Why is the Standard Important to Pet Owners – Part 2

I hope that the discussion in the previous post about engineering and dog breeding gave you some insight into the reasoning and thinking of knowledgeable dog breeders

Today we are going to look at the front end assembly of the dog, and compare it to the front end suspension of a car.

Just like the front end of a car is made up of numerous parts that create a smooth, road hugging ride, the skeleton of the dog is made up of multiple bones, angles and joints.   These pieces come together to allow the dog to travel at the appropriate gait for the breed, with a minimum of wear and tear on the remainder of the skeleton.


The upper and lower control arm pivot on brackets are attached to the chassis of the car, much like the scapula and humerus are attached to the body of the dog.

The coil springs act like the radius and ulna of the dog, and the shock absorbers act like the pasterns.   The feet of the dog are of course like the tires of a car where the rubber meets the road.



In the dog, the withers  are where the neck and spine meet at the top of the shoulder blade.  The shoulder blade (scapula)  meets with the upper arm (humerus).   These two bones should be equal in length, and ideally meet at a 90 degree angle in the Corgis.   This accomplishes two things – first it allows for the most ideal front extension of the foreleg, and secondly it places the front leg directly under the withers, putting the “suspension” under the heaviest part of the dog.

As I’m sure everyone who has owned a car for any extended period in their life knows, all of the parts of a car chassis must be properly aligned to not only prevent improper tire wear, but also to maintain a smooth ride and extend the useful life of the car. 

How the slope of the shoulder affects the movement of the dog.

In these two drawings you can see that the angle of the shoulder affects how far the front is able to extend.  With a steeper shoulder blade the dog is unable to extend the front leg as far.  In photo A the dog is able to extend its paw beyond its nose, whereas in B the front extension is greatly reduced. The shoulder joint is a pendulum and the swing of the pendulum can only go as far as the shoulder assembly allows it to.

Here is an actual photo of a front end in motion.   Following the column of the leg gives an approximation of the shoulder angle.  If this dog had normal length legs the paw would be extended beyond the nose. This type of frontal reach reduces the number of steps that the dog is required to take in its lifetime and wear and tear on its body. You COULD drive your car in first gear all the time, but would that really get you where you want to go in time?

Here is the same dog standing still with approximate angles marked.  Note how the line drawn from the elbow to the tip of the shoulder blade goes up through the withers to support the heaviest part of the dog – the chest. 

All dogs have the same bones, in the same place and so what is the difference?

Here are some examples of poor fronts.

Compare the dog above to this dog.    First note that the two bones that make up the shoulder are NOT equal length. The base of the “L” is shorter, and is what we refer to as a “Short Upper Arm”. This throws off the center of balance as the forelegs are no longer under the withers (the top of the yellow line) but rather further forward under the neck.

What problem is this causing?  Along with the physical characteristic of lack of prosternum (forechest) the dog is knuckling over in the front, to compensate for the poor construction along with straight pasterns and flat feet.

  Here is a Pembroke front with similar issues.  Again, the upper arm is short, about 2/3 the length of the shoulder blade, shown by the green lines.

There are a number of issues at play here including a shoulder that is too steep, leaving a sharp angle at the withers, instead of a smoooth transition from the neck to the spine as shown by the orange line.

This dog will most likely suffer from neck and shoulder injuries and lameness as a results of the incorrect front.

As well the pasterns on this dog are very long, which will result in additional weakness of the front end allowing too much rotation in the feet, splayed feet  (which long nails make worse!), and carpal issues and artthritis.

When all of the parts are not “assembled” correctly there are many issues that can arise out of the weaknesses in various areas.

Just like an out of alignment car front can wear the tires on the outer edges, so the long pasterns, short upper arms and steep fronts can cause dogs to not land properly on the pads of their feet.  They can land on the inner or outer edge of the foot causing rotation (pronation and supination) and resultant joint issues.   Among these are poor posture, stress on the outer joints, tight tendons and painful inflammation and/or arthritis.

Other deformities that can occur are Valgus Deformity, whereby the growth plates close prematurely and the ulna stops growing, while the radius continues to grow creating a twist in the pastern.  As a result the dog develops a severe turnout on one or both sides.  Depending on the age of the dog this can require one, or several surgeries to correct as the final surgery cannot be performed until  the dog is finished growing.  If the dog has not finished growing the ulna is cut to prevent the elbow joint from popping out.  Once the dog is finished growing, a wedge shaped piece of bone is cut out of the radius and rotated 180 degrees to attempt to reduce the turnout.  Dogs suffering from this condition suffer from arthritis, elbow and shoulder pain.

