Where is typical movement going?
Movement must not blind to type
As We See It - Side Movement
Harry Clark and Faith Clark
Broad Run, Virginia
Structure as it relates to movement seems to baffle a great many
exhibitors. Knowledge of anatomy, physics, are appreciation and genetics are
all involved in this pursuit of a perfect, clean-moving dog.
Why is this important? Why not just depend on the stack or "still
picture"? First, because our breed has a purpose - finding and flushing game
birds and small animals. Our standard was created to relay information
important to breeders attempting to maintain this usable type of dog.
Secondly, a "stacked" picture tends to enforce an exaggerated vision of this
"type" as this is easier for a judge to pick out - the one with more neck,
more coat, etc. These animals are useful, of course, but if they can't use
their bodies, getting from beginning to end of a day's run with a minimum of
stress to the body - I have to question the real usefulness of a "beautiful"
head on a dog that isn't big enough to hold game in its mouth, a rear so
long the animal spends most of its energy trying to compensate, or the
no-reach fronts - a whole day of such "pounding" would make the birdiest dog
fairly useless - tired and sore.
Determining soundness - also part of the judging sequence - is
often reduced to watching the front and rear, straight down and back, or
watching only the topline on the side view. Rolling, crabbing, high-lifting
fronts or pounding fronts are ignored. "Toy" type no-extension movement is
also rewarded. So, it is up to breeders and exhibitors, not judges, to work
on producing better movement in their animals.
Working with us in presenting these ideas has been a dear friend,
Kim Llewellyn. She not only is a fine artist, graphic artist and art
director, she has owned English Cockers for many years. (Her mother's dog is
also an English Cocker.) Kim's current English Cocker, Teddy, goes for walks
and greets all the children near their Brooklyn, New York home, has flown
all over the country with Kim and always accompanies her to the airport
where Kim skydives! He also attends skiing events in the winter. Kim's work
will be recognizable to some of you. She has worked on The Simpsons, and
"Life in Hell" (the Matt Groenig cartoon characters) and also illustrates
books for Random House and Sports Illustrated, to name a few! She is
eminently qualified to enter the discussion on what an English Cocker CAN BE.
The English Cocker breed does not exist to be a pretty statue. It
exists for a dynamic purpose: that of working with a hunter on foot (not on
horseback) to find, flush, and retrieve to hand smaller upland game birds
from open fields, brush, streams and/or small ponds. The AKC standard for
our breed very clearly specifies the kind of ground-covering gait (structure
in motion) which the ideal English Cocker must have to equip it for that
purpose. And any English cocker whose total structure in action does not
meet the gait requirements of our standard is thereby a poor EC, no matter
what cosmetic virtues it might boast (pretty eye, nice ear set, proper coat,
good outline, etc.) when set up or photographed in statuesque immobility. In
the EC ring, if anywhere, "handsome is as handsome DOES."
As in all breeds, EC movement is judged in three steps. First, the
dog is moved away from the judge so he can assess the trueness of the dog's
rear movement, which should go evenly fore and aft, neither wobbling, toeing
in nor toeing out (cow-hocking). Second, the dog is gaited back toward the
judge, so he can assess the trueness of its front action, which again should
go straight fore and aft, neither pin-toeing (toeing in) nor fiddle-fronting
Since in both cases the dog's gait closely follows the way it
looks when stacked normally, and since there are plenty of fore and aft
stacked illustrations, these two aspects of judging EC movement are widely
and well understood and applied.
The same is not true, however, in the third and most critical
phase of assessing EC movement: assessing from the side how well the dog's
front and rear work together to cover ground in the manner required to cover
ground in the manner required in our standard. For this phase, there are
scarcely any photographs or drawings widely available for guidance. It is
the first purpose of this article, then, to fill that void in terms
understandable by all. Our second and concluding purpose, breeding and
selecting for ideal movement, will be covered in later sections of this
The visual data source for our work was Harry's personal files of
EC side-movement pictures going back over 30 years. From these we selected
eight photos of dogs who (a) were widely considered models of fine side
movement, but which (b) have been dead for over a decade or more. These we
felt exemplified most clearly the movement ideal of our standard.
We found working with Kim on this project to be a real learning
experience. Artwork is not like photographs, done in an instant and finished
overnight. Rather, giving attention to every detail, maintaining proportion
and creating a correct learning tool is a tough business - one which is
time-consuming, laborious, and requiring a lot of thought between original
idea and finished drawing. We are grateful to Kim for her patience and skill
in working with us to this result. With this foundation laid, we hope to
work further with Kim to illustrate common faults, if her schedule permits!
But be assured, the faults to be illustrated, whether photos or drawings,
will be on dogs of ours, not anyone else's. We've had our share of both good
and bad, just as we all have, and have no desire to embarrass anyone else.
