Shoulder Structure in Long Legged Terriers
David Post, DVM,MS and Laura Post, Ph.D.
(Text of Article as Published in July, 2005 AKC Gazette)
Shoulder structure and its relationship to movement is one of the most confusing areas for
breeders and exhibitors alike. The long legged terriers are known to have some variation from
standard shoulder structure, but little information is available on what correct shoulders are
in these dogs. In order to clarify this confusing issue, a study was initiated where about 50
dogs were radiographed (x-rayed) in standing show poses. Most of these dogs were AKC champions
and approximately thirty were Airedales of a variety of bloodlines. Keep in mind, it is not
possible to determine a ï¿½correctï¿½ dog with a measuring tape and a protractor and some x-rays.
However, understanding what is really going on structurally is critical to evaluating the overall
dog. This study was designed to help develop basic understanding of front structure.
As you review this information, remember that the front legs are attached to the body with
only muscle, ligaments, and tendons. It is a flexible arrangement and there is no exact numerical
angulation that a particular dog can be assigned. The angle can vary by positioning and the
maturity of the dog. Consistency in the radiographs used in this study was carefully controlled.
Figure 2 shows terminology of the bones in the shoulder of a dog and the two angles of the
shoulder conformation. The angle of the scapula is from the uppermost point of the scapula to
the point of the shoulder compared to a vertical line. The angle of the humerus is from the
point of the shoulder to the elbow compared to a vertical line.
Many exhibitors at dog shows talk about a 45 degree angle of the scapula. This is the traditional
description of correct front angulation, but the description is incorrect. Rachel Page Elliot
showed in her book, Dogsteps, that the correct actual angulation was approximately 30 degrees
from vertical. Forty-five degree angulation does not exist, when measured from the point of the
shoulder to the highest point on the scapula. The present study confirms Ms. Elliotï¿½s conclusion.
This study attempted to correlate the angle of the shoulder with the correctness of movement. In
the 30 Airedales in the study, the range of angulation of the scapula was between 19 and 36
degrees from vertical. Dogs with steep shoulders (smaller angles) typically move in a choppy
fashion, without much extension. Most of the better moving dogs had angulation of the scapula
around 30 degrees from vertical. There were some dogs in the study had shoulder (scapula)
angulation around the correct 30 degrees that did not move well. This indicates the angle of the
shoulder is important, but it is not the final determining factor for good movement. We looked
for other factors to correlate with correct movement.
The next area of interest in evaluating front ends, is the degree the humerus (upper arm) goes
back under the dog to support the weight of the chest. In most breeds outside the long-legged
terriers, the forearm extends back under the chest to support the weight of the dog. Long legged
terriers have a different conformation and are said to have ï¿½straight frontsï¿½, sometimes called
ï¿½fish-hookï¿½ fronts. This straight appearance (when viewed from the side of the dog) is shown by
running a straight line upright from the feet to the forechest, continuing through the underside
of the neck, to the base of the jaw. To achieve this appearance in long legged terriers, like
Airedales, the humerus is more upright than standard dog conformation and does not go back under
the chest like it does in other breeds like sporting breeds or hounds. This, in part, gives the
long-legged terriers the straight appearance to their front conformations, since their front legs
are positioned more forward in their normal stance than the stance of other breeds of dogs. This
result is because of the smaller angle of the humerus compared to a vertical line. This upright
characteristic of the humerus (upper arm) can be too extreme with too upright a humerus. When
this occurs front movement is adversely affected, resulting in choppy movement with little
extension. When a long legged terrier has a sloping humerus that goes under the chest, the dog
does not have the desired straight appearance of the front end. Correct long legged terriers
have a fine balance between too upright a humerus destroying movement and too much slope to the
humerus, affecting type. A correct long legged terrier moves with extension and strength and
without wasted movement, yet still has the visual appearance of a relatively straight front.