This wraps up the discussion on the front assembly as discussed from the side.  A future post will tackle the subject of the dwarf front on the Cardigan and the Pembroke.

Again please feel free to forward any questions that may have come to mind.  The next post will deal with the ribcage and spine. .


Why is the Standard Important to Pet Owners – Part 1

Again and again I read the statement “I don’t want a show dog, I only want a pet. So why is it a problem if I buy a puppy from someone who just has dogs and raises a couple of litters a year?”

I am going to try and explain why it is important to buy a puppy from someone who cares about the quality of their puppies.  To do this I am going to discuss this from the viewpoint of health issues that can arise as a result of a breeder not adhering to the breed standard.

Each breed has a standard that describes a perfect specimen of the breed    Some are very detailed, some less so   Some state how breed attributes are to be ranked   All are a word picture and subject to interpretation which is why quality breeders exhibit at shows.  By doing this they get objective opinions about how the dogs they own/produce stack up against the standard and the competition

Every sentence that is in a breed standard is there for a reason  It says what the correct attributes are for the breed and what faults are   It is the severity of these faults that can affect the pet buying public

I’m going to discuss this in terms of the two Corgi breeds – the Cardigan and the Pembroke – but what I am going to write can really be applied to ANY breed  

First, I am going to say that I have never bred the perfect dog   I think I have bred some very nice ones over the years, but not even Dolly was perfect, as magnificent as she was.  So don’t think you will ever get a “perfect” dog, but you want to try and get one as close to the standard as possible.

Second, note that there are two types of faults, cosmetic and  structural faults    A cosmetic fault is one that will prevent a dog from being shown, even if it is structurally perfect   A structural fault will affect a dog physically.  And a structural fault can affect a dog physically and seriously if it is severe enough   Cosmetic faults can include coat length (excessively long and fluffy or extremely short and tight), colouration  (mismarks, unacceptable colours, etc), and pigmentation (nose is brown instead of black)    Cosmetic faults are undesirable for showing but have no effect on the health or longevity of the dog    Some faults, like fluffy coats,pop up even in well-bred litters, but good breeders do not intentionally breed to produce them  

What should be of concern is the severity of structural faults  in any puppy you are considering purchasing.

A couple of Ferris Wheels

Behold the Ferris Wheel back in the early days of Amusement Parks.   The ride is a miracle of engineering and balance, and it is critical that each angle and section of steel is precisely equal to all of the others.    Yet, despite the precision of the angles and lengths of steel, it is still imperative for the ride operator to load the ride-goers in a balanced manner., loading equal weights on opposite arms, and ensuring that the ride is totally balanced before beginning higher speed revolutions.  Physics and art combined to create a safe and strong amusement park favourite.

But how would you feel if you saw one of the pieces of steel wasn’t quite as long as the others, or not quite as wide?  Or if it had some sort of a bend in it?   Would you still feel safe on that ride when it picked up speed?  Or if the operator loaded it an unbalanced manner – loading all of the weight in consecutive seats and leaving the other side empty? 

The twin Grand Island bridges over the Niagara River

These two bridges were built in 1935 (the bridge on the right) and in 1962 and carry approximately 72,000 cars a day safely over the rushing waters of the Niagara River.   What is interesting to note is that even though the decks of the bridges have needed replacing the structure of the trusses has maintained their integrity for 8 decades with simple maintenance painting.   Again it is very important that every angle and truss length be exact in length and angulation to maintain the safety of the crossing, and ensure that vehicles don’t plunge into the rushing waters below.

Dog breeding, to a breeder who is committed to breed integrity, is a combination of physics and art, just as bridge building is, or designing amusement park rides that are subjected to high levels of centrifugal force.

Skeleton of the Cardigan Welsh Corgi from the Illustrated Breed standard of the CWCCA

The canine skeleton is also a miracle of engineering.  While the basic number of bones is unchanged from breed to breed, each individual breed has unique differences based upon the purpose for which the dog was bred.  The front assembly of a terrier which needs a specific structure to dig for rodents, is different from that of a galloping sighthound.   The front assembly of even the Cardigan and Pembroke corgi differ, due to their difference in the shape of the chest, and the terrain upon which they had to work.

