Monday, November 9, 2009

Greetings, Conformation People!

In my blog trolling, I came across a great post on Susan Garrett's agility blog.  There, she has a post from Helen King, an expert in canine structure for performance, share some insights into what  she thinks makes a good, structurally sound agility dog.  I thought it might be of interest to performance and conformation folks alike.  Here's the link:

In my former life as a horse person, I studied a lot about how equine structure related to the horse's ability to move well, perform well, and stay sound.  Since attending a Chris Zink seminar last January, I've been a bit obsessed about structure of performance dogs as well (thanks to Carolyn for helping me learn more about shoulders when I saw her at this year's specialty!). 

I highly recommend attending one of Chris' seminars.  In the seminar I attended, she talked about canine structure as it relates to performance events (especially soundness for agility), helped us evaluate our own dogs (I took Ziggy, and she liked Z's moderate angles and good balance), taught us about conditioning our dogs for performance events, and helped us understand how to use cavaletti as a training tool for better movement and jumping ability.  I think it would be great to have someone like Chris come to one of our national specialties and talk to both performance and conformation folks about corgi structure for performance events.  A girl can dream, can't she....


  1. I read Helen King's original series of articles with no little bemusement. She says all the right things, but her own poodles are VERY unsound in most cases, even when she says they're so agile and sound. The shoulders are incredibly upright, the necks are ewed, the croups are a mess, and so on. If you just read what she writes it's fabulous, but if you see her apply it to her own dogs it goes pear-shaped very quickly.

    Balance works if the parts are correct. It doesn't work if they're incorrect. A dog with a very straight shoulder and very straight stifle is balanced, but it will move like a sausage on pistons and it won't be able to cover any ground. A dog with a hyper-angulated shoulder and hyper-angulated stifle (think show Shepherds) is, again, balanced, but watch those dogs as they stand at ease and see how their hocks actually cross when they try to remain upright. I've seen dogs that were unbalanced who were able to compensate for it and moved very easily and I've seen dogs who were balanced who couldn't trot out of a paper bag.

    The two very best sources, in my opinion, are the DogSteps book and DVD and the Puppy Puzzle DVD by Pat Hastings. If you read/watch both of them you'll have your mind completely blown and get incredibly critical of your own dogs all of a sudden, but after a few re-watches it starts to sink in and make sense.

    I'm not surprised a performance person would like an Xtacee dog. Kathy does know how to make them sound :).

    Oh- and one thing I have definitely seen: Dogs built right muscle up well. Their bodies obey them and feel good when they move and they build smooth, appropriate bulk in the powerhouse areas of the thighs and shoulders and neck and loin. If I see a dog who looks thin and weedy, especially in one particular area while the rest of the dog is fit and muscular, I start looking for what isn't moving correctly. Always look from the bottom up; sometimes a bad/flat foot will do as much damage to soundness as a slipped hock or a bad patella.

  2. Thanks for the note on additional resources to check out, Joanna!


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