Why is the Standard Important to Pet Owners – Part 3

Today we will address the midsection of the dog – basically the ribcage and loin.

While considering the angle to approach this from many thoughts came to mind.  The ribcage serves the purpose of protecting the vital organs of dog from injury – the heart, lungs stomach and spleen.   As many other “protective” comparisons came to mind, e.g Drivers cages in race cars, contact sport protection equipement – but truly the best comparison is human anatomy.

Internal Organs of the human

The rib cage is our protection for our internal organs.  However, while it has to cover all of those important organs it must also be large enough to allow the lungs to expand fully.   So not only does is need to be LONG enough to cover all of those delicate organs, but also wide enough to allow the lungs to expand.

So how can you tell how long your dog’s ribcage actually is?  You can easily feel for the last rib, but in pictures you tell by where the “tuck up” in the underline begins, at the end of the sternum.  In this photo – the ribcage is about 55% of the length of the dog between the elbow and rear leg

Compare the dog above to this one with a shorter ribcage – about 40% of the length of the dog

Compare to this photo where the length of rib cage is about 40% of the length of the dog.

So what does the shorter ribcage mean?

The dog’s internal organ’s may not be fully protected, and this could allow for injury of internal organs.  It also reduces the capacity of the thorax where the lungs are housed, allowing for less expansion.  A dog like this would become more easily winded than a dog with a correct length of ribbing. 

But there is another factor in play here.   The shorter the ribcage is – the longer the loin is.   In some of the galloping sighthounds such as the Azawakh (below) the loin may appear longer because the chest is so deep, but since the breed is taller than long, so is the ribcage. AS well Azawakhs have a unique double suspension gallop where the rear legs wrap around the front, requiring a slightly longer loin. But being a hunting hound they are more muscular to support the back.   However, in breeds where the dog is longer than tall, such as the Cardigan Welsh Corgi, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, the Dachshunds, and the Bassets, a long loin is a weakness in structure.

Photo of the Azawakh from Wikipedia


A long weak loin, will predispose the dog to spinal issues – such as Intervertebral Disk Disease.   This is different from Degnerative Myelopathy  which is caused by the degeneration of nerves similar to Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) in humans.   IVDD is usually sudden onset, and the result of a disc rupturing.   It almost always requires quick surgical intervention if the dog is going to walk again, and long recovery times, resulting in high veterinary bills.

When the length of the ribbing in the dog is correct, along with a correct front and rear assembly, the topline of the dog is LEVEL – does not slant upwards, or have any roach.

The are four young dogs that are related.  Take note of the level toplines, and the very slight rise in the underline, a sign of correct length ribbing and loin.





Why is the Standard Important to Pet Owners – Part 2

I hope that the discussion in the previous post about engineering and dog breeding gave you some insight into the reasoning and thinking of knowledgeable dog breeders

Today we are going to look at the front end assembly of the dog, and compare it to the front end suspension of a car.

Just like the front end of a car is made up of numerous parts that create a smooth, road hugging ride, the skeleton of the dog is made up of multiple bones, angles and joints.   These pieces come together to allow the dog to travel at the appropriate gait for the breed, with a minimum of wear and tear on the remainder of the skeleton.


The upper and lower control arm pivot on brackets are attached to the chassis of the car, much like the scapula and humerus are attached to the body of the dog.

The coil springs act like the radius and ulna of the dog, and the shock absorbers act like the pasterns.   The feet of the dog are of course like the tires of a car where the rubber meets the road.



In the dog, the withers  are where the neck and spine meet at the top of the shoulder blade.  The shoulder blade (scapula)  meets with the upper arm (humerus).   These two bones should be equal in length, and ideally meet at a 90 degree angle in the Corgis.   This accomplishes two things – first it allows for the most ideal front extension of the foreleg, and secondly it places the front leg directly under the withers, putting the “suspension” under the heaviest part of the dog.

As I’m sure everyone who has owned a car for any extended period in their life knows, all of the parts of a car chassis must be properly aligned to not only prevent improper tire wear, but also to maintain a smooth ride and extend the useful life of the car. 

How the slope of the shoulder affects the movement of the dog.

In these two drawings you can see that the angle of the shoulder affects how far the front is able to extend.  With a steeper shoulder blade the dog is unable to extend the front leg as far.  In photo A the dog is able to extend its paw beyond its nose, whereas in B the front extension is greatly reduced. The shoulder joint is a pendulum and the swing of the pendulum can only go as far as the shoulder assembly allows it to.

