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.



Crossing the line into Dogsnobbery

While the word “Dogsnobbery” has not yet made it into the Miriam-Webster dictionary, it is a common enough term that Googling it brings up over 3.5 million references!  

What is dog snobbery?  It is the feeling that purebred dog owners are superior to mixed breed dog owners, and by definition breeders of quality purebred dogs are superior to those breeding lesser quality dogs. 

What it also is – is a condition that is going to cause the purebred dog world to implode upon itself.    As breeders of health-tested quality dogs, we want to segregate ourselves from the people supplying the pet market and breeding crossbreds, and dogs that don’t meet the standard.   Yet, in doing so I see so often people alienating the very market that they are trying to provide puppies to.

First, I have seen many posts in the last few months about a new website called Paws n Pups  that appears to have scraped club databases for information on breeders.  Yes, this site is advertising crossbreeds also which we as “preservationist” breeders abhor.   But if you look at the listings for your breed, you will most likely find it is a who’s who of your National Club’s breeder’s directory.  

Yet people are horrified at being listed on this page without their knowledge and consent and are notifying everyone that they know of that is listed on it.

My opinion, although it may be unpopular, is different.   I don’t mind being listed on these types of websites.   I look at it as an opportunity to educate.   If someone reaches out to me about should I buy a Cardigan corgi, or  a Pembroke corgi or an “American” corgi (a cross between the two breeds for those unaware) – I WELCOME the opportunity to educate that person and to give them the information that they require to make a good choice.   I will tell them what they should be looking for, how to approach breeders, and give them recommendations to those I would buy a <insert breed here> from if I were in the market for one myself.    So why NOT have your name on there and increase their chances of making contact with someone with ethics and knowledge instead of distancing yourself from Joe Public who may not KNOW to look at the AKC or CKC websites or the Breed Club directories.

And that brings me to my second point I feel really needs to be made about dogsnobbery.  There are some breeds I have a really difficult time referring people to breeders for.  One of the ways that we used to differentiate ourselves from the breeders just out to make money was that we did health testing when they did not.   I have been on the health testing bandwagon for 30 years – testing dogs long before it was fashionable to do so.    But now the pet breeders are starting to health test, and they are winning the battle.   While their puppies may not adhere to the breed standard and many are barely recognizable as far as “type” – again that does not matter to Joe Public.   He wants a dog that is going to live a long and healthy life.   It does not matter to him that his dog is a little long on leg, or the ear set is wrong, or even that the head looks more like a collie than a corgi!  He cares that he is not going to have a dog become incapacited with a shortened or severely restricted life because it is affected with a disease that there is a known test for, even if the science is not perfect.

Preservationist breeders argue that we can’t throw out the baby with the bathwater and maintain type.    Yet look at all the breeds that have eliminated issues, or were recreated by going away from type and carefully breeding back to it.    There ARE breeders who have managed to eliminate those testable issues from their lines and gone back to winning specialties with dogs clear of the health issues.   There was a dalmation with pointer in its background that won at Crufts.   I wrote about my own problems eliminating health issues in this blog post – Pruning the Tree Helps it Develop Stronger.

It can be done     In my mind Dogsnobbery is going to kill the demand for purebred dogs far faster than any of the crossbreeding will.   Just look how quickly Labradoodles and Goldendoodles proliferated.  It isn’t that people don’t WANT a purebred dog – or they wouldn’t give them fancy names and they wouldn’t buy into the “hybrid vigour” myth.   People want a HEALTHY purebred dog, and they need to be able to find the good breeders to get them – those who work to eliminate the genetic junk from their lines.   So before you get on your high horse and ride off into the sunset with the most “award-winning” elite, be sure that your boots are clean of the genetic muck you may be carrying on them.

Are you my type?

I thought it might be interesting to have a discussion about “type”. What is type and why is it important? Recently I saw a post where someone asked about the structure of their dog, and the comment was made that it didn’t matter what the dog looked like. I’ve been mulling this about in my head for a few days, because it DOES matter. Type is the defining qualities that make a dog recognizable as a breed.  We should be able to look at a dog and immediately say “That is a Cardigan”, or “That is an Irish Wolfhound”, or “That is a American Foxhound”.    And we should be able to do this whether we are looking at a sillhouette of the breed, or looking at its head. The dictionary defines type as “a person or thing symbolizing or exemplifying the ideal or defining characteristics of something.” So what are those ideal characteristics, and who decides what is right and what is wrong?