Each feature of the breed is there for a specific reason.  Deviations of structure, not only do not look correct, but also give rise to health issues. 

In this article, and follow up articles, I am going to discuss the various features of the corgis  and the issues that can arise from improper structure.

Lets start with the head.

Many of the features of the head were bred into the two breeds to ensure that they could do their function of herding cattle.

The bite, should be preferably a scissor bite so the dogs can pinch the legs of the cattle, but a level bite is acceptable.   What is not acceptable is an overshot, or undershot mouth, as these dogs could not do their job properly.   Since the majority of today’s dogs are no longer herding cattle why should you care about the bite?   Because an improper bite can give rise to dental problems.   Teeth that are not properly placed can dig into the gums causing painful sores and/or ulcers.  A dog with a severe overbite or underbite could have problems eating.  A dog can have a wry mouth, where one side of the jaw grows faster than the other.

There are some wonderful photos of all of the different types of bites on the “JaneDogs” website. 

Dog with proper stop and muzzle

Dog with not enough stop

The shape of the muzzle is  a feature which differs between the two corgi breeds.  The Cardigan has a shorter blunter muzzle than the Pembroke.  Another feature of the breed is a well-defined stop – the transition between the back skull and muzzle.  The reason for this and the distinct eyebrow ridge, was to protect the dog from the kick of a cow.   The bony prominent structure should deflect the kick and protect the eyes of the dog.   While most dogs are not in danger of being kicked by a cow, they still should have this protection for their eyes from other dangers – branches on forest trails, for example.

I hope that this first explanation will help to open the eyes of future corgi purchasers to some of the reasons we stress the importance of breeding to the standard.

I hope to follow this up in a day or so and hope to tackle the subjects of the front assembly and the topline.   Please feel free to pose questions that you may have about the structure of the Cardigans and Pembrokes.



White Bread, Brown Bread, Line-bred, In-bred

A while back I took part in a survey of breeders for the American Cardigan Handbook which discussed the different styles of breeding – outcrossing, line-breeding and inbreeding and how different breeders utilized the different types.

Two of the questions I specifically remember were:

1) Which type of breeding has been your most successful – to that I answered inbreeding. (Grandfather to Granddaughter)

2) Which type of breeding has been your least succesful – and to that i answer inbreeding (Grandfather to Granddaughter – in fact a repeat breeding).

While that may sound ridiculous to some, the exact same breeding that produced Dolly, and little Rocky, repeated a year later, produced 5 wonderful pets – a mis-marked female, a a fluffy boy, a boy who just didn’t cut it, and two lovely boys with a pair of testicles between them.

Since the time of that survey I have had even more successful breedings taking the progeny of #1 and outcrossing in different directions.

So today I took this picture of Dolly, Dash and Jack.   I posted it with the comment that Dolly doesn’t produce puppies – she produces carbon copies of herself!  You have to excuse the muddy window that is a constant at this time of year!

Dolly Dash Jack cropped

How does she manage to do that – especially when bred to almost totally unrelated dogs? In fact there is a fourth mini-me that wasn’t in this picture – Patrick.

Each type of breeding has its own purpose.   My goal has been to take a fairly tightly line bred girl to a male of similar phenotype (what we see), but with more strength in the areas that the dam is lacking and a totally outcrossed pedigree – or as much as possible.

So how has this looked on paper?   I have done two grandfather/grandaughter breedings.  

The first was between Hunter and Ruby.  This produced the Gemstone Litter with a COI of
23.11%.  In that litter were Canadian Champions Yasashiikuma Imperial Jade and Yasashiikuma Xtacee Topaz, as well as Yasashiikuma Tiger’s Eye, who was lost due to an unfortunate accident.


When Jade was bred, she was bred to AM GCH Heart of Gold Power Play – a dog who himself had a COI of 13.4066%, and with some common ancestry in the 3rd and 4th generation.  This resulted in two litters with a COI of 12.58%

The first breeding produced a singleton puppy Yasashiikuma Lest We Forget (Dragoon). Dragoon is a champion in six countries including Canada, the USA and the UK, as well multiple group placer, #9 in the US for 2014 with limited showing, and winner of multiple specialty awards.

