Seminar on Structure
On Saturday, Kate and I attended a seminar on structure with Pat Hastings, sponsored by the Kennebec Valley Shetland Sheepdog Club. It was a highly informative day.
Pat prefaced the day by saying that she has had no formal training in veterinary medicine or orthopedics — what she was sharing was the product of her own experience working as a handler, breeder and AKC judge, from evaluating many litters of puppies, and from working with veterinary orthopedists and, yes, structural engineers. She also admitted that she doesn’t fully understand everything going on in dwarf breeds, so nothing was presented with a gods-gift-to-knowledge sort of attitude.
There was a LOT of information, and I’m not sure I’ve completely processed all of it yet, but one thing I got out of it was that, individual breeds and breed standards aside, there are basic laws of physics, and structure interacts with those laws of physics the same way, whether applied to a Corgi, a Collie, or a Doberman. A straight shoulder is going to impose the same limitations, regardless of breed. The same with a straight rear, a slipped hock, or whatnot. Much of what was covered were things that I was unaware of, so I’m happy to have some more tools in my tool belt when it comes to evaluating puppies and adult dogs.
We ran a little overtime, so the section on nutrition was perhaps more truncated than it might have been otherwise, but it was very interesting. One thing Pat mentioned from her years of doing litter evaluations was that with respect to nutrition and how it affects development in puppies, the only food she had seen that was 100% successful in the litter that had been reared on it was Purina Pro Plan ADULT formula. The only food that was 100% UNsuccessful was Purina Pro Plan PUPPY formula.
Warnings about not using puppy food are not exactly new, but trust me: the photos of nutritionally malformed puppies that accompanied this talk were extremely convincing, not to mention upsetting. I don’t know how it goes that far without someone saying, “OMG, what the heck is the matter?!” and doing something about it. What was astonishing were the changes that switching the diet made in as little as one week. Pat emphasized that there was no such thing as ONE correct food; the correct food is whatever works, be it a brand of kibble, a prepared raw diet, a homemade raw diet, or what-have-you.
I’ve heard warnings to take the information that Pat presents with a grain of salt. Honestly, that’s kind of a no-brainer. I mean, we have critical reasoning skills for a reason — I don’t take ANYTHING at face value, especially not when it comes to dogs. But I firmly believe that there is no such thing as too much knowledge; it’s up to each of us to sort through the information presented to us with a critical eye, and weigh it against our own experience.
I came away from the seminar with lots to think about — but I’m pretty sure I’ve learned some useful things. And now I have even more things to look for in my own dogs. I haven’t put them each up on the stacking box to drawn mental lines through them yet, but I did test everyone for slipped hocks and ewe-necks as soon as I came through the door.
After all, the more you know, the more paranoid you can be about your own dogs and breeding program.