by Sherry Gibson
Note: This article was written about a coated herding breed. Nevertheless, the descriptions of sound movement and structure apply equally to many breeds, including the Shih Tzu. A Shih Tzu was bred to be a companion dog not a working one. It is smaller and may not be able to leap as high as a Puli. Its head is quite different, and its coat is not corded. Nevertheless, a Shih Tz, like a Puli, u is supposed to move efficiently with a dead-level topline and be well-balanced front and rear. In most cases, referring to the Illustrated Guide to the Shih Tzu Breed Standard that appears elsewhere on this website and substituting the word “Shih Tzu” for “Puli” in the article below should help you to understand whether what the movement underneath the “curtain of hair” common to both breeds is correct or incorrect.
Breeders, exhibitors and judges have often heard of the “Puli bounce.” What exactly does that mean? For the average Puli owner, it refers to the athleticism and elasticity of the dog as well as the breed’s lively spirit and their ability to spring straight up and look you in the eye. Most Puli owners agree that this is one of the most endearing traits of the breed.
The term should not, however, be descriptive of the Puli’s gait. Like any dog that was bred to do an honest day’s work, the Puli should move efficiently with no wasted motion. A young Puli moving at a collected trot may appear to be bouncing, but that is an illusion created by the motion of the immature coat and the springiness in the pasterns. A dog that is moving up and down when he is trying to go forward is not moving efficiently, no matter what the breed.
It can be a challenge to assess movement on a fully coated Puli, but there are reference points one can use to make the task easier. When the Puli is coming straight at you, focus on the dog’s nose. It should remain level and not move up and down or from side to side. (There is a similar reference point when the dog is going away, but it is not as pleasant to look at.) Viewed from the side, the topline must remain level as the dog moves. At a collected trot, there will be some springiness to the dog’s movement in side-gait, but the back should remain strong and level. At an extended trot, a Puli should move like a hovercraft. Any deviation is due to structural imperfections. The movement should be effortless and smooth, not bouncing.
Excess up-and-down motion in the rear making the cords fly can appear very showy but it is due to the movement fault known as bicycling, where the movement of the hind feet is vertical with no extension in the rear. Bicycling occurs when the angulation in the rear exceeds that in the front. Because the dog’s front feet can’t get out of the way, the forward motion of the rear legs is restricted, and the dog kicks out behind instead of reaching under and pushing back efficiently. On a smooth coated breed, this movement fault would be obvious, but in a Puli, it can often be mistaken for the mythical “bounce” that judges have heard discussed.
The gait should maintain a steady cadence with no break in stride. Occasionally one will see a Puli who appears to be moving smoothly and then will suddenly give a little hop in the rear. This is incorrect and indicative of a structural problem – it is not the infamous Puli bounce. No dog should move with a skipping hop every fourth or fifth step. Doing so is a sign that something is wrong under the coat.
No one should use the term “Puli bounce” as an excuse for incorrect movement. The Puli is a sheepherder, bred to possess the stamina and endurance necessary for its age-old task of herding sheep on the plains of Hungary. Anything that interferes with that ability is not acceptable.
This article first appeared in the September, 2010, AKC Gazette and is reprinted with permission.