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The Eyes Have It

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88 – April 2017


After more than five decades of owning and living with a variety of different breeds, I find the eyes have become increasingly more important to me. So much of the beauty of a dog is seen in his or her eyes. The eyes are one of the primary features that make a breed what it is. The size, shape and pigmentation contribute to painting a picture of the perfect head study. To truly appreciate a breed you must fully understand the picture of the head and the eyes as described in the breed stan- dard. And, the eyes are quite likely the most important part of a dog’s expression.

William Shakespeare is generally credited with the phrase, “The eyes are the window of the soul.” I think this is often more true of our canine companions than for human kind. Most of us are able to read the eyes of our dog, and we know if he or she is happy or not, content or if he or she has some need.

For me, the look that a dog gives is a very important detail. I can live with many faults in an individual dog, but I find it most difficult to accept terrible eyes or a faulty expression. Expression is so much more than just plain eyes.

Eyes and Skull Shape Go Together and Are a Matched Set

If a breed standard asks for a certain size, shape and quality of eye, that means a specific type of skull will be required. Very often, a big round skull is required to hold large round eyes. Con- versely, smaller almond shaped eyes will be found in a more el- egant and narrow skull. After a breeder has been able to minimize or eliminate any significant health and temperament issues, their focus can easily be shifted to concerns of physical construction. The sooner a breeder can direct their efforts to obtaining the proper skull shape and eyes, the better off they will be. A dog’s eyes and their contribution to the animal’s expression should never be undervalued. Correct eyes and expression will set an accomplished breeder far apart from the rest. Proper eyes and ex- pression are the trademark of a highly successful, well-established line. Eyes and expression are topics of serious discussion among judges, and correct eyes and expression will bring the serious inquiries of many prospective puppy purchasers.

The size and shape of the head is important, because in order to be able to breed for perfect eyes you must first have achieved their breeding aim of the perfect skull. With that done, it becomes an easier matter to breed for correct pigmentation. True, dark pigmentation is also important. Most judges are greatly disappointed when they see light or weak pigmentation. The genes giving rise to light eyes and weak pigmentation must be held at bay and it is sad to see how many breeders have failed with pigment. Incorrect pigmentation is not an issue breeders should be willing to compromise on at all. After the size and shape of the eyes along with pigmentation have been addressed, then the breeder can direct their full efforts to the improvement of overall expression.

Click here to read the complete article
88 – April 2017

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