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WEDGE: Place your hands along each side of the dog's muzzle, palms flat against the head. Slide your hands on both sides back from the muzzle to the ear base. Flatten the dog's ears as you slide your hands toward the rear of the head (Illustration #1). Register what you feel. Is the zygomatic ridge too prominent? This ridge should blend with the sides of the head; it should not have shallows on either side of it and when you are feeling the ridge you should not feel a distinct bump of bone. Only hands-on examinations of many dogs will give you the experience that you need to recognize the lean wedge that is so desired in our breed. Find a dog that is known for its beautiful lean head and FEEL that look. When you slide your hands back on the dog's muzzle, does the muzzle fit into the head without any sudden changes? Or, is there a distinct difference in the width of the head and the muzzle, giving you the feel or appearance of a two-piece head? The muzzle should blend into the head with the feeling of a smooth, one-piece wedge.
MUZZLE: (Illustration 2) Is the muzzle full and rounded, or are there shallows under the eyes? Are there bone ridges running down the top of the muzzle? This can cause a square look to the muzzle that will give the dog a chiseled appearance and he will lose much of that soft Sheltie look. Does the dog appear to have "Chipmunk Cheeks"? This will destroy the smooth wedge and make you wonder if the dog has a tooth problem.
EARS: Now check the ear set: study the shape and size of the ears (Illustration #2). Using your thumb and fingers, place the dog's ears in the correct position. Check the bend of the ear and study the dog's expression. Does it have that appealing Sheltie look? Do the ears tip in or out? Are they high or low? These are things you need to know before you do any corrective trimming.
HEAD PLANES: Now stand at the side of the dog and bend your knees so that your head is at the same level as the dog's head. Check the head planes (Illustration #3). Are they parallel? Does the backskull slope off, or does the nose tip up or down? Is there a swell right above the eyes giving you an eyebrow ridge? These are all faults that could be improved by corrective grooming.
UNDERJAW: Look at the dog's underjaw. (Illustration #3) Is it thick at the throat, giving a very wide wedge. Is the slant of the wedge approximately the same from both the front and the side view of the head, forming a slight wedge? Is the throat latch too thick giving you a throaty appearance? Is there adequate length to the underjaw; does it come clear out to the base of the nose? Is the depth of underjaw full clear to the end, or does it recede, giving the dog a snippy, weak look? If the underjaw comes too far out it will appear square and will have a terrier look.
STOP: (Illustration #3) If you draw a line from the inside corner of the eye across to the inside corner of the other eye, is the deepest part of the stop directly between this line? Or does the stop begin above or below the line between the corners of the eyes? The incorrect placement of a stop can cause a foreign look, or cause the eyes to be set too wide. A sliding stop gives the Sheltie a Collie appearance.
Place your hand palm down starting just behind the occipital bump (the bump on the very back of the scull) and stroke down the neck (Illustration #4). Do you feel a rounded crest right at the poll of the dog's neck? This will give the dog a nice neck arch and head carriage. Check to see if the dog has adequate length of neck to allow for flexibility. Does the neck slide into the shoulders with no abrupt changes? Or does your hand come straight down with a slight dip just in front of the shoulders? This might give the dog an elegant appearance but is an indication of an incorrect front assembly. Study the dog in a standing position. If you dropped a line from the ears to the floor it should fall just in front of your dog's front legs.
LEGS AND FEET
ELBOWS & FORELEGS
Viewing the legs from the front, run the palms of your hands along both sides over the dogs elbows. Can you feel them bulging out? Are the legs bowed in or out? Ideally, you should not be able to feel any bulging of the elbow or bowing of the leg. Next, look at the leg from the side. Is there a noticeable change in the straightness of the leg as you reach the pastern? Is there a distinct angle change in the pastern from the leg to the foot? In the correct front, there will be a slight slope to the pastern; too much slope will make the pastern weak, and no slope at all will give the dog a very choppy movement.
Study the feet to see if they are oval in shape. Check for splayed feet, misshapen toes, cat feet, or flat feet. Do the feet turn either in or out? They should point directly forward. Check the pads of the feet. Are they firm, with a thick, tough covering? There should be no cracking, peeling or softness. There is an old saying "Without a hoof there is no horse." The same theory applies to a dog.
Run your hand between the dog's forelegs at the base of the chest. Is there room for your hand to slide through (about 2 1/2" to 3"), or are the edges of your hand hitting the front legs? A Sheltie needs adequate width of chest. Place your fingers against the dog's elbow with your hand horizontal to the ground, palm down. Run your hand from the elbow on your side of the dog across and touch the elbow on the far side of the dog (Illustration #5). Do your fingers touch the chest, or do they slide across to the other elbow without touching the chest? If the mature dog has adequate depth of chest for its heart and lungs, your fingers will touch the chest.
Place your hand with palm flat against the front of the chest. Now rub your hand back and forth, keeping your palm flat (Illustration #6). Do you feel the shoulder bump on the far side, then the sternum, and then the shoulder bump closest to you? If you feel all three your dog will have an adequate sternum. (The "point of the shoulder" is not the same as the shoulder bump. The point of the shoulder is used when measuring the shoulder layback. Please see the Correct Skeleton, Illustration #12, page 11.)
Place your left thumb on the point of the shoulder, and with the thumb and first finger of your right hand find the highest point of the withers. Check the length and the slope of the shoulder line between your left thumb and your right thumb and finger (Illustration #7). Now move your right hand and find the point of the elbow. Check the distance from the point of the shoulder to the point of the elbow. .. (Please see Illustration #12, Correct Skeleton, for the point of the shoulder.) Both measurements should be approximately the same length. If the upper arm is much shorter you will get a high front movement much like a "hackney" gait. Now, check the distance from the highest point of the withers straight down to the point of the elbow, then measure the distance from the point of the elbow to the floor. These measurements should be approximately equal in length for good front balance.
Place the palms of your hand flat on both sides of your dog starting at the beginning of the rib cage just behind the front legs. Slide your hands back to the last fully attached rib. Is the rib cage too flat (slab sided), or is it too round (barrel chested)? Is there enough spring to the chest to provide a good-sized lung cavity? Now, place your hand between the dog's front leg and chest (on a person this is the armpit). There should be a slight flattening of the chest to allow for free movement of the front leg.
Slide your hand down the side of the dog to the last fully attached rib, then, finding the point of the hip, measure the distance for the length of the loin (Illustration #8). A loin that is too long will give a weak back, while not enough loin will cause movement problems such as crabbing, or over- reaching.
Find the point of the hip, and then the ischium (butt bone). There should be a slight slope from the hip to the ischium; this allows for a correct croup slope and a good tail set. Now measure from the ischium to the stifle (upper thigh), then from the stifle down to the hock joint. The upper thigh should be a little shorter than the length from the stifle to the hock. Measure from the top of the hock joint down to the ground to determine the length of the hock. Is the hock too long or too short? Fold the dog's hind leg tightly up against the upper thigh to check rear angulation (Illustration #9). If the hock comes out farther than the ischium, the hock is too long; if it does not come out to the ischium it is too short.