Dragoon - Gr 1 - McKinley KC

Dragoon – Gr 1 – McKinley KC

Repeating the breeding produced Yasashiikuma XIV K Scoutshonor (Baden) and Yasashiikuma Savannah Smiles (Savannah), RWD at the Tucson National and both American Champions and Russian Champion Yasashiikuma Do A Good Turn (Bronya)

Baden Win Pictures-page-001  Savannah Win 2014-page-001
 Bronya Russian Champion 20140512

Dragoon bred to Libby (Cdn Ch C-Myste Baledwr Yasashiikuma Liberty) produced Athena with a COI of 15.8277%, Canadian Champion and a miniature of her dad

Athena summer 2014When bred to an outside bitch he produced AM GCH ALD Speed Racer with a COI of 10.61%, also a multiple group placer and #8 in the US for 2014


Now onto the second close breeding and what has come as a result of it.  

This breeding was between Hunter and his granddaughter Am/Cdn Ch Yasashiikuma Scirocco.   This is the breeding that produced Dolly (Am GCH, Cdn GCH EX Yasashiikuma Smoky Mountn Maid, CGN, CGC, TDI, HIC, TT) as well as her litter sister “Little Rocky” (Cdn Ch. Yasashiikuma Emerald Mountain) both with a COI of 26.48% which is the highest that I have ever done.

BDIC dolly rockyjrnc

Dolly was then bred 4 times – each time to a totally outscrossed male of similar phenotype with a goal to adding more bone, and rear angulation

The first litter was sired by GCH Twinroc Santa Paws (Dickens) and resulted in a litter with a COI of 8.05%.   In this litter were Am/Cdn Ch. Yasashiikuma Dare to Dream Big (Dash), Am/UK/Hung/Lux Ch. Yasashiikuma Telltail Dbledare (Darren), Am GCH Yasashiikuma Dancehall Doctor (Justin) and NL/HU/HR Ch. Yasashiikuma Dragon Defender (Draco).  A multiple group placer, Crufts winner, two world dog show BOB winners, and a dual champion.

Dash Open Bitch CWCCWR 2013 Justin - Group 2 - June 2012 
DARREN 2013_WCC_BOB Draco_april2012_11 

The next litter (actually “lit”) was a singleton sired by Am GCH/Cdn CH Kingsbury’s I’m Harry P which produced Cdn Ch Yasashiikuma Trade Secret (Cara) who has a COI of only 2.65%.  She also has both her US majors showing only at specialties.

Cara small

Dolly’s third litter was sired by Am Ch. Joseter Grassanmore.  These puppies are just over a year old and have a COI of 9.69%.   The puppies that are being shown are UKC CH. Yasashiikuma I Am Not A Number (Patrick) who earned two 4-point majors on the Western Reserve Specialty weekend, Yasashiikuma Codename Intrepid (Duffy) who earned his first major at the supported entry in Raleigh last month, Yasashiikuma Diamonds R Furevr (Sean) who has just earned singles, and Yasashiikuma Femme Fatale (Natasha) who has been only shown in Canada.

Patrick Lorain KC 20140810121714_0001 Duffy BOB 20150124
Sean July 2014 Madison OH Natasha CWCCA 2014

 And finally the last litter born in December which was sired by Am GCH/Cdn Ch. Telltail Like a Rolling Stone (Mick).   This litter has a COI of 8.10%, and there are 4 puppies that will be making their debut at the Nationals.

Jack off side

Yasashiikuma Jumpin Jack Flash

Angie off side

Yasashiikuma Angie of Heulwen

Jolene judges side

Yasashiikuma Jaunty Jolene

Jacob judges side

Yasashiikuma Hwy Heading South

Four diffierent sires for four different litters resulting in puppies with an inbreeding co-efficient from a low of 2.65% up to 9.69%.   Yet the desired phenotype was maintained, and the desired improvments were achieved.

The next goal in the process will be to line breed the puppies from these breedings to set the improvements.   By going so far out on my outcrosses, I have left myself lots of opportunity to go in different directions.  I can breed these puppies together since the inbreeding co-effiecients are so low, I can breed a Dolly puppy to a Dragoon puppy (which is a plan for 2015), I can take a puppy to a progeny of one of the other puppies (planned for 2016). 

One of the problems I have seen over and over with breeders, in all breeds, not just Cardigans,  is that they breed themselves into a corner – leaving them no where to go when  a problem appears, such as a health issue.   By taking these bitches to good outcrossed males, I hope that I have avoided that issue in the future….but only time will tell!



