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A dog’s ability to live and enjoy a long, healthy, and active life is limited, in large part, by his conformation. Assessing a dog’s potential is a relatively simple task, as it is standing right in front of us.

Assessment comes in three areas:

CHEST AND BARREL – most desirable is a proportionally broad chest, and, most importantly, a deep chest and barrel, as this dictates the available space for lungs, which hold the dog’s fuel – air.

SHOULDERS AND FRONT LEGS – most desirable are shoulder joints that can be seen to rotate as the dog moves. If the joint is placed sufficiently to the outside, it will not “run into” the chest structure, which would limit the extension of the limb, therefore its ability to reach. The front legs should be positioned as close to the front of the chest as possible, allowing for the fullest extension possible. With a longer reach, the angle of impact when the legs hit the ground is decreased. A lesser angle of impact means less concussion on the joints, bones, ligaments and tendons. That equates to less wear and tear, which should extend the longevity of the working life for the dog.

REAR LEGS – the rear end of the dog is where the motor resides. The leg positioning and angulation above the hock joint are the determining factors in how much of that motor is transferred best to the front of the dog.
There is one simple observation to be made to assess this component of the dog’s conformation – when the dog’s rear cannon bones (the short bones directly above the “ankles”) are perpendicular to the ground, they should line up as closely as possible to the rear-most point of the buttocks. This indicates that the legs will be able to reach as far forward as they trail behind. This “balance of reach” is the ideal. Why?
When the rear legs end their stride well under the barrel of the dog, the effect is a lifting of the front half of the dog. When the front end is elevated, it allows for more ground coverage with each stride. It also decreases the angle of impact when the front end contacts the ground. As stated above, the less the impact, the more we increase the longevity of those components. How much? That will depend on the individual dog, but it WILL extend the dog’s usability – it is physiology - it has to be so.

An additional advantage of the extended reach of a dog is the fact that it will take less strides to cover the same amount of ground than that of a lesser conformed dog. That means that the better conformed dog should have an extended useful life in motion. How much? That will depend on the individual dog, but it WILL extend the dog’s usability – it has to be so.

I know a few things for certain. Physiology does not lie. Mechanics are mechanics. Wear and tear is wear and tear. Larger barrels can hold more air. Lifted front ends will stride further. Dogs that take longer strides can run longer . . . these are truisms . . . things we can take to the bank.

So when you are selecting your next dog, look at his parents, look at his pedigree . . . keep these thoughts in mind – you’ll end up with a better dog – a better partner with what should be a longer useful life.

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