A short upper arm is said to cause dogs to throw their front legs high, sometimes in a ï¿½hackneyï¿½
manner. As the study progressed, measurements were taken of the length of the scapula relative to
the length of the humerus to study this claim. In our very small sample of dogs that move in
this manner, we were not able to confirm this theory, but we have no data to refute the idea
either. All of the dogs in the study that we were able to measure this ratio, had similar ratios
of length of scapula to humerus (variation was one centimeter) regardless of their movement.
Another factor considered, was the slope and height of the withers, sometimes called ï¿½lay onï¿½ or
incorrectly ï¿½laybackï¿½. Airedales and other long legged terriers with prominent withers tend to
have beautiful silhouettes. This feature tends to give the impression of a lot of angulation to
the shoulder and very short backs. However, we did not correlate good angulation with the amount
or slope of the withers. We did correlate that dogs with a lot of slope and height to the withers
frequently move poorly. We examined the radiographs of the prominent withered dogs carefully.
There did not seem to be a difference in the placement of the scapula relative to the thoracic
vertebra or any other anatomical feature when compared to less extreme dogs. The primary
difference was the length of the (upward extending) spinous processes of the thoracic vertebras
giving the height to the withers. In terms of basic anatomy, specific muscles attach to specific
points on bones. Each prominence on a bone has a specific attachment for a particular muscle.
The spinous processes are specific attachments for muscles that support the front limbs. Having
particularly long spinous processes to these vertebra (high withers) results in a longer length
for the associated muscle attachments to have to contract. This may play a role in the tendency
for these dogs to lift their legs high as they move.
There was also the opportunity to radiograph one dog repeatedly as it matured. As this dog
developed, the angulation changed dramatically. He appeared (no radiographs) to be very angulated
as an eight week old pup. When he was radiographed as seven months of age, his shoulder
angulation was only 22 degrees, meaning he was quite upright in his shoulder. When he was again
radiographed as a fifteen month old dog, his angulation was 36 degrees. This is a lesson in
selection. Dogs can change dramatically in appearance and angulation as they go through stages
of maturity. A breeder needs to be familiar with the developmental stages of the bloodlines that
they use in order to avoid culling a dog in an ï¿½uglyï¿½ phase of development.
So what makes dogs move differently in front? As the study progressed, and the issues were
discussed with experienced breeders and judges, it became apparent that the most important
indicator of front movement was the overall balance of the dog. If the dog has extreme
characteristics, like an ultrashort back, a very long neck, very high withers, extremely strong
rear ends or weak rear ends, the dogs front movement suffered. Further, if the dog lacks balance,
even correct angulation will not result in correct movement. This is consistent with the wording
of many standards, including the Airedale standard which states ï¿½Movement or action is the crucial
test of conformationï¿½.
Many breeders select for a particular silhouette in the long legged terriers. This visual picture
often includes a long neck, clean, ï¿½fish-hookï¿½ front, high withers, short backs, and powerful,
well angulated rears. It makes for a beautiful picture standing still. However, when the
beautiful silhouette moves, if the conformation is actually flawed, movement will clearly
demonstrate the flawed conformation. Some defend the attractive, beautiful silhouetted dog with
poor movement with an argument about type verses soundness. This argument is incorrect. A dog
with correct type in athletic breeds like a long legged terriers, will move soundly. When
breeders and judges select for the dogs with too extreme characteristics because they are
beautiful in sillhouette, they lose soundness, a fundamental characteristic of type!
Characteristics like short backs, high withers, long necks, and clean fronts are ideal until
they become so extreme that movement is lost.
The constant challenge for fanciers of purebred dogs is to select for desired type without loss
of soundness. Most breeds started with fundamentally sound dogs. Fanciers then selected for
characteristics they considered desirable as the breeds develop and evolve. As a particular
characteristic is deemed desirable the tendency is to go for more of it. ï¿½If a big head is good,
a bigger head is betterï¿½. Fanciers can go too far. Soon, too big a head results in loss of
reproductive soundness, and c-sections are required to deliver pups. There are now a number of
breeds that require c-sections for most deliveries. This is the rule of unintended consequences,
where by selecting for one trait, you adversely affect another important characteristic. All
breeders and judges should be constantly alert for fads and fashions that harm the fundamental
soundness of their breeds. Movement is the test of conformational soundness. When selected
characteristics have become too extreme or out of balance, movement is lost.
