A lot of people get confused
about shoulders but it is a lot easier when you get a grasp of
the basics of anatomy before worrying about what is good or bad,
right or wrong. Once you understand just what bone joins on to
which and what they hang from, the rest starts to fall into
place. You must have seen dancing skeletons at Halloween - and
how bones can be pushed and pulled into different positions
relative to one another. That is how it is with a dog's
conformation. The forequarter is a complete unit and the
shoulder is only a PART of it - but a common mistake is to take
it completely out of context as if it had no connection with
other bones. The shoulder blade (or scapula) lays against the
body at an angle, joins on to the upper arm (the humerus), which
slopes back in the the opposite direction to meet the elbow, the
foreleg bone connects to the pastern, which connects to the
foot. Why don't they just hang down in one long chain of bones?
Because of the tension of different groups of muscles pulling in
different directions and which tie the forequarters on to the
dog's body like so much packaging tape.
So what are the forequarters tied on to? The head is connected
to the top end of the spine, and the spine continues all the way
to the end of the tail. The neck is made up of 7 cervical
vertebrae, which are connected to 13 thoracic vertebrae from
which sprout 13 ribs. The 7 lumbar vertebrae connect with the
fused bones of the sacrum which leads to the tail. And why
doesn't the head just plop down between the dog's feet? How does
it stay UP? Muscles, without which the whole thing would
collapse like a Halloween puppet without a string.
The shoulder blade lays against the rib cage with the upper edge
at the base of the neck. Where the other end connects to the
upper arm is commonly referred to as the point of shoulder. The
ribs join underneath to enclose the body cavity. Where they join
is the sternum, and the front-most point of the sternum is known
as the prosternum. A well developed prosternum is what gives a
dog a forechest.
At this point don't even worry about the standard - we'll get to
that in a future article. For now, we are just looking at what
joins on to what.