BDIC dolly

Let’s look at the UK (Country of Origin) standards for the Cardigan and Pembroke Welsh Corgis.
Under “General Appearance” the Cardigan says: Sturdy, tough, mobile, capable of endurance. Long in proportion to height, terminating in fox-like brush, set in line with body.  The Pembroke standard says: Low set, strong, sturdily built, alert and active, giving impression of substance and stamina in small space. If we went on these two descriptions alone – any of these could be a Cardigan or a Pembroke.

skye terrier

Breed A


Breed B

dandie dinmont

Breed C

basset hound

Breed D


Breed E


Breed F

So what makes these NOT correct? Why are they not corgis?

The answer to that can be found by digging further into the standards for other defining characteristics that make up what we call “breed type”.   It is the factors that when one looks even at a silhouette makes that individually recognizable as a specific breed.
Whether you believe it or not, I think that  every single person who is reading this really does recognize it, otherwise you would not have been attracted to a specific breed.  Let’s test it – look at the silhouettes below and see if you can match them to the breeds pictured above, as well as picking out the Cardigan and the Pembroke.

silhouette 1

Silhouette 1

silhouette 4

Silhouette 2

silhouette 2

Silhouette 3


Silhouette 4

silhouette 5

Silhouette 5

silhouette 6 
silhouette 7

Silhouette 7

silhouette 8

Silhouette 8

How did you do?   In case you did have an issue, here are the answers:

Breed Photo Silhouette
Skye Terrier A 5
Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen B 7
Dandie Dinmont Terrier C 2
Basset Hound D 8
Dachshund E 6
Pekinese F 4
Cardigan Welsh Corgi   3
Pembroke Welsh Corgi   1

What would probably be surprising to most readers, is how much these breeds that you would immediately dismiss as “not a Corgi”, actually have in common with Corgis.   Five of the six breeds you would immediately dismiss because of their dropped ears – but how often do we see dogs where the ears have not come up?   Four would be dismissed because of coat – but corgis DO carry a fluffy gene, and although reputable breeders don’t breed for that characteristic they do pop up.

Would it surprise you to know that the Dachshund and Basset are descended from the same lineage (Teckels) as the Cardigan, and that they, together with the Pekinese have the same front as the Cardigan?    Look at the prominent prosternum (breast bone) and the way the legs wrap around the egg shaped front.  I was very surprised to learn this from a Peke breeder when she allowed me to go over a shaved down Peke. Let’s make this a little bit tougher now.   We have determined that coat length and type are defining features that make up Corgi type.   So what about these dogs?

Lancashire Heeler

Lancashire Heeler

Swedish Valhund

Swedish Valhund

These are two European herding breeds that are dwarfs, with shorter coats, and prick ears – what makes them distinct from either of the Corgi breeds?

Lets look at the Lancashire first. In size this breed is similar to the Pembroke, and slightly smaller than the Cardigan.  The coat however is different.  The standard calls for a fine undercoat covered throughout by weather resistant, short, thick, hard, flat topcoat.  This is different than the “medium length” described in the Pembroke Standard, and the “short or medium hard texture” coat of the Cardigan.   Then Lancashire is always either Black and Tan or Liver and Tan, whereas Pembrokes are red, sable, fawn or black and tan with or without white markings, and Cardigans are  blue merle, brindle, red, sable, and tri-colour with brindle or red points. The Lancashire is not as long bodied as either of the Corgis, with the body being approximately 1″ longer than the height at the withers, and the front is not bowed like the Cardigan, nor does it have the prominent prosternum of the Pembroke.   There are many more differences – but these few simple observations separate the Lancashire “type” from the two Corgis.   You can read more on the Lancashire standard at this link

Now lets look at the Swedish Valhund.  Again we have a dwarf dog with upright ears. The Valhund is a slightly taller dog than either of the corgis with the ideal height being 12-13″.  Again, like the Lancashire, colours are different with the description being: Grey,  greyish brown, greyish yellow, reddish yellow or reddish brown with lighter “harness markings” and cheeks being desirable.   The tail of the Valhund can be long or short and carried in any manner – bob, straight, curled – all are correct, whereas Pembrokes naturally have a tail that comes straight off the back and Cardigan at a downward slope.  A full standard for the Swedish Vallhund is at this link.

Very interesting to note is the description of the feet and forequarters in these four breeds.  Which do you think describes the Lancashire, the Vallhund, the Cardigan and the Pembroke?

