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canine movement
Have you ever wondered why some dogs win against others in the ring?
Yes of course we have all sat and done ringside evaluations and gasped in astonishment at some wins – with human nature that will never change so you may as well just note who is doing this poor kind of judging and do not waste your money by going under these judges. In time breed societies will note the lowering of attendees under certain judges and they will not get that role again!
A trained eye knows to look for the carriage of the head, neck, back and spinal column which should appear as a gentle curve moving forward with no waste of motion.
While there are many structural variations between breeds, common to all is the desire for correct balance and angulation, which are two of the fundamental concepts used when evaluating dogs. Judges that understand the breed placed before them (as not all dog breeds will have the same type of movement) they should note the gait, its movement, its angulation, its stretch or over stretching ranges and poor angulations. So for this short article I will just concentrate on smaller breeds but compare those to others when it necessitates. Balance is a term associated with the appearance and structure of a dog’s body. The term refers to the symmetrical proportion of the parts in relation to each other. It also means the relative proportion of the parts to each other. Angulation is another term associated with a dog’s body. It refers mainly to the bones of the front and rear assemblies and their angles at the hip and shoulder joints. When evaluating structure, judges look for the same angles at the shoulder and hip joints. If a dog is not made well it stands to reason they will not walk well, yet you WILL see this in most show rings.
The dog’s front assembly begins with the top of the shoulder blade which is called the withers. The front assembly includes the forearm, front legs, pasterns and feet. This series of bones are important because the front assembly carries sixty percent of the dog’s body weight and is only attached to the body by muscles, tendons and ligaments. The front assembly only includes a large number of moving parts. When standing still the front legs should appear as two straight columns of support from the hip joint or shoulder to the ground. This does not mean perpendicular, but a straight line from the shoulder or hip to the pad.
Shoulder Lay-back and Shoulder Lay-in are two important elements of canine structure that influence movement. Unfortunately, the importance of the shoulder blades and how they are positioned is a subject not well understood by many newcomers. The term "lay-back" of shoulders means the tilt of the shoulder blades toward the back end or rump of the dog. Shoulders that are "laid-back" influence the dog’s potential to extend its front legs forward. The length of the upper arm or scapula and the degree of lay - back of the shoulder blades together influence the length of reach of the front feet when a dog is in motion. Most experts believe that the ideal shoulders should have an upper arm that is equal in length to the shoulder blade
The "Lay-in" of the shoulder blades tends to influence how the dog will put its front feet on the ground when in motion. As speed increases from a walk to a trot, the feet tend to move toward a centre line in order to maintain balance. Breeds with shoulder blades that are not "layed-in" (tilted) toward the spinal column generally do not move toward a centre line or single track.
The rear assembly is another important part of dog anatomy. It involves the vital hip joint which connects the femur to the tibia and fibula at the knee joint. It gives the dog forward thrust and drive. When in motion the entire rear leg assembly should extend and flex through the hock to drive the dog forward. This end of the dog is less fragile than the front assembly because the rear assembly is attached to the body by two hip sockets which hold the rear assembly together; for this reason it is less likely to be affected by environmental and management problems during development.  When a judge views a dog from behind they are looking to see if the rear hocks appear as two straight columns of support that are parallel to each other and set just slightly outside the hip sockets , They should not be too wide or too close.
Ever heard the term ‘cow hocks’
Cowhocks are undesirable in all breeds . They are weak and greatly impair efficiency and power of movement. Cowhocks cause rear pasterns to turn inward toward one another. This fault causes the stifle to turn out and the feed to toe out – something most definitely to watch and see often with dogs being exhibited today – yet goes unmentioned in any critique?
The ability to recognize correct and incorrect movement is an essential element of dog knowledge. Unfortunately, movement is often quicker than the eye can follow and in the confined space and limited time allowed in the show ring, evaluations are sometimes far from ideal. But the educated eye, that is, the eye that knows what to look for, will not be easily misled. Since all breeds do not move alike it is necessary to learn about their structural differences. The Bull dog with its massive front does not move like the wolfhound with its long legs and muscular body The diagonal carpet in the show ring is used by the judge to evaluate key parts of the front and rear assemblies when the dog is moving away from and towards the judge. Evaluating the front and rear assemblies begin with three principles of movement. The first is called a straight column of support. This means that the leg assembly forms a single column of support from the hip joint or shoulder to the ground. The second principle is called the parallel movement of the legs on the same side of the body. This concept involves the coordination of the front and rear assemblies. They should move in parallel planes. As the dog moves toward the judge the front leg on one side of the body should obscure the rear leg on the same side of the body. This is called moving in the same planes During the down and back exercise the judge looks to see if the hind foot strikes in almost the same place as the front foot on the same side of the body. Dogs that are not able to align their legs in parallel planes generally have structural faults. The most common is called "crabbing" or "sidewinding". ANY single plain tracking is an alignment fault and should be noted in critique or at least to the handler…
The trot and the pace are both two- beat gaits. The trot is the most common gait. It is a two- beat diagonal gait causing the front and rear feet to touch the ground together. The right hind, left front, left front, right hind, and so on. Because only two feet touch the ground at any time, the dog relies on forward movement to maintain balance with the hind feet following along the track left by the front feet. The third principle of movement focuses on the rear hocks. When standing, they should appear to be straight and parallel and underneath the hip sockets. Imagine the rear hocks as two short and straight columns of support that are parallel to each other and set just slightly outside the hip sockets
It is exceptionally difficult to see movement well in a long coated breed -  look at the pads of the rear feet rather than the hocks while the dog is in motion. Notice the direction they are pointing.
Note: * Illustrations by Marcia R. Schlehr
Battaglia, Carmen, 2014. Do you see what I see? Canine Chronicle, Ocala, Fl. April pp. 106-108. Battaglia, Carmen. 2008. More than meets the eye. Canine Chronicle, Ocala, Fl., pp. 300 302
Brackett, Lloyd, and Hartwell, Laurence A., "The Dog in Motion", Dog World Magazine, (USA) August 1961- October 1965
Elliot, Rachel Page, Dog steps, 2001. A New Look, Third Edition, Doral Publishing, Sun City, Arizona, pg. 68 -73


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