Many thanks to members of the Tyler Kennel Club and the Lone Star Airedale Club for providing
dogs for the study, for help in interpreting the information, and for their enthusiastic support
of the project.
The Hair Of Wire-Haired Breeds
David Post,DVM,MS and Laura Post,Ph.D.
(Text as published June, 2006 in Just Terriers)
All mammals have hair, even whales. Among the different species, even among breeds and
individuals of the same species, the pattern of hair growth can vary considerably.
Wire-haired breeds are unique in several respects. When grooming wirehaired breeds,
the hair is stripped or plucked for show dogs and pets have clippered coats. The difference
between stripped and clippered wire coats is noticeable, with stripped coats coarser in texture
and richer in color. An understanding of canine hair physiology sheds light on this difference.
Basic Biology of Hair
Hair is produced by specialized epithelial cells called keratinocytes which reside at the base
of a hair follicle and produce the hair. The pigmentation comes from melanocytes. The hair itself
is comprised of an outermost layer, the cuticle, and a cortex which is packed with dead
keratinized cells. Additionally, some hair may contain an inner region, the medulla, which has
fewer keratinized cells.
There are three types of hair on a dog. The undercoat, composed of secondary hairs, has a soft
texture (the shaft of hair is not as densely packed with dead keratinized cells) and is shorter
than the other types of hair. Coarser and often longer, primary (guard) hairs are the outermost
layer of protection (these hairs are densely packed with the keratinized cells). The last hair
category is whiskers, highly sensitive tactile sensors found clustered on the face. With that
sensitivity in mind, use care if you decide to remove these hairs while grooming your dog.
Dogs and other animals with fur coats have many hairs per follicle (unlike humans where there is
one hair per follicle). The diameter of individual hairs has been shown to increase as the number
of hairs per follicle decreases. Thus, stripping, a process which would reduce the number of
hairs per follicle, allows the remaining hair to become coarser and more pigmented. In contrast,
human hair gets thinner and thinner and can cease growing altogether when plucked repeatedly.
In dogs, hair grows in cycles. It grows to a genetically predetermined length and then it stops
growing and dies. Shedding is the result of the weakening of the hair shaft attachment to the
follicle. All dogs shed, but the pattern and rate of shedding, like hair growth rates, varies
from breed to breed. Some wire haired breeds shed hair in a relatively short time frame
resulting in loss of tufts of hair or what is also called ï¿½blowing a coatï¿½. Other factors like
temperature, hormones (especially estrogen and thyroid), light cycles (longer days encourage
shedding), nutrition, parasites, disease and certain drugs can influence shedding. Brushing the
coat can also speed up the breakdown of the hairï¿½s attachment to the follicle. Brushing also
stimulates circulation and regrowth and helps train the coat to lie flat.
To understand the differences we will divide the types of coats. Normal coats are coats like
German Shepherds and Corgis. These coats are composed of guard hairs with a high proportion of
undercoat hairs. Short-coated dogs come in two versions, coarse and fine. Coarse short-coats,
like Rottweilers and some terriers, have strong growth of guard hairs and much less undercoat
hair. The longer wire-coated breeds are a variation of this. Fine coated short-haired breeds,
like Boxers and Dachsunds, have the largest number of hairs per unit area, have large numbers of
well developed undercoat hairs, and guard hairs are reduced in size. Long-coated dogs also come
in two versions, fine and woolly. Fine long-coated breeds like Cockers and Chows are similar to
normal coats except the guard hair is not as developed and the weight of hair per unit area is
greater. Woolly long-coated breeds like Poodles, Bedlington Terriers, and Kerry Blue Terriers
have undercoat hair that makes up eighty percent of the total number of hairs and these undercoat
hairs are relatively more developed and coarse compared to undercoat hairs in other breeds.
These breeds give the impression of an overall softer appearance to their coats and tend to shed
less than other breeds.
