Canine Structure and Movement from a Functional Standpoint
"Everyone involved in the sport of purebred dogs is to some degree a judge, whether they be breeder, owner, judge or exhibitor in field, obedience, or show. They all need to be able to evaluate structure to determine their dog's ability to function. This evaluation should be based on knowledge."
~ Thelma R. Brown and Edward M. Gilbert, Jr.
In order to accomplish the ability to evaluate structure, one needs to study, study, and study some more! Books, videos, seminars, mentorships with respected breeders and judges, observing the breed working and playing-- all are educational tools. The list of references for this seminar contains all the basic texts for learning about canine structure and movement.
What adjectives come to mind when you look at the three photos below? Fearlessness, certainly, but think in terms of physical attributes. I think of compact, strong, agile, muscular, sturdy, quick, fast, and so on.
The sport of agility also reveals the same physical structural needs as working stock, as you can see in the photos at the bottom of this page.
Beginning at the front, let's look at the structural needs of an Australian shepherd:
- An arched neck is stronger than a ewe neck.
- Well laid-back shoulder blades produce a smooth gait, and allow the entire front assembly to serve as a shock absorber, especially when the elbows are directly below the point of withers. This allows for the point of shoulder to be angulated to such a degree that the dog is able to reach forward adequately.
- Straight legs provide the strongest column of support for the weight of the body. The forequarters of dogs must carry more than half of the body's weight
- A slight slope to the pasterns when viewed from the side is needed to also serve as a shock absorber, especially on hard surfaces, and a short pastern is better for endurance.
- Compact, oval feet are the best for a dog that needs to have endurance, high initial speed and jumping ability, as well as providing the best traction on hard ground.
- A level topline is indicative of a strong back.
- A moderate slope to the croup allows for a normal pelvis structure, which determines rear angulation and facilitates balanced movement/reach of the rear legs.
- A deep chest (not wide) maximizes the heart and lung room, while permitting efficiency of front movement.
- Well bent stifles allow for greater flexibility of the rear leg, and are needed for speed, smooth trotting, and jumping.
- Short rear pasterns (metatarsi) help with endurance, and moderate hock angles allow for quickness combined with endurance.
- Convergence of front and rear legs when gaiting is important for smoothness and agility.
All these factors contribute to the soundness of a working Aussie, and allow him to perform a multitude of amazing feats, whether working livestock, or running an agility course, or playing frisbee, or just playing with each other in the backyard.
~ Gail N. Karamalegos
~ Encino Design Group ~
© Copyright 2004. Eastex Australian Shepherd Club, Inc. All rights reserved.