree angle that you have stated, horses mostly have the same job to do so the basic structure is the same, but the old saying 'no foot no horse' to me said it all. If there is one part that doesn't conform to the basic need of the animal for its work then there isn't any way it can do the job properly, this could be the nose or the feet, if you dog is supposed to use its nose for its job then there is no point in putting it to work if it can't use it (whether show or working).
As far as the show ring is concerned some breeds have 'split' so far apart that they do seem like two different breeds. Unfortunately the U.K. and Irish dogs do seem to be in this situation. But there are still some dogs that are show dogs that still have a nose for it, more coat deeper color and not so fast but they still have the instinct, the IRW still haven't split to that extent.....yet....I am sure they will if not stopped, the breed is still at a turning point as far as showing is concerned and it is up to the breeders to keep it in cheque.
I was out of setters for some years and the difference in a short period of time to the standard of dogs and the type of dogs was very noticeable so it is up to the breeders, no body else.
Dee
Hi there Leen I have obviously gone a long way round to say exactly that, I think that is what I was getting at when I said what I said. I agree with you enterily.........Horses for causes......Dee
A first signpost something was wrong in the judging system was in two littersiters I kept from a first litter.

One was praised for angulation of shoulders, the other always far behind her because of not enough angulation.

Last one ran like a devil in fields, galloping easily, first just did not make it. She couldn't, because of the angulation of the shoulder so much praised for in shows.
Dee Rance wrote

"but all the different breeds have different construction for the different ''jobs'' they do, you cannot compare, say a Saluki to a G.S.D. they have different jobs in their past, the Saluki is a fast moving sight hound this has much more of an upright angulation at the shoulder "

If one can appreciate that the way a Saluki is constructed is functional for a very fast running dog, then it helps to understand why the faster working setters also tend to have more upright shoulders and less front chest .
And the front angulation is matched by the rear angulation
Margaret Sierakowski
Dee Rance wrote
"As far as the show ring is concerned some breeds have 'split' so far apart that they do seem like two different breeds. Unfortunately the U.K. and Irish dogs do seem to be in this situation"

Thats probably inevitable in countries where one can make up show champions with no requirement for them to be able to work (or for working dogs to meet the breed standard re conformation and type).
Other countries like Sweden, Norway and the German speaking countries require the Group 7 dogs to pass working test or a field trial award before they can get a show Ch title, and it does help in holding the breed together, and avoiding extremes either way. Although much resented by breeders who only want to show their dogs
In the UK, its very hard for somebody who has a dog which is a good example , both for construction and type , of a working setter to take them into the show ring and be taken seriously. I have a field trial IRWS bitch, who is well constructed for what she does best, and in Ireland she is regarded as a good example of the breed for type and colour, but I would be wasting my time (and hers) putting her in the show ring under most UK judges.
One should go back and read Mrs Nagle on the subject. She bred 16 field trial champions in Irish Setters, and her dogs were supreme examples of the beautifully constructed, older type of working Irish Setter. Yet she never made up a show champion, and she saw her beautiful dogs consistently defeated in the show ring by a changing type of show Irish Setter, that to her eye, was not as well constructed as her dogs. She is well worth reading for her critiques of modern show bred Irish Setters - and she was a Championship show judge herself
Margaret Sierakowski
Hi there Margaret.
Well I don't 'think' that my name has been taken in vain!!!!! As far as the split...I saw that all too well when I came back to the breed after a decade away from it, they were a different breed all together, if you look at my website and go to the picture of my 'first setter' you will see what some looked like then, although she didn't do anything much in the ring some B.O.B. at open shows, but you were saying about the 'more upright shoulder and rear construction, and a shorter neck!!!!!' I rest my case, as they say.
I feel that the Swedish/Norwegian and German countries do have a point. The dogs should still be able to work, I think that given the opportunity, as I have said before, that most of these dogs could performed in the field, not as well as the 'true' working dog, but let's face it not many people want or can be bothered to let them.....Dee and the girls Just a quick P.S. I think that the conformation defines the work, If the dog is not built correctly it cannot work, the show dog is built to 'trot' the working dog is built to 'run' and that I think is the difference. So many show dogs these days are 'over angulated' mostly at one end or another, a lot are so unbalanced.
Mrs Nagle was critical of the modern show Irish Setters. But one also wonders what she thought of the other extreme, the small fast field trial dogs of the Moanruad type, who were almost as far removed from her own Sulhamsteads?
About five years ago I heard Eppie Buist (Fearn) , a contemporary of Mrs Nagle and now in her nineties, who was watching some modern field trial Irish Setters at a trial in Scotland , talking to John Kerr (Rushfield) and commenting on how different they were from Mrs Nagle's dogs. She said the Sulhamsteads were bigger, slower dogs, but in those days there were far more grouse in Scotland, and the dogs didnt need to run like they do today, these bigger slower dogs were good bird finders and handlers but there were so many birds that they were nearly tripping over them!
I've heard another very old and famous breeder in Ireland saying quietly "John Nash destroyed the Irish Setter" (what unimaginable blasphemy!) . But then when one considers how few grouse there are in Ireland nowadays, and how far and how fast the setters have to range nowadays to find a bird at a field trial, one understands better why the setters are now constructed differently and for speed and range, as well as for bird finding and handling. And some of these are still beautiful dogs, some of Declan O'Rourke's Lusca Irish Setters for example are not so far removed in looks and colour from some of the Irish bred show dogs.
Its hard to put back working ability and sound functional construction into lines of show setters that have lost it. Its actually easier and quicker to improve on the looks, colour, size and construction of carefully chosen working dogs, to produce something that can still work AND hold its own in the show ring
In the 1980s there were French breeders of working and field trial English Setters who were concerned that the English Setter in France had become far removed from the original Laverack that had been imported into France a hundred years previously. I dont know a lot about it (maybe there are French breeders on this list who can tell us more) but within less than 20 years they had succeeded in getting back to the beautiful Laverack type and construction, without losing any working ability
Its a real and very interesting challenge to breed well constructed and functional setters of good type , who can seriously work AND hold their own in the show ring, even if they are not the top winning dogs at shows - the show culture is unfortunately stacked against them, except in a few Scandinavian and German speaking countries
Margaret Sierakowski
This is all assuming that you prefer the type of setter of the past, unfortunately all things must move forward. the type we had in the 60's and 70's would be laughed out of the ring today. We would be wise to 'let sleeping dogs lye' we could change the working setter and the show setter and lose the Irish setter that we all know and love, this is for the 'purists' I still feel that show dogs can work if allowed, not with the speed but with the enthusiasm Mary Tuite and her daughter Colette work and show, one even whent B.I.S. at Crufts. So it can be done, I also think that the working dog we have now is a long way from the original, Just look at the old stud cards of the Wendover Kennels and the Raycroft Kennels these were the combination of both working and show. Ray Furness and L.C James used to use the same dogs for both purposes.
What you would call Beautiful maybe someone else would call far from 'type' ''Beauty is in the eye of the beholder'' that is why we don't all win every show there are so many different types in the ring at the moment.
Dee and the girls

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