Pruning the tree helps it develop stronger

Last weekend I wrote about my history from the beginning and how I went from my first champion to Dragoon and Savannah.   The tree, however, did not grow in  totally straight. There were many twists, turns  and some branches needed to be pruned off in order to develop a healthy line of dogs

So going back to the third generation, I had a nice girl named Abbey (Yasashiikuma Cinnamon Heart) that was the source of another branch of the family tree.

Abbey was bred twice to Hunter.   

judodkcThe first litter, born on the first night of Hannukah, was my Hannukah litter.   In this litter were two puppies I allowed friends to co-own, paying nothing for them.   Judith, pictured above, and Mike.  Unfortunately the co-owners of Judith divorced, and the husband decided he wanted her (out of spite) and I lost her in a court battle, getting paid less than I had expended on show entries and handling.  Apparently later he met a new girlfriend who didn’t like the dog and left her with his ex-wife, of course now spayed.   Mike’s co-owner took him to Ireland, and then dumped him.  Thankfully I did hear where he ended up and I was informed when he passed on a short while ago

The repeat of the litter, a year later was the Spice Litter.


Megan was a pretty girl with a lot of very nice attributes.   The youngest in a houseful of adult dogs she believed she was the princess until the arrival of her half-sister Gale a few months later.   Megan had a very short and satisfying road to her championship.  When I had asked others if there would be competition at the Orangeville show, I was told, “Oh no, the judges suck.  But we will be entering the Credit Valley show the next weekend”.  So I decided to enter Megan just for the ring practice, after all entries were only $9 a day back then!  To my surprise there were 8 other class dogs and bitches entered, and by going Best of Winners all three days she was at 9 points.  Only one point from her championship!  The next weekend, all that was entered was one special.  I thought it impossible, but we beat the special for the last point and Megan finished her championship!

Megan had a litter in 2003 sired by Am/Cdn Ch Phi-Vestavia Uriel of Careleon.   Sabra was from my “Liqueur Litter” and finished quite quickly.  She was a substantial bitch, with a pretty head, but needed a better front, and to be lower stationed.   

Sabra died suddenly while I was at a conference.   Not knowing what had killed her I had an autopsy done at Guelph, and learned more than I wanted to know about Chylothorax.  Sabra had one litter sired by Harry Potter and the girl I kept from that was Jaime, Yasashiikuma Cerydwen Sorceres.  (Yes, one S due to space limitations).

Jaime was a very pretty girl, and I had great hopes for her.   She had passed all her health clearancs with flying colours, I had plans to bred her, and then disaster struck.   In July 2009, Jaime also developed Chylothorax.  This time I knew the warning signs, and with great expense and a lot of praying, she came through it.  You can read about that time by clicking here.  Mother and daughter both having this was too much to ignore, so Jaime was spayed and that branch of the family tree was truncated  Happily, Jaime is in an absolutely wonderful pet home where they absolutely adore her and is doing well.

Megan’s second litter, born in 2004 was sired by Am/Cdn. Ch. McLea’s Admiral.   This was my Ice litter and the girl I kept was Cinder (CH. Yasashiikuma Fire and Ice)

Cinder was a very pretty girl with lovely movement, and finished quite quickly by 9 months old.   She had one litter for me – the Fire Crew born in 2008 and sired by Merrymoon Noblestar Jacob.   From this breeding there were two very nice puppies who did very well.

Ch. Yasashiikuma Burning Issue (Chief) is owned by Norman Dale of BC and was shown to his championship by Norm’s daughter.   On the road to his championship she earned a Group 3 with him, and was Best of Winners at the Canadian National in 2010. Not too shabby for her first show dog!

And the girl that I kept was Ember, (Ch. Yasashiikuma Slow Burn) who finished in a single weekend at the London shows, even defeating Dolly for the breed one day!   There was so much that I loved about this girl and would have loved to have carried on with her.  Unfortunately her hips were not good enough for me to carry on with, so another branch of the tree was truncated, and Ember lives with her half brother in Chicago.

Megan did have one more litter, unplanned by me, sired by her 9 month old nephew Spud.   That was my “loose ladies” litter, and they were all placed in pet homes.

So, unfortuantely, although there were some very nice puppies produced by this branch of the family tree, unfortunately none of these lines have been perpetuated, and Chief is my only option to carry on with.

For the next installment, I will go into the detail on the other two branches of the tree – the legacies of Gale and Libby.