The Kennel Club has reworded the relevant section of the Descriptions and Explanatory Notes for Obedience Tests. All handlers and judges should be aware of the new wording which will be effective from 1st January 2017.
These amendments have come about as a result of concerns expressed within the world of canine activities, and particularly obedience, about a small number of dogs which appear to have been taught to hold a position in heelwork which entails the dog effectively walking on its pasterns.
This poses a potential issue with regard to the health and welfare of dogs which must remain paramount in all Kennel Club licensed events. Judges should be aware that dogs should be balanced, with rear pasterns vertical, and that dogs which do not conform to this standard must be penalised as a major fault.
1. Question: Why has it been decided to do this now?
Answer: The health and welfare of dogs at Kennel Club licensed shows is always at the heart of the work of the decisions made by the General Committee and its Sub-Committees. Where the Kennel Club identifies a potential problem which it considers compromises the health and welfare of a dog the Kennel Club has an obligation to take action where it can.
2. Question: The press release talks about dogs walking on their pasterns. What does this mean?
Answer: This is when a dog walks in a crouched way with its hind legs almost horizontal to the floor and in some cases where the lower part of the hind leg makes contact with the ground, instead of the dog walking with vertical pasterns and is upright on its feet.
3. Question: What does “maintaining its natural topline mean”?
Answer: The natural topline of a dog is the shape of its back when it is walking naturally. A dog should walk in as natural a manner as possible. The duty of care expected of a judge is that of the experienced competitor who would be aware of what is normal and therefore should be able to appreciate significant deviation from the normal.
4. Question: This Regulation does not have any marks allocated to it, therefore how can it be penalised?
Answer: Marks should be deducted from whichever exercise the judge sees the dog not working with a natural topline.
5. Question: How many marks should be deducted?
Answer: The Kennel Club does not dictate how many marks should be deducted for any errors in obedience but this should be marked appropriately for a major fault.
6. Question: What can I do if I do not consider a judge is marking correctly in relation to this amended regulation?
Answer: Your detailed concerns should be recorded in the show’s incident book.
7. Question: Some dogs work with a high head carriage and with a natural topline but without its back end being close to the ground. Should this be penalised?
Answer: No, if the dog is working with a natural topline, for its breed or shape then it should not be penalised. However if its backend is tucked in whilst walking and its pastern are not vertical then this should be marked as a major fault.
8. Question: How will dogs currently competing which might be in contravention of this new regulation be viewed by judges. Surely there should be some form of transition period to allow for dogs to be retrained?
Answer: If a dog is not working in a happy manner with a natural topline at a show after 1 January 2017 this should be penalised by the judge. The health and welfare of dogs competing in all its activity disciplines is of paramount importance to the Kennel Club and therefore it was felt this should be addressed immediately.