The role of the sebaceous gland should be mentioned. This gland associated with hair follicles
produces an oily secretion that helps to keep the skin soft and pliable, helps retain moisture,
and protects from bacterial infection. The oil film also coats the hair to give the coat the
shiny appearance associated with good health. During illness and malnutrition, the hair coat
often develops a dull, dry appearance associated with reduced sebaceous gland function.
When dogs are shaved, all the hair is cut which makes the undercoat as visible as the outer
guard hair. Typically the softer, duller undercoat significantly changes the appearance of the
dog, particularly if the undercoat is a lighter color than the guard hair. This appearance can
be partially modified in some dogs by raking the undercoat out with a stripping comb. This canï¿½t
be done immediately after clipping because the hair is too short and it canï¿½t be done if the hair
is of an excessive length before it is clipped. However, if the owner rakes out undercoat
regularly, between shave downs a better cosmetic result from the clippers will occur. If the coat
is clipped it is important the clippers be clean and sharp and that the skin is cleaned as part
of the grooming process.
Care While Grooming with Stripping
There are as many strategies for care of dogs during the stripping process as there are
groomers! Unfortunately, little information exists on what is correct and what is incorrect,
so a lot of bad strategies exist.
One of the most important aspects of stripping is to understand how irritating the process is to
the skin. When skin is irritated in this manner, cleanliness is very important to minimize
soreness and prevent infection. The use of a medicated shampoo often before and always after
stripping, to reduce inflammation and soreness, makes the dog more comfortable and drastically
reduces the opportunity for infection. Figure two illustrates what happens when skin is not
cared for during and after stripping. As the pictures illustrate, the skin is both inflamed and
infected and the dog required veterinary care after being returned from the groomer. This should
never be the outcome after stripping, even with dogs with sensitive skin. If the skin is not
clean prior to stripping, bathing is appropriate. Groomers often report that hair is easier to
grip and pull if it is not recently bathed. Although there is some truth to this idea, the skin
must be clean. Further, after stripping, baths are helpful to reduce the opportunity for
infection and make the dog more comfortable. Groomers also will state that the jacket should
never be bathed or it wonï¿½t lie flat. Towelling and blow drying in the direction of hair growth
will train the hair to lay flat, as well as add luster to the coat appearance. This should
routinely be done the jacket as it grows as well. There is a happy medium between ï¿½never batheï¿½
and bathing too much. The answer to how frequent to bathe depends on circumstances, but it is
essential that the skin stay clean! If the skin smells, if you see dirt on close inspection, if
the skin is flaky or oily, or if you have just worked on the coat and irritated the skin, bathe
Some groomers routinely end up with irritated skin after grooming while others always seem to
quickly remove the hair without significant irritation. There are a number of reasons for this
difference. Some dogs have skin that is more sensitive than others. Some dogs have types of
coats that are more difficult to pull which can add to the irritation. Some tricks to reduce
irritation include the following. It is important to pull the hair in the direction of growth,
rather than ï¿½against the grainï¿½. Steady and methodical pulling is more effective and comfortable
than erratic, jerky motions. It is also less likely to result in accidental pinching and scuffing
of the skin with stripping tools. Most importantly, keep the skin clean.
Once the initial pull down has occurred, the process of ï¿½rolling the coatï¿½ begins. After a
period of time, the new jacket of guard hairs begins to emerge along with an abundant undercoat.
The undercoat is typically ï¿½rakedï¿½ with a stripping comb to remove this undesirable hair. It is
important to keep the edge of the stripping comb parallel to the skin so that the hair is pulled
without the skin being raked and irritated. Again, gentle and steady is more effective that
hurried and rough. As the jacket emerges further, the longest guard hairs are selected and
removed with the goal of getting a number of layers of guard hairs of differing lengths, so that
the high quality jacket can be maintained for an extended period of time.