Here is an actual photo of a front end in motion.   Following the column of the leg gives an approximation of the shoulder angle.  If this dog had normal length legs the paw would be extended beyond the nose. This type of frontal reach reduces the number of steps that the dog is required to take in its lifetime and wear and tear on its body. You COULD drive your car in first gear all the time, but would that really get you where you want to go in time?

Here is the same dog standing still with approximate angles marked.  Note how the line drawn from the elbow to the tip of the shoulder blade goes up through the withers to support the heaviest part of the dog – the chest. 

All dogs have the same bones, in the same place and so what is the difference?

Here are some examples of poor fronts.

Compare the dog above to this dog.    First note that the two bones that make up the shoulder are NOT equal length. The base of the “L” is shorter, and is what we refer to as a “Short Upper Arm”. This throws off the center of balance as the forelegs are no longer under the withers (the top of the yellow line) but rather further forward under the neck.

What problem is this causing?  Along with the physical characteristic of lack of prosternum (forechest) the dog is knuckling over in the front, to compensate for the poor construction along with straight pasterns and flat feet.

  Here is a Pembroke front with similar issues.  Again, the upper arm is short, about 2/3 the length of the shoulder blade, shown by the green lines.

There are a number of issues at play here including a shoulder that is too steep, leaving a sharp angle at the withers, instead of a smoooth transition from the neck to the spine as shown by the orange line.

This dog will most likely suffer from neck and shoulder injuries and lameness as a results of the incorrect front.

As well the pasterns on this dog are very long, which will result in additional weakness of the front end allowing too much rotation in the feet, splayed feet  (which long nails make worse!), and carpal issues and artthritis.

When all of the parts are not “assembled” correctly there are many issues that can arise out of the weaknesses in various areas.

Just like an out of alignment car front can wear the tires on the outer edges, so the long pasterns, short upper arms and steep fronts can cause dogs to not land properly on the pads of their feet.  They can land on the inner or outer edge of the foot causing rotation (pronation and supination) and resultant joint issues.   Among these are poor posture, stress on the outer joints, tight tendons and painful inflammation and/or arthritis.

Other deformities that can occur are Valgus Deformity, whereby the growth plates close prematurely and the ulna stops growing, while the radius continues to grow creating a twist in the pastern.  As a result the dog develops a severe turnout on one or both sides.  Depending on the age of the dog this can require one, or several surgeries to correct as the final surgery cannot be performed until  the dog is finished growing.  If the dog has not finished growing the ulna is cut to prevent the elbow joint from popping out.  Once the dog is finished growing, a wedge shaped piece of bone is cut out of the radius and rotated 180 degrees to attempt to reduce the turnout.  Dogs suffering from this condition suffer from arthritis, elbow and shoulder pain.

This wraps up the discussion on the front assembly as discussed from the side.  A future post will tackle the subject of the dwarf front on the Cardigan and the Pembroke.

Again please feel free to forward any questions that may have come to mind.  The next post will deal with the ribcage and spine. .


Why is the Standard Important to Pet Owners – Part 1

Again and again I read the statement “I don’t want a show dog, I only want a pet. So why is it a problem if I buy a puppy from someone who just has dogs and raises a couple of litters a year?”

I am going to try and explain why it is important to buy a puppy from someone who cares about the quality of their puppies.  To do this I am going to discuss this from the viewpoint of health issues that can arise as a result of a breeder not adhering to the breed standard.

Each breed has a standard that describes a perfect specimen of the breed    Some are very detailed, some less so   Some state how breed attributes are to be ranked   All are a word picture and subject to interpretation which is why quality breeders exhibit at shows.  By doing this they get objective opinions about how the dogs they own/produce stack up against the standard and the competition

Every sentence that is in a breed standard is there for a reason  It says what the correct attributes are for the breed and what faults are   It is the severity of these faults that can affect the pet buying public

I’m going to discuss this in terms of the two Corgi breeds – the Cardigan and the Pembroke – but what I am going to write can really be applied to ANY breed  

First, I am going to say that I have never bred the perfect dog   I think I have bred some very nice ones over the years, but not even Dolly was perfect, as magnificent as she was.  So don’t think you will ever get a “perfect” dog, but you want to try and get one as close to the standard as possible.

