PERCEPTIONS – WHAT DID YOU MEAN?
By - Patricia H. Gilbert
I was privately asked after I posted the following words "Again to improve the breed thinking can fall into a generic thinking mode. There are many breeds that don't need improvement. They simply need conservation. Some of the ancient Sighthound breeds are classic examples of conservation. How can you possibly improve a proper Afghan Hound or Saluki?"
I was asked if I really believe that the Afghan Hound and Saluki breeds are so great right now that they need no improvement.
The Afghan Hound and Saluki Breed Standards are wonderful and need no improvement. The same cannot be said for all exhibited dogs in those breeds.
Somehow I should have found a way to emphasize PROPER. If in a perfect world the Afghan Hound or Saluki closely fit their standards, they would be proper. Oh yes, there are some out there that are pretty wonderful but many are not.
My words should not have given the perception that the dogs we see and judge need no improvement.
Both breeds have several problems that affect function. One most serious problem I cannot forgive is short legs. If a Sighthound has short legs then shame on it. I am seeing short legs and long backs on Salukis and Afghan Hounds. That is so offensive to me as it affects not only esthetics but more importantly function.
I overheard a judge and handler in a photo op tell the exhibitor "we should move out of this grass for the photo as it makes him look as if he doesn't have any leg under him." The handler responded "He doesn't". When was the last time you saw a superb runner with short legs? Short legs equals short strides. Short strides equals more work to get to the same place.
Why is a long back a problem? Adding insult to injury, the length is often gotten in the loin area. That sacrifices rib cage needed for heart and lung room in a hard running hound that should have endurance, speed and agility.
While I am on the subject, let's add the other common fault of straight fronts. A straighter front can often increase the height of head carriage and sadly decreases function. It wears down an endurance dog but is more acceptable in a sprinting dog PROVIDING it has a rear that matches the front angles. That balance is rarely seen. I almost always see out of balance straight front, long back, longer but often proper rear. Listen up! The rear is not often too long. The front is too straight!!!!!
So what do you with short legs? You get not much waving around of limbs, but you might get rocking from side to side. You can see it in the head weaving back and forth especially on the down and back. If the handler walks the Afghan Hound or Saluki on the down and back, take a closer look. Look up the feet, leg and body. Look at what the head is doing too.
What do you get with a long back? You get not much interference underneath the dog because there is so much room for error and play in footfall and timing. You get the ILLUSION of covering a lot of ground.
I once heard a judge comment on a top winning dog that was as long as from now until tomorrow in a breed that was supposed to be short backed and square. The statement still cracks me up. "I wonder if that sucker had to pay two entry fees to show to me." I guess you can say that if the dog meets itself coming around the corner.
What do you get with a straight front? You get the incorrect and not functional too high for its breed head carriage.
The Sighthound needs to see where it's going and where its prey is going too. This is accomplished with the functional head carriage and proper front described in the Standard.
Sadly those three things sum up, to many people AND even worse judges, a very appealing show Afghan Hound or Saluki. The three sins of a sighthound are: short legs; long backs; and straight fronts.
When you think about it, what is being shown and winning defines the direction of a breed. Heaven help us if the top winners are incorrect!