  1. Forequarters:  Shoulder long and set at an angle of 45 degrees to a horizontal plane.Upper arm slightly shorter than the shoulder-blades and set at a distinct angle. Upper arms lie close to ribs, but are still very mobile.  Forearm when viewed from the front, slightly bent, just enough to give them free action against the lower part of the chest.Metacarpus (Pastern): Elastic.  Feet:  Medium sized, short, oval, pointing straight forward with strong pads, tightly knit and well knuckled up
  2. Forequarters:  Shoulders well laid, angulated at approximately 90 degrees to upper arm; muscular, elbows close to sides. Strong bone carried down to feet. Legs short but body well clear of the ground, forearms slightly bowed to mould round the chest. Feet turned slightly outwards.  Feet:  Round, tight, rather large and well padded
  3. Forequarters:  Lower legs short and as straight as possible, forearm moulded round chest. Ample bone, carried right down to feet. Elbows fitting closely to sides, neither loose nor tied. Shoulders well laid, and angulated at 90 degrees to the upper arm.Feet: Oval, toes strong, well arched, and tight, two centre toes slightly advance of two outer, pads strong and well arched. Nails short.
  4. Forequarters:  Well laid shoulder, elbows firm against ribs. Amply boned. Pasterns allow feet to turn slightly outwards, but not enough to cause weakness or affect freedom of movement.  Feet:  Small, firm and well padded.

Number 1 is the Vallhund,  2 is the Cardigan, 3 is the Pembroke and 4 is the Lancashire.    Note that the Pembroke standards says LOWER LEGS AS STRAIGHT AS POSSIBLE!!  This is a major difference between the Pembroke and the Cardigan which says “slightly bowed”.    If your Pembroke has curved legs and feet that point outwards it is not correct.

Armed with this information can you pick out which of the silhouettes below are Pems, Cardis, Lancashires, and Vallhunds?

Silhouette 1

Silhouette 1

Silhouette 2

Silhouette 2

Sillhouette 3

Sillhouette 3

Silhouette 4

Silhouette 4

Silhouette 5

Silhouette 5

Silhouette 6

Silhouette 6


Silhouette 7

Silhouette 8

Silhouette 8


 Have you got your answers?

Silhouettes 3, 6 and 8 are Pembroke Welsh Corgis.   Did #6 fool you?  He is indeed a Pembroke in Australia where docking is not permitted and here is the photo I used to create the silhouette.

Ch. Dygae Limited Edition

Ch. Dygae Limited Edition – photo Courtesy of Diane Baillie


Here is another example in colour.   Even with the tail there is no mistaking this dog for anything other than a Pem.

Tailed Pem 2

Photo courtesy of Diane Baillie, Dygae Reg’d

Silhouettes 2, 4 & 7 illustrate the three varieties of tails found in the Swedish Valhund.

Silhouette 5 is the Lancashire, and Silhouette 1 is the Cardigan.

Lets look at some of the other differences between the two types of corgis now.   When I look at a corgi head, I want to be able to immediately identify whether it is a Cardigan and a Pembroke, and there are several factors that determine this.   The shape, size and placement of the ears, the cheeks, the width and shape of the muzzle, the shape and placement of the eyes.

I am going to use slides from a Powerpoint presentation  I created for judges education to demonstrate differences between the breeds.


Many, and dare I say almost ALL, of the pet Pembroke corgis I see posted on Facebook do not have correct heads.  They either have Cardigan ear size, shape and placement, or they look like basenjis, or are apple shaped like chihuahuas.   If you posted a picture solely of the head the breed could not be identified.  Therefore it is not correct TYPE.

Poor shoulder angulation, roaching toplines, and short backs are in abundance, as well as Cardigans with Pem-type croups, and Pems with Cardigan croups.   Docking the tail off a puppy does not make it a Pembroke, any more than cropping its ears would make it a Doberman.   Again these are features of “TYPE” that have been lost in the mass proliferation of questionably bred corgis to fill the demand of the pet market.

And of course this is the subject that you don’t even want to get me started on!!   Mixing Pembrokes and Cardigans to get a ‘cool” colour is a travesty to both breeds.

So in conclusion, Yes, it does matter if your dogs legs are too long,   It does matter if the head is incorrect and it does matter if his tail set isn’t right, and his colour isn’t acceptable.  These are all signs of careless breeding being done to fill a niche market created by those who “just want a corgi”.

Do you want “just a corgi” or do you want a corgi that you can be proud of as a good representative of its breed?   Until buyers start demanding that those producing puppies increase the quality of what they are producing, there will always be those who just breed to sell puppies.   They tell buyers that there is no need to prove their breeding stock in the show ring because it is “just a pet”.   To my mind, and those of most of my peers, “just a pet” should be just as healthy, sound and well-bred as the dogs we keep for ourselves as part of our breeding programs.  It should be correctly structured to no have conformation faults that will lead to devastating injuries such as spinal cord or ACL tears or luxating patellas.  The parents should be health tested to ensure that no preventable diseases are perpetuated.    Because “just a pet” deserves to live a long, happy, healthy and pain free life too.