Typically, furnishings (hair on the legs, chest, and face) are maintained in a similar, but less
aggressive manner. Usually the undercoat of furnishings is not raked, due to concern of breaking
the longer, desirable guard hairs of the furnishings. The longest guard hairs in the furnishings
are often dead hair that will need to be pulled to keep the furnishings rotating, just like the
jacket. Furnishings are often bathed more frequently than the jacket and treated with a number
of products to keep the hair softer to avoid breakage. These are often oil based products like
Vitapointe, that protect the long hair of the furnishings, but often attract dirt and sand. The
dirt and sand can result in breakage, hence the need for more frequent bathing.
As you work through the process of grooming with your show dog, and you wonder about whether to
bathe, ask yourself a simple question. ï¿½If MY scalp was dirty or irritated, and I went to my
dermatologists, what would be his first and most important suggestion?ï¿½ The answer is, ï¿½Shampoo
your scalp with an appropriate shampoo frequently!ï¿½ The same is true for your dog. Keep the skin
Back To Basics Presents
Not Just Child's Play:
Tom Lams shares his thoughts on the
relationship between children and dogs.
By Laura Post
"I want to get a puppy for my child. When will you have a litter for sale?"
This question can strike fear in a breeder's heart. Which is ironic because I haven't met a
trainer/breeder yet who didn't grow up loving a dog or pet of some sort. A major factor behind
breedersï¿½ concerns is the fact that, yearly, a large number of tragedies occur where a dog has
seriously injured a child. An understanding of the nature of dogs versus children is greatly
advantageous to developing an fulfilling relationship between a family and their pet. Renowned
animal behaviorists/communicators, Tom and Kay Lams, will soon visit LSATC, and recently, Tom
shared some of his insights into the world of dogs and children with me. (It might surprise
folks to know that along with their lifelong study of animal behavior, the Lams' raised seven
Dogs view children as being lower in the pecking order than adults. Why do you think that is?
Kids are often hyper and don't concentrate on one thing. They make sudden, erratic moves that
dogs don't understand or often see as prey-type behavior. One thing we work on during seminars
with children and dogs is to make the children more aware and sensitive to what the dog is
Another thing is that children, being shorter, are often on the same eye level as
the dog and will stare at the dog, whereas adults tend to look at the dog and then look away.
Dogs see staring as threatening behavior. And sometimes children stare because they are afraid.
A dog's instinct is to dominate and if it senses fear, it will want to react.
Should parents wait until their child is a certain age before getting a dog?
I have seen success with children being raised with a puppy and then with older kids with a dog.
Both situations can work. However, one of the hardest times for the dog can be when a child
starts school. The child will suddenly not have time or as much time with the dog as before and
the dog can suffer from lack of attention. I know of one situation where a family dog leaves the
house at 3:00 PM every day, like clockwork, to walk to the bus stop and wait for the child to
come home. The dog never mistakes the time. So dogs prefer routine. I have one dog that eats at
4 PM every day. If I'm late in feeding him, he brings me his bowl.
I have heard it said that a mature dogï¿½s intelligence is equivalent to that of a five-year old
child. Would you agree with this?
Not always. I had a dog where I never did know his limits. There wasn't a thing I couldn't teach
him. And every dog is different, some are smarter than others. Some are smarter than a lot of
Are there breeds of dogs that you wouldn't recommend for children?
I would not recommend Dalmatians. More Dalmatians bite children than any other breed. Of course,
I am mostly speaking of "backyard-bred dogs here" where attention to breeding for temperament and
health is ignored. A dog in pain from hip dysplasia, for example, can be testy, especially
around children, because it doesnï¿½t feel good. Other breeds I don't recommend for children are
Basenjis, Akitas, Rhodesian Ridgebacks and Rottweilers.
Breeds I recommend are the King Charles Cavaliers, they are wonderful
dogs with kids. Also Shelties, and the Australian Shepherd, but only
with an active family, these dogs need exercise, and Whippets. Whippets
are fantastic house dogs. Calm in the house and very loyal. You'll never
go to the bathroom alone though if you own a whippet, they'll follow
What about Airedales with children?
Airedales are not for everyone, and for families with children, it would depend on the
temperament of Airedale, calmer Airedales would be better. Some Airedales do not like quick
movements and some don't forgive easily. I find Airedales tend to be one- to two-person dogs.
