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Written by Juha Kares
Published in Best in Show Annual 2015
In my studies of the wonderful world of pedigree one issue has risen above all others. After owning and living for decades with a big variety of different breeds the eyes have become the detail of the details. It is all about the eyes. Eyes are the feature that really makes the breed. Shape, pigmentation, size and expression make the picture perfect. To really understand the breed you must understand the look. The eyes are the most important part of the expression. For me the look that a dog gives is the most important detail of them all. I can live with many faults – but I tell you I can ´t live with terrible eyes or with faulty expression. Eyes are the mirror to the soul in dogs as well. If you understand the breed enough, you can read the eyes of your dogs. You can see if the dog is well, relaxed and happy. In my own house every single dog must have perfect expression. Expressio is so much more than just plain eyes.
Eyes are the mirror to the soul of pedigree dogs. Our Estrella Mountain Dog Ch Lil Folks Xtravaganza tells with her eyes that she is very confident in all occasions. There is the power and confidence a real guardian should have. I feel safe just looking into these soulful eyes.
Eyes and skull go together.
Often if the eyes are what the breed standard asks for also the skull must be about right. Very often a big round skull goes with large round eyes, an elegant narrow skull goes often with almond shaped, smaller eyes and so forth. I do believe that the breeder must sooner or later after getting the structure, health and mental issues in shape get to the head and finally the eyes. The eyes and expression are the details that will separate the real talented breeder from the rest. I feel that eyes are the trademark of any well established line if the breeder has done the homework well.
To be able to breed perfect eyes you first have to breed perfect skulls and heads. The size of head is important. Later it is very much a matter of taking care of the pigmentation. Dark true pigmentation is so important. I hate to see light and weak pigmentation. That is an issue I am not willing to compromise on. I can tell you that weak pigment and light eyes take over very easily. It is sad to see how many breeders have failed with pigment. After the shape, size and pigmentation is in control we get to the most difficult feature-expression.
With eyes you should never exaggerate – size model
I personally feel with eyes you should never exaggerate no matter the breed. Eyes should never be overly large or super tiny. Eyes should not be bulging or very deep in a sound dog. The proper eyelid is an important part of the look. It must be sound and healthy. A very good basic principle regarding the size of eyes which works specially with toydogs is that the eyes are very large if they are bigger than the nose of the dog. The eyes are big if the size is about the same as the nose. The eyes are medium if they are slightly smaller than nose. This all depends of course on the size of the nose of the breed, but in general this model can be used as an indicator. The eyes are small if they are much smaller than the nose. The eyes are very small if they are half or less of the size of the nose.
Pigmentation, shape and placement of the eyes gives the appealing Bichon Frise look presented by BIS winning Junior World Winner Chic Choix Diamella Le Figaro
The expression must indicate the gender of the dog
Often the gender of the dog must be visible from the eyes. Male and female must have different expressions. This is because male skulls should be slightly stronger than female heads. Therefore male eyes are slightly bigger than female eyes. Eyes are very much a part of the masculinity or femininity. A dog must be quite poor in details if the sex can´t be told from the head and eyes. This is what eyes are all about. It is one of the most important parts of the fine details. Gender is very much part of all that. The look of the male eyes is often more open than the modest female look. The very best show dogs can even flirt with their eyes.
The eyes have very much to do with the origin and type of the breed
The deepest secret with truly superior eyes that every breeder and judge should look for is the expression – how the dog uses its eyes. Do these eyes indicate the sparkle, softness, wickedness, soundness or charisma that the breed should have. I feel that is so important. The Lhasa eyes are nothing even if being dark, the right size and shape if the look is not somewhat arrogant. This means the dog must have very strong nerves and true charisma. As you look into the perfect Lhasa eyes you do understand that this dog is originally coming from Tibet. The Lowchen look is nothing without sparkle and softness. Deerhound eyes must be gentle and soulful. Every breed has its own special look. Very often to be able to produce that perfect look all the details must be taken care of. Eyes are always the deepest indicator of the purpose and origin of the breed. Every environment has produced eyes for a reason and we must respect that. But it is not only about genes.
The Lhasa expression must be impressive, arrogant, noble and strong. With every breed you must see the difference. The nose is always bigger than the eyes because the Lhasa is a Tibetan breed. They must have large noses. Multi BIS winning World winners Chic Choix Alexander The Great and sister Chic Choix Cleopatra Eurydice.
You can see the mental qualities and mental well being in the eyes of a dog.
The icing of the cake is the tender loving care that the owner gives to his dogs. All the attention and love that is given to the dog reflects. The dog knows it is very special. The look is secure and full of love. These are the eyes I want to see in my household and in breeding. These are the eyes I would like to see in show rings and in other’s breeding programs. Believe me, a truly talented breeder will produce perfect eyes and expression or otherwise something very important is missing. I have come to a point that I can´t use or tolerate bad eyes at all. Why should I? True beauty and understanding of the breed lies in the eyes.
The Basenji breed standard says: Eyes. Dark, almond-shaped, obliquely set, far-seeing and rather inscrutable in expression. This look is presented by Golden Stars of Swala Pala. This look matches so perfectly with this breeds unique mental qualities.