March 7, 2015
by Sally Futh, Starberry Collies
Condition is a word which means different things to different people.
To many Collie breeder-exhibitors, it usually means whether or not a dog is in coat.
Another thing which is discussed, ad nauseam, is whether or not judges favor professional handlers. In these days of clusters and never-ending shows, can the owner-handler compete? And whether the dog which is presented with glitz and bling, perfectly groomed, even sculpted, trained and shown to perfection, has an unfair advantage – does he too often beat the better, more correct, dog with less glamour and maybe, not as well conditioned?
Well, believe it or not, I believe that these questions have a lot in common.
Condition to the true professional, whether handler or breeder, means a dog which is at the top of his form. He is not only in full bloom of healthy coat, at his best fighting weight, but he is fit and ready to do the job for which he was originally bred. This does not mean able just to go down and back in the ring, but to move out with reach AND drive, ready to go on trotting effortlessly all day. It is not only the German Shepherd who must be conditioned to move, and move, and move, as happens at their specialties here and abroad. Maybe some judges only notice whether the entry crosses or paddles, moves wide or too close behind, but it is equally obvious when the hindquarters lack muscling which propels the dog effortlessly at a smooth, flowing trot. No amount of conditioning can improve a straight front and its resultant choppy short gait, but building up the muscles can, indeed, do a lot to make a properly built dog execute a superior “down and back” or “take them ‘round” -- which can make the difference when the chips are down. This, too, is knowledge the professional has gained which can make a difference.
Condition to the true professional, whether handler or breeder, means a dog which is at the top of his form. He is not only in full bloom of healthy coat, at his best fighting weight, but he is fit and ready to do the job for which he was originally bred.
When our daughter went to her first real three-day competition (as opposed to one-day horse trial) she had less than six weeks to get her horse fit. It was a spur of the moment event at the Olympic site, and a spur of the moment decision to go to Canada to compete. Her trainer said she could do it because "Fred" already had a base upon which to build the additional fitness needed to complete a mile-long steeplechase at 450 meters per minute as well as three miles over fences at 400 mpm. But it took serious conditioning -- alternating between slow hill work, gallops, relaxing trail hacks, and more galloping. That is what it took to make a winner, who competed without even breathing hard, and came out next morning ready to take on the show jumping with a joyful buck at the end.
Roadwork, ball chasing, regular serious long walks, letting your competitor out to play with kennelmates every day, even when you have to dig a path around the yard in foot deep snow, (just one foot?) is the way to have a Collie which is truly “in condition.”