“Down and Back, Please” by Dan Harrison

 

The ‘down and back’ is a useful tool for assessing soundness, coming and going, in a typy, well-made dachshund. When I send them down on the diagonal, I am checking to see those rear legs moving straight and true, with hocks and feet parallel to each other, moving effortlessly with drive, never hocky or close , showing me those rear pads. I want them moving neither too wide, nor toed in nor throwing a foot to the side, but straight, true and with little effort. On the return, I want to see that wraparound front moving close to the body and reaching forward, again, effortlessly and smoothly. I do not want to see flipping or waving or an airplane propeller, but most particularly I do not want to see one moving too wide with the resultant almost rocking from side to side, nor do I want to see one moving TOO close and crossing over. I also want that body moving smoothly in a straight line, not doing a serpentine, rocking back and forth, side to side or bouncing up and down. 

In assessing this movement, all it takes is a few steps and, IMO, a dog can be judged either as unsound or sound enough for its purpose in those few steps. As valuable as this view is, it is far too often over-used and not kept in perspective. For instance, there is the judge who insists that the dog must move perfectly every long step all the way down to the end and back, making no allowances for the less than ring-wise beginner or puppy. To those judges, I say this is not ‘canine dressage’ and puppies or beginning dogs can anticipate corners and maybe side wind for a few steps, but that misbehavior in no way takes away from what you have already seen as its typical movement when it was behaving and tracking . We are judging breeding stock, not training. A judge must distinguish between naughty behavior, little ring experience, poor training and bad construction. 

Another way this down and back is over-used is by the unsure judge. Once you have assessed the entry as either sound enough or not sound enough, is there ANY reason to keep sending them up and back? I can understand maybe once as a refresher, but, if at the end of a large class, you are sending them down and back for the fifth or sixth time, might I suggest instead that you send them around so that you can see more breed specific points from the side, like their topline, station,reach and drive and if they are maintaining that elusive Dachsund profile with their forechest sticking out for all to see with a great head carriage and set-on of neck? These attributes are more important than yet another view of the up and down and I would hope any entry not sufficiently ‘sound’ coming and going would not still be in consideration. 

I am in no way denigrating the value of soundness, but just think that many who rely so much on this tool are the very ones who are desperately looking for faults, not virtues. As a breeder and a judge, I am always on the lookout for excellence and as many virtues as I can find. I want it all: soundness, beauty, type, structure, side movement, temperament, everything. No great ones can be great ones if they are unsound, but again, no great ones attain that level JUST because they are sound, much less the soundEST. There are just so many more breed specific points that should tip the scale before we place so much emphasis on the generic ‘down and back’.

 

Dan Harrison, Spring 2012