Second, note that there are two types of faults, cosmetic and  structural faults    A cosmetic fault is one that will prevent a dog from being shown, even if it is structurally perfect   A structural fault will affect a dog physically.  And a structural fault can affect a dog physically and seriously if it is severe enough   Cosmetic faults can include coat length (excessively long and fluffy or extremely short and tight), colouration  (mismarks, unacceptable colours, etc), and pigmentation (nose is brown instead of black)    Cosmetic faults are undesirable for showing but have no effect on the health or longevity of the dog    Some faults, like fluffy coats,pop up even in well-bred litters, but good breeders do not intentionally breed to produce them  

What should be of concern is the severity of structural faults  in any puppy you are considering purchasing.

A couple of Ferris Wheels

Behold the Ferris Wheel back in the early days of Amusement Parks.   The ride is a miracle of engineering and balance, and it is critical that each angle and section of steel is precisely equal to all of the others.    Yet, despite the precision of the angles and lengths of steel, it is still imperative for the ride operator to load the ride-goers in a balanced manner., loading equal weights on opposite arms, and ensuring that the ride is totally balanced before beginning higher speed revolutions.  Physics and art combined to create a safe and strong amusement park favourite.

But how would you feel if you saw one of the pieces of steel wasn’t quite as long as the others, or not quite as wide?  Or if it had some sort of a bend in it?   Would you still feel safe on that ride when it picked up speed?  Or if the operator loaded it an unbalanced manner – loading all of the weight in consecutive seats and leaving the other side empty? 

The twin Grand Island bridges over the Niagara River

These two bridges were built in 1935 (the bridge on the right) and in 1962 and carry approximately 72,000 cars a day safely over the rushing waters of the Niagara River.   What is interesting to note is that even though the decks of the bridges have needed replacing the structure of the trusses has maintained their integrity for 8 decades with simple maintenance painting.   Again it is very important that every angle and truss length be exact in length and angulation to maintain the safety of the crossing, and ensure that vehicles don’t plunge into the rushing waters below.

Dog breeding, to a breeder who is committed to breed integrity, is a combination of physics and art, just as bridge building is, or designing amusement park rides that are subjected to high levels of centrifugal force.

Skeleton of the Cardigan Welsh Corgi from the Illustrated Breed standard of the CWCCA

The canine skeleton is also a miracle of engineering.  While the basic number of bones is unchanged from breed to breed, each individual breed has unique differences based upon the purpose for which the dog was bred.  The front assembly of a terrier which needs a specific structure to dig for rodents, is different from that of a galloping sighthound.   The front assembly of even the Cardigan and Pembroke corgi differ, due to their difference in the shape of the chest, and the terrain upon which they had to work.

Each feature of the breed is there for a specific reason.  Deviations of structure, not only do not look correct, but also give rise to health issues. 

In this article, and follow up articles, I am going to discuss the various features of the corgis  and the issues that can arise from improper structure.

Lets start with the head.

Many of the features of the head were bred into the two breeds to ensure that they could do their function of herding cattle.

The bite, should be preferably a scissor bite so the dogs can pinch the legs of the cattle, but a level bite is acceptable.   What is not acceptable is an overshot, or undershot mouth, as these dogs could not do their job properly.   Since the majority of today’s dogs are no longer herding cattle why should you care about the bite?   Because an improper bite can give rise to dental problems.   Teeth that are not properly placed can dig into the gums causing painful sores and/or ulcers.  A dog with a severe overbite or underbite could have problems eating.  A dog can have a wry mouth, where one side of the jaw grows faster than the other.

There are some wonderful photos of all of the different types of bites on the “JaneDogs” website. 

Dog with proper stop and muzzle

Dog with not enough stop

The shape of the muzzle is  a feature which differs between the two corgi breeds.  The Cardigan has a shorter blunter muzzle than the Pembroke.  Another feature of the breed is a well-defined stop – the transition between the back skull and muzzle.  The reason for this and the distinct eyebrow ridge, was to protect the dog from the kick of a cow.   The bony prominent structure should deflect the kick and protect the eyes of the dog.   While most dogs are not in danger of being kicked by a cow, they still should have this protection for their eyes from other dangers – branches on forest trails, for example.

I hope that this first explanation will help to open the eyes of future corgi purchasers to some of the reasons we stress the importance of breeding to the standard.

I hope to follow this up in a day or so and hope to tackle the subjects of the front assembly and the topline.   Please feel free to pose questions that you may have about the structure of the Cardigans and Pembrokes.