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Conformation

Karen Hedberg has kindly given us permission to use these articles on our web page

 

Construction in Relation to Movement

   This article is an attempt to give a shortened version about construction as it relates to movement of the dog.  The whys and wherefores of the main points are discussed. Should you wish to pursue this further, there are several very good books that explain construction and movement in greater detail.

    Before we analyse the points of the dog, an overall view of the animal must first be obtained. How does the animal appear to you? Does it look like a representative of its breed? Is it balanced in its angulations front to rear? When moving, is your impression one of all parts flowing harmoniously, or three dogs trying to move at the one time?

    To assess soundness of construction and movement, it is important to understand the 'bits' that make up the dog. Every dog has the same type and number of bones (apart from length of tail) but the relative lengths of the bones give the great variation of appearance to the breeds. There are ideal proportions written down for each breed (the 'standard'), but the basic bone structure is similar. Ideal proportions for each breed usually relate to two main areas:- 1. height (at the wither) to length (from the point of the chest or prosternum to the rear edge of the pelvis or ischium) and 2. depth of chest (wither to the lower edge of the chest) to length of leg (usually measured from the point of the elbow to the ground). The proportions combined with the angulations that are ideal for the breed combine to produce the characteristic movement of the breed.

 

Think of the dog as a system of levers and pulleys. The back acts as a bridge connecting the front and rear assemblies. If the ratio of the lengths of the bones of the front and rear are even, then the dog is balanced for that breed. The ideal lengths vary between breeds, but the principle always holds.

When trying to justify why relative lengths of different bones give better movement than others, one can go quite insane if you try to fit all breeds of dog to the one ideal. Having bred German Shepherds, my idea of an ideal construction is very different to someone with a toy dog or a Greyhound. The best way to look at dog construction is through function. What is the function of the breed, what is the characteristic movement for that breed and so on.

 

Movement and construction by function

To try to group different construction and movement 'styles', I would divide dogs into three broad categories:-

1. The walking or strutting dog, e.g. Fox Terrier.

2. The trotting dog, e.g. the German Shepherd.

3. The galloping dog, e.g. the Greyhound.

 

    All the breeds range between these three types depending on size, function and individual breed selection characteristics eg. Such as the need to work in muddy conditions in the Belgian Shepherds, others are required to be exceptionally flexible and nimble eg the Kelpie.

 

Type 1 - the walking or strutting breeds. These breeds have a short bouncy action, where quite often the forequarter assembly is steep, they often have short backs with a reasonable turn of hindquarter for agility. The pasterns are often short and upright, usually asking for short tight feet. An example of this is the Fox Terrier.

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