The children would need very good dog manners and would need to have a good understanding of how
a dog feels.
Also, parents need to communicate to the dog that the kids are first and the dogs
are last in the pecking order.
Airedales will often rule a household if the owners are not careful, why do you think that occurs?
Airedales are extremely intelligent and too smart to put up with a lot of baloney. You have to
ask for what you are wanting, they just won't up and give it to you. They are also very intuitive
and will take advantage of people if the owners aren't careful. In this way, the Airedale can be
too smart, smarter than their owners sometimes. And itï¿½s best to guide rather than force the
Airedale into doing what you want. Negotiation, that is really what it's about, and with most
dogs, not just Airedales.
Poodles are another breed that can be smarter than a lot of people and will take over a household
if the owner isn't careful. I would place Dobermans in that category as well.
The things I have learned from attending your seminars have greatly
influenced how I interact with both dogs and people. Your understanding
of animal behavior and communication, and your ability to teach this to
people is extraordinary.
I can't say that I've learned it all. Or that there is one perfect way. I am constantly making
adjustments to what I teach through what I learn. And working with dogs is a constant learning
process. The dogs have taught me a lot. We just need to listen. And approach things with an open
mind. If you don't do that, you will miss something, and often, the dog will teach you more than
you teach it.
Back To Basics
Showbreeders Translate Murphy's Laws
by Laura Post
One of my favorite books of all times, "No Hidden Meanings" by Sheldon Kopp and Claire Flanders
has an illustrated eschatological "laundry list" of 43 truths that have worked their way into my
subconscious only to surface at various opportune moments. At 4 am one morning, while trying to
catch a nap in the veterinary clinic closet on my son's bean bag chair (a chair meant only for
12 year olds) and keep two C-section pups warm at the same time, a couple of these truths came
1) All important decisions must be made on the basis of insufficient
2) All solutions breed new problems.
From this beginning, the list quickly grew (#3 being: An unplanned C-section will occur at 3 am.
A planned C-section will also occur at 3 am.) Knowing I was not alone with my observations,
I queried other breeders about the quirky nature of breeding and showing dogs and below is a
sample of the contributions.
Murphy's Laws On Breeding:
Corollary to #3: Your terrific vet who is almost happy to do a 3 am C-section because she too is
a breeder is sure to be at her national specialty the night of your emergency C-section.
4. Fertility (there are no sterile barn cats) is inversely (not to be confused with perversely)
proportional to desirability of cross, ease of insemination, and waiting list for pups.
5. In case of breeding with chilled semen from hundreds of miles across the country - your bitch
will be at her peak on Sunday when there is no Fed Ex delivery available for your area.
6. The puppy that has a conformation to rival AKC standards will also be a good three inches
outside the accepted size range or will have a bad bite. (Carla Hughes)
7. A dog's misbehavior will be in direct proportion to the number of people who are watching.
8. If you think your dogs all have water, they don't. (Cecilia Porter)
9. If you are wondering if you have latched the gates so that the dogs can't open them, you
haven't. (C. Porter)
10. If there are two pairs of shoes laying side by side on the floor - your puppy will pick the
most expensive pair to chew to pieces.
11. Only the good die young. (C. Hughes)
1. There is an inverse relationship between distance and ring time: the further you have to
travel to the show, the earlier the ring time. (P. Weinberger)
2. Plan on rain the day you pack for a show and preferably the entire week prior to the show so
that your dog's furnishings will look their worst.
3. If a dog is going to get injured/ill, it will be minutes before or during a show. (Sara Kautz)
4. Your dog is less likely to pee on the gate and poop in the ring UNLESS the judge is Ed Bivin. (P. Weinberger)
5. If you count on a judge taking 15 minutes per group, he or she will
break the records on fastest judging times. Likewise, if you need to get
an early start home after showing, plan on being able to read War and
Peace in its entirety before its your time to show. (S. Kautz)
and last but not least:
6. As soon as you send in those entries, the little "star" will either
blow all coat or damage herself in some way that you just can't cover
up. (S. Raley)