Reprinted from The English Cocker Quarterly - Fall 1993
More on Balance and Movement
From "Showing And Judging Dogs"
by Hilary Harmer
Looking at the dog from the front the inclination on which the
shoulder blade lies on the rib cage will affect the position of the foreleg
to attain static balance when the dog is standing. The static center of
gravity of each shoulder blade is roughly the center and in order to have
static balance the dog must place his heel or the inner edge of the heel
vertically under the center of the shoulder blade.
Kinetic balance deals with forces in motion. When a dog commences
to move, he will move from the position of his static balance and as his
speed increases, in order to procure maximum efficiency in movement, the
legs, when seen from the front or the rear, must incline inwards towards a
longitudinal central line in order to maintain kinetic balance. The faster
the dog moves, the more his legs will incline inwards until the speed is
reached where he will single-track in order to maintain his balance. It is
absolutely imperative that it be understood that the alignment of the bones
from the center of the shoulder blade, when viewed from the front, to the
center of the foot must be in one straight line, but it is not a vertical
line. The same applies to the hindleg when seen from behind. The bone
alignment from the hip joint to the foot must also be in a straight line but
not a vertical line, except when the dog is standing.
EXPERIMENT OF HUMAN KINETIC BALANCE AS A SIMPLE EXPERIMENT:
STAND WITH YOUR LEGS SLIGHTLY APART SO THAT EACH FOOT IS DIRECTLY UNDERNEATH ITS RESPECTIVE HIP JOIN.
NOW TRY TO WALK FORWARD KEEPING THE LEGS AT THE SAME DISTANCE APART WITH THE FEET FACING DIRECTLY FORWARD.
THIS IS HOW SOME PEOPLE EXPECT THE DOG TO MOVE FORWARD.
YOU WILL NOTICE IMMEDIATELY THAT IT IS AN UNNATURAL MOVEMENT, BESIDES BEING AN AWKWARD AND UNGAINLY WAY OF WALKING.
THERE IS NO EFFICIENCY OR ECONOMY OF MOVEMENT.
YOU WILL NOTICE AS YOU MOVE FORWARD, THAT THE BODY HAS TO SWAY FROM SIDE TO SIDE IN ORDER TO MAINTAIN ITS BALANCE.
IT IS CERTAINLY NOT A NATURAL NOR AN ATTRACTIVE WAY OF WALKING.
IT IS EVEN MORE UNGAINLY WHEN RUNNING.
Next try walking normally then fast and finally break into a run.
You will notice immediately that at the fast speed you will be
single-tracking too and your legs will be inclining inwards from your hips
and will no longer be on a perpendicular plane to the ground, as when you
first started to move. Your legs and feet, unless you are flat-footed, will
still be in a straight line from hip to foot just as is required in a dog
moving, or any other animal for that matter. If, however, you have a
weakness at your ankles and your feet turn inwards or outwards, then the
straight alignment of your joints from hip to foot will be broken and you
will be moving unsoundly. This is the equivalent of the dog moving close. If
you happen to be knock-kneed (and most women are), and turn your feet out ,
then you have a similar double fault like a cow or a dog that is "out at
elbow" and has weak, turned-out pasterns. The required straight line from
your hip to foot will be broken in two places, at the knees and at the
ankle. In the cow-hocked dog the desired straight line, as seen from the
rear is also broken twice, once at the stifle, throwing the hocks together,
and again at the hocks, throwing the feet outwards.
At the slower speeds the inclination of the dog's legs in-wards is
much less in comparison than with the fast speeds. But whatever the speed,
the importance is the straight alignment of the bones and joints from
shoulder to pad and from hip to pad in order to procure maximum performance
with the minimum of effort.
There are unfortunately still too many people who do not perceive
the difference between single-tracking and moving close. It is the
difference between a sound dog and an unsound one. When a dog is moving fast
and single-tracks at speed, his lugs seen from the front are inclined
inwards and the bone and joint alignment from the center of the shoulder
blade to the center of the pad must be in one straight line. If the
forward-moving leg brushes or interferes with the weight-bearing leg, then
there is a constructional fault, and the alignment of bone and joints will
not be in a straight line. If the alignment is correct and straight, then
there will be a fault in timing or a constructional body fault.
The difference between moving close and single-tracking is that,
when viewed from the front or the rear, the column of bones is not in a
straight line: it is generally broken by the pasterns which either turn in
or out. From the rear it may be the hocks which break the straight line of
the bone assembly and this will be seen with cow-hocked dogs. This fault is
a great weakness, because the line is broken twice between the hip and the
POUNDING AND PADDING
Pounding and padding are both caused by the same faults, an
upright shoulder blade, which is frequently combined with too strong a rear
action. Pounding is when the dog takes no action to compensate for the
fault. Padding is the evasive action of a hackney gait which the dog
employs, in order to lessen the excessive shock to the whole of the front of
the dog through the pad.