As one peruses the sundry of vendors set up at our favorite dog show, it is not uncommon to encounter a mixed bag of items for sale that display our beloved breed. This can range from towels, figurines, handbags, key chains, and the list goes on and on. When it comes to purchasing one of these treasures, dog show junkies are particularly fastidious about how their breed looks in the chosen procurement. Both consumers and manufacturers seem to agree on this point. A respected artist, whose chosen medium was chainsaw art, will actually refuse a request to do any breed of dog. He reasoned that people were far too caught up in the exact detail of carving and insisted that it be done very breed-specific with infinitesimal detail.
So where are we going with this exercise? While judging in California recently, the opportunity arose to provide some educational experience to a group of Cardigan aficionados after the breed judging had ended. A long-time breeder was milling about proudly displaying his favorite Corgi T-shirt. Pointing to the dog on the artwork allowed a unique opportunity to discuss some finer breed characteristics. A small crowd formed and the unique outline of the dog displayed on the shirt was deliberated. The approved breed education program teaches judges that for most breeds, you should be able to discern it via its silhouette from as far away as the other side of a football field. This provided the opportunity to digress into a lengthy dissertation about the outline of our breed, just as important the tail set and carriage that definitely adds to the proper silhouette. This has been a cause of disagreement amongst exhibitors for a number of years and one that you won’t see going away any time soon.
Just to break this down a little further, there are many who argue over the way a Cardigan carries its tail in motion or for that matter how it holds it while standing. As always encouraged by good breed educators, let’s take a look at what the official standard says about this feature. “Tail—set fairly low on body line and reaching well below the hock. Carried low when standing or moving slowly, streaming out parallel to ground when at a dead run, lifted when excited, but never curled over the back. High tail set is a serious fault” More often than not, you will find that most who argue this point have an exhibit that lifts its tail more than typically desirable, almost constantly and defend it bitterly. This is human nature one would surmise. The standard is very specific that it should be LOW when standing or moving slowly. “Oh he’s just a happy boy or that’s not curled over the back so it is acceptable.” Yes, it may be acceptable or tolerable in certain judge’s eyes but obviously, it detracts from the lovely silhouette that we desire to see in our breed. Is that really what you want the judges to see and appreciate about our breed, or is it more likely you just desire the points towards the dog’s championship because it has many other so-called redeeming qualities in your opinion? That is a discussion that many exhibitors need to have with themselves and has been the focus of more than one heated confab.
Please take a look at the photos in this article of two items that are sold specifically as Cardigan memorabilia. You will notice immediately that one has the beautiful flowing tail streaming parallel to the ground as our standard calls for while the other item has an upright tail that begs for your attention. Clearly one could easily mistake it for another breed. Remember the football field exercise. Can you say for 100% certainty that this other photo is absolutely a Cardigan?
Now let’s go back to the T-shirt discussion. This particular shirt had a lovely outline of Cardigan on it and truly was a reasonable representation of the breed in general. I pointed this situation out and discussed how this is what judges want to see, as it is exactly as the official standard describes. As I searched for more examples of poorly represented Cardigan items, I was pleasantly surprise to find very few. The lesson here is clear in my opinion. If the majority of breed item manufacturers know what a good Cardigan tail set and carriage should look like, then why is it so hard for some of our exhibitors to recognize these correct features. Yes a bitch in season will cause a boy’s tail to go up, yes two Cardigans in verbal disagreement will cause this and so may some other factors, but the bottom line is the handler will have to get this under control, remove the dog from the affecting environment or risk losing that day because of the situation. I think we have all been there at one time or another. Those are different situations versus the consistently high tail carriage while in motion or even worse while standing. If you truly want to be competitive then you have to present an exhibit that has a high majority of correct features according to the standard. You cannot continue to make excuses for your dog based on your loose interpretation.
Our judges need to remember what the standard says and remember a high tail set is a serious fault, not a DQ, but certainly should play well into one’s decision making that day. Therefore, if your dog has the proper tail set can it have a high tail carriage too? Most likely not if no outside distractions like those listed previously come into play. Remember it says that the tail is set fairly low on the body line. The keyword here is LOW, not right off the back nor above that line. A simple way to check is to lift the tail above the topline slightly and place your bent thumb right where it leaves the back into the tail. It should fit nicely into a slight dip at that juncture. I would like to credit AKC board member and long-time Cardigan breeder/judge Steve Gladstone, God rest his soul, for teaching that little trick years ago. If your thumb won’t fit easily into that slightly curved pocket, there is cause for closer inspection.
In conclusion, I would ask that some of you stop defending the outline of your dog and start realizing that perhaps it is not as correct as you would like to convince yourself it is. The next time you buy a Cardigan T-shirt, look closely at the outline and ask yourself if your dogs have a similar look. You may find yourself improving your breeding program or perhaps shopping for a new T-shirt in the “irregular bin” at your favorite vendor booth that more closely matches the highflying tail your Cardigan has.
By David L. Anthony