Height Limits for a reason!
It is becoming increasingly common to see major variations in Australian Cattle Dogs in the conformation ring. The specified height range as set out by the official A.N.K.C. breed standard is:
An extract from the "Breed Talk" column of the Top Dog Journal titled
"Australian Cattle Dogs" by Kath Williams.
Per kind permission of Top Dog Journal.
Height is measured at the withers and the ideal way to accurately gauge correct height if you don't have access to an A.N.K.C. S.V. measuring stick, is to use a graduated stick or t-square and a spirit level, with the dog standing on a firm and level surface. It is obvious that those who should know better are ignoring the height requirements of the standard.
- Dogs: 46-51cms (18-20ins)
- Bitches: 43-48cms (17-19ins)
Some incredible examples are:
The breeder who advised his dog would mature to "at least 24ins at the wither".
The owner that proudly advised his stud "stands at 55cms", but who retracted his statement when I told him I was looking for a dog that complied with the standard.
The exhibitor who was told by two different judges that her 16 month old bitch was too small. This bitch, still immature, has been accurately measured and is 45cms (17.5ins)
Have breeders, judges and exhibitors forgotten what the Australian Cattle dog's prime function is? A dog that is too tall will not be able to easily heel cattle and will not be able to flatten himself on the ground to avoid being kicked, thus increasing the risk to both dog and beast. I have yet to meet a cattleman who prefers his dog to bite the rump of his beasts. Bruising in this area actually causes financial loss in beef cattle sold to meatworks.
A dog that is too tall is often bigger overall, which can lead to a reduction in the working ability of the dog. Some breed lines do mature at an earlier stage than do others, and the most common observation is that many "working strains" mature at a slower rate than their cousins that are bred (and fed) solely for conformation exhibition.
It is often seen that an early maturing pup "falls apart" by the time it reaches 12-18mths. Puppies should look like puppies, and the awkward stages they go through are part of the growing process.
Height recording at maturity, with height being certified by controlling bodies in some form of official document, is probably the best answer. Or, we can rely on judges to pay more attention. Judges can only work with the dogs they are presented with by breeders and exhibitors. Then of course, some breeders will state they need to breed taller dogs to beat their competition, and the cycle will never be broken.
Breeders should honestly evaluate the height of their stock and avoid height extremities - there are enough sound, good quality Australian Cattle Dogs of correct height to prevent the incline towards overly tall dogs. Judges should do their bit as well and have more regard for the correct height specifications of the breed.
Too many Australian Cattle Dogs are being penalised for appearing small when exhibited against taller counterparts. Keep in mind the words of an experienced all breeds judge,"the better dog always looks smaller in the ring". Keep in mind that a dog that stands at 51cm is a full 8cm or three ins taller than a bitch that stands at 43cm or 17ins, yet both are within the height limits of the standard.
Most importantly, keep in mind that the breed has